September 22, 2009

Wow. Maybe he was inspired by his earlier session with Max Blumenthal. Or maybe it was the way Glenn Beck dissed Mika by telling her to "shut the hell up." Or maybe he's just as sick of Glenn Beck as the rest of us are.

Whatever it was, Joe Scarborough was relentless and on-point this morning in attacking not just Glenn Beck, but the conservatives who condone and empower him.

He took his cue from Peter Wehner's piece in Commentary, "Glenn Beck: Harmful to the Conservative Movement":

I understand that a political movement is a mansion with many rooms; the people who occupy them are involved in intellectual and policy work, in politics, and in polemics. Different people take on different roles. And certainly some of the things Beck has done on his program are fine and appropriate. But the role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality. My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now—and will soon flame out. Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism. At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.

Scarborough was even more damning:

Scarborough: But when you preach this kind of hatred, and say that an African American president hates all white people -- stay with me -- hates all white people, you are playing with fire. And bad things can happen. And if they do happen, not only is Glenn Beck responsible, but conservatives who don't -- call -- him -- out -- are responsible.

Incidentally, Mark Levin was just as harsh in knocking down Beck.

This is certainly a good start for conservatives serious about rescuing their movement from the abyss into which it is descending. But again, as with David Brooks, none of them quite grasp the dimensions of what they're up against.

Sure, the things Glenn Beck says are completely nuts and reflect poorly on the American Right generally. That's probably because Beck is in reality a genuine far-right extremist who is gradually coming out of the closet about that -- and as he does, he's lapping up the ratings.

But Beck is far from the only extremist dragging movement conservatism to the right. The bridges between the far right and mainstream conservatives are so numerous and widely trafficked that it's hard to keep up, but they range from the extreme religious right connections that Blumenthal describes in his new book in detail, to the "Patriot" wingnut right like WorldNetDaily, which has multiple ties to the Republican National Committee. And yes, ordinary conservatives do have reason to be concerned.

This is especially the case when it comes to the Tea Parties, which actually reflect the takeover of movement conservatism by right-wing populists. They have become a fundamentally important nexus for the promotion of extremist beliefs and fringe conspiracy theories.

Because that's what Joe Scarborough is up against. Glenn Beck is just the face. There's a much larger beast lurking there alongside him.

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