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GOP Race Gets Closer; Religious Prejudice in Coverage of Romney?; Highlights of Conservatives` Thoughts on Race

Aired January 16, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


GLENN BECK, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, there`s one issue that really matters in America. And it`s the economy. I will tell you which candidate I believe has the right stuff to keep this country from going broke.

Plus, talk about an idea that will never work. Hillary Clinton`s scheme to boost the economy by covering heating oil costs for the poor.

Then the loud and proud. Penn Jillette takes his controversial rants to the Web.

PENN JILLETTE, MAGICIAN: Except for that God/no God thing, I agree with the pope right across the board.

BECK: We`ll talk to Penn about his unique new show, politics and the future of television.

All this and more, coming up.


BECK: Well, hello again, America.

Michigan spoke last night, and Mitt Romney liked what they had to say. He won his second primary of the season, and that means the race is closer than ever, virtually a dead heat between Huckabee, McCain and Romney.

Now, while each candidate has claimed victory by embracing a slice of Reagan`s conservative doctrine, here`s "The Point" tonight. It`s going to take a lot more than just one piece to actually win. Until somebody can put together that whole pie, the Republicans still have their work cut out for them. And here`s how I got there.

In Iowa, Mike Huckabee won over the evangelicals. He embraced Reagan`s social conservatism. The trouble is, it`s going to take a lot more than that to win a general election.

It`s been said on this program by me a number of times, we`re electing a president, not a Sunday school teacher, John McCain, he won in New Hampshire. He`s big on defense. His echoes of Reagan, foreign policy, he is strong and tough, right?

Too bad the rest of his message is moderate and even liberal in some cases. I mean, he`s co-sponsored some of the least conservative bills in recent memory, some things that I think are really harmful to this country. And real conservatives don`t forget that.

Now, that brings us to last night`s victory in Michigan for Mitt Romney. His home state, his father was governor. He won a lot because he was a favorite son status. But Mitt Romney picked up some of Reagan`s fiscal ideas, and I feel that is what makes him a candidate with the right ideas for right now.

Full disclosure here. I haven`t chosen my candidate yet, but Mitt Romney is definitely in my top two. You`re going to have to guess the other one.

If -- if the economy continues to be a national headline, we`re going to need someone with Romney`s strong economic sensibility to get this country back on track.

Here`s a taste of his speech from last night.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I take my inspiration from Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, who took their inspiration from the American people. Hardworking American people. People who believed in opportunity, who loved education. God-fearing people. People who also loved their families; people deeply patriotic.

We said we`re going to strengthen the economy. I will never accept defeat for any industry here in America. We`ll fight.


BECK: Did you notice that? His hair was kind of messy. Yes. I`m just saying.

So tonight here`s what you need to know. Not only are U.S. financial markets in trouble, but America is over spending, and the subprime mortgage crisis is having ripple effects across the entire globe, from Britain to India to Japan today. And we need somebody who understands the really big fiscal picture.

Mitt Romney does have the experience in pulling enormous companies back from the brink and turning red ink into black. Also, as long as the situation in Iraq continues to approve, and it is improving at least at this hour, then fixing our economy is job No. 1.

So now we wait until Saturday in South Carolina and Nevada to see who forages ahead and who falls behind.

Michael Reagan is a radio talk show host and GOP strategist. And Peter Fenn is a former Gore advisor and former Democratic strategist.

Michael, let me start with you, because I have to ask you this. First of all, Romney lost me last night when he said, "and George Herbert Walker Bush." I`m like, "No. What are you saying?"

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes. He raised taxes. That`s why he lost back in 1992. He got part of the Reagan doctrine right.

BECK: Yes.

REAGAN: The other party kind of fell off the cliff, and it cost him an election.

BECK: Right, OK. Does it bother you, as the son of Ronald Reagan, to hear everybody say, "I`m just like Ronald Reagan," and none of them are?

REAGAN: Glenn, I`ve been listening to that since the 1960s when my dad ran for governor and became governor of California. Everybody who`s ever run since then in California or on a national level said they`re like Ronald Reagan. I stood on stages and listened to these things and I go, "No, you`re not like Ronald Reagan."

I think they do themselves a disservice, because when you measure any one of them against Reagan, none of them are going to match-up.

BECK: I mean, no offense, Michael. I don`t want Ronald Reagan.


BECK: Ronald Reagan is in the past. I want somebody today. I want John or Mitt or Mike.

REAGAN: What you want -- Glenn, what you want is what we all want. We want a leader. Ronald Reagan was the epitome of a leader. And that`s what we`re looking for. And when we find that person who`s going to lead us and tell us where we`re going and ask for our help to get there, that`s the person who we elect the president of the United States, just like Ronald Reagan. He led, we followed.

BECK: All right. Peter, one of the things that people say that -- about Mitt Romney is that he`s too polished or he`s not sincere or whatever. I just think that`s his years of being a really good CEO. I mean, that`s a guy who`s not going to tube your stock. He`s not going to say the wrong thing.

Did you see his speech last night? His hair was a little messy, and he`s like...

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Somebody -- somebody told him a little less Brylcreem would be a good idea.

BECK: Like, "I just was working on my car. I heard I won?" I mean, really. Was that his Hillary cry moment last night?

FENN: I mean, clearly, the style is going to mean a lot now for him. You know, he`s got this sort of Eddie Haskell -- you remember him from "Leave it to Beaver."

BECK: Yes.

FENN: The guy who always was sucking up to Mrs. Cleaver and -- and Mr. Cleaver. Well, he`s got to get rid of that, and he`s got to be a little more down home and real.

I think, you know, he was home in Michigan. It helped him. That, of course, was the place where the real Reagan Democrats or that phrase was born. It was Macomb and St. Clair County outside of Detroit. And Michael will remember it well. The misery index was 22 percent. That inflation and unemployment. I mean, you can imagine those numbers?

And those -- a lot of those folks went into the Republican Party because of Ronald Reagan.

BECK: You know...

FENN: But I don`t know if he can do that, Glenn. I don`t think he has the same stuff.

BECK: I haven`t seen anybody that ignites my imagination fully.

FENN: Michael, let me go to you. Your father said one time -- he said when you see something that is wrong, you have to go out and fix it.

I noticed something that Mitt Romney and Obama is doing as well, and none of the other candidates are. Nobody else is saying, "I`ll fix it. I fixed it in the past. I`ve done this; I`ve done that."

Romney and Obama both are now saying, "We are going to fix it. We are going to change it. We can do it together," which -- I mean, I hate to invoke your father again, but that -- wasn`t that your father`s premises that it`s -- let me go, wasn`t Thomas Jefferson`s premise, "we, the people"?

REAGAN: Well, yes. But Thomas and Ronald Reagan used to play together as children. Because that`s where my dad, in fact, learned it. But yes, Ronald Reagan was "we," was always "we." Together we can move this country forward and do it together.

You know, what`s interesting is, until Mitt Romney came along, I think the Democrats were the only ones to check in with the Ronald Reagan library and actually read my father`s speeches. Now you have Mitt Romney actually doing it and understanding. It is about "we." You`re the leader, but it`s about all of us working together to make everything better.

BECK: Peter, it`s interesting and, by the way, don`t -- please don`t send me an e-mail. I know it was Madison and not Jefferson.

But everybody is talking about how together the Democrats are. And I don`t think they are. This week at least, they have been tearing themselves apart. That debate last night was -- I mean, it was ridiculous. They were all trying to say, "Oh, I love you so much," but none of them would even look at each other they hated each other so much.

FENN: I loved that debate, because I did think that they were together, but look, this race ain`t over yet. We`re going to have a lot more punch and counterpunch.

But I think that the Democrats are happier about their field, much happier than the Republicans are, no question.

Romney`s problem, let`s get to this, though, Glenn. When he ran against Ted Kennedy, he was getting very close. This was a tough race. And what happened at the end, you remember, was they went out to Indiana, the Kennedy people, and they found those places that he had closed down, those folks that had lost their jobs. They interviewed them. They put those ads on the air, and boy, there was big trouble for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts when that happened.

So it isn`t all roses and cream with -- with Mitt Romney`s record as a businessman.

BECK: Hang on just a second. It`s not always peaches and cream. That doesn`t mean you always keep people -- everybody employed. Sometimes, you know, it`s like this economy right now. People, we have got to take the bitter pill now. Let this economy -- let these bubbles pop and come down, pay the consequence so it can reset itself and we can be healthy again.

FENN: But your first stimulus package of some sort.

BECK: No, I`m not. Stimulus package -- I never heard any of them.

REAGAN: If I can jump in here.

BECK: Sure.

REAGAN: it comes down where it`s the economy stupid, where most elections come down to. Mitt Romney becomes the guy who can debate against Obama, debate against Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton and Obama want to put $100 billion into health care. They want to raise taxes on America. Mitt Romney gets it. He understands it, and I believe he wins that debate.

BECK: You know, I tell you, there were two stories in the paper. One was -- one was from Michigan. One was from Boston today. They said that Reaganomics now is over, that nobody is talking about that kind of idea. It`s all bigger government from here on -- here on out. Do you both agree with that or disagree?

REAGAN: Listen, I`ve lived under Reaganomics longer than anybody you`ve ever talked to, Glenn. Let me tell you, it does work. And it`s worked for me for a long time.

BECK: All right. Real quick, Peter?

FENN: Well, I think we`ve got to get back to balanced budgets. We`ve got to get back to fiscal responsibility, which was, of course, the `90s.

BECK: The Democrats. All right, all right. Thanks, guys.

Now, where am I wrong? The lack of leading Republican candidates could -- could -- actually be a good thing. Now real conservatives have time to choose a candidate that will lead the GOP back to real values. Agree or disagree? Go to and cast your vote right now.

Coming up, the win in Iowa cast Mike Huckabee as the evangelical candidate of the right, but is there a double standard when it comes to religion and the media`s coverage of this race? You will not believe what I`m going to show you, coming up in just a second.

And highlights from the radio program today. My conversation with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. What they all had to say about the state of the Republican Party.

Then, Penn Jillette joins me to talk about the benefits of viral videos on the Web. Something we both know a little bit about. And we`ll talk about last night`s debate with Penn Jillette. He`ll say what he means. He means what he says. Coming up in just a minute.


BECK: Well, the Democrats laid out their ideas for turning the economy around last night. Help us. I`ll have all the details in tonight`s "Real Story."

Now, we`ve had race injected into this presidential election, gender, age, experience. Not a lot of issues, but oh, here`s the one I really appreciated. Most of the stones have been thrown over religion.

Now Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, he`s a retired Baptist minister, intensely strong beliefs, and I respect him for it. During a recent speech in Michigan, he went so far as to say the United States Constitution should be changed to reflect the word of God.

Now, I didn`t know about this speech. I didn`t see anything. But this morning I turn on the NBC "Today Show," and how does "The Today Show" choose to cover this statement? Watch.


MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, NBC`S "THE TODAY SHOW": Last night, your opponent, Mike Huckabee, who favors a constitutional ban on both abortion and gay marriage, said this to a crowd of supporters. He said, "I believe it`s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that`s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it`s in God`s standards, rather than trying to change God`s standards."

Do you agree with Governor Huckabee that the Constitution should reflect God`s standards?

ROMNEY: You know, I think the Constitution is a fine and appropriate document as it is. I`m not looking to change the Constitution.


BECK: Just a second. Yes. That was Mitt Romney, wasn`t it? Why the hell are they asking Mitt Romney about this? If Mitt Romney would have made that statement, it would make sense. In fact, if Mitt Romney would have made that sentence, it would have crippled his candidacy, but he didn`t make that statement.

So why are they asking a question of Mitt Romney and not Governor Huckabee? It`s Huckabee`s thoughts on God and country that have nothing to do with Romney.

I believe there is a double standard here. I feel it is laced with religious bigotry that I have never seen. It is un-American, and it has got to stop. Call me a crazy dreamer, but I still believe it`s the media`s job to ask questions, not letting (ph) judgments and set people up.

Tom Dickinson is a contributing editor for "Rolling Stone" magazine, and I -- Tom, I have to tell you, I -- you`re the magazine that said this is possibly the weirdest news show ever on television. I can`t believe that we`re actually going to agree on something, but we do, on this one. Don`t we?

TIM DICKINSON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE": Well, I think we do. But let`s agree on my name first. It`s Tim. And...

BECK: Oh, it`s Tim.

DICKINSON: That`s all right. That`s all right, no problem, Glenn.

BECK: I disagree. It`s Tom.

DICKINSON: My brother is -- my brother is glad for the shout out.

BECK: Yes. OK. But first of all, let`s -- let`s get your view on the statement. That`s got to -- I mean, you being...

DICKINSON: It is the most ridiculous statement. I mean, I respect Mike Huckabee`s religion. I respect his faith. But the minute he tries to impose his faith through the document that`s truly sacred to me, which is the Constitution, I mean, it gets my dander up. It should get everybody in America, their hackles up. It`s outrageous.

BECK: Now let`s -- let`s proceed from there. If Romney would have said this, do you believe this would have been on the front page of every single newspaper and led the news on every newscast all across America?

DICKINSON: Absolutely.

BECK: So -- so what...

DICKINSON: What gives there? There`s two things. I mean, Mike Huckabee, this is -- this is taking what Mike Huckabee has said before and turning it up to 11. So the sense in which this is Mike Huckabee at his most Mike Huckabee yet, and I think he let the veil slip and let us see him as a theocrat. I don`t know if he wants to be America`s first mullah, but...

BECK: Hang on just a second. This is exactly -- I have been saying this for a while. That anybody on the right, if you`re looking for a guy who`s a religious guy and they`re all coming for you. They`re going to put crosses in your bed at night. This is the guy who is on the record saying things that should scare people like you.

And yet, I don`t see coverage of it anywhere. Why?

DICKINSON: Well, he`s a charmer. I mean, I`ve spoken to the man, and he`s the most affable politician, maybe, in a generation. He is just super at speaking to his audience and making people feel comfortable.

And every time they gave him a hardball question in the debates, talking about wives being subservient to their husbands, he`s got a very genial, affable answer that seems to diffuse the tension.

And so you know, I think it speaks to his skills as a politician. It speaks to his ability to pitch something to an audience. But you -- you end up with the very disconcerting moments where he`s pitching something to one audience and it`s played for another, like this amending the Constitution in God`s name.

BECK: May I...


BECK: May I just say, that sounds like a load of bull crap. I mean, come on, man. He`s likeable. He`s -- he`s just likeable. Are you saying that Mitt Romney is not likeable?

DICKINSON: I`m saying that Mitt Romney is not as talented in diffusing...

BECK: But Mitt Romney has also not said half of the things that Huckabee has said. Here`s my theory.

DICKINSON: But here`s the second part.

BECK: Yes.

DICKINSON: The second part is the bigotry about Mormonism, which I find really appalling in this race.


DICKINSON: I mean, we`re in -- we`re in a race here where you could have the first African-American president, the first woman president. I want to be in an America where we don`t have to ask what kind of underwear Mitt Romney is wearing. I want to be in an America where Mike Huckabee isn`t comparing the blood relations of Satan and...

BECK: I got it, I got it. I`ve got to ask you this. This is my theory. My theory is the liberal media would love to have Mike Huckabee as the candidate. They`re just holding back on all of this stuff. If he`s the candidate, then they just go, and they just tear him apart for all of this stuff.

DICKINSON: You know, I don`t know that it`s liberal media, but certainly, liberal advocates are not pushing these stories in the way that they would if they thought he were a more viable general election candidate.

BECK: There is no difference between the two. I`m trying to hypnotize you. There is no difference between the two.

Tim, as if that is your real name, thanks for being on the program. I appreciate it.

DICKINSON: A pleasure.

BECK: Coming up, a special conservative fiesta, if you will. Highlights of my conversations that I had on the radio today with Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and the one and only Karl Rove. It`s all coming up next.

And can the World Wide Web contain Penn Jillette? And please tell me that he`s wearing underpants. Just a second. Penn Jillette is coming up.


BECK: Well, earlier today on my national radio program I spoke to four newsmakers who are right on the front page of the headlines. I decided to bring you some of the highlights, but you can always listen to the full interview at tonight.

But here are some of the highlights. First, I spoke to Newt Gingrich about the candidates` call for change.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There three kinds of change. First of all, there is the politician whose consultant did a focus group and said, "Why don`t you learn to say the word `change`?"

And they walk around saying, "I`m for change. Aren`t you for change? Change would be good. Let`s have change." That has zero meaning. In fact, it`s, I think, so shallow as to be laughable.

Then there are people, as you point out, like Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, who are for the wrong changes.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is ready for change.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not just a change in direction, but a change of heart.

GINGRICH: They`re for changes that will have higher taxes, bigger bureaucracy, more red tape, more trial lawyers, more left-wing social policies. We have no evidence anywhere on the planet that that model works. And we have every evidence that, when it`s tried, the economy gets worse, people get more unhappy, the country gets weaker. And so bad change is not -- is not a good thing either.


BECK: OK. Then I had Karl Rove on a few minutes later and put him in the hot seat. Here is Karl Rove on the Democrats` plan to pit the Republicans against each other and how it may backfire.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR: I think the Democrats, more than a specific candidate, would like to see the Republicans go at each other in a deeply personal way so that there are -- there are deep fissures, both personal and ideological, that divide us at the end of this process.

My sense is that most Republican voters are sitting there and saying, "Of the five candidates, I can find myself voting comfortably for three or four of them."

BECK: Yes.

ROVE: And on the other side, we see particularly in the aftermath of New Hampshire, some really strong divisions emerging, you know, on the basis of personality. They just don`t like each other.


BECK: Then done with Karl Rove and on the other end of the line is Mitt Romney. He said that Washington is broken, but he knows how to fix it. Listen to this. He said he would start with Social Security.


ROMNEY: Washington is broken. We simply cannot keep on going the way we have gone. The good news is Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security can be fixed.

BECK: How do you fix it?

ROMNEY: Social Security is the easiest. And that`s because you can give people a personal account. You can extend the retirement age, and you can calculate the initial benefit, based on inflation for higher-income people rather than the wage index that goes up so much higher.

BECK: Hang on, hang on. Hold on. I think I`ve just heard a politician say extend the retirement age?

ROMNEY: Those are the three major levers you have.


BECK: Finally, Rudy Giuliani gave me his answer to our nation`s health-care problem.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My health care proposal is a -- is a tax exclusion of $15,000, if you buy your own health insurance. If you buy it personally.

If you can buy it for $12,000, you get a $3,000 health savings account which you can put aside. It`s yours; nobody can touch it. And you can use it for regular and ordinary health-care expenses.

What this will do, I believe, is move millions of people to the private health-care market. That will have the impact of driving down the cost of private health care.


BECK: All right. Don`t forget: you can hear interviews like this and so much more on the radio program every single day. Or you can surf on over to and check them out right now at

Coming up, after hearing the Democrats last night in Las Vegas, you`ve got to ask yourself, are we about to relive the tax-and-spend nightmare that was the new deal or the Jimmy Carter years? We`ll take a closer look, coming up.


BECK: Well, politics, the economy, maybe even a little Britney Spears, these are a list of crazy things happening in this country, and it is endless. And who better to dissect each one of them than Penn Jillette, who is taking his colorful commentary to the Internet. He joins me in just a bit. Believe me, you don`t want to miss it.

But first, welcome to the "Real Story."

Last night`s program, I liken the bad news that we keep getting on the economy to waves coming towards the beach. There is a wave for the housing crisis. There`s another wave for the credit crisis, one for the giant deficit, and so on and so on.

But the wave that can do the most damage of all of them is inflation. And that has now come ashore.

Consumer prices rose 4.1 percent in 2007, the largest increase in 17 years. Meanwhile, wholesale prices -- these are the ones that businesses pay and are ultimately passed on to you -- rose 6.1 in 2007. That`s the largest increase in 26 years.

So what does that mean to you? What does that mean to your paycheck?

Well, if you take inflation into account, the average wage actually declined by 1 percent last year. And when wages decline, the real story is that it sets off an entire cycle of despair into motion.

Less income means less spending. Less spending means less profit for businesses. Less profit for businesses means employees get laid off. Less people working means less tax revenue for the government. And it goes on and on and on.

The question is, how do you break the cycle? Well, it`s obvious, isn`t it? Just listen to the politicians.

Here`s Hillary Clinton in last night`s debate.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to see money in the pockets of people who are having trouble paying their energy bills. That stimulates the economy. And then if we need additional stimulation, we should look at tax rebates for middle class and working families, not for the wealthy who have already done very well under George Bush.


BECK: I`m trying to figure that one out. I mean, I`m no first lady, but I`m a thinker. How does helping low-income families stay warm suddenly help our economy? I mean, are they also excited that they run out of their house and go on an exotic vacation where they spend days on the beach brainstorming ways to employ hundreds of people?

No. That is a completely separate issue, but that`s what these clowns in Washington do every single time. Whenever these people see an opportunity to promote government handouts, they jump on it.

If you want to talk about heating and helping people buy heat this winter, fine. I`m actually not a black-hearted monster.

Yes, I want people to have heat, but that`s an energy issue. That`s a "Gee, I`m cold" issue, not an economic one.

And then, on the other point, instead of tax rebates, which are like economic crack because you get a temporary high, followed by an even lower low, how about we put some trust back into the system by slashing government spending? What do you say? A few less peanut museums.

How about we finally signal to the business community that taxes are not going to be going through the roof after you are elected next year? No business owner -- and this small business owner myself says this from experience -- no small business owner is going to start expanding if they believe our tax rates are about to skyrocket. So, businesses don`t employ people.

Take away that uncertainty. Cut the corporate tax rate. It`s the highest in the world.

And watch as once again American businesses bail us out by creating new jobs and pump billions of tax dollars back into Washington. Or, of course, we could just give checks for people who can`t meet their bills for oil. And then they can take that money and give it to the oil companies and watch how many jobs those poor people are going to create.

It makes no sense!

Gerry Swanson is the author of "America the Broke," and professor of economics at the University of Arizona.

Gerry, just this weekend I was going through a bunch of books at my house. I came across yours. I`ve had yours on my shelf. When did it come out, three years ago?

GERALD SWANSON, AUTHOR, "AMERICA THE BROKE": That`s correct, three years ago.

BECK: OK. And I started thumbing through it and thought, oh, my gosh, look how accurate this guy is.

You are making predictions three years ago and now many of them have come -- have come true. We are in the situation that you predicted and yet you went further.

Where are we headed?

SWANSON: Well, right now I think the economy is looking at a situation of stagflation, which is going to be a very difficult one to solve. As you mentioned at the start of the show, we do have major inflation back in the economy, and without a doubt, we did a prediction recently here -- and I know there is mixed feelings about this -- but I think we have slipped currently into a mild recession that could get -- be rather extended and possibly go deeper.

BECK: OK. When you say stagflation, in case anybody doesn`t remember, that`s the 1970s, the late 1970s, where the Fed can`t open up and push more money into the system, they can`t lower interest rates. They have to keep jacking them up because the dollar has fallen so low and because inflation is so high.

This really is a problem that was created by the Fed trying to bail us out from the tech bubble, right?

SWANSON: One of my feelings is that the Fed -- you know, we went down to a 1 percent interest rate on federal funds, and we virtually -- we had a negative interest rate. We were virtually giving money away, and that invites speculation and asset bubbles.

BECK: Yes. OK.

Gerry, there is somebody that I consult with, one of the -- I talk to a lot of financial people, and most of them not on the air because they won`t say the same things off the air as they`ll say on the air. One of my guys said to me, "Glenn, if the Fed opens up the valves, there are very few valves left, but if they really open the valve and they pump more money into this system, it could send the dollar spiraling out of control and really cause some real damage."

In your book, you talk about serious hyperinflation. Can you explain historically what that is? And then give me some indication if you believe that`s even possible to happen here.

SWANSON: Yes, we`ve had -- history is ripe with the different types of inflation, the post-World War I Germany inflation. We had major inflation in South America in the 1980s, in Brazil and Argentina.

Hyperinflation is when your inflation rate starts to exceed 50 percent a month and you lose all control over prices and your money becomes worthless.

BECK: Right. And...

SWANSON: Will it happen here?

BECK: Yes, will it happen here?

SWANSON: Probably not. These things happen in relatively closed economies, but we don`t need it to go that high. If we just get back to double-digit inflation, it will cause havoc in this economy.

BECK: What does it mean to the average person?

SWANSON: Well, they`re going to -- you know, we`re trying to keep interest rates low, but if inflation goes up, interest rates are going to go up. Everything they buy is going to go up. And if their wages lag, as you mentioned, inflation is a tax in and of itself. It takes the spending power away from the average person.

BECK: And real quick, I was surprised to hear this point of view because I believe you and I differ politically speaking. I`m a conservative, you tend to run the opposite direction, or at least that`s what it feels like to me in reading some of the solutions in your book. The Bush tax cuts, you actually believe they worked out well and they should be extended -- or made permanent.

True or false?

SWANSON: True. I have to admit than when I wrote the book, I was disappointed, and I don`t think I would have structured them the way he structured them. And I would have, as you said at the start of the show, I would have insisted on some payback. I wouldn`t have just cut taxes. I would have cut some government spending.

BECK: Yes, good.

Gerry, thanks a lot. We`ll have you on again. I appreciate it.

Well, now all week we have been talking about what Washington should do, but the truth is, aren`t they the ones who got us into this mess? Isn`t it -- isn`t us asking what Washington should do kind of like asking Britney Spears to come over and baby-sit our kids? Haven`t they already proven their incompetence?

Instead, it`s up to us, we, the people.

Americans have done it over and over and over again. We need to rely on ourselves, not our government.

So, while they debate, you know, should we give poor people heating oil money or $100 rebate check, what do we do? What do we do right now to protect our own family in our own home and prepare in case things continue to get worse?

Michael Panzer is the author of "Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future From Four Impending Catastrophes."

I love that title. It`s not something -- I mean, the books are going, well, this sounds like a light read.

Michael, the average person who is living paycheck to paycheck, just struggling to keep food on the table, they maybe have a little bit in their 401(k), what do you do?

MICHAEL PANZER, AUTHOR, "FINANCIAL ARMAGEDDON": Well, the first thing is that you don`t listen to Wall Street. You have to go out there and realize that what`s going on now is fairly dramatic.

We are in the beginnings of a recession, and I think it`s going to get a whole lot worse. And the point is, don`t believe all the happy talk. So, it`s an attitude.

BECK: OK. Well then how do you trust?

I mean, look, I`m just going to be real honest with you. You make money on your book and you are also an investor, et cetera, et cetera. So, you have this opinion, the other guy says it`s going to be fine.

How does the average person know who to trust? Because I don`t think you are getting the truth on television, myself. I think you`re getting it on this program, but that`s just my opinion.

How does the average person know?

PANZER: Well, the point is that you always have to know where people are coming from. Yes, I sell books, but, you know, I was on Wall Street for 25 years. What`s the upside for me in speaking this kind of talk when I could have been doing much more -- much more success, I guess, if I was still on Wall Street?

BECK: Yes. OK.

And I will tell you this, America. I mean, do you think I want to be a crazy man talking about financial Armageddon? It`s no real upside for me either, because we`re pretty much alone on this.

So, the average person, you don`t listen to these people on television, the Wall Streeters, because make money either direction. But what do you do with your money?

PANZER: Well, I think the first thing to remember is that recessions are bad for stocks, bads for all sorts of assets. And the reality is cash is king in this kind of environment.

BECK: OK. And so what do you mean? Are you suggesting you put money underneath your bed, or you just pay off your debt? What do you mean cash is king?

PANZER: Both of those. I think the key here is to pay down debt, is to live essentially a more prudent kind of a lifestyle going forward. Save cash. If you have money in 401(k)s, as an absolute last resort you may be forced to tap that, but the point is, you want to accumulate savings, pay down debts, and really adjust your lifestyle to what I think is going to be a long and lingering affair.

BECK: Yes. Well, that was what I was going to ask you, because a lot of people have seen -- you know, we have bubbles.

I mean, we were just talking about the tech bubble. The Fed rode in to rescue the tech bubble and they created the housing bubble. But we had a little downturn, and then it went back up, and downturn, and that`s cyclical.

You don`t believe that this is that kind of a quick little downturn and then back out of a recession?

PANZER: No. I think we`ve seen the last hurrah of the bubble making. And clearly, now we`ve got the Federal Reserve, which doesn`t really seem to have a strong clue about what they`re doing. And I think, you know, we are paying the price now for all those years of pushing forward the bad times.

BECK: And real quick, do you se anybody out there on the political realm that you say, well, this person has a handle?

PANZER: Well, I mean, some argue Ron Paul is the man. I mean, he`s basically made the point we need sound money, we need to go back to our roots constitutionally. I don`t think he`ll win, but certainly I think his message is one that people can follow at the sort of individual level.

BECK: Great. Michael, thanks a lot.

That`s the "Real Story" tonight. If you`d like to read more about this or if you`d like to, you know, look at the books, we`ll have a link for them on any of the guests in this segment.

Just sign up for the free e-mail newsletter at We`ll provide the links for you. We put all the information in tomorrow`s edition, so sign up tonight and receive it free, absolutely free at

Coming up, Penn Jillette. We`re going to talk a little bit about the Democrats, the debates, the race. Also the Republicans.

He`ll speak his mind. He means what he says and says what he means. It`s rare these days.

It`s coming up next.



BECK: I thought P. Diddy -- Puffy? Just keep going.

I thought I saw him walking down the hall because there were so many people surrounding him. You know how these celebrities come into the Time Warner Center, and usually it`s the rappers that have all of these people around them when they`re walking down the hall. It was Larry King and I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Larry King has a posse?

BECK: He has got a massive, massive posse. They are like, yo, king dog. How are you doing? Good to see you.

That album you got coming out, that new CD, it`s hot, man. It`s hot. It`s rocking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When does your next single drop?

BECK: Dog.


BECK: All right. Whenever you want to talk about real politics, you want to cut all through the bull crap, you go right to our next guest. His ideas make so much sense that I could swear he could probably win the Nevada primary himself, but that, of course, would be just nothing but gangsters and hookers that would be actually voting.

So, magician, comedian and host of a new online show called "Penn Says," which lunched on Sony Digital this month, Mr. Penn Jillette.

PENN JILLETTE, HOST, "PENN SAYS": Thanks for -- oh, I wanted to -- aren`t you on the cover of a magazine show (ph) on your watch now?

BECK: Yes.

JILLETTE: Should I do that?

BECK: Yes. Watch time. Yes.

JILLETTE: Watch time. Watch time.

BECK: Let me just start with some politics first.

Did you watch the debate last night?

JILLETTE: No, I did not.

BECK: Good for you.

JILLETTE: No, I did not. I just don`t care.

The only good news about the people is that a lot of them are going to lose.

BECK: Yes.

JILLETTE: I get very thrilled about that.

BECK: Yes.

The interesting thing is, it was Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, and they were saying all these things -- look, I have so much respect for this individual -- but they would never turn to each other. The body language is that they hate each other.

JILLETTE: Well, of course.

BECK: I think it`s amazing.

JILLETTE: But they are also so -- the nutty thing is that there is this make believe that negative politics is a new thing and that negative politics is bad.

BECK: Yes.

JILLETTE: If you don`t dislike the other guy that`s running, don`t run.

BECK: Well, you don`t have to dislike the individual.

JILLETTE: Well, yes, you can.

BECK: Well, you can, but you don`t have to.

JILLETTE: You want a good person as president.

BECK: Yes, right.

JILLETTE: I think you are supposed to count everything.

BECK: I agree with you.

JILLETTE: I believe that, you know, the campaign finance thing, anybody should be able to pay any amount of money to say anything they want...

BECK: Yes.

JILLETTE: ... or pay no money. It bothers me so much that because I learned to juggle I get to say my political opinions. And if you happen to have made a lot of money somewhere, your political opinions are not considered as valid as some uneducated freak who learned to juggle when he was 12.

BECK: I don`t think you are uneducated, but...

JILLETTE: You know what I mean.

BECK: I know. I know.

JILLETTE: The point is, if you want to make commercials and spend your money that way...

BECK: Sure.

JILLETTE: ... we spend less on the campaign a year, on the presidential campaign in the year, than we do on frozen yogurt.

BECK: Let me ask you this. I know because on your view video blog you have said that Hillary Clinton scares the holy crap out of you...

JILLETTE: Well, I just think that she gets -- I want to make it very clear. I wasn`t talking about scary, like, politically. There`s a whole thing to talk about there.

I was talking about scary like Jerry Lee Lewis. You know? Like you just go, I don`t want that person yelling at me.

I mean, I remember Teller and I went to see Jerry Lee years ago. You know?

BECK: Yes.

JILLETTE: And Jerry Lee came on stage and just looked at the audience, and Teller turned to me and said, "I would not argue with him over a parking space."

BECK: A friend of mine went to see -- I think it was Fiona Apple -- and said -- and sat in the front row. And he said to his wife -- turned to his wife halfway through and said, "I think she might kill us. Clap. Clap."

So much angst there.

JILLETTE: I have seen, you know, The Sex Pistols and The Clash and The Ramones and all the bands that are supposed to be angry, but nothing touched Sinatra when he came out and I turned to the guy next to me and said, "What did we do wrong?" You know, we applauded, we were happy.

BECK: Right.

JILLETTE: And I get that feeling. And it`s totally unjustified.

BECK: Right.

JILLETTE: I never met her.

So, Hillary, if you are in the room when she loses, it`s going to be really uncomfortable.

BECK: OK. So, I wanted to get your point of view on this -- the Republicans are coming out with a new plan. I think it`s next week. Maybe introduced or voted on as early as February of being able to snoop and read everything on the Internet, your e-mail, everything without any questions asked.

JILLETTE: Oh, they didn`t run that by me.

BECK: Is that insanity?

JILLETTE: What are you talking about? You`re exaggerating or something.

BECK: No, I`m not. No. Read it. It`s in the "New Yorker" this week.

JILLETTE: All e-mail?

BECK: Everything. They can read everything. And here`s the excuse...

JILLETTE: They will enjoy some of mine.

BECK: Oh, I bet they will.

JILLETTE: They really will enjoy it a lot.

BECK: Here`s the scary thing. They are saying because a giant cyber hit is coming, so we need this power. And I`m thinking, I don`t think so, Jack.

JILLETTE: Did you read the article in the -- I guess it was "The New York Times" today or yesterday, or maybe it was even Sunday, about the cardiac problems caused by the alerts about terrorism?


JILLETTE: There has been more deaths, you can show statistically, from people worrying about terrorist attacks from all the level -- you know, all the color-coded stuff than there actually were at 9/11.

BECK: How do you -- oh, jeez, we only have 30 seconds.

JILLETTE: How do you book? Thirty seconds?

BECK: Penn Jillette for only 30 seconds.

Give me something in 30 seconds.

JILLETTE: Go to "Penn Says." You can find out everything. Go to...


BECK: It`s -- unfortunately, it`s the future of television. It`s where we`re all headed.

JILLETTE: Especially with the strike.

BECK: Right -- straight to hell. If you`re one who believes in hell.

Penn Jillette, thank you very much, sir.

JILLETTE: Good to see you, man.

BECK: Good to see you.

JILLETTE: See the watch?

BECK: See you.

Strike the pose.

Coming up, Democrats had a primary in Michigan last night. Hillary Clinton won. I mean, the choices were "uncommitted," but the exit polling was very, very telling. Details you don`t want to miss.

That`s coming up next.


BECK: So last night`s focus was on Mitt Romney as he beat John McCain in Michigan. That much you know. But looking deeper into the exit poll data, there is some fairly interesting stats.

Romney actually beat Huckabee among evangelical Christians by a five- point margin. You hear that? Among non-evangelicals, he beat Huckabee 39- 8.

Also, people who thought the Iraq war was the biggest issue voted for McCain by 10 points over Romney, but that margin was fueled mainly by people who didn`t support the war. Of those who do support the Iraq war, Romney won 42-27.

I found the most interesting stuff on the Democrat side. I thought this was great.

Hillary Clinton survived a tightly-contested battle between last night between her campaign and the always formidable "uncommitted" vote last night in Michigan. But it wasn`t all good news for the Clinton campaign.

Clinton lost to "uncommitted" by 14 points among Independent voters, 51-37. Among African-American voters -- and this has to be a gigantic concern with her campaign in the southern states that are all coming up -- Clinton lost by 38 points.

How is she going to win South Carolina?

Among young voters, she had a big problem as well, losing to "uncommitted" by five points. And strangely enough, unmarried men didn`t seem to find Hillary attractive. They decided no one instead of Hillary Clinton.

Now, obviously many people were registering votes for Obama and Edwards when they chose "uncommitted," but those trends have to be incredibly upsetting for the Clinton campaign. At some point, you have to believe that primary voters are going to realize that she comes in with so much baggage, wouldn`t it be easier to get into the White House with the baggage from Obama?

Now, a lot of people are pointing out, you know, Dennis Kucinich, the other candidate for the Democrats that was on the ballot, lost to "uncommitted" in literally every single demographic category, but we decided to look closer. And we found a couple in which Kucinich actually did very, very well.

For example, he won by 89 points among visitors from outer space. And people who are aware of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" embraced Kucinich like crazy. Somehow or another, by 106 to negative 12 percent advantage. That is the sort of enthusiastic support that makes him unbeatable in the middle Earth primary, which I think is next Tuesday.

Don`t forget, if you want to know what`s happening on tomorrow`s program or if you would like a little more in-depth commentary on the news of the day, sign up for my free daily e-mail newsletter at the all new, completely resigned,

From New York, good night, America.