Monday, September 21, 2009


At the Values Voter Summit over the weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) mentioned his reading habits. "Lately," Perry said, "I've found myself going back to a book that's titled 'The 5000 Year Leap.'" As Dave Weigel noted, "There were head nods and noises of approval from many members of the audience."
Perry added that the once-obscure book's author, hyper-conservative theorist W. Cleon Skousen, "shares his views of the foundational elements of our nation, placing a special emphasis in faith in God-I think undeniably a source of America's remarkable success. He asserts that natural law, God's law, is the basis of our nation's laws."
Skousen's name probably isn't familiar to most Americans, but his work has recently captured the imaginations of some prominent right-wing voices. That's not an encouraging development.
In a fascinating item last week, Alexander Zaitchick explained that Skousen is Glenn Beck's favorite writer, and the man who changed the Fox News personality's life.
A once-famous anti-communist "historian," Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.
Anyone who has followed Beck will recognize the book's title. Beck has been furiously promoting "The 5,000 Year Leap" for the past year, a push that peaked in March when he launched the 912 Project. That month, a new edition of "The 5,000 Year Leap," complete with a laudatory new foreword by none other than Glenn Beck, came out of nowhere to hit No. 1 on Amazon. It remained in the top 15 all summer, holding the No. 1 spot in the government category for months. The book tops Beck's 912 Project "required reading" list, and is routinely sold at 912 Project meetings where guest speakers often use it as their primary source material. [...]
What has Beck been pushing on his legions? "Leap," first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. "Leap" argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs -- based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith -- that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah's George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year's annual fundraiser).
Skousen, a fringe activist considered dangerous by the FBI, was eventually kept at arm's length by his own Mormon church, but not before he became a leading defender of the John Birch Society. Even the National Review referred to him as an "all-around nutjob."
And yet, Skousen's book is a huge success with the Teabagging crowd, and is now being touted, not only by Beck, but also by Republican governors.
As Ed Kilgore noted recently, "Next time someone tells you the Tea Party movement is composed of average Americans who are simply worried at the terrible things Barack Obama's trying to do to their country, keep in mind they are being influenced by the works of someone who thought America was being plunged into socialist tyranny by the Eisenhower administration."
And as Zaitchick concluded, Skousen's popularity with Beck and his audience "suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place."
  •  From the comments: 
    Cognitive Dissonance...
    On Skousen:

    ... a factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible
    On Ayn Rand (Conservapedia):

    Rand's philosophy was anti-Christian to the point of even declaring that "faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason."[1] The movement she founded supports an "absolute right" to abortion at any time during pregnancy,[2] including partial-birth abortion.
    Posted by: koreyel on September 21, 2009 at 11:05 AM

  •  I don't know about "natural" law... Only thing similar between "god"'s natural law and actual natural law is the throwing of feces at your opponents.
    Posted by: Former Dan on September 21, 2009 at 11:00 AM
 John Cole: Incurious George
This Ross Douthat piece will be an instant classic.
Ahh, the liberal media. Savor it.
Atrios: The Media 
They just can't stop talking about Gale Norton.

Oh, wait...

DougJ: Glenn Beck’s bitch
It looks like Drudge traded the Post’s ombudsman to Glenn Beck for a couple of packs of cigarettes:
Jones had issued two public apologies before The Post finally wrote about him. One was for using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech before joining the administration. The other was for signing a 2004 petition that said members of the Bush administration may have “allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext to war.” Conservatives had attacked Jones for more than a week before the first Post story appeared Sept. 5. He resigned the next day.
With ACORN, The Post wrote about it two days after the first of several explosive hidden-camera videos were aired showing the group’s employees giving tax advice to young conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp. Three days passed before The Post ran a short Associated Press story about the Senate halting Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN, which operates in 110 cities. But by that time, the Census Bureau had severed ties with ACORN. State and city investigations had been launched. It wasn’t until late in the week that The Post weighed in with two solid pieces.
Why the tardiness?
Meanwhile, this story is barely being covered:
The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her, according to officials in federal law enforcement and the Interior Department.
On average, each of those 5,000-acre lease tracts holds an estimated $700-billion worth of recoverable oil (at today’s $70-per-barrel price), said James T. Bartis, a shale expert at Rand. Shell has estimated the costs of recovering the oil at $30 per barrel, leaving a potential profit of about $1 trillion after royalties if all the oil is extracted.
A trillion dollars.
I’d be the first to admit the Norton story would be getting more coverage if more black people had worked in the department or if the Shell employees had dressed up like pimps and hos.
It’s sad and it’s pathetic: Alexander and his ilk are so afraid of being labeled as liberal that they’re willing to push whatever story Glenn Beck feeds them. I guess that’s what 40 years of attacks from the right-wing does to people who weren’t very tough to begin with. You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much til you spend half your life just covering up.

Media Matters has more on this
, via Atrios.
  • Steve Benen adds: 

    Alexander's report suggested right-wing complaints are slow to be picked up, and aren't heard as often in newsrooms. The executive editor of the Post has "pressed the National desk this week to provide more ACORN coverage."
    All of this seems hopelessly backwards. Every right-wing complaint this year has generated considerable media interest, regardless of merit. Pressing the Post to do more ACORN stories, because paranoid activists believe it's important, is foolish.
    Part of responsible journalism is separating fact from fiction, identifying which stories have genuine value, and which don't. Beck and his minions need not be assignment editors for major news outlets.
    Media Matters' response to Alexander's piece was quite thorough, but like DougJ, I want to emphasize one related point. Last week, we learned that alleged Interior Department corruption, with financial consequences in the billions of dollars, has even led to a criminal investigation of a former Bush cabinet secretary.
    The Washington Post published "two solid pieces" about ACORN. How many Post articles were written about the criminal probe of a former cabinet secretary? Zero.
    Worse, Alexander's report makes it clear political coverage will likely go even further to the right, with journalists pressured to care even more what right-wing activists find important.

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