Not too bad actually. A week out from his "Restoring Honor" rally Beck—and by extension, Tea Partyers everywhere—have given themselves a good whitewashing, a God-washing really, that should keep ‘em smelling clean at least until the November 2 midterm elections.
No less than Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch wrote in Sunday’s Times that at Beck’s rally, as at Martin Luther King Jr.’s forty-seven years earlier, "sweet piety floated above tribal antagonisms." David Brooks chimed in that "the spirit was really warm, generous and uplifting," adding, "The only bit of unpleasantness I found emanated from some liberal gatecrashers behaving offensively…"
Oh sure, in the days since "8/28," as Beck calls the event, elevating it to his 9/11-9/12 pantheon, he’s received his knocks, mostly from lefty bloggers and MSNBC’s nighttime lineup. They’ve called him out for disappearing MLK’s focus on social justice, twisting the history of the Washington monument and lying about handling the original of George Washington’s first inaugural address. But Beck has flicked all that off as so much factual dandruff.
For now, the consensus, in the mass media and in our heads, is that the rally was "not political." And so, because it fell short of the torch-carrying mob that many of us expected, the floodgates of goodness have almost washed the Beck brand clean of partisan taint. He seems suddenly scrubbed of, say, Andrew Breitbart’s smear of Shirley Sherrod, which Beck at first supported. (Nevermind that Beck’s new website, The Blaze, will be run by a Breitbart alum.) Maybe the rally won’t end up restoring advertising to Beck’s show on Fox, but it was a start.
Beck and his people, goes this emerging new image, are positive, tolerant and as harmless as Beck’s big cheeks are soft. The rally, Beck said later on TV, was one of the greatest displays of "cleanliness and politeness" ever (and to prove it he compared an aerial long-shot of an all green Washington Mall after his rally with close-ups of the litter left after Obama’s inaugural gathering, which, as you may have noticed, was a bit more, um, diverse than Beck’s). Yes, Beck’s folks were clean, not contentious; polite, not political. Did you see the zero number of signs?! Beck banned signs, and, as further evidence of his power over their psyches, his flock lay down their swords.