Glenn Beck rally Saturday in D.C.: Is it a political event, or not?

Glenn Beck, rally organizer? The television talk show host will host a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial this weekend. Sarah Palin will appear, but attendees have been asked not to bring political signs.

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The stage is being set for Saturday's 'Restoring Honor' Glenn Beck rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
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Glenn Beck

Talk show host Glenn Beck is hosting a big rally in Washington this weekend. Will it be political, or not?

Beck himself is a hero to many "tea party" activists and a polarizing figure who on his shows often attacks Obama administration policies. Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak at his Restore Honor rally, and she’s pretty political – just look at what’s going on in Alaska, where her endorsee Joe Miller has incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski on the ropes.

Tea party organizational groups such as FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots are providing rally organizers with volunteer and logistical support. And FreedomWorks’ own Take America Back D.C. convention is scheduled for Friday evening.

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So the whole thing is a tea party gathering, right? Audience numbers and enthusiasm might be a good gauge of the whole movement’s strength.

Except that’s not how Beck himself sees it, and that’s not how he and other organizers are billing the rally. They point out it is being held in conjunction with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), a charity that provides education aid to the children of deceased special ops personnel.

"This is a non-political event,” says a rally FAQ sheet for the media.

The press release goes on to note that organizers have discouraged attendees from bringing political signs, political fliers, “I heart the RNC” T-shirts, and other political paraphernalia.

“There are plenty of opportunities to talk about politics. This isn’t one of them,” says the media sheet.

And the sign thing is true. Information packets provided to those who have registered to attend say flatly not to publicly display embarrassing statements (as well as to bring water and pack a lunch, and to leave your firearms at home).

So, what is going to happen at the rally, then, beside Beck and Palin appearances? For one thing, Alveda King, a conservative activist who’s the niece of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is scheduled to speak. That may be in response to the fact that many civil rights groups have complained about the rally, which will be held on the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and at the same place – the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Country music artist Jo Dee Messina is supposed to sing.

What will Beck say? That’s not entirely clear, but if his promotional videos are any guide, it will involve holding up heroes for our children to believe in so they can restore honor to an America that Beck believes has lost its way.

“I don’t want my child to [grow up] to be president of the United States anymore because I don’t even know what that means anymore,” says Beck at one point.

(That’s not partisan, maybe, but is it political? That depends on one's definition of the word.)

One thing that won’t be happening at the rally is an official appearance by an elected Republican official. Party groups have been restrained in their statements about the event, given Beck’s reputation for occasionally inflammatory rhetoric. (He’s called Obama a reverse racist, for instance.)

“In general, people coming to Washington, being organized and active is a good thing,” Doug Heye, a spokesman for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, told the Washington Post. “But I gotta be honest with you – I don’t know about any Glenn Beck event.”

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