Handicapping the 2016 GOP candidates

On radio this morning, Adam Brandon from FreedomWorks joined the show to run through the candidates. Who does he like? Who has the worst record?

Get the expert political analysis in its entirety below, and scroll past the audio for the transcript of this segment.

Rush transcript of this segment is below:

GLENN: Well, welcome to the program. Last night on television, I had Adam Brandon, the executive vice president, the CEO of Freedom Works on with us. And we were talking during the break about how excited both of us were. And I think for different reasons. Maybe for the same reason. But we were both excited about the future. For the first time, talking politics. I mean, we were together. Adam is here. We were together on Election Day.

ADAM: That's right.

GLENN: With Mitt Romney.

PAT: Oh, man. What a bloodbath that was.

GLENN: And that was a kick in the head over and over again. And then I think we were there together -- or, at least we talked to each other during the last election where, you know, some of our guys were getting their heads kicked in again. And honestly I think most Americans who are of our political bent were thinking, okay, well, I'm going to stop doing that now.

And then you come to me. Yesterday we had Scott Walker on. We felt really good about him. We feel good about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. We feel like there's something happening here.

ADAM: That's right. In between when we spoke last time and here today, I've been reading up, and I found two headlines that really speak to me about what's happening. The first one comes from CNBC which says the millennial generation's savings patterns closely reflect their grandparents, like there's a fundamental shift in the youngest people in America today in how they view money and savings.

GLENN: Fourth turning.

ADAM: Then the next thing I saw was yet another study showing that more and more Americans are viewing themselves as independent of both political parties. These trends continue. To me, that shows me that the young folks are changing. And our society is changing in how it views politics. These are huge opportunities.

I want to go back to one more meeting we had a few years ago. And I remember, you put up on the chalkboard this long, progressive history and how they took over the parties and their influence. And you said it was a 100-year conflict. And I walked out of that meeting. I never forgot that because I was almost paralyzed by fear. Like, one hundred years? How do you combat something that's been going for 100 years?

GLENN: This is in the days when I depressed everybody and I said, we need a 100-year plan. And everybody was like, I don't think I even want to think about a 100-year plan.

ADAM: But you were right when you were talking yesterday and going over these presidential candidates. We at Freedom Works have been looking at what works and what wasn't work. The different types of organizations you need and the different type of candidates you need. And I would say right now today, heading into 2016, yes, it may take a few generations to turn everything back, but in the next few election cycles, I think we can make a significant advance at turning back the time.

GLENN: I think we have, quite honestly. If you look at the candidates I mentioned. You can add Marco Rubio to that. Those candidates would not exist had the Tea Party not popped up.

ADAM: One thing that the Tea Party is doing to change politics is it used to be enough. We all love Ronald Reagan and stuff. At best, those guys kind of paused the growth of government. It even kind of grew, but it just slowed it down. And those candidates that you mentioned and I think what the Tea Party is demanding, is in this next presidential cycle, not just pausing, but actually reducing government. And a few years ago, I would never have thought that's possible. But with people in the House and Senate and one of those folks in the White House, I think it could actually happen.

GLENN: So who do you think has the best shot?

ADAM: It's not a cop-out. I do believe it's too early to say that.

GLENN: Tell me the strengths of each candidate. For instance, Cruz, show me the strength of Ted Cruz.

ADAM: The strength of Ted Cruz is that he's absolutely fearless. From when he first ran for Senate and got to Washington, possibly the most disliked person in Washington, DC.

GLENN: Does that hurt him?

ADAM: I think it helps him out in real America. In D.C. what it shows, he's not scared of going into a Senate cloakroom and having almost every senator outside of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz --

GLENN: And likely --

ADAM: Giving him just the evil eye. He will fight for what he believes. That will be his strength.

STU: That feels good to us.

GLENN: Can't get anything done.

STU: When it comes down to him getting support to put together a winning campaign --

GLENN: One of the least liked people in Washington, DC, right now is Barack Obama. They're only afraid of his machinery. But he's not getting anything done.

ADAM: No. But would that help or hurt Cruz? That's why you'll see pretty quickly in the campaign cycle how that plays nationally. Rand Paul, once again, there's a guy who stood up against the NSA on the Senate floor. That's a forward looking thing. Of all these candidates, Rand Paul might reflect the future of the G.O.P. the most. The question is, is he too far ahead? He'll also have to answer, and this will be his opportunity, to talk about things like ISIS and foreign policy and show how he's different from his father.

Then just keep going down to the list. Marco Rubio. Great personal story. Fantastic story about beating Crist when he was running in Florida. The question for him: Is this kind of that Rubio who kind of came in and jumped on immigration in the wrong way, or is this someone who is a little different? Each one we mentioned, there's going to be a strength and there's going to be a weakness.

GLENN: The Marco Rubio thing, I don't think Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, or -- well, I guess in some ways Governor Walker has, but not as much that has got something as fundamental as immigration reform wrong. You know what I mean?

ADAM: Right.

GLENN: You can wake me up in the middle of the night, ask me one of the three big topics, immigration will be one of them. For him to get that one wrong and to say, well, I wasn't really -- hello. It shows me that your gut is somehow askew.

ADAM: Right. But that being said, comparing this to the field from previous years, more excited about this field.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh. Let's go deeper. Carly Fiorina.

ADAM: I'm not really sure what that's all about right now.

PAT: Yeah, we're not either. And we interviewed her last week or the week before. Liked her, but we didn't really get into policy.

GLENN: No. We were talking California policy, and she was right on the money on California. Very, very sharp.

PAT: And the economy she seemed pretty good on. But, you know, we didn't dig into the fundamentals like immigration.

GLENN: How about Ben Carson?

ADAM: Well, Ben Carson has just an incredible personal story.

GLENN: We really like him. We just don't think he's ready to be president.

ADAM: As I was mentioning earlier, one thing I've noticed about him, he's built a good connection with grassroots activists. He'll be a stronger player just because of the network he's been able to build.

GLENN: Mike Huckabee?

ADAM: I look at his record as governor and I'm just moving on. That's old news.

PAT: Thank you. Thank you. Good answer.

GLENN: The guy is a giant progressive.

ADAM: Absolutely.

STU: He will run. You have him. You have Jeb Bush.

GLENN: Hang on a second. Who does Mike Huckabee coming into the race, who does he hurt?

ADAM: Because -- the question for me: Is he going to try to stake out for the social conservatives? Is that the main group he'll reach out to?

GLENN: Yes.

ADAM: If you like some of these other people we mentioned, Ben Carson is there. Rick Santorum. Even Ted Cruz might be there.

GLENN: Ted Cruz. Yeah.

ADAM: When I look at how this horse race might play out --

GLENN: I have a conspiracy theory that I'm never going to share, but I have a conspiracy on Mike Huckabee on being put in this race by some -- by some establishment to really hurt Ted Cruz.

ADAM: That, I could actually buy that conspiracy theory.

GLENN: You probably know the conspiracy theory.

ADAM: Some people run for president not with the end goal of winning.

GLENN: Yes, Lindsey Graham.

ADAM: Run for president, run for vice president to sell books. John Bolton, I think, talks about running for president for, you know, I'm just not sure why. But it's a way for him to inject whatever issue he's most excited about into the race.

GLENN: What are the odds that you suppose that we get to a literal Hillary and Jeb ticket? Not the same ticket, although that would make more sense to me. Hillary versus Jeb Bush.

ADAM: I have a theory that if it's Clinton versus Bush, a third party candidate will win.

GLENN: I have the same feeling.

STU: Wow. It's tough.

GLENN: I have the same feeling. And especially if it's somebody like Rand Paul who seemingly is so different outside the system. You know what I mean? I really think -- I think that Rand Paul could win on a third-party ticket, if it's those two.

ADAM: You look at someone like Ross Perot, who came up because there was dissatisfaction. And then something else that I've never forgotten was when Mayor Michael Bloomberg dumped $100 million into his own race. That just shows, it can be done. There is someone who can write a check large enough to jump-start a campaign. Or you could just have -- like you were mentioning Rand. Just people so sick of this. I mean, I would have a hard time voting in a Clinton versus Bush election.

GLENN: I wouldn't. I will vote for third party. I don't care who it is.

ADAM: There you go. That would be such a disservice to our democracy if those are the two names on the ticket.

GLENN: It would. $2.5 billion for Hillary Clinton. What can that money buy? One thing it can't buy. When she launched this campaign. There was a new look to this campaign. One of the issues to the big look, they're not going to do big rallies. Why? Because no one would show up?

GLENN: We talked about that.

STU: Obama had a decent amount of success with big rallies. It's not like, hey, 50,000 people showed up for me thing.

GLENN: Right. That's the one thing you don't have to go to get rid of when you're running for president. The lies. The teleprompter, we've had enough of that. Big, huge problems is not a huge problem.

PAT: It's Journey saying, we don't want to play cowboys stadium anymore.

STU: We're looking for something intimate.

GLENN: It might be that Journey's time has passed or you have the wrong members.

ADAM: This is a shocking revelation about to make. But I do this to check to see what the other side is up to.

GLENN: We're talking to Adam Brandon from Freedom Works.

ADAM: And there's a bunch of progressive groups I donate the absolute minimum to, just to be on their email lists to see what they're thinking and what they're up to.

What amazes me about moveon.org is every email you get from them is run, Elizabeth, run. Run, Elizabeth Warren, run. And this should be Hillary Clinton's base. And they have no interest it seems in supporting her. You have to drag them --

GLENN: I just think that $2.5 million better be spent on buses going to nursing homes and picking them up to vote and then digging people up in cemeteries and just voter fraud. Because there's just no excitement there at all.

ADAM: No.

GLENN: At all. And that's why I think Hillary really wants Jeb Bush, because there's the same amount of excitement.

ADAM: Right.

GLENN: I think that if it's Jeb Bush, you're going to have -- he'll have the hardest time rallying people together and say, hey, will you go door to door? Will you make phone calls for me?

ADAM: I can't imagine any of our activists doing that.

GLENN: I don't know anybody in our audience who would do that.

PAT: You'll have 50 people voting that day judge it would be the lowest voter turnout in American history.

GLENN: It would. And the highest voter turnout. Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, one of those guys, versus someone like Elizabeth Warren.

ADAM: That would be so healthy for our democracy.

GLENN: Oh, it would be so great. And if Elizabeth Warren would just say -- the moderator is like, look, I know you're not a communist, but let's admit it, you like Swedish socialized government. Okay? And if she would have the balls to say, yeah, I do.

STU: You know who has the balls to say that? Bernie Sanders.

GLENN: Just really say, look, the Swedish system works. And here's why. And then having someone like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz saying, no, this is why I believe this system works if it's done right. And really have an open honest debate of those two choices. That's what we're really doing. We're just not admitting it.

ADAM: It would be TV I would watch every debate. It would be so exciting.

GLENN: Oh, yeah. The whole world would watch that. Back in just a second. I do want to give you some time to talk a little about your Freedom Works PAC. This is something that is actually really going to help the election and people want to know, what can I do to get involved? How can I help? You feel like $2.5 billion, it's not big money. It's smart money. And it's 5-dollar donations, not 100 million-dollar donations. We'll tell you about that coming up in just a second.

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(OUT AT 8:23AM)

GLENN: Talking to Adam Brandon, the CEO of Freedom Works. And he has started a new PAC. FreedomWorksPAC.org. They're not looking for millionaires. They'll take millionaires. But they're looking for 5-dollar donations. I wanted him to be on the air to explain specifically what this PAC is and why it's important.

ADAM: Thank you very much. It's actually FreedomWorksPAC.com. But when we looked at what worked and what didn't work in previous election cycles, there was a couple of elections we left on the table. Clint Didier out in Washington State lost by 2,000 votes. McDaniel won his race before he lost it. But one thing we missed was that final push. That ability to inject money into these campaigns that desperately needed it at that time. Yes, you're right, it's about the size of the community. Rounding up as many five, 50, 100-dollar checks as possible to really help these candidates that will make a difference.

GLENN: So what you're doing with this PAC is you're coming out with all the research on why you like these guys. Right?

ADAM: Going forward, we'll put up on a website. It will be all these different races. You pick and choose the ones you want. But we'll make sure that everyone who is listening right now will have fantastic research on the positions that matter to our community.

GLENN: So I think this is really important. Because you know when you write a check to the G.O.P., you don't know where your money is going. You write a check for the G.O.P., and it could very well be going to John Boehner.

ADAM: That's right.

GLENN: And I don't want that. So what you're doing, you can give it a general fund. But you can also say, no, I want it to go to this specific guy.

ADAM: Right now, you just have to give to Freedom Works PAC. There are not that many candidates in the race. But we'll also be incentivizing people like Matt Salmon to jump in against John McCain. We'll try to incentivize people like Congressman DeSantis to jump in in Florida to take over for Rubio's place. Rather than waiting and hoping for the right candidate, we want to put some resources together to get them in the race.

GLENN: Tell me about Salmon.

ADAM: Salmon has a 100 percent voting record with Freedom Works. 100 percent. He's one of those people you want to see in the race. When you look at a candidate, number one, they have to be right on principle. Number two, they have to run a competent campaign. And number three, if they do those other things, there has to be a path to victory. So every candidate we endorse, they'll be solid on principle, they'll be able to win, and they're going to have a path to victory.

GLENN: With a Freedom Works PAC, we could have gotten Lindsey Graham out.

ADAM: Well, that was one of the races I looked at. How did we not have a candidate in that race? There was like five candidates --

GLENN: If we can take out John McCain in 2016, that's a huge takeout.

ADAM: I think it would send a message to everyone.

GLENN: If this PAC could have existed, do you think we could have won Kentucky?

ADAM: We could have gotten closer. We could win Mississippi. I could go through three or four House races, we would have won. Legally, we didn't have the ability to put money and resources to come on and say, in 72 hours, these are the three people who desperately need this help.

STU: What I like about this idea, it's not giving money to a person or party. It's giving money to an idea. You'll find the people with the ideas, and they'll have the fuel to go through that campaign.

Ryan: Making of an Ant Queen

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The embattled, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo wrote that "Life is priceless even to an ant."

An ant colony can only survive for a few months after the death of its queen. On average, queens live 10 to 15 years. Some, up to 30 years, one of the longest insect lifespans, hidden deep within the colony, protected, unable to use her wings because she's a little bigger than she used to be.

Plus she's very busy.

The majority of ants are female. Wingless, sterile worker ants. They build nests, they forage, they hunt.

Theirs is a far briefer life than the queen's, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. But they see more of the outside world than any other ant.

The bigger they are, the farther they travel. And they release pheromones along the way so that they have a trail home.
Drones — winged male ants whose primary function in life is to mate with the queen — die after mating and rarely make it out of the colony.

Then, there are the soldier ants. They protect the colony and attack.

To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell, "Ants and savages put strangers to death."

They go on raids.

The attacking colony rarely loses, so most colonies flee as soon as an invasion begins. But they sometimes remain and fight.
Ants on both sides of the battle die in droves.

Henry David Thoreau describes an ant battle in Walden: "On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely."

If the attackers succeed in overtaking a colony, they pillage the eggs. Some are eaten, fed to larvae. But others become victims of slave raiding. Meaning that the victors return home with their enemy's unborn, feed them, nurse them. Then, when the eggs hatch, the victors force them into slavery.

Often, the slaves even develop an allegiance to the colony which ransacked their home and enslaved them. They'll even help raid other colonies and either die pointlessly or help with the seizure of the next generation of slaves.

Sometimes, however, the slave ants rebel.

In the words of Persian poet Saadi, "Ants, fighting together, will vanquish the lion."

Flying ants, both male and female, leave the colony to form another colony. Once they find a suitable place, the males's wings fall off and they mate to their death. Then one or more of the females becomes queen.

*

It felt odd, any time I sat with a roomful of media, a few hundred journalists from all over the world, as they simultaneously, silently, decided "Yep, that's newsworthy. We should hammer that."

It wasn't like everyone turned to each other and said, "Let's agree on the narrative."

It was an energy.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Like in Houston, at the third Democratic Debate, after Biden misused the word "record player," you could hear chatter spread through the room, people muttering the words "records" and "record player."

In Houston, the media watched the debate from a gymnasium around the corner from the auditorium. So I could contrast the crowd's reactions with the media's reactions.

Nearly every time, there was a disparity between the two. The media were more relaxed — during the debate at least. The audience enjoyed any mentions of identity issues. There were a lot. But the media barely reacted at all.

This was a good thing, probably.

*

It's impressive to see how politicians force their stump speeches into a new form, depending on the context. How they say it like an epiphany.

That night brought the opposite for the ever-fledgling Kamala Harris. I could not believe it. Was this the same woman who'd made Iowa hers, just a little over a month ago?

All night, she was so loyal to the tactic she'd premeditated that she didn't realize it wasn't working, like she kept putting on a puppet show on some busy sidewalk.

At one point, she declared, proudly, "We're not talking about Donald Trump enough."

The most talked-about man in the world, perhaps in our country's history.

In five weeks, she became an entirely different candidate. Her latest version resembled a Xanax-fueled stepmom. It was like she was transforming into Joe Biden.

She kept laughing at her own jokes. And the entire media room cringed every time.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Amy Klobuchar's pre-formed jokes and half-zany dad jokes fell short every time, too. Most of the media saw Klobuchar's long rants as a chance to chat with a neighbor or jet off to the nearest bathroom, which was likely a locker-room full of plastic flight containers and padded camera cases and journalists who curse like sailors.

During the debate, the press was stoic. So if a candidate got a reaction from them, it carried a certain authenticity.

They laughed at things that the audience ignored or disliked or didn't notice. In part because the audience didn't do a whole lot of laughing. But the media laughed like professionals laugh. In-jokey and staid yet ready for anything unexpected.

They loved it when Booker said the thing about "Let me translate that to Spanish … 'No'." And Yang's opening handclaps. As well as Pete Buttigieg's reaction to Yang's raffle.

The biggest laugh of the night in the media center, surprisingly, was when Yang said, "I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors."

*

Early scientists believed that ants adhere to a complicated hierarchy, which biologist E O Wilson compared to the Hindu caste system. The idea was, ants and humans have a lot in common, and ants belong to a society divided by class and determined by labor.

In the Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism Adam Smith wrote: "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people."

Ants have been organized into colonized societies since the Cretaceous Period, 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs still dominated the Earth. All of that changed 74 million years later. Which was about 66 million years ago. When a comet slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in the KT mass extinction.

80 percent of all plants and animals died. The ash and dust and debris polluted the air, blocked the sunlight, transforming the Earth into a dark, frozen wasteland full of asthma.

Insects, carrion-eaters, and omnivores all survived. Any purely carnivorous animals starved to death, while mammals and birds fed on insects and worms until the earth repopulated itself with more animals that could be eaten.

The K-T Mass Extinction ushered in a new era of life. Species that had lived in constant retreat from predators were suddenly able to form more elaborate purposes.

After these lifeforms thrived for tens of millions of years, certain mammals started to become vaguely humanlike.
Early humans popped up about 300,000 years ago.

Meaning, ants have existed for 140 million years, which is 139.7 million years longer than humans.

For reference, if you counted to 300,000, it would take you roughly three-in-a-half days. To get to 140 million would take about four-and-a-half years.

Humans only began developing language about 100,000 years ago.

Yet we're the ones with libraries and governments and ABBA and iPhones. What did ants have? Other people's sugar?

*

Before the debate, I wandered out of the gymnasium and onto bustling sidewalks with makeshift security fencing on each side. And hopped over the massive yellow tubes that belonged in E.T. and pumped cold air into the building. Past dozens of police and security, through an elaborate weave of temporary checkpoints and wires bigger than a fire hose.

On the street, I passed a group of six-or-so teenagers flipping DELANEY signs around like those cardboard "WE BUY GOLD" banners which actual people bob around while dressed as Elvis or Lady Liberty or a Banana.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The sun cast a delightful orange over Houston, glitter in the humid air.

Those kids were having a blast with those signs. Laughing so hard they had to stop occasionally and slap their legs.

On the other side of the fence, some of the most powerful people in the world were readying for battle, and these kids could not have cared less.

*

The protestors had gathered just outside the gates of the campus entrance.

Far as I could tell, it was me and no other journalists present. The rest of the media were in the gymnasium, preparing for the debate or networking or already on-air. Once they got into the media center they stayed put. For many reasons, I assume.
The air collapsed under a wave of heat unique to Houston.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Gnarled blockades served as borders on both sides of the street. Locked into steel fencing, flanked by rows of police cars with their lights on but their sirens off.

Worse than the humidity, and more intense, was the energy bouncing out of the protestors on Cleburne Street. The opposite of suction energy, shoving out with tension and panic and elation.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" blared from a Bluetooth speaker. I envisioned a slow zoom from above, beginning with the top of my head and rising, up and up and up. Drawing in the greater scene. Up past Trump's message-board plane. A panorama of city, then county, then state, capturing the topography and nuance of each snapshot of nature.

The higher the camera rose, the more I resembled an ant. One more wingless worker or obedient soldier rushing from place to place on a mission.

And when you got far enough above, you saw the colony that each of us belongs to.

Then it shrank like a passing bobsled, and Earth itself resembled an ant.

The scale of it is daunting.

For thousands of years the sky has filled humans with romance and humility and wonder. A restive impulse that strikes when we gaze up at the moon, the stars, the galaxy, the quiet.

But at ground level, I was a man in the throes of a great human drama. And my job was to document it as neutrally as possible.

The 120-odd protestors on the south side of the street spilled onto the sidewalk and into a lawn, and they chanted as the Trump plane groaned overhead.

They were crowded together, and they were all fighting for different causes. Lots of contradictions under the same banner.
Next to a group of Beto supporters with pro-choice t-shirts, several women chanted

We.
Want.
A pro-life.
Dem.

Chaos itself occupied the south side of the street. The protestors weren't sure how to handle it. So they chanted and sang and probed for the problem. Like so many tiny creatures hauling an orange slice.

Across the street, facing that horde of supporters, two men gripped pro-life signs.

They were the counter-protestors. Their barricade was far wider than needed. The grass around them looked sad, like the trail a dog makes along the fence when it wants to escape.

Behind the two counter-protestors, a mini-bus covered with photos of aborted babies, tangled fetuses, severed and indistinguishable chunks.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Photo by Kevin Ryan

I squinted and gasped and felt downright unwell.

Two days earlier, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child.

At the very moment I stared at images of tiny human shapes contorted and grey, our baby was the size of a pea.
A few weeks later, we'd see its heartbeat pulsing like a strobe.

I'm not making a statement on abortion. That's not my job as a journalist.

It's more my admiration for the impeccable depth of life. The timing. How messages and symbols confront us all the time, with unmatchable creativity.

Because there I was, literally in the middle of two opposing factions. Again. In the divide. Tangled into so many dichotomies. Life and death. Freedom and oppression. Order and chaos. Activity and stagnation. Creation and loss. Art and nature.

And I had once again remained in the middle.

This brought me tremendous satisfaction. It signified personal and journalistic success.

It was also a bit ridiculous.

As a reporter, I never wanted to pick a side. I already had a side. My side was America, and Ireland. My side was humanity.

My side was life.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.Not to act is to act."
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cost of discipleship can be daunting and few people are willing to sacrifice and stand in the face of evil to do what they know God is asking of them. The "Bonhoeffer Angel Award" is awarded to someone with the vision and courage to act when others only talk, to dig in and listen to the whisperings of the spirit when others turn a deaf ear. It is only fitting the inaugural award go to the visionary founder of Mercury One, Glenn Beck.

The award was presented by the Board President of Mercury One, David Barton and CEO of the Nazarene Fund, Tim Ballard. There was a touching video tribute as well including the likes of Penn Jillette, Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Joe Liberman, Congressman Loui Gohmert and Rabbi Daniel Lappin.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Glenn will be hosting the annual Operation Underground Railroad gala Saturday, November 2nd with keynote speaker Tim Ballard. If you are able to join us, tickets are still available and donations of all sizes are welcome.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!

Ryan: Donald Trump goes to Dallas

Photo by Sean Ryan

Donald Trump leaned into the rostrum like a bartender. He loved to rile his patrons.

"They. Wanna. Take. Your Guns. Away," he said, in his trademark staccato.

They stomped and hollered, 18,000 strong in the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks, on a Thursday in October, and another 5,000 people waited outside, desperate to join.

"At stake. In this fight. Is the survival. Of American democracy itself," he said, then went off-script. "Don't kid yourself, that's what they want, they are destroying this country, but we will never let it happen, not even close."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Here it was a few weeks from Halloween, with more autumn in the air each day. And 23,000 people roamed Dallas in costumes. All dressed up like American flags. They were happy. You could feel it all around.

It was ice-cold in that arena, but I had my bulky tan Carhartt jacket. It had been an hour since I chuffed down a travel-sized Crown Royal and some Sativa gummies, and I felt an unerring contentment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

So my eyes shot wide when Trump jerked his hand toward the media pool for the third or fourth time that night and dealt a few jabs, and the audience hissed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time it happened, I struggled to keep from laughing. Not in a condescending way. Neutral amusement. The drama of this wild setting full of energized people, the stadium lights, the narrative in motion. Hero versus Bad Guy.

Next minute they were cheering again. Because Trump told them about his plan to bring jobs back to America. It was just a matter of overcoming so many evil forces. But, he assured them, he was the only man who could guide us.

He listed off the enemies. The media, obviously. China, Obama, Democrats, Socialism, politicians, ISIS. I gasped, "Oh shit, I forgot about ISIS!"

*

There were five of us at the rally representing BlazeMedia. Writer Samantha Sullivan, cameraman James Baier, producer John Ruggio, and photographer Sean Ryan, my father.

James plays on the drumline at Mavericks games, so he gave us a proper tour of the arena, all the long passages and gaping walkways and cramped stairwells.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then we prowled around outside, looking for protests.

It was a different world out there on the street. A nun in diabetes socks strolled past MAGA vendors by the W Hotel. Valet spots crowded with Secret Service vehicles.

Photo by Sean Ryan

An all-women Pro-Trump county/rock band chanted on the massive stage, where, an hour later, Fox News live-casted. We were the only media outside, besides the odd cameraman tip-toeing through the curving rows of Trump supporters in line.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Samantha conducted man-on-the-street interviews. Nearly every time we walked away from someone we'd just interviewed, the people around them said a version of, "Now you're famous."

*

There were a dozen merchants selling Trump merchandise outside the arena, at least a dozen. One of them told me that they travel to all of Trump's rallies. From his cart, a flag billowed with the words "2020: Make Liberals Cry Again."

Photo by Sean Ryan

As we followed the curves of the snaking line, I overheard a drunk man in his dark tan blazer exclaim, "All right, I'm gonna get us on television again."

We flashed past thousands of faces, thousands of people, driven to be there, standing in line. And happy no less. Blatant under the red-winged sky with planes that float silently, graceful and astounding.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A young woman strolled down the street with a sign that read, "I might be gay, but I'm not stupid."

She told us her story. Her message was compassionate. Her face was relaxed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A little further down, plumes of smoke rose from a group of protestors with signs that said "We Vape We Vote.""Are you guys protesting Trump," I asked one of them.

"No," he said, "we all have different opinions about Trump. Not really worried about that. Right now we just want to protest the new vaping laws."

Photo by Sean Ryan

*

At 7:44 p.m., "Proud to be an American" came on and Trump emerged from the guts of the arena, strolling through the tunnel like Michael Jordan. Game 6.

Some people teared up, placed a hand over their eyes or their heart. Others nodded for too long, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Was that really him up there?

Even a few of the police had that resplendent look.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump walked the stage. He clapped and waved. He waited till the end of the Lee Greenwood song to speak. The audience cheered as he braced the podium and said, "Thank you." And they kept cheering. He waited. 20 seconds or so. But the applause kept going, so he turned around and clapped some more and waved and smiled that certain way he smiles.

*

"I am thrilled to be here," he said, "deep in the heart of Texas." And people cheered even louder than before, because Texans love Texas. "Where we just opened a beautiful new Louis Vuitton plant."

Life in America was now constantly surreal. Donald Trump, who actually became President, was talking at a packed rally. In a basketball arena. About the opening of a factory. For a luxurious French fashion brand. In Keene, Texas, population 6,400.

*

Trump peeked at one of his teleprompters. Grinning halfway. Then he jabbed his finger into the air, aimed it at the media section, and said "They're worse now than they ever have been," his shoulders raised and hands gesticulating. "They're crooked as hell. They're worse now than they've ever been. They're crooked."

Photo by Sean Ryan

His supporters booed. Jeered.

They pointed their fingers. They hocked.

A "CNN sucks" chant whispered down from a corner section on the 3rd level, but it never caught on. The audience's hissing tactic worked better anyway. No words. Words were the problem.

*

There was a musicality to Trump's sentences. He started with clipped phrases spoken in couplets. Then he let the words slide into an almost freeflow.

Photo by Sean Ryan

He would start on-script, "The radical Democrats want to destroy America as we know it. They wanna indoctrinate our children." Then, halfway through the next sentence, he would pivot into an aside, spoken in vernacular.

"And teach them that America is a sinful nation, you see that happening all the time. And I know it from personal experience. What they want to teach your kids, not good. They come home, 'Mommy, daddy, this is what I learned,' and you're going 'Oh, no, don't tell me. Let's get 'em into another school, fast.'"

*

Bleacher Report ranked American Airlines Center the 7th loudest arena in the NBA.

The crowd's reaction to Trump's comments about guns and the 2nd Amendment created one of the loudest sounds of the night, louder than Tina Turner's "The Best," which played about 8 times. Must have been 100 decibels. Some people were stuffing their ears with whatever fit.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nearly every one of Trump's punchlines got an audience reaction.

I mean these folks were revved up.

I spoke to a lot of people that night. Not a single solitary one of them was anything less than kind.

Look, I might as well say it now. The crowd was more diverse than I'd expected. Race, ethnicity, age, sex. Probably less diverse than the demographics of the country. But that's to be expected. Every one of the events so far brought a completely different crowd.

Photo by Sean Ryan

What mattered most was how the candidates swayed any given crowd at any given place. What was different about a Bernie Sanders townhall at a Hilton and a Kamala Harris sermon at a Baptist Church?

Nobody was ever rude at any events. But nowhere was there as much excitement as at the Trump rally. It felt like a sporting event or a music festival.

Photo by Sean Ryan

More than anything, it felt like WrestleMania. Professional wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

So many times I looked around at the engulfed arena and thought, "This is WWE."

*

Especially when Trump told stories. The way he added both vitriol and triumph to his sentences. Turned them into journeys, much like the interwoven plot lines of a WWE drama, each scene and victory or failure leading to WrestleMania.

The more outrageous or scandalous the story, the better. The less believable, the more dramatic it became. Because all any of it had to be was compelling.

Photo by Sean Ryan

To be compelling was more important than to be literal or judicious. Supercharged with human drama. Betrayal. Contempt. Dalliances. Mockery. Danger. Love. Confoundment. Anxiety. Celebration. Occasionally even death.

All of it was WWE to the hilt. But it was also the polluted clouds in an otherwise sacred dream. Water and adolescence, all the magnets spinning and spinning. Each huff from the street. The reckoning of life, how maybe it could have happened differently but this is how it went.

*

He seemed to use a kind of operant conditioning on his audience, as if to make it easier for them to communicate in shorthand.

Fewer words, fewer, few.

Photo by Sean Ryan

For instance, here's his first mention of the media, at the start of the rally.

"Although the fake news back there, they don't wanna talk about it." That drew the boo's all right.

He leaned back, as if handing them the mic for a moment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"They don't wanna talk about it." He stared at the media area for a few seconds, then squinted cartoonishly and lifted his palm over his forehead like he was blocking out the sun. Then he leaned into the podium, and the pitch of his voice rose. "Look at all those cameras, can you believe it? Look at all those red lights."

Then he pointed at the press pool. The cameras were set up directly across the arena floor, so when you watch it on video it's like Trump is bursting out of your monitor.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"Don't worry, I won't say anything bad about your network."

Then he — immediately — said something bad about the networks.

"Cuz' a lot of times I get ready to do a number on these phony networks and, you know, I see those red lights go off, off, off, off, off. They don't want their viewers to see, but that's okay. I'm not gonna say it tonight. I'm gonna say, 'You're legitimate media'."
Aside, "I don't actually mean that."

He grimaced.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"But you look at that," he said, pointing, then lifted his palm to his forehead again, like he still couldn't find the puny thing he was looking for. "That's like the Academy Awards used to be, it failed. You know why it failed? Because they came after us. That's why it failed. It failed because it had stupid people saying horrible things about us."

Then he pointed to his temple wiggling his finger, "Stup-id." Shook his head. "Stupid people. They are stupid people. And their ratings have dropped like a rock. And I love seeing it, I'm telling you. Love it."

He reared his head back.

"But no matter how. Hard. They. Try. They will fail. Because the people of Texas, and the people of America, will never. Surrender. Our freedom. To those people. Right there."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Later in the speech, he said much less, mostly variations of "and in the back you'll see the fake news." Repetition, a little briefer each time. Down to an occasional off-handed, "Those phonies in the back." Then, eventually, all he had to do was point, grimacing.

Two K9 police took stance in front of the grey barricade separating us from them, which amounted to separating us from ourselves.

*

Security at the rally was unlike anything I'd seen. An entire military apparatus that floated here from Washington D.C., subsuming downtown.

Two wax-shined helicopters hovered over the arena, unmoving, like geckos ready to snap on a fly. I'd never seen a helicopter float perfectly still like that. It was terrifying.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Secret Service everywhere. Different ranks. Outside were the Navy Seal types in body armor, hoisting MP5s with silencers. The Secret Service inside, nearest Trump, had the same jagged stare and well-trained unease. But they glided around in immaculate, boring suits, each with a gold square pin on the lapel. They either stealthed around in a blur or stood perfectly still like the Queen's Guard.

I'd been to the American Airlines Center twice before. A few years ago, for Kanye West's Saint Pablo tour, when he performed solo on the levitating stage. And last summer, to review a Shania Twain concert under the influence of LSD.

Oddly, the Trump rally was a mixture of both.

*

In nearby Grand Prairie, at the Theatre at Grand Prairie, Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke held a competing rally. There were about as many people at O'Rourke's rally as people outside the Trump rally.

Obviously, Trump loved that. But, for good measure, he hurled a few Beto-jabs into his speech, referring to him as "a very dumb Democrat candidate for president."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then he compared him to one of those wacky inflated dancing noodles you only ever see at used car dealerships.

Then he did an imitation of above-mentioned contraption. It was bizarre to see a President imitating a dancing noodle. But he didn't care what a President should or shouldn't do. He was the anti-Politician President. And his followers loved that about him.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"The flailer," he said. "Remember he was flailing all over the place? I said, 'Why is this guy hot? John Cornyn's gonna win so easily. Just like Ted Cruz won. He's gonna win. No matter what happened." Then he scoured, like a falcon in a painting. "In a few short weeks, [Beto] got rid of guns then got rid of religion. Those are not two good things in Texas to get rid of."

*

Stomping his balled-up hand, Trump said that his office, the Oval Office, was our office, too. The crowd roared. Some of these people had driven hours for the rally. There were farmers and truck drivers and teachers and nurses. A lot of people there had never had an office of their own, and here was the President saying his was theirs.

Trump is the hero of his stories. It's part of his success, and, I suspect, a useful defense mechanism. At first glance, his journey and his character are riffs on the classical literary model, a thirsty figure who gnashes through dangerous territory, down into the unknown, through death and onto rebirth.

Photo by Sean Ryan

But Trump is not classic in the slightest. He's nothing like Odysseus or Dante or Gilgamesh or Don Quixote. Instead, he is a postmodern antihero, like Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars" or Tony Soprano or Beyoncé or Homer Simpson. In the summer of 2015, I asked a former professor to define postmodernism.

"Donald Trump," he replied. "He contains all of it. Chaos. Hyperreality. Lots of chaos. A constant sense of 'This is so surreal.' The rejection of tradition and assumptions. Rejection of divisions between high and low culture. Rejection of rules and styles and genres. Use of pastiche. Satire. Irony. Playfulness. Paranoia. Fragmentation. A total lack of boundaries."

*

Any time the place got quiet, some random person, usually near the rafters, hollered out phrases, and it just sound like the South Park rednecks saying "They took our jobs!"

To be fair, hecklers on the left don't sound much better.

*

A week earlier, at Trump's Minneapolis rally, protestors and activists formed a moshpit outside the Target Center, not too far from the Mississippi River.

Tensions in Minneapolis had been high, and as Trump was about to board Air Force One Mayor Jacob Frey insisted that Trump pay the $530,000 security fee in advance. A last minute effort to keep him out of Minneapolis.

In response, Trump tweeted that the "lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters. 72,000 ticket requests already. Dump Frey and [Minnesota Rep. Ilhan] Omar! Make America Great Again!"

Photo by Sean Ryan

Conservative networks reported that, after the rally, members of AntiFa attacked at least one Trump supporter. Moral panic or not, it didn't augur well for the next year.

The following day, Trump appeared in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The South. No army of AntiFa down here, not like in Portland or New York or Seattle.

AntiFa has a decent presence in Dallas, and a reporter friend of mine interviewed a group of them outside the Trump rally. But there were hardly any there. A dozen or so. Which is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of Trump supporters, coiled all through downtown Dallas with its neon green outline.

*

I worked as a soccer referee for years. So I've broken up countless fights, dealt with manic egos, endured adults prone to outbursts, taken every kind of verbal abuse, faced absolute mutiny. In these chaotic situations, when people around you are losing their minds, the two greatest solutions are kindness and humor.

*

Halfway through a sentence Trump stopped reading from the prompters, stopped talking, pivoted, beamed at the crowd, then lifted his hand.

The entire arena fell silent.

It was the captivating hush of the final moments of an important game, as the ball floats through the air toward the goal or net or end zone, and fate is no longer within our grasp.

Imagine being able to freeze an entire arena into abrupt silence with one tilt of your hand.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump was quarterback and they were the defensive line. He sang the melody and they hummed the backbeat. He was the skipper and they were deckhands. Although he seemed concerned that his supporters never felt belittled by this arrangement.

"[Democrats] come after me, but what they're really doing is coming after the Republican party. And what they're really really doing is they're fighting you, and we never lose."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time he dropped a line like that, the crowd erupted with the kind of visceral intensity usually reserved for good news and sports.

The man who Evil Knievelled into arenas and said he'd never be conquered.

The closing of his speech was like the ball-drop in Times Square. But instead of kazoos and fireworks it was the words "Make America Great Again."

"Four more years," people shouted, "four more years."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" blasted to life.

For some reason, one verse stood out more than the others.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, "We're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse"

In all that hissing and mania, all the flag-waving intensity — as the arena peeled and shook with the song and so many stomping feet — Trump looked in one direction, waved. Then another, and turned, waved. Until he had looked in every direction and waved.

Before he ducked out, he pointed toward the crowd one last time. A blaring sea of reds, blues, whites. A living representation of the American flag. All three colors boiling around under the Jumbotron and disco balls.

Little by little, people streamed into the aisles. They filed up the concrete steps, and out into a familiar chaos.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com