First of all, I’d like to apologize for how long it took us to get the Department of Finally up and running. It’s been the first thing on our agenda since the inception of Combat! blog, but you know how it is, what with the Department of Planning, the Department of Eventually, the Department of Interrupting, the Department of Penultimate, and the Department of Dragging Out Jokes That Only One of Us Finds Amusing all clamoring for our attention. Now that that’s taken care of: President Obama took advantage of the Combat! news blackout Friday to dismiss Sarah Palin’s criticism of his nuclear posture. “I really have no response. Because last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues,” the President told George Stephanopoulos, who immediately began hooting and running around in a circle while pawing at the air before sitting down, straightening his tie, taking a deep breath and then shouting “Oh, snap!” directly into the ear of Michelle Malkin. “If the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it,” Obama continued, “I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”
Part of the difficulty in understanding the cultural phenomenon that is Glenn Beck—and he’s been on the cover of Time magazine, just like Arsenio Hall, so it’s official now—is pinning down exactly what he is. Despite his occasional declarations to the contrary, it seems safe to say that Beck is some kind of a Political Person. Rarely does he use his shows to give us an awesome recipe for brownies or tell us how to fix our cars; pretty much everything Glenn Beck talks about relates to the federal government of the United States. Yet where he might fit, in terms of a coherent ideology that relates to our historical moment, is infuriatingly difficult to assess. “I’m so tired of everybody having a political agenda,” he has said. “Do you know what my political agenda is? America! America!” That’s super and all, but you can’t really cite “America” as your approach to American politics, for the same reason you can’t give directions to the mall by shouting “this Subaru! this Subaru!” over and over. Beck appears to be a conservative, insofar as he is dedicated in his opposition to President Obama, but he also spends a lot of time criticizing the Republican Party. He’s deeply alarmed about both fascism and socialism, as embodied in the continued existence of the federal government; that and the general protect-your-freedom tenor of his beloved Tea Party movement suggest that he might be some kind of libertarian. But he’s also a converted Mormon, a virulent opponent of gay marriage, and a crusader against drug legalization. In general, Beck is against so much and for so little that he functions as a sort of political ghost: vaporous, impossible to pin down, yet seemingly everywhere and constantly moaning.
Those of us who spent the last two days eating Twix for breakfast and hurtling across America in a rocket-powered supertruck missed out on a few current events, not the least of which was Barack Obama’s speech to Congress about health care reform. Fortunately, it turns out that we didn’t need to listen to the President’s speech, because it didn’t matter. That’s the contention of Glenn Beck in this editorial at Fox News.com, brought to our attention by the vigilant and unmerciful Ben Fowlkes. Beck’s argument—which he calls, eerily, The One Thing—is that the content of Wednesday’s speech didn’t matter because the Obama administration is pursuing a broader course of action that is not yet clear. Presumably, a speech to Congress about what that course of action is might address that problem, but Beck isn’t interested, and he doesn’t think you should be, either. “While we don’t know what their grand plan is,” he writes, “it feels more and more like a plan designed by the Teamsters, the seemingly criminal elements that run ACORN or Hugo Chavez’s regime.”
I was going to be angry about these kids, but one look at the profoundly sixteen-year-old-girl expression on that sixteen-year-old girl’s face and I didn’t have the heart. (If you’d like to get real sad, you can read a blog written by that poor girl’s mother, in which she calls Barbara Boxer a “moronic twit.” The badge on the right side indicates that she’s made the list of “best conservative blogs on the net,” which is apparently determined by total word count.) That’s her boyfriend on the left, proving again that teenage boys will do anything under certain conditions. And what are these desperate youths and the ragtag band behind them protesting for? Lower taxes on the rich, reduced social services, deregulation of business and conservative fiscal policy.
To hear Frank Rich tell it, protests like these are harbingers of a new era of cultural and political upheaval. Last weekend was the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, which television raised me to believe was the most important moment of the 20th century. It turns out that was all to promote The Wonder Years, though, because this year’s commemoration was overshadowed by the season premiere of Mad Men. First of all, if you don’t watch Mad Men, you should start immediately. It is the Cadillac of television shows, or the Combat! blog of television shows in that Frank Rich and I agree with it more than anyone else in America. Second of all, Frank Rich is right. The year that resonates with our present cultural moment isn’t 1969; it’s 1963.