Who Speaks for the Right? Bill Kristol Takes on Glenn Beck

Feb 10, 2011 4:05pm

ABC New's Russell Goldman reports:

Conservatives are taking sides, lining up behind two of the biggest names on the American right as a tiff over the crisis in Egypt this week turned into a national debate about who speaks for the movement.

In one corner, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard , Fox News contributor and dauphin of American neoconservatism. In the other corner Glenn Beck, the emotive host of his own Fox News program and Tea Party standard bearer.

Often in agreement with Beck, Kristol this week broke ranks. In a Weekly Standard editorial, he pilloried Beck’s take on a potential outcome in Egypt, arguing that the conspiracy that underlies Becks position essentially makes conservatives look bad.

“But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s,” Kristol wrote.

No one knows how events will end in Egypt, but, Kristol argues, Americans — conservatives in particular – should be on the side of people and be supportive of their efforts to replace dictatorship with democracy.

Beck’s broad point that the revolution could be hijacked by Islamist elements is reasonable and has been discussed by politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle.

But on Tuesday, when Beck had the opportunity to defend himself he did not present evidence of a link between the American left and the Muslim Brotherhood, but instead attacked Kristol.

"People like Bill Kristol … I don't think they stand for anything anymore," said Beck. "All they stand for is power. They'll do anything to keep their little fiefdom together, and they'll do anything to keep the Republican power entrenched."

Beck further mocked Kristol, telling his audience “I think he’s still trying to get Bob Dole elected, I’m not really sure.”

Conservatives are taking sides, setting up a rift between old-school neocons like Kristol and Tea Party types like Beck.

Predictably, it’s those old-school conservatives who are glad to see Beck taken down a notch.

Writing in the National Review, Bill Lowry said Kristol took “a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing.”

In Commentary, Bill Whener called Beck’s attack “childish and churlish” and compared the talk show host’s theory about an international caliphate to a “fever dream” that connects the dots “of a massive and astonishingly well-organized conspiracy.”

On the other side, Aaron Klein writing for arch-conservative website WorldNetDaily wrote simply: “I feel compelled to join Glenn Beck’s side.”

The rift comes as Beck has seen a dramatic drop in his ratings and other feuds – most recently between Sarah Palin and former Sen. Rick Santorum – expose fissures in conservative America’s usually lockstep message. 

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