The American experience is filled with demagogues who are often brought on by tough economic times and periods of dramatic change. Fear mongering has long been a stable of our politics and our culture. Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long, the populist James Curely, Robert Depugh and the Minute Men of the 1960’s and the John Birth Society; all tried to ride waves of fear and populist anger and in the end all failed. Today a new name has been added to this motley pantheon. One that not surprising comes out of Fox News, talk radio and the worst of therapeutic culture. He is Glenn Beck and while unfortunately, like "Lord Valdemort," it gives him power just to speak his name, it’s important that we understand this modern day phenomenon. I had the experience of meeting and listening to Glenn Beck this past Saturday, and since then having been trying to figure out if I had witnessed, a kind of right wing Oprah, Hitler or Howard Beal,or Joe McCarthy.
Dana Milbank, syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, tries to sort all of this out in his new book about Beck, Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America. My conversation with Dana Milbank: