Decoding Glenn Beck's Speech: A.A. Repackaged as a Rob-the-Poor Program

In a speech peppered with the jargon of Alcoholics Anonymous, Glenn Beck brought thousands of right-wingers attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to their feet by promising them that economic hardship was good for them, and that the progressive movement was "a cancer" that is "designed to eat the Constitution." Government spending, he said, is creating an "economic holocaust."

While dazzling the crowd with dizzying dynamic swings and a confessional narrative about his life as a recovering alcoholic, Beck handily played his role as community organizer to one of the greediest men in the world: his uberboss, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, the parent company of Fox NewsChannel, where Beck nightly plies his trade.

The problem with America right now is progressives' attempt to "deprive you of your right to struggle," Beck said. But failure is a character-building exercise, he said, using as an example his own battle with alcohol. Until you know the shame of having done wrong, he essentially said, you'll never do right.

"If drinking wasn't causing me a problem in my life, I'd be drunk right now," Beck told the roaring crowd, which packed one of the largest hotel ballrooms in Washington, D.C.

His ire wasn't reserved solely for Democrats; he took repeated swings at the Republicans as well, comparing their propensity for government spending to his own addiction.

"I'm a recovering alcoholic and I screwed up my life six ways to Sunday; I believe in redemption," Beck said. "But the first step to getting redemption is, you gotta admit you've got a problem. I've not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they've got a problem...I don't know what they even stand for anymore. 'Hello, my name is the Republican Party, and I've got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government...I'm addicted to spending and I just don't want to spend today.' Good -- keep comin' back."

"Keep coming back" is one of the signature slogans of AA -- a recovery program laced with slogans. But "keep coming back" at times acquires a tone of derision when said to a member who has just shared a thought or two that seems "off the AA beam," to quote the program literature.

Tiger Woods was used as a corollary to Beck's own addiction narrative. "People said to me, Tiger Woods, is he really gonna change? Well, I don't know" Beck said, "it may not be his bottom."

Beck wasn't, here, talking about Woods' keister. He was employing yet another 12-step term, "hitting bottom."

However uncertain he was about the final thud of Woods' fall, he was pretty clear that America's was nigh. "This is a pretty good bottom," he said. "This is as bad as I want it to get."

Throughout the speech, Beck made numerous references to vomiting.

As a recovering alcoholic myself, I found Beck's exploitation of the 12-step code nearly enough to have me spewing.