Glenn Beck Needs to Devote More Time to His Strange Obsessions

I don’t know why it should surprise me that Glenn Beck doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but you’d think that if you had a furious grudge against someone who died 40 years before you were born, you would spend at least a little time finding out what exactly was wrong with that historical figure. But then, as Tom Frank explains in a subscribers-only column in the Wall Street Journal (3/10/10), you’re not Glenn Beck:

Consider how Mr. Beck, the popular host of a Fox News program, began his performance at CPAC: “Hello. Please. Thank you. Please be seated. I have to tell you, I hate Woodrow Wilson with everything in me. God bless you.”

Now, deploring the works of the 28th president is not a new thing at CPAC. But Mr. Beck has developed a theory of progressivism that he illustrated by listing the many tyrannical misdeeds of the Wilson administration: “he gives us the Fed.” “He gives us the income tax.” And then, a confusing few sentences later, “Prohibition. So he took away the alcohol. Progressive plan to take care of everyone.” It’s easy to see how all of these villainies might come together in the mind of a freedom-fighting CPAC attendee: Progressives were the original big-government sinners; prohibition, which was backed by some progressives, was the classic example of misguided governmental overreach; Wilson, who was a progressive, was president when prohibition passed; ergo, prohibition must be added to the list of offenses that will keep Wilson in freedom purgatory for eons.

But the neat pattern does not hold. As it happens, Woodrow Wilson was not a prohibitionist. He even vetoed the 1919 Volstead Act, which enforced the 18th Amendment’s prohibition of intoxicating liquors. (Congress overrode his veto.) By contrast, the laissez-faire hero Calvin Coolidge, whom Mr. Beck praised at CPAC, signed the 1929 Jones Act, which beefed up prohibition enforcement. Meanwhile, arch-progressive Franklin Roosevelt got prohibition repealed in 1933.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.