Knocking the ‘tea party’ is getting to be a full-time job that not even the president of the United States can manage. Glenn Beck, the resident theologian at Fox, and critics who question his American birth are clearly getting Barack Obama’s goat.
The pundits and pols on the left first tried the slander that all the tea sippers were not-so-secret racists, or “nativists,” or bigots of one category or another, and were given to showing up at rallies with ugly signs demanding that Mr. Obama shut up and leave town before the sheriff arrives with an impeachment indictment. Certain pundits, editorialists, bloviators and bloggers even accused the tea partiers of attacking blacks in their midst. When that accusation couldn’t be proved — rewards were offered to anyone with the proof — the accusations of racism quieted to tolerable decibels. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the right reverends of the high church of racial scammery, retreated for a time to their drawing boards to plot new schemes.
Mr. Beck further disappointed the left on Saturday with his well-behaved rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where there were no Klansmen, no lynch mobs, no slave auctions. Mr. Beck, in fact, invoked the legacy of Martin Luther King (to enthusiastic applause), scorning any residual notions of white supremacy and praising the famous dream of the day in America when a man would be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin. The theme of the rally was a call to rededicate the nation to its divine founding principles — to be, in the words of the marble man sitting in the great stone chair behind Mr. Beck and the other speakers, “the last best hope of mankind.” Some of the speeches included passages that could have been lifted from a speech that Barack Obama might have made in the autumn of aught-eight, when he was buff and bright and settling comfortably into the messiah mode.
But not everything was benign. Mr. Beck, a recent Mormon convert, couldn’t resist taking a poke at what he imagines are the president’s religious beliefs, accusing him of advocating liberation theology. “You see,” he told the hundreds of thousands, “it’s all about victims and victimhood, oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don’t know what that is, other than it’s not Muslim, it’s not Christian. It’s a perversion of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”
These were curious remarks, pointedly excluding Jews and others dissenting from the Gospel. Mr. Beck’s own faith is not accepted as Christian by many of the evangelicals who make up a large part of his constituency. A Pew Poll taken during the 2008 presidential campaign found that nearly half of evangelical Christians do not believe that Mormons are Christians. Mitt Romney found that his Mormon faith was a decided handicap in 2008, when there was wide speculation among politicians of both parties that as the Republican nominee he would find tough going in most of the Southern states that have become the Republican stronghold.
Equally curious was the president’s taking on those who question his birth in the United States and of his meeting the constitutional qualifications to be the president. Glenn Beck is not a “birther,” and in fact has incurred birther wrath because he mocks the claim that Mr. Obama is not a native-born American, that he was probably born in Kenya. Maybe the president, who says he did not watch any of the television coverage of the rally, is so frustrated with his job, and the criticism that comes with it, he let fly at the most convenient target at hand. “I can’t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,” he told Brian Williams of NBC television in New Orleans after the Beck rally. “The facts are the facts,” he said, “there is a mechanism, a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly.” He’s not surprised that someone like “a Mr. Beck” can stir up the folks.
Most curious of all is why any Obama critic, with so much legitimate ammunition at hand, would indulge fairyland fantasies of impeachment, or arguments over his birth or his religious faith. Even if he was born in Kenya, he’s the president now, and it’s beyond imagining that the U.S. Supreme Court would unseat a sitting president and invite unimaginable legal chaos. Every White House order, presidential decision or executive order executed since Jan. 20, 2009, could be rendered “inoperative.” There’s fear and loathing on the sawdust trail.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.