One of the more bizarre developments to come from the meteoric rise of right-wing talker Glenn Beck is the political resurrection of deceased rabidly right-wing John Bircher-defender W. Cleon Skousen.
You remember that name, donaEU(tm)t you? Until recently, a dusty Skousen book might be found at Deseret Industries, or stored long forgotten in a box in grandma and grandpaaEU(tm)s basement. W. Cleon Skousen, who died three years ago at 96, was an extremely charismatic figure. He was an FBI agent, a police chief, a BYU professor, a prolific author, ultra-conservative think-tank founder, and anti-communist.
He was also a nut.
Among SkousenaEU(tm)s beliefs was the loony accusation that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist agent. He was a regular speaker for the John Birch Society and Fred SchwartzaEU(tm)s notorious Christian Anti-Communism Crusade.
By the mid-1960s Skousen was already being repudiated by nearly all conservative organizations. A devout Mormon, SkousenaEU(tm)s influence lasted longer within Utah. However, time, and the deaths of several more-conservative LDS leaders, eventually caught up with Skousen. By 1979, the LDS church leaders asked local church leaders to no longer associate their wards with SkousenaEU(tm)s ultra-conservative group, The Freemen Institute.
SkousenaEU(tm)s influence remained low the rest of his life, but he continued to write books, including aEUoeThe 5,000 Year Leap.aEU In a nutshell, it paints the United States as a Christian nation guided by divinely inspired founders. That is an idea that appeals to millions. Mormon convert Beck, who has an audience of millions on TV and radio, claims aEUoeThe 5,000 Year LeapaEU has changed his life. He also recommends another Skousen Cold War creed, aEUoeThe Naked Communist,aEU to his listeners.
A few months ago, Beck wrote a forward to a new edition of aEUoeThe 5,000 Year Leap,aEU published by the Idaho-based National Center of Constitutional Studies, which is the new name of the old Freemen Institute. Beck also touts SkousenaEU(tm)s books to members of his The 9-12 Project, which recently marched in Washington D.C. ItaEU(tm)s no surprise that aEUoeThe 5,000 Year LeapaEU is a top seller on Amazon.com.
Hate him or like him, Glenn Beck has become a media phenomena aEU" he has perhaps surpassed fellow talker Rush Limbaugh as the aEUoeleader of the opposition.aEU Long before Green Czar Van Jones resigned and ACORN started to crack, Beck was blasting both on his TV show.
One wonders though how long Beck will last. His own hyperkinetic style and a Skousen-like pessimism on the state of the nation may plunge him farther into the right-wing woods than most are comfortable with. HeaEU(tm)s also started to receive media scrutiny, notably from Time magazine and Salon.com. On CBS News this week, he told Katie Couric, aEUoeI think John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama.aEU
Whatever happens though, when listening to Beck, we already know who the man behind the curtain is.