What was most remarkable about this allegedly “anti-government” movement was that — with some isolated and principled exceptions — it completely vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to find so tyrannical and unconstitutional — limitless, unchecked surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding and debt-financed domestic spending — they meekly submitted to all of it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on.

Funny how that works. Greenwald correctly ties this into the Santelli debacle:

The week-long CNBC Revolt of the Traders led by McCain voter Rick Santelli and the fledgling little Tea Party movement promoted by the Michelle Malkins of the world are obvious outgrowths of this 1990s mentality, now fortified by the most powerful fuel: deep economic fear.

Beck uses that economic fear to posit the withdrawal of America as the world’s policeman and predicts that would lead to chaos from Muslims. Remember Beck’s the guy who asked Keith Ellison, our first Muslim Congressman, this gem:

“I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ ” Beck added: “I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”

And here’s Beck on the “War Room” program:

…what would happen in the Middle East is also tied in to just running over Europe. Europe, itself, is teetering with Muslim extremists as well. How does the world stand without America standing there and being prepared to deal with it?


And, yes, it gets worse.

Finally, Beck veers from paranoia to darn-near sedition:

OK. Michael, the government coming in and disenfranchising people over and over and over again, and having the people say, “Please listen to us,” the average person, some people will listen to the government, but others - and I’m seeing it already.

They know the Constitution. They know the writings of the founders, and they feel that the government, or they will in this scenario, and I think we’re on this road - the government has betrayed the Constitution. And so they will see themselves as people who are standing up for the Constitution. So how do you defuse this, Michael, or how long even do we have before this becomes a crazy real scenario?

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER HEAD OF THE CIA BIN LADEN UNIT: Well, I don’t think you would want to defuse it, Glenn. We have had a 40-minute program so far, and all of the problems we have talked about in one way or another are the result of the American government either overspending or overreaching.

BECK: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. Are both of you guys saying that you don’t want to - I don’t think we would head for an American revolution. We would head for a French revolution.

SCHEUER: Civil war.

Etc. etc. Hey, I’m not the biggest fan of the government, but come on! Beck’s even worse when he tries to be responsible:

BECK: I am against the government, and I think that they have just been horrible, and I do think they are betraying the principles of our founders every day they’re in office.

But I have to tell you, this scenario scares the living daylights out of me because it is completely - it is shaking nitroglycerine.

You both served in the military. You tell me, do the soldiers come in and do they round up people? Or do they fight with the people for the Constitution? What is the Army? What does the military do?…

SCHEUER: No. I don’t think the military is ever going to shoot on the American people.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.