There was an intense, conspiratorial, crazily sincere man on Glenn Beck’s show Tuesday, and it wasn’t Glenn Beck. Recently resigned Democratic Congressman Eric Massa of New York took up the entire GB episode, which concluded with Beck apologizing for “wasting” his viewers’ time. But I have to say, it was the best hour of Glenn Beck I’ve ever seen–not so much for what it revealed about poor Eric Massa, but because it exposed how the GOP’s nationwide loss on the issue of gay rights has profoundly gummed up the Republican noise machine.
But first, Massa: If this guy is in the closet, it’s not just a closet. It’s not even a walk-in closet. He’s a whole haberdashery of strangeness, best explained, perhaps, by a video mash-up of the interview’s bizarre double entendres (the big catchphrase will probably be “tickle fights,” but my fave is Beck saying, “You’re a fireman coming out…. but they won’t say, ‘Over here, bring a hose over here.'”
Of course, it was Massa’s verbal tics that got him on the show in the first place, in particular his description of an argument he had “naked as a jaybird” with Rahm Emanuel in the Congressional gym showers over the budget, one that moved Massa to suggest on a radio show that Emanuel was corrupt. Fox News has several irons in the fire in its ongoing attempt to Waterloo Obama and health care reform, among them the idea that Democrats are now as sexually and financially scandal-plagued as the Foley/Craig/Ensign/Sanford GOP. At the same time, Fox is pushing the “Chicago thugs” line, which insists that Obama’s inner circle would, as Massa says, “tie…children to the railroad tracks” in order to get what they want. The story about Emanuel in the shower, “pok[ing] his finger in my chest” and twisting arms “17 times to Sunday,” seemed tantalizingly close at first glance to melding both storylines into one neat, knickerless package.
Except, unfortunately, it doesn’t. Beck is a monologist, not an interviewer, and he completely lost control of his show to Massa, allowing the former Republican who spent 24 years in the U.S. Navy to basically bitch about traditional politics and moan about his bad media rep without once establishing anything sinister or even manipulative in White House politicking. Beck has since said, “I almost threw him out of the studio three times.” But he didn’t, because he couldn’t control his lust for dirt (Beck: “Tell me something about the unions and how the unions are working or any–I don’t care. Any kind of corruption. Tell me about–what is the White House doing?” Massa kept deflecting from the specific to the general: “Glenn, it’s not just unions. It’s every special interest.”)
Curiously, Beck failed to hit Massa’s own admitted misbehavior, and veered away from accusing him of being a closeted homosexual (it was left to Larry King later that night to ask whether the congressman was gay so directly that it provoked a nondenial denial). The result was almost a mirror-image parody of Beck’s own shtick: the hint that “they” are trying to get him, that it’s all part of a larger puzzle that only he understands, and, most important, that by revising the past, he could sound plausible enough to get away with saying anything. Maybe Beck sniffed out the Secret Sharer aspect of Massa, or maybe he was crushed for having praised Massa as a “ray of sunshine” the night before. But by the next day Beck was declaring he was through with the whole story and would be moving on.