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Glenn Beck, the Straight Dope

A few years ago, I was invited to appear on Glenn Beck’s television show.  We were scheduled to discuss the nonsecurity spending Congress had stuffed into the supplemental appropriations bill being used to pay for the Iraq war: money for peanut farmers, spinach growers, etc.  (The Iraq occupation itself should probably fall into the category of nonsecurity spending, but that’s a story for another day.)

Other than sports and straight news, I watch very little television.  But I have appeared often enough on such programs to know the drill.  A young female producer called me for a preinterview.  On the radio, an uninteresting or inept guest can easily be shuffled off the air during an early commercial break.  TV tries to be more regimented, so interviewers like to have a good idea of what they are getting in advance.  It’s sort of like the cross-examining advice given to young lawyers: Never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer.

The producer asked me to provide some technical analysis of the bill under discussion and a rundown of the points I’d make.  Seemingly satisfied with my answers, she hung up only to call back later and ask me to say exactly what I was going to say on the air, and I complied.  Later, I found myself sitting in a dark Washington studio across from a monitor featuring the disembodied head of Glenn Beck.  Much to my...

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