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“Saturday Night Live” aired a movie trailer mash-up over the weekend, mixing scenes from the apocalyptic disaster flick “2012” and footage altered to show Sarah Palin winning the next presidential election. Her vice president in the “SNL” satire, called “Palin 2012”: Conservative crybaby Glenn Beck.
The timing, of course, is at least half the joke. Palin’s been everywhere lately promoting her new book, including on stage with Oprah Winfrey, who had some big news of her own this week. While Palin is playing coy on her future, there seems little doubt the Republican former Alaska governor is mulling a 2012 run for president.
Beck, meanwhile, not so quietly began laying the groundwork for a life beyond flooding the airwaves with tears, vitriol and conspiracy theories. Hours before “SNL” aired, Beck announced he’s developing a “100-year plan” for the country, and said he’ll run seven “conventions” where attendees “will be immersed in learning about topics ranging from self-reliance, community organizing, the economy and how to be a political force in your own neighborhood and country.”
He promised to reveal his plan at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, which he touted as “the birthday of a new national movement to restore our great country.” Beck didn’t mention that he’ll be speaking from the same spot where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years earlier to the day.
Just a guess here, but it’s a good bet Beck’s dream differs somewhat from King’s.
Beck didn’t say whether he has an eye on elective office, but it seems unlikely he’d shy away from an opportunity his actions appear aimed at creating. At the very least, he’s looking to become a kingmaker: He told The New York Times his conventions will feature voter registration drives, and he suggested he’ll be helping candidates with views similar to his.
Beck’s views are a problem with some, including the Anti-Defamation League, which described him in a report last week as the mainstream media’s "fearmonger-in-chief."
The ADL pointed to Beck’s comparing President Obama to Hitler, and promoting a crackpot theory that the Federal Emergency Management Administration was preparing concentration camps for “dissidents” (he later backed off).
He’s not as easily dismissed as his rhetoric: Beck has a couple major platforms – a Fox News TV show and a syndicated radio program – from which to spout such nonsense. And he’s exploiting both the split within the Republican Party and Obama’s declining popularity at a time when many folks are struggling to make ends meet. Unlike, say, former CNN talking head and possible electoral candidate Lou Dobbs, Beck isn’t giving up his bully pulpits – or being forced to – as he jumps into blatant political organizing.
Gore joked in the “SNL” bit that it’s time “to out-crazy the crazies.” He was talking about going to extremes to get attention for the fight against global warming, but he might as well have been giving political advice to the Democratic Party and mainstream Republicans.
While both Gore and Beck have different concerns about the next century, let's consider the next couple of years: Come 2012, Beck’s tears could be replaced by laughter.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.