RADICALS, RIFTS, AND THE RIGHT…. There was a point, about six months ago, when some reasonably high-profile conservatives suggested Glenn Beck and his minions were becoming problematic. Rep. Bob Inglis (R) of South Carolina encouraged his constituents to “turn the TV off” when Beck starts spouting his nonsense. David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, suggested Beck’s rhetoric may be, quite literally, dangerous.

Peter Wehner added at the time that Beck’s “interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting” and his daily attacks are “not good for the country.”

This week, we’re hearing similar assessments again, but for different reasons.

On his radio show yesterday, [right-wing host Mark Levin] added, “Decide what you are. A circus clown, self-identified. Or a thoughtful and wise person. It’s hard to be both. You can’t wear the clown nose and not wear the clown nose at the same time.”

But what’s interesting here isn’t that Beck is generating a backlash by being insane; he’s generating a backlash because he thinks Republicans aren’t right-wing enough. For GOP media allies, the message isn’t helpful, so Beck needs to be condemned.

Right-wing pundit Bill Bennett wrote, “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are…. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund said that several Republicans “complained that Mr. Beck is indirectly encouraging third-party candidates to challenge them this year, threatening to divide the conservative vote.” […]

Limbaugh also criticized Beck, saying, “I don’t know how you can say … that the Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats. It would never occur to me to say that. I don’t know what the objective would be.”

So, let me get this straight. Prominent conservative voices don’t mind Beck’s deranged conspiracy theories, his humiliating ignorance, and his hatred for those who don’t think as he does. But these conservative voices mind a great deal if Beck notes that Republicans have an embarrassing record when it comes to deficit reduction, the national debt, government spending, and increasing the size and scope of the federal government’s powers — an observation that happens to be true.

What an odd movement.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.