Since I officially broke my own taboo about mentioning biographical details yesterday, maybe it’s time to pull this off the shelf. It’s an op-ed I wrote a few weeks back and submitted to various newspapers with no success. So I present it here to you in all its unedited glory.
In April of 2010, my father, Senator Robert F. Bennett of Utah, was fighting for his political life, and, as his campaign spokesman, I was on the front lines of the battle. Dad remained popular with the Republican Party at large, but his fate was in the hands of a relative handful of delegates that selected the party’s candidates in Utah’s quirky caucus system.
These delegates were chosen in neighborhood meetings held two days after the passage of Obamacare, which my father vigorously opposed. Disgust for the so-called “Republican Establishment” that had proven incapable of preventing this debacle motivated thousands of Tea Party activists to flood their caucus meetings with a single mission – get rid of Bob Bennett.
Many of these delegates were members of Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project,” which was one of the most influential groups on the vanguard of the Tea Party movement. Our campaign recognized early on that Glenn Beck’s opinion carried a tremendous amount of weight among Utah conservatives, most of whom shared a common faith with Mr. Beck as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of them go so far as to give credence to discredited Mormon folklore and presume that Mr. Beck will be instrumental in rescuing the Constitution as it hangs by a thread. So when Mr. Beck took to the airwaves on April 27, 2010 and said he would “vote for a mouse over Bob Bennett,” we knew we had a serious problem on our hands.
Personally, I had been a longtime Glenn Beck fan. I loved his sense of humor, and I never missed an episode of “Moron Trivia,” where Beck would call convenience store workers to ask them ridiculously simple questions and marvel at their uninformed answers. But Beck’s tone shifted considerably with the election of President Obama. I felt he had become far more strident than he had been during the Bush years, and I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with his apocalyptic rhetoric.
Then I discovered that he wasn’t willing to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The same day he expressed his preferences for rodents over Bob Bennett, Glenn Beck castigated my father for voting to confirm Cass Sunstein as the Obama administration’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
“You have Bob Bennett, “ Beck said with contempt. “You have a guy who looked me in the eye, a guy who looked me in the eye and said, ‘You know what, Cass Sunstein, he told me that this was all academic stuff. I mean, I looked him in the eye, Glenn, and Cass Sunstein, that’s all academic.’”
The problem with all that looking in people’s eyes is that Glenn Beck’s eyes and Bob Bennett’s eyes have never been in the same room at the same time. My father has never met Glenn Beck. He has never spoken to him on the phone. There has been no direct communication between these two men in any way, shape, or form. To hear Glenn Beck claim that Bob Bennett looked him in the eye and called him by name was nothing short of astonishing to me.
I fired off an email to Glenn Beck twenty-four hours after the broadcast, identifying myself and recounting his words from the day before. Borrowing from George Will, I asked, “Given the fact that you have never met my father, in what sense was your statement true?”
I received no reply.
Mr. Beck’s fortunes have risen and fallen over the years, but his influence on Utah politics remains potent, despite the fact that he predicted a civil war in the summer of 2012 – there wasn’t one – and his insistence that the government will soon confiscate your scriptures, which they won’t. His recent conspiracy theories about the Boston marathon bombings should be enough to persuade reasonable conservatives that this is not a man who is helpful to their cause. As he grows increasingly messianic, he is unlikely to be hampered by things as trivial or mundane as facts.
For me, his credibility was shattered on April 27, 2010, the day he demonstrated that he was willing to make things up if it suited his purposes. He ought to be shunned by principled conservatives, regardless of whether or not they agree with him on any or all issues. No amount of ideological purity can justify deliberate dishonesty in the service of the cause.