JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 10, 2010
I'm getting to this a little late, but Time's Michael Scherer had an absolutely terrific take on Tuesday night's face off between Glenn Beck and Eric Massa, the former Democratic congressman who resigned this week amid allegations that he'd sexually harassed male staffers:
Massa had come on Fox to out-Beck Glenn Beck. Armed with the very same weapons — a deep sense of victimhood, outrage at the powers that be and remarkable personal candor — the representative delivered a dizzying confessional. He admitted to sexless groping and tickling of his staff, sending inappropriate text messages and otherwise failing to behave like a Congressman should, all as he made his case that his fellow Democrats had really gone after him because of his previous no vote on health care reform. "I can't fight this. I can't fight cancer," Massa announced, in a classic stream of consciousness ramble. "I can't fight the White House. I can't fight the Democratic Party."
Beck, who is used to controlling the gravitational force of victimhood around him, kept interrupting to point out that he was a bigger target of even greater forces than Massa. "I have two unauthorized biographies coming out against me in the spring," Beck said at one point. Minutes later, Beck went even further. "Do you realize my family is at stake?" he said. "You've got a little scandal with your children in college. I've got one for all time now, because I am not going to resign. I'm not going to back down. I have come to a place where I believe at some point the system will destroy me."
But Beck could not compete with the oddity of the sympathy card Massa kept pulling. ... In the past Beck's opponents, as serious people who operate by the regular order of public debate, have played it straight and posed little challenge. ... But in Massa, Beck found a sort of liberal doppelgänger, a mesmerizing train wreck of a man who was impossible to undercut in the classic fashion. ... [A]s those 60 minutes came to an end Tuesday afternoon, the rabble-rouser seemed to recognize that he had fallen into a trap. The Beck big top has room for only one carnival barker at a time. "I think I have wasted your time," Beck said, staring into the camera at an audience he once spent weeks telling about fanciful FEMA prison camps. "I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time."