Babies and Glenn Beck

Political battles are made easier when at least some of your opponents are clueless, careless, and, well, frankly creepy. So this morning my thanks go out to Glenn Beck.

Over the weekend, a nonprofit organization I chair called American Family Voices put out an ad about an attempt by House Republicans to cut the heart out of enforcement funding for the Clean Air Act. We carefully documented everything in the ad, citing scientific research from multiple sources. The facts are indisputable: In 2010, the Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 early deaths, and kept 230 babies alive by keeping deadly poisons like arsenic and mercury out of the air.

Glenn Beck and his radio partner Pat Gray, who apparently don't believe in even the most basic fact checking, did one of the strangest six-minute riffs on this ad I have ever heard in my life. Starting with the rather obvious falsehood that the ad was paid for by the EPA (guys, the words "Paid for by American Family Voices" were on the screen in clear lettering for four seconds, and yes, we do have a website that any 18-year-old research intern could have checked out), they spent the next six minutes joking and laughing about the idea that kids might die of arsenic poisoning. In the creepiest section of all, they started naming the names of children (maybe their own, I was so horrified it was a little hard to track) who could die from arsenic poisoning.

Now I know they were just joshing around, their point being that government could never do anything as good as saving children's lives from poisoning (despite the science that demonstrates that it does just that). But seriously, guys: six minutes laughing about the idea that babies might die? Of course, this is the same Glenn Beck that enthusiastically told an audience, to cheers and laughter, that in nature, "the lions eat the weak." This is the same Glenn Beck who clearly takes much of his philosophical underpinnings from Ayn Rand, who described compassion and charity as moral weaknesses which were leeches on society, and celebrated the "virtue of selfishness."

But look, I'm not complaining. With appealing allies like Glenn Beck making their case, the oil and coal companies and the House Republicans trying to gut the Clean Air Act will be a lot easier to beat.

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