Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beck's Administration targets: Cass Sunstein

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Previously, the Review has posed the question of how Cass Sunstein, President Obama's administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), could possibly be considered to be what Glenn Beck considers him to be, "the most dangerous man in America." Beck calls Sunstein the "regulatory czar." The following was Beck on March 18th of this year:

What Beck claims here is false. During an interview on the public television program The Open Mind, Cass Sunstein commented: "Roosevelt didn't want to change the text of the Constitution. So he didn't want to add the right to a good education or the right to a home or the right to Social Security in the text of the Constitution." Sunstein added: "What Roosevelt wanted to do was not to put the Second Bill in the Constitution, but to follow the model of his hero Thomas Jefferson, who was responsible for the Declaration of Independence, a declaration which isn't part of our legally binding text, but which helps animate our self understanding of the Declaration of Independence."(1)

In his book Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America, author Dana Milbank reviews how Sunstein got on Beck's radar. Sunstein was first attacked on the far, reactionary, right Website World Net Daily, and from there Beck picked up the baton. According to Beck, Sunstein "believes in giving legal rights to livestock, wildlife, and pets. So, your pets can have an attorney file a lawsuit against you...Human rights for livestock? This is not the America I grew up in or your grew up in." On September 2nd, Beck continued the assault: "He wanted your pet to have an attorney....If they could find out if rats suffer, and you're trying to trap rats or kick them out of your house, a rat could sue you."
                                      deranged rantings

It's hard to read Beck's comments on not suspect, as noted here before, that Beck is deranged. Where did Beck get these loony notions? Apparently, Beck's assault was based on the introduction that he an a coauthor wrote for a 2004 book on animal rights. However, Sunstein and his coauthor made arguments that were pretty much the opposite of what Beck was claiming, namely that "states could enforce animal cruelty laws without declaring that animals could no longer be considered property."(2) According to conservative writer, David Frum, Beck's interpretation of Sunstein's work was "beyond sloppy, beyond ignorant, proceeding straight toward the deceptive."(3)

There are plenty of conservatives and libertarians who support Cass Sunstein. After he was nominated for his OIRA, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board wrote that  “Mr. Sunstein brings important qualifications to [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs], and Mr. Obama has made a savvy choice in putting him there.”(4) Libertarian blogger and law professor Glenn Reynolds wrote a solid endorsement of Sunstein. Conservative Ed Morrissey, writing in the blog stated, "I think that there is a big problem with lumping the ‘czars’ in with those like Sunstein who need Senate approval and have Congressional oversight.”

Ilya Somin, a libertarian law professor teaching at George Mason University added, "Sunstein has nothing to do with the ‘czars’ or the problems with the ‘czars.’”  Somin also wrote that “[t]he ironic thing is that anybody else who might be appointed to this job would be less qualified, and more liberal. I disagree with what Sunstein writes in ‘Nudge.’ But what he advocates is not as bad as the views likely to be held by other people who could run [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs].”(5)

A libertarian-leaning law professor from the University of Chicago, Richard Epstein, declared that "the Beck stuff is well over the top." Indeed. Beck still makes reference to Sunstein as "the most dangerous man in America" even though he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 57-40. This, of course, is coming from a man who has already inspired violent acts by his less stable viewers. Is it possible that when Beck posits Sunstein as a dangerous man, he's actually referring to his shadow self?(6) More likely, Beck's false claims about and hyperbole concerning Mr. Sunstein is just Beck being Beck: deceitful and "well over the top." Some call this behavior on Mr. Beck's part "deranged;" it's really just part of his yellow propaganda. He is a "big problem," not for liberals (so what?), but for truth and honor. Part of Beck's danger is his gift: he makes the false sound entirely believable.
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2) Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America, Dana Milbank, Doubleday, New York, 2010, p.154
3) ibid
5)  ibid
6)  "
What You Hate Most in Others May Be the Shadow in Yourself"