STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck is so unhappy about Senator John McCain that he has trouble restraining himself.
Mr. GLENN BECK (Host, "The Glenn Beck Program"): This is the media. This is the media. What has the media been telling us?
Oh, no, he's a real conservative. No, no, no, no, no. He's not a flip-flopper, no.
INSKEEP: Which Beck does not believe. Beck describes himself as independent, not Republican. He's among those conservatives deeply suspicious of the likely Republican nominee.
He recently took a sick day from his radio program but even with a guest host in the chair, Beck felt he had to phone in to mock McCain.
(Soundbite of audio clip)
Mr. PAT GRAY (Host, KSEV's Morning Show): We have a special treat for you. My friend Glenn Beck joins us here on The Glenn Beck Program with Pat Gray. Hey, Glenn. Welcome to The Glenn Beck Program with Pat Gray.
Mr. BECK: Thank you, Pat. Pat Gray filling in for Glenn Beck.
Mr. GRAY: Glenn, welcome. Yes, my friend, thank you for joining us.
Mr. BECK: Oh, don't start with that. Every time he says "my friend" I can't take it.
INSKEEP: The radio and TV host went on to refer to Senator McCain as Juan McCain, which suggests an issue where conservatives disagree. Immigration is one of many issues on which they're working to define their future. And Glenn Beck is our latest guest this week as we sample some conservative thinking.
Can you tell me how long you've considered yourself a conservative?
Mr. BECK: Oh, I've always been a fiscal conservative, I guess. But most of my life, I'd be your typical liberal, that was, you know, hey whatever went -mainly just to keep my own options open, you know. I was kind of like I don't know, I might need that. Let's keep that one on the table. I started becoming more socially conservative, I guess, when I sobered up. I'm a recovering alcoholic. So in the mid-'90s, I started to try to figure out what it is that I actually believe and then try to be consistent on everything. And as I tried to become more and more consistent on everything that I believed, I found myself becoming more and more socially conservative as well.
INSKEEP: Well, was there a period in this evolution where you considered yourself more of a straight-up Republican than perhaps you do at this moment?
Mr. BECK: Oh, I think I bought into the B.S. that these parties actually believed in what they said for a while. I think when I was really young, I considered myself a Republican because of Ronald Reagan. But the party of Ronald Reagan has been missing. It's kind of like the Republicans now are like, where did I put those values I used to believe in? Oh, I must have left them in my other jacket.
INSKEEP: Which values are you talking about that are missing?
Mr. BECK: Smaller government, more freedom, you know. And somehow or another, you know, they've developed and morphed into this party that is for bigger government, more spending, we can solve all your problems. Real conservatives don't believe that. You know, at some point, if you continue to compromise your values - or worse yet, and I think this is happening on both sides of the aisle - they'll always tell you, well, that guy is better than this guy. Oh, you got to vote for this guy because at least he's not the other guy.
Well, by the time you can finish compromising, your guy has become the other guy. And, you know, and it's exactly the same on both sides of the aisle.
INSKEEP: Well, given what you've just said, do you still believe, now that John McCain seems to be likely to be the Republican party's nominee, that he is, to your point of view, more dangerous than Hillary Clinton, which is something you've said some time ago?
Mr. BECK: No. that's been taken out of context. What I said was he is more dangerous to the conservative movement than Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, you know what you're getting from her; you know who she is. She actually believes in things, and I think John McCain believes in things, but they're not conservative. You know, because I'm a recovering alcoholic, when I bottomed out, I realized I don't have anything that I really own. And I remember distinctly thinking if people would trust me again in my private life, in my business life, that would be my lifetime accomplishment. That's the president that we need. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
INSKEEP: Oh, now, it's interesting. You've used that alcoholism analogy in some other contexts. You've said that you had to bottom out as an alcoholic before you could begin to recover, and I believe you've suggested somewhere that you think the conservative movement might need to do the same thing.
Mr. BECK: I do. I think the more we enable these parties to tell us one thing and do the other, we are adding to their alcoholism. They're not drunks -they're addicted to power. Stop enabling them. Let them bottom out. And this is - boy, this is tough medicine. Let Barack Obama get in, let them put these policies in. It will either work, or it will be a disaster.
INSKEEP: Do you think that if Barack Obama, say, were elected and enacted policies that you view as disastrous for four years, that that could be good for the country in the long run then?
Mr. BECK: Oh, no, I don't. No, I don't think so. I don't there's any way.
INSKEEP: Or good for the conservative movement perhaps?
Mr. BECK: I mean, I don't think - look, here, I don't think it would be good for the country. I do think that it would be good for the conservative movement in this way. Jimmy Carter gave us Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton gave us Newt Gingrich. Every time there is this swing to the extreme, the other side comes back with real conservative values and you start to move forward again.
INSKEEP: When you talk to people on the show, anything you may do, have you come across someone that you would regard as a rising star, that you might put more hope in than many conservatives seemed to have put in their presidential candidates this time around?
Mr. BECK: You know, there's only really one guy that I've talked to that I really, really like. I think the guy is a Winston Churchill in many ways and he blew his Senate campaign because he spoke the truth and his advisers kept saying don't say this, don't say this. This is going to hurt you. And that's Rick Santorum out of Pennsylvania. I think this guy really has it. I think he really understands the world we live in right now.
INSKEEP: Does it say something about the lack of leadership in the conservative movement, if you, as a relatively well-informed conservative, look around and Santorum - a guy who was defeated in 2006 - is the only name that comes to mind that excites you?
Mr. BECK: Oh, yeah. It says that the Republican Party, I think, put their eggs into a George Bush basket and said, well, this is good enough, and it's not good enough. You must have a set of values that go beyond just one event. George Bush, his set of values that attracted conservatives was "I'm strong on defense." Well, there's more to being a conservative than just "I'm strong on defense." And it's amazing to me because so many conservatives are doing the very same thing now with John McCain. Well, at least he's good on defense. Well, what else?
INSKEEP: Glenn Beck, it's been fun talking with you.
Mr. BECK: Oh, it's been great. Thanks Steve.
INSKEEP: Talk show host Glenn Beck is author of "An Inconvenient Book: Real Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems."
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