After years of praise, Glenn Beck decides to label Bush a ‘progressive’

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 0:34 EDT
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At one point in his career, right-wing pundit Glenn Beck happily declared that President George W. Bush and D.C. Comics icon Batman are just alike: both strong and unafraid to take down the bad guys, no matter where they hide.

… Which is why it was a bit odd listening to Beck’s Monday radio broadcast, in which he called Bush a “progressive,” placing his one-time hero squarely in a political ideology the conspiratorial-minded host calls a “cancer” on America.

Considering this particular television personality’s propensity for praising Bush, his rhetorical about-face is truly amazing.

Stacked together, the two claims — made years apart in wildly differing political climates — might beg the question: Why does Glenn Beck hate Batman?

After all, this is a man who claimed American progressives helped craft Nazi propaganda, even though Adolf Hitler himself explains in “Mein Kampf” that much of the Nazis’ messaging techniques were scooped from the British.

If, then, Beck truly believes that Bush is actually part illustrated superhero and part sire of the international Nazi conspiracy, a rational person might conclude that Mr. Beck holds some pretty strange opinions about Gotham’s caped crusader.

Then again, maybe he’s just forgetful. Or, perhaps he’s grown quite keen at sensing political expediency. Either way, this is one conservative media talker who appears ensnared by his own logic.

During his Monday radio show, Beck acknowledged something a bit unusual for him: the fact that President Obama has continued many of President Bush’s policies.

“What has [Obama] done that is different?” he asked. “I think he’s done exactly what George Bush was doing, except to the times of a thousand. I mean we’re talking about a progressive. And George Bush was a progressive. It’s the difference between a steam train and the space shuttle.”

The statement is quite interesting, considering Beck’s history of abject flattery directed at President Bush, a self-described “compassionate conservative.”

During a 2007 broadcast, Beck detailed an off-the-record meeting between he and President Bush, going so far as to claim he’s a man of “incredible passion and resolve” who thinks of soldiers “as his own family.”

“President Bush is a man who personally feels the pain of every lost soldier,” Beck said, fresh from the White House. “… He feels the pain of every wounded hero, every lonely, grieving parent this war has caused. He is a man that understands the heavy costs we are paying.”

Two years later, Beck compared President Obama’s Afghanistan surge to the Nazi occupation of France, even as Obama pursued a strategy applauded by former Bush administration members.

Beck seems to have flipped on Bush, including him in that which he’s so loathed: a political ideology that holds workers and individual rights above the moneyed interests, that promotes social justice and activism over apathy and acquiescence, that strives for peace, a public safety net and a level economic playing field, otherwise known as American progressivism.

To be clear, during his two terms Bush limited workers’ rights, busted unions, rolled back bankruptcy protections, repealed large swaths of financial regulation, helped raise living expenses for the poor and middle class, slashed taxes for the wealthiest Americans, engaged in wars of aggression and then borrowed and spent more than every other U.S. president before him, combined.

None of these are hallmarks of progressive politics.

RELATED: 75 percent of Americans still blame Bush for the economy, but…

Additionally, the Troubled Asset Relief Program — the billions offered to bail out America’s largest banks and Wall Street firms — was initiated at the end of President Bush’s term, on President Bush’s orders, though his successor has largely taken the heat for its unpopularity. President Obama was instead responsible for launching the far more popular Recovery Act, which has been lauded in recent months as the spark that’s caused America’s gradual economic resurgence.

President Obama, on the other hand, has been constantly derided by progressives for keeping Bush policies and his willingness to compromise with the Republican minority, repeatedly bending over to please them even as they merely pretend to cooperate. Meanwhile, even as he’s shrunk the occupation of Iraq and expanded the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama has taken a very different approach to domestic policies, standing up for striking workers, reducing taxes for the poor, promising tax credits to small businesses that hire new employees and staking his very presidency on contentious health reform legislation aimed at guaranteeing near universal insurance coverage.

While President Obama’s actions have differed greatly from his campaign rhetoric, he still represents a significant deviation from his predecessor, who was by no means a friend to America’s progressives.

“What is clear is that at this point in history, progressivism has more in common with liberalism than with conservatism, and that progressive liberals are increasingly disenchanted not only by eight years of the Bush administration but by the fading promise of Obama’s progressive platform,” Hrafnkell Haraldsson recently opined at News Junkie Post.

After nearly 13 months of unbridled, non-stop attacks on liberals, progressives, President Obama and all his supporters, one is only left to wonder what changed so dramatically for Beck that kept him silent on such matters during the allegedly progressive Bush administration. As ThinkProgress noted:

Beck previously responded to people who asked, “where were you when George Bush was spending?” by saying, “It doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”

The Batman was unavailable for comment.

This audio is from Glenn Beck’s radio show, broadcast Monday, April 26, 2010, as snipped by ThinkProgress.

This video is from CNN, broadcast in August, 2007.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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