America

As Glenn Beck's Rally Draws Near, Political Theater Is Certain

Glenn Beck DC stage

hide captionThe stage for Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Alex Brandon/AP

The Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" Lincoln Memorial event is only a couple of days away and there's just one thing we can be sure of — the National Park Service won't be providing any crowd estimates.

The NPS got out of that business after the 1995 Million Man March after organizer Minister Louis Farrakhan and other said the crowd was considerably less than a million. A 400,000 man march didn't have quite the same ring.

Beck, the conservative superstar broadcaster, estimates his Saturday rally will draw 100,000 or maybe even 300,000 or more, who knows?

If you're watching from the sidelines as a spectator, all you can do is observe the claims and counterclaims fly back and forth like tennis balls at the U.S. Open.

On one side, you've got Becks' opponents lambasting him for allegedly usurping the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. One critic even likened those who will gather under Beck's banner to the Ku Klux Klan. As sportscaster Keith Jackson frequently said in his broadcasting days: "Whoa, Nellie."

Meanwhile, Beck has fought back, saying he wasn't even aware of the King coincidence, that he went with the only date that worked.

An excerpt from Beck's Aug. 23 show with sidekicks Pat Gray and Steve "Stu" Burguiere.

GLENN: Do you remember why we picked 8/28?

PAT: Yeah. Because first of all, 9/12 was a Sunday.

GLENN: Sunday, and I'm not going to have people try to gather on the Sabbath. I'm not going to ask them. How can you ask for the Lord's blessings if you are breaking the Sabbath.

PAT: And then the day before that's obviously 9/11, which you didn't want to mess with.

GLENN: Right, which I don't think we want to have. Can you imagine what people would have said? And they would have been right.

PAT: Exploiting 9/11...

GLENN: So we go back and we just look for an open date where the mall is open and we are open. Now, if this is a traditional event with Al Sharpton, how come there wasn't a hold on the Lincoln Memorial?

STU: So weird.

PAT: That's a good point.

His liberal opponents, like Rev. Al Sharpton who plans his own rally in Washington the same day, aren't buying that.

Actually, there's something else we can be sure about. All of this is surely on some level meant largely as entertaining political theater.

Beck doesn't exactly hide the fact he's an entertainer. His program's slogan is "The fusion of entertainment and enlightenment."

Sharpton who, as a young man, toured with Godfather of Soul, James Brown, knows something about entertainment, too.

So while Saturday's Beck rally and other planned rallies, including Sharpton's, will either be your kind of show or not, a show there definitely will be. Actually, a few shows.

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