Glenn Beck is having a big week. Even though the former Fox News host denounced politics in 2014 (“I hate this stuff. I hate politics. I hate politicians and I feel like I'm wasting my life”) and angrily quit the Republican Party in 2015 (“I’ve made my decision – I’m out. I’m out of the Republican Party”), Beck has eagerly inserted himself into Republican presidential politics over the last few days. He was one of the many conservative voices gathered together by National Review as part of their big anti-Donald Trump issue released late last week. And over the weekend, Beck gave his official endorsement to Trump’s primary rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Ted Cruz.
If there is anything to know about Glenn Beck, it’s that he is utterly obsessed with (a highly revisionist, thoroughly sanitized, and historically inaccurate version of) the Founding Fathers. He has a particular fixation on George Washington, and in endorsing Ted Cruz this weekend, Beck said of the Texas senator: “I have prayed for the next George Washington. I believe I have found him.”
At first glance, this would seem like high praise. Who wouldn’t want to be the next George Washington? But, unfortunately for Cruz, he’s not the only person Beck has pegged as the potential second coming of America’s first president. In fact, Cruz is something like the fourth or fifth “next George Washington” that Beck has identified over the past few years.
The first “next George Washington” Beck had his eye on was none other than Sarah Palin, who just recently left Beck feeling quite disillusioned after she endorsed Donald Trump. During a January 2010 interview, Beck told Palin: “I have to tell you that every time I bring up your name and somebody says “who's out there?” I answer one of two ways. I'm waiting for George Washington to appear. Then it's usually followed by your name. And I said, but I don't know.” It’s difficult to interpret that as an official “next George Washington” designation, largely because it’s impossible-to-decipher gibberish. But it certainly seems like Palin was in the running, at least, maybe.
A few months later, another “next George Washington” emerged, though this time it wasn’t a specific person but rather one of the roughly 90,000 people who attended Beck's Restoring Honor rally in Washington, DC in 2010. Here’s what he said to the assembled throng of tea partiers and tricorn hat-wearers:
BECK: Somewhere in this crowd, I know it — I have been looking for the next George Washington. I can't find him. I know he is in this crowd. He may be 8 years old. But this is the moment! This is the moment that he dedicates his life, that he sees giants around him.
So by the summer of 2010, the “next George Washington” count stood at 1.5: maybe Sarah Palin, but definitely some poor third-grader who was dragged to the National Mall by his parents to see the angry TV man speak.
That brings us to the 2012 presidential election and Beck’s increasing desperation to see Barack Obama removed from office. As it happened, the 2012 election cycle saw the emergence of not one, but two “next George Washingtons” within the Republican presidential field. The first lucky winner was former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Beck declined to endorse anyone during the 2012 primaries, but in November 2011, as the Iowa caucuses were bearing down, Beck said “if there is one guy out there that is the next George Washington, the only guy that I can think of is Rick Santorum.”
Santorum went on to win Iowa, but couldn’t keep up with the Mitt Romney, who eventually captured the nomination. So, unfortunately for Beck, he was left without a “next George Washington” candidate to take on Obama…
OR WAS HE?
Conveniently enough, after Beck and his crew did some digging into Romney’s background and turned up some truly laudable acts of charity by the former Massachusetts governor, Beck determined that maybe – just maybe – Mitt Romney was indeed the true “next George Washington” who would save the country from the socialism and despair of the Obama era. “I apologize to Mitt Romney and his family for being so blind and not seeing who he was,” Beck said in September 2012. “That does not mean I’m going to agree with all his policies. But I am blind. I have been saying we need to find George Washington, a man of true character and honor and decency. When you watch the show on Friday, you will – I’m convinced, you will feel exactly the same way I do.”
After the third debate between Romney and Obama, Beck theorized that Romney went “soft” on his opponent because he was offering himself to America as a sort of rise-above-it-all paragon of godly (and Washingtonian) virtue. “Last night you saw somebody who took the stage that appeared to me to be George Washington,” Beck said of Romney. “He could have eviscerated [Obama] last night but he didn’t. I don’t know why. I think you saw last night for those with eyes and ears, you saw somebody who’s model may be George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and another who’s model was Saul Alinsky.”
So, the final tally of Glenn Beck’s “next George Washingtons” stands at either four or five: Sarah Palin (maybe), an unidentified eight-year-old, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and now Ted Cruz. So far, Beck’s track record for picking out the heir to the country’s most revered political figure has been awful, though maybe Ted Cruz will have more luck than his predecessors. But even if he doesn’t, the next “next George Washington” is only an election cycle away.