by Glenn Beck
GLENN: I'm just reading the I'm just reading the review from FrontPage Magazine of Arguing With Idiots. Have you seen this?
STU: Yeah, yeah, it's great.
GLENN: Holy cow. When I received a he writes, who is this? David Forsmark: When I received a review copy of the new book by over emoting radio TV talker Glenn Beck, I sighed and put it to the side. What put me off were the book's title, Arguing with Idiots, and the cover photo showing Beck dressed as a commissar making a funny face. It's not a commissar.
PAT: He doesn't like the book czar?
GLENN: No, it's the book czar, and he's telling you what book to buy. Let's see. Arguing with idiots is a waste of time, I thought one might as well have published a book called Exercise in Futility for Dummies or The Idiot's Guide to Banging Your Head Against the Wall– neither prospect appeals to me all that much. Besides, in the decade and a half since Rush Limbaugh sold millions of copies of his commentaries on issues of the day, enough talk show hosts have published books that reading them all would consume about 90% of my book reviewing time, and very few have proven to be worth the effort. But with all the heat generated by Beck in the last couple of months and the fact that I've defended him a few times from the likes of Keith Olbermann, my curiosity got the better of me. What I found was very surprising and worthy of my time. So here's the rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly of Glenn Beck's new book.
OLBERMANN: God forgive you.
GLENN: The book itself listen to this. The book itself is not just good. Much of it is really, really good.
GLENN: Shockingly good.
GLENN: It reminded me of the kind of bestsellers that came out in the early 1980s, when free market thinking made its big comeback, aided by libertarian Robert Ringer's Restoring the American Dream on the pop thinking level, and George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty for the more philosophical reader.
But what much of the content of Arguing really reminds me of — and don't throw things at me — is the late, great Milton and Rose Friedman's classic of capitalism, Free to Choose.
PAT: That's what I was thinking, too. That's what I was thinking. I had the same thought in my head. When I read the book, I thought the same thing.
GLENN: I got Milton Friedman. That's what I'm thinking, yeah.
GLENN: Now, before anyone has a stroke or writes my editor in shock and disdain, I'm not saying Arguing with Idiots is in the league with the book that is one of the five most influential of my life.
However, I do think this book would have made Milton Friedman smile with approval. About two thirds of Arguing with Idiots updates the topics covered in Free to Choose. In fact, one could almost see chapter headings (if the arguing with idiots motif had not been adopted) similar to the titles “Who Protects the Consumer?” or “Who Protects the Worker?” from Friedman's classic. Arguing could have had a chapter called “Who Protects the Patient?” Instead, Beck chose to give the chapter a rather prosaic name, “Universal Health Care.”
That said, “Universal Health Care” is one of the book's most valuable chapters. Unlike some other segments, such as the one about the Second Amendment, Beck (and his team of writers and illustrators) does more than (very effectively) restate familiar arguments, Beck offers witty asides and on point illustrations (both literally and figuratively) while presenting a wealth of material that will be new to even well informed readers and veterans of the political commentary wars. Particularly terrific is a section on how innovative companies are meeting the demand for low cost insurance and changing the paradigm on how health care is delivered. This is something the current debate is sorely lacking from free market advocates, who too often are merely opponents of socialized medicine.
Back when the Friedmans wrote Free to Choose, private sector unions were still the major force in Democrat politics, with growing backup from the teachers unions. Industrial unions are greatly diminished now, and Beck takes on the even more insidious nature of public employees unions — particularly the SEIU and its ties to ACORN and President Obama.
Teachers unions also take a big hit, as they did with Friedman, with Beck arguing for freedom in the education system. His flow chart on how to fire a tenured teacher in New York City is priceless.
Like most libertarian leaning writers, Beck is best at economic issues, really good at arguing for the Second Amendment and other constitutional issues and weaker on social issues and history.
What are you However, as entertaining and informative as Beck's teacher tenure flow chart is “Presidential Smackdown,” an NCAA bracket type seeding chart for ranking the nation's presidents. It's a lot more fun than the usual kind of list put out by historians and apt to promote a much more detailed discussion than a mere one through 44 list.
Most people argue the number 7 seed William H. Taft's defeat of John F. Kennedy
PAT: He's actually going to argue the merits of the smackdown?
GLENN: And Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeds No. 2 and 1, respectively, is far too upset minded (Beck states correctly that the 16th Amendment passed under Wilson who he correctly eviscerates, but it was Taft who championed the Amendment and it passed shortly after he left office.)
STU: That's great.
PAT: He is taking issue with your seating process?
GLENN: Yes. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln certainly should have appeared in different brackets so they could finish first and second – but, hey, this only shows why the bracket method is both more fun and focused, and having Jefferson make the finals is in keeping with Beck's personal philosophy. Since I can't reprint any of the pages, blah, blah blah, blah blah, he goes on. He says the bad: Not all of the humor works, which is to be expected. The strange Mount Rushmore illustration at the beginning of one of the strongest chapters is unfortunate because it diverts some people this terrific section. Oh, I disagree. I stand by that Mount Rushmore. So then he goes on. You know, he doesn't like the idea the title is Arguing With Idiots. And then the ugly is the cover.
Look, I get it. It's a joke. Glenn Beck, the book czar, ha ha, and it's not even the goofiest costume Beck has donned since his live TV news gig.
PAT: That's true enough, true enough.
GLENN: But with the word fascist floating all around the place again and Jonah Goldberg getting the term aimed in the right direction, who the heck thought this was a good idea? Well, me. That would be me.
PAT: It's good arguing against it, though.
GLENN: But first of all, it's not a cover that will attract the unconvinced. For every one person who buys the book, a hundred browsers are apt to walk by, wrinkle their nose and associate Beck and his fans with the confrontational looking martinet on the cover.
But, you may well argue, how can you criticize the promotion strategy for the No.1 bestseller in the nation? Easy. Beck's audience is large and loyal, which is enough to get this book to the top of the list.
The material is good enough to convince doubters and presented entertainingly enough for the fan club to give and recommend to the uninitiated. That outreach is not made easier by the notion that giving the book to someone who doesn't yet agree with you is in effect calling them an idiot.
STU: I think basically what they are saying here is they love the book. The only problem they had with it was Glenn's appearance.
GLENN: No, no, I think what they are saying is they love the book but for you ready for this? But for those who judge a book by its cover, then it's a bad book.