Election 2016: Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum calls in to discuss the issues facing the country

The list of potential GOP nominees keeps growing, and the latest man to enter the race joined Glenn on radio this morning. When it comes to standing against radical Islam, no one speaks louder than Rick Santorum. He spoke about the threat of the Islamic State, the role of government in the gay marriage debate, the police officer in McKinney, TX, and more.

GLENN: Rick Santorum is a good friend. And a good friend of the program. And somebody that I have -- and I truly believe this -- is the closest thing to Winston Churchill that we have on the planet today. Probably next to Benjamin Netanyahu. When it comes to radical Islam. Rick and I have talked about rallied Islam before radical Islam was cool. And talked about these kinds of days and what it's going to take and the kind of enemy we would face. Unfortunately, we're seeing all of the things that when Rick was even a senator, he was talking about, we've seen them all come true. And he's a guy who has truly been raised for this time to be able to deal with things like rallied Islam. We haven't spoken about this in a while. I'd like to get his take on it. He declared his candidacy for president of the United States when we were away on Memorial Day. So we have our first chance to speak to him now. Senator, or, Mr. Presidential Candidate, Rick Santorum. How are you, Rick?

RICK: I'm doing great, Glenn. It's so great to be back on your show. Thank you for having me.

GLENN: Thank you. How is your wife? How is your daughter?

RICK: Thanks for asking. Everybody is doing just great. Thank you. Our girl just got a great clean bill of health. And life is good.

GLENN: Good. So, Rick, let's start with ISIS. The president in so many words said, I don't really have a strategy on ISIS. The strategy that we are using is obviously not working. What do we do?

RICK: Well, the strategy is not working because we haven't identified who they are, what they want to accomplish, and why they're trying to accomplish it. I mean, it's all just denial that this has anything to do with Islam or that they have any designs that are religiously motivated.

It's really clear -- Glenn, you and I talked about this years ago, when he talked about the establishment of the caliphate and what that means. And ISIS has established a caliphate. They now have legitimacy within the Islamic world, at least the radical Islamic world, to call people to jihad, not just in Iraq and Syria, but all over the world, including the United States. And they're doing that. And as long as they can maintain territorial control in an area and expand that area, I believe they will grow exponentially. Because when I say grow exponentially -- and be able to recruit jihadists. What they believe is, if they can maintain this territory and expand it, that shows that Allah is blessing them, that Allah is with them, that they're defeating the great Satan. As America tries to stop them, that they can't. This will encourage more and more people to join them. So what the president is doing is the worst of all things. He's saying that he's fighting, not committing any real resources to do so, and giving ISIS an easy victory, if you will, as he moves into Ramadi -- as they move into Ramadi and other places.

GLENN: So, Rick, you're president of the United States. What's the first thing you do?

RICK: Well, the first thing you do is -- you step up the real campaign against ISIS.

Number one, we arm the Kurds. That's the first -- that's the easiest thing to do. This is a fighting force that can fight, will fight, and can win. We have to have a real air campaign. We're flying, according to Centcom that I saw recently, something on the order of 14 HEP sordis a day against ISIS. Which, 70 percent of the airplanes aren't even dropping ordinances. So we're not -- during the Gulf War, we flew 800 to 1,000 planes a day to try to win the battle. We aren't even touching ISIS with the handful of bombs that are being dropped on them. We have a real coordinated campaign with the Kurds. With whatever Iraqi forces that are willing to fight. We have to support the Jordanians. I mean, the Jordanians are in this fight they're willing to fight. They need more resources. They need more help. We can provide it to them. The Egyptians. The kidnapping of these 88 Christian girls in Libya. And the Egyptians are willing to fight the -- the -- ISIS in Libya. But we're holding back --

GLENN: It's truly amazing. We didn't hold back supporting Mubarak, a bad guy. But a better guy than we had with the Muslim Brotherhood. Then we supported the Muslim Brotherhood. Now we get a guy who may be the best person in the presidential palace in Egypt that they have had in modern -- in modern history, and we're nowhere to be found around this guy.

RICK: Well, that's because the president supports the Muslim Brotherhood controlling Egypt. I mean, it's just almost impossible to conceive that the president is standing by this terrorist organization that was turning Egypt into a Sharia radical state, you know, sustaining the judiciary, doing all these things that were making it very clear that they were going to move away from democracy. The Egyptian people got it. They rose up along with the military and took the Muslim Brotherhood out. And our president continues to stand with them and objects to this government because they overthrew a legitimately elected government. This is the kind of -- I just -- it's almost incomprehensible how the president can look at that situation and not see who the good guys and the bad guys are.

GLENN: Okay. A couple of other things that are going on. One is, injustice on the streets. Our police now are no longer -- I mean, we have a guy in McKinney, Texas. Have you followed the McKinney, Texas, story at all?

RICK: Yeah.

GLENN: So this police officer has now retired. He quit the force. He's gone. That's insane to me. If I'm a police officer, I don't go and answer some of these calls now. And that's what's happening in some of these bigger cities. We've made our police officers guilty until proven innocent. And even when it's innocent, we don't really care. We are giving the rule of the street to thugs. In Baltimore, they were actually thanking -- the city officials were thanking the Nation of Islam and the Crips and the Bloods for holding the peace in the streets. What do you do? You're president of the United States, how do you get your arms around this one?

RICK: You know, this is a really tough one because what we've had unfortunately is a president who was in a position to actually heal a lot of racial divide in this country and he's done anything, but that. Which is unfortunate. Which makes it that much harder for the person who comes in after this president and try to repair that. The only way you do that is actually in my opinion is going after the root cause of the problems here and start talking about what's going on within the black community. Within the minority communities. And many poor communities. Not just black communities across this country. Which is the lack of opportunity. The breakdown of the family. The lack of opportunity for jobs and good-paying jobs because of a lot of other factors. Poor schools. I mean, there's just a whole series of issues here that have led to hopelessness and despair. And we -- this president simply has not addressed them.

He's promoted more government, more transfer payments, and not real opportunities, not real -- trying to heal the family and the family situations within those communities. All of those things are key. There's a big just published about six weeks ago by a guy named Robert HEP Putnam. And Robert Putnam is a liberal Harvard sociologist. And he concluded, in looking at the problems of being able to rise in America, that the number one issue was the breakdown of the family in these communities.

And we've had a president who had an opportunity to do something dramatic about that. And he's chosen not to. He's chosen to play the vice of politics. What I'm going to do, and one of the things that I pledge as president, we're going to focus on children and providing a society that will help nurture families again. That will start putting families as the number one priority for our country to try to heal those -- the wounds in these communities by restoring the building block of those communities, which is the traditional family.

GLENN: Okay. And the traditional family is usually supported by the traditional church.

RICK: Yeah.

GLENN: And I know last time -- it used to be, Rick, that they would ask people about gay marriage and everything else. And there was no reason to ask that. Nobody would change gay marriage. And nobody was trying to change the Constitution one way or the other on that. In a serious way.

Here's what's happened. The president -- now the Supreme Court is going to deal with gay marriage. And the -- we had David Barton on yesterday who showed us some things that came from the Department of Justice, their attorneys on the changes that they will inflict on churches. We will lose our -- our tax-free status.

RICK: Yeah.

GLENN: They will start telling us who we can and cannot hire. What we can say. What we cannot. Who we can marry, who we cannot. You're going to have to deal with that as president of the United States, what do you do there?

RICK: Well, this is tantamount to government establishing religion. When the United States government comes in and says, this is what you'll believe. This is how you'll practice your faith. This is a new religion. This lies, in my opinion, in the establishment clause of the Constitution that says the Congress shall make no law with respect to establishing a religion.

If the government goes around and tells churches what they have to believe in and what their doctrine is, that is something that is a violation of the First Amendment. That's why I have actually some hope that the court will not get this wrong. That they will not go as far as some are suggesting. Because there is no -- there is no way that the left will stop at just tolerance. They will demand conformity. They will demand it from the church and every institution. They will demand it from businesses. And there will be no tolerance to a different point of view on this issue. And that's why, again, I'm hopeful that the court will not do what it is -- does. But if it does, I will tell you, and I said this on Meet the Press a couple weeks ago -- that's the court's opinion. They're entitled to their opinion. But the president and the Congress have an opinion too of what the Constitution is. And if they get it wrong and the consequences are what I suspect they will be toward people of faith, then this president will fight back.

PAT: Rick, the media's tactics with you last time and now are either ignore you or attack you. And still last time you finished second. Now, the latest thing is that supposedly one person showed up in Iowa. Tell us what really happened there.

RICK: Yeah. Well, the funny thing was. The last time around, I had that happen to me once too. I went to a town hall meeting, and only one person showed up. It turned out to be in all honesty the best town meeting I ever had. The one person who showed up became my coordinator for the county. She actually became the regional coordinator. And it turned out, the fact that I had time with her to be able to talk with her, it turned out to be the greatest thing.

GLENN: Which, by the way, had you -- had you end up second place. So it's happened before.

PAT: Right.

GLENN: In a town of 300 people. So three people show up. And you're 1 percent of the town showing up. And it's happened before. But they're attacking you.

RICK: Yeah. You know, look, when I did this the last time, no one was paying any attention to me. I mean, I was going around, going to all these small towns with 2- to 300 people. And, of course, you won't get 50 people. I mean, last night, we were at a town a little larger in Iowa. And we had 50 people at a reception. They didn't cover that. We had a great town hall meeting for an hour and a half.

But when you go to a lot of small towns during the middle of the afternoon, during workdays, and people are out doing their things, you will get a smaller crowd, and that's what's expected. That's what makes this so hard because politicians are used to being cheered by big crowds and being in front of audiences. And this is all about meeting real people and the one person, by the way, who was there signed up to be a caucus chairman for us. Agreed to actually run the county for us.

GLENN: Now, I've read conflicting reports that there were more than one.

RICK: There actually was more than one. There were three or four people there.

GLENN: Okay. Doesn't make it that much better.

RICK: One person was at the bar and had a milkshake with me. I think that's what they were taking. But the point is, we don't -- to me, it's all about quality and not quantity. Particularly these little counties of just a few thousand people in the county. That's what makes it hard to do. That's why people don't want to do it because you don't want to take a hit. And from my perspective, I'll just keep chugging away. They can criticize my one or two or three people that I get to volunteer in every county. But, you know what, that's how I won Iowa last time.

GLENN: Rick, would you do me a favor? Can we sit down sometime? I want to meet you someplace. Your house. Someplace. I'll bring my cameras, and I want to put a list of, I don't even know, 25, 50 questions together. And I'll ask all the candidates that I would seriously consider voting for -- I'm not going to ask Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or some of the other clowns -- but, you know, about four guys who I would consider voting for. I'm going to ask them exactly the same questions, so there's no gotchas or anything else. Would you do that?

RICK: Yes! I will never forget, one of the first interviews you ever did with me. We did this, and I was in a parking lot in north Pennsylvania. And you said, I have 20-some questions, yes or no answers.

GLENN: That's right.

RICK: You asked me about 20-some questions, and you demanded yes or no answers. No caveats. I finished. And I'll never forget what you said as long as I live. I finished the last question, and you said, I want to kiss you in the mouth.

[laughter]

GLENN: Well, that's sick. Although, we have found out now, it's perfectly normal.

RICK: Normal. It's a natural reaction for that.

GLENN: That's right. It's a perfectly natural reaction. Rick, all the best of luck to you. And we will -- we will schedule sometime where we can really sit down and go in. Because I want to talk about the size of government and where you stand on some of the more Libertarian issues.

RICK: Love to talk about that.

GLENN: Is there a website? I'm doing Pat's job.

RICK: RickSantorum.com. Even a dollar helps us. Help us out. Join the fight and get out there and make a difference for your country.

GLENN: RickSantorum.com. Thanks a lot, Rick. I appreciate it.

RICK: Thank you.

GLENN: You bet. Buh-bye. He's a really good guy. Really, really good guy.

PAT: He is.

GLENN: Why are we not on his bandwagon?

PAT: I don't know that we're not. I mean, we're still deciding. Still deciding.

GLENN: He's probably one of the four.

PAT: He's in there. Yeah.

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