Glenn Beck


It is the best of times and the worst of times on the radio now, at least as far as these two stories are concerned:

First,  the good news. Apparently conservative crazy Glenn Beck has lost significant ground among people under 50 in the Nielsen ratings. In the past quarter, Beck’s FOX News Channel show dropped 46 percent in the younger demographic of ages 18 to 49. It seems the wolf in sheep’s clothing has been exposed, and the only demographic that seems to be sticking with Beck is the 50-and-older crowd, which tends to buy more into his suspicion-feeding, fear-mongering rants than younger people.

Now, the bad news. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is being given a microphone to speak behind again. The Chicago radio station WLS (890 AM) is letting him and his wife, Patty, fill in for the vacationing Don and Roma, who normally occupy the 5 to 9 a.m. time slot. Why does WLS keep giving Blagojevich a platform to spew his half-truths and Blago-spin versions of reality? Other than reporters who have to listen to him for work purposes, I don’t know of anyone who ever listens to Blagojevich on the radio. Then again, I don’t run with a crazy crowd that finds our corrupt ex-governor to be a speaker of truth.

I cannot wait for Blagojevich’s retrial to be over so he can be locked up already. It will be nice to not hear his name or his inane ramblings for a few years.

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Conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck, who surely had his tea party-powered ego freshly refueled after Tuesday’s primary elections, drew several thousand of his flock of followers to Hoffman Estates tonight for his Right Nation 2010 rally.

The Beck rally led the 10 p.m. newscast on Chicago’s NBC affiliate. During the intro to the story, the TV station erroneously put a graphic in the upper right-hand corner that read “Police Shooting” (obviously made for the story about the early-morning police shooting on the CTA Red Line today) — or was it less an error than a Freudian slip?

Once the story was taken over by the reporter at the scene, the reporter mentioned how Beck was supposed to take the stage at 8 p.m. but didn’t until after 9 p.m., when the rally was scheduled to be finished. Which leads me to wonder: Was Glenn Beck questioned in the police shooting? And if so, was he allowed to answer police questions using his blackboard?

My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Now that Labor Day has passed, the election season is kicking into high gear.

There’s no better time to be a political reporter – especially when there is a tight race to be covered, such as the 11th Congressional District battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) and challenger Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno). And when it comes to pleasing readers, there is no worse time to be a political reporter.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

The goal of any political reporter, including this one, is to give fair and balanced coverage to the candidates and the issues. Unfortunately, there are people I like to call Pavlov’s Politicos: They love any media story about their preferred candidate, and they call anything other than that biased reporting.

Case in point: Last week I covered a Halvorson campaign stop in Ottawa. As we do with all our articles, I posted a link to the story on Facebook. That’s where a Marseilles man suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I hope – I must be receiving monetary contributions from the congresswoman because I write “fluff” stories about her. I checked out his Facebook “likes,” which include Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, FOX News, the National Tea Party and nothing that appears to be remotely associated with Democrats.

So it follows suit that the commenter doesn’t like Halvorson. And apparently, because I covered a Halvorson event in the course of doing my job, he doesn’t like me, either. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like my writing. Doesn’t matter, really. I just wonder if, when he reads my coverage of a Kinzinger event, he feels the same way about my article.

I’m not mentioning the man’s political leanings to insinuate anything about Republicans. I mention them because a few days later, I received an e-mail message from somebody I know regularly attends meetings of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party complimenting last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered. Noting the spread of political stories in the issue, which included my Focus story about local political campaign volunteers and an in-depth interview with Halvorson, the e-mailer said the “good objective articles” were providing “a fine public service” to readers.

Apparently he wasn’t offended by the Halvorson article in the newspaper. Which brings me to my greater point: We don’t pander to any politicians here at Ottawa Delivered, and while I don’t expect to please everyone, I hope that readers will respect our attempt at providing them with views from all sides of the political arena: Democrat, Republican, tea party, independent, etc.

When our newspaper received compliments about its political coverage from a tea party member, a staunch Republican and a couple of union members all within a week’s time, I knew we must be doing it right. And I hope you agree. Because even if you don’t agree with the views expressed by the people being covered in a particular article, I hope you’ll at least respect the way we reported them.

There has been much discussion among political pundits this week regarding whether Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to run for re-election is a symptom of a broken U.S. Senate.

Perhaps it is. After all, compared to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate has been an epic failure. But it is also possible that Bayh – who is only a two-term senator, not a lifetime member of Congress – just wants to do other things, like run for president or make a lot more money somewhere in the private sector. Regardless of Bayh’s motive, the discussion about the U.S. Senate’s ineffectiveness is a needed one. The increasing ineffectiveness of a bipartisan approach to politics also needs to be part of the same discussion. After all, it seems as if the politicians who don’t fit squarely in the peg holes drilled by their party lines are the ones who are more likely not to seek re-election.

One of the major selling points of an Obama presidency was the promise of bipartisanship. Yet in the Senate, the simple threat of a filibuster by a 40-vote minority is enough to grind the lawmaking machinery to a standstill. (Yes, I know it is a 41-vote minority now, but this problem was happening well before Scott Brown was elected to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.)

I’m not pinning the ineffectiveness problem solely on the standing Republican threat to filibuster. I’m positive that at least several Republican senators would be more willing to reach across the political aisle if they didn’t have to worry about the severe backlash they would get from conservative pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not the mention the whole TEA Party movement.

You see, the Republicans who plan to stay in office are worried about losing support of the far right wing of their party. And now it seems that same worry is spilling over to the Democratic side, because Bayh reportedly told aides he is frustrated with the far left wing of his party, including leftist bloggers who have been blasting him for not agreeing with every single thing the Obama administration has proposed.

The “us and them” mentality has never been so apparent in Congress. Whether it’s the Republicans or Democrats, politicians are clearly scared of what partisan pundits and vocal citizens publicly say about them, more than they ever seemed to worry about them before.

I’m not saying people don’t have the right to criticize politicians – they absolutely do, and I do my fair share of it – but to distill everything into black and white – or red and blue, if you prefer – does a disservice to the issues Congress needs to address.

And I’m convinced the partisan pundits – the ones who are quick to call politicians who don’t toe their party lines un-American – are really the ones undermining our political process, and they don’t care if they do, as long as they make plenty of money while doing it.

This needs to change. Unfortunately, it increasingly seems we’re past the point of no return.

This column was originally published in the Feb. 18 edition of Ottawa Delivered.

After state officials in Hawaii once again verified President Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, Birther Nation needed a new far-fetched reason to hate Obama.

Leave it to FOX News Channel commentator Glenn Beck to fill the void.

With tomorrow’s beer summit between Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley looming, Beck made the following statement Tuesday on the “FOX & Friends” morning show:

“This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seeded hatred for white people or the white culture, I don’t know what it is,” Beck said. “I’m not saying that he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Um, sure he is. Obama is half-white, was raised by white people he loves and respects, and has a Cabinet that is mostly white, so naturally, the president must be a racist. You know, like Beck is.

All this because Obama stupidly addressed the Gates controversy during a primetime press conference — and because Beck is a blustery buffoon with an audience.

Beck’s charge of presidential racism is so out there, it was decried by Bill Shine, FOX News senior vice president of programming. Beck “expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the FOX News Channel,” Shine said. “And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.”

I usually ignore Beck, whose venom-spewing typically is over-the-top, but after seeing how the birthers carried on for so long, I fear Beck has given the anti-Obama crowd a new messed-up message to spread.

The Beck episode gave me an epiphany, though. Beck once fake-wept on camera and told viewers, “I just love my country, and I fear for it.” Yes, Beck fears for America — because deep down, he knows he’s helping ruin it by poisoning the political discourse.

* * *

Earlier this week, the White House revealed what the three “beer summit” attendees will drink. Gates ordered Red Stripe and Crowley will drink Blue Moon — both good choices. Obama, however, will not live up to his billing by some as “the most interesting man in the world” by drinking Dos Equis. Instead, Obama will drink his favorite brew, that bland beer from St. Louis, Bud Light.

Note none of them will be drinking Beck’s.