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Odd Couple Alert: Frank Rich Is The Left’s Glenn Beck?

Who is Glenn Beck‘s liberal equivalent? On a number of occasions I have posited that Rachel Maddow occupies the same space on the left as Beck does on the right (sans, among other things, the ratings) mainly because of her charisma and humor and ability to entertain. But that has always been a tenuous comparison at best.

Here’s a new one: Frank Rich. This comparison comes by way of the Weekly Standard‘s Joseph Epstein who pens a long-ish piece in the current issue about canceling his longtime subscription to the New York Times.

In explaining his cancellation Epstein notes the paper’s recent propensity for running features over news stories on the front page and its lack of oped thinkers (he’s especially, and justifiably, tough on MoDo). However, here’s the part that caught my eye:

I could go on about the artificial rage of Frank Rich—the liberals’ Glenn Beck—or the forced gaiety of “Sunday Styles,” but the main feeling I have as I rise from having wasted an hour or so with the Sunday New York Times is of what wretched shape the country is in if it is engaged in such boringly trivial pursuits, elevating to eminence such dim cultural and political figures, writing so muddledly about ostensibly significant subjects.

Emphasis mine. Clearly, this comparison is not meant as a compliment to either party, nonetheless it’s sort of interesting. Frank Rich was at one time the most powerful columnist in the country (and may still be, though I’m not sure how powerful columnists still wield…Rich should probably consider getting on Twitter). His lengthy, entertaining, must-read Sunday columns often served to distill the thinking on the left and clarify it (frequently with some sort of historical context). I’m not sure any of these things can be said about Glenn Beck. Beck generally marches to his own drummer and has inspired enough of a passionate following to instill something between fear, loathing and a fair amount of ass-kissing in the thinkers on the right. That said, if you are comparing say Frank Rich of 2004 to Glenn Beck of 2010 I think you could probably argue that they wield of similar level of influence over their various parties, and more to the point, are saying what people in those various parties very much want to hear but are unable to articulate in succinct and appealing way.

As for Epstein deciding to cancel his NYT subscription now — let’s just say it’s (sadly) a bit like leaping for the lifeboat after the captain has called ‘abandon ship’: get in line.

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