CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Glenn Beck shed his jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves, mopped his face with a towel and got down to business. "Why won't somebody tell us the truth?" he asked the crowd of 10,000 gathered for the National Rifle Association's annual meeting on Saturday night. "We're American," he said. "We can handle the truth. We demand the truth and we can understand the truth."
And then – aided by his chalkboard and a dark sense of humor – the conservative Fox News Channel host gave his "touch of the truth." It wasn't pretty.
"This country will never fail by an outside force," he said. "This country will only be destroyed if we destroy ourselves." According to Beck, we're on that path. Yet with every prediction came a Beck-style solution. His cheering fans at the Time Warner Cable Arena took hope from that.
For a preview of America's future, look to Europe's current financial and social problems, he said. "Any of your friends that say it can't happen here, they're wrong."
"The Titanic is going down," Beck said. But as long as we save the passengers, the ship can sink. "You telling me we can't build a better ship?" he said. "We have a great plan; it's called the Constitution."
Churches are emptying out because they "don't stand for anything anymore," he said. "God understands individual rights; he's the creator of them."
Beck defended one particular right to the receptive audience. "Let's talk about a well-regulated militia and why you might need one because the government's not doing its job," he said.
Though he said his warnings are not about parties but the size of government, Beck -- like other speakers at the night's "Celebration of American Values Freedom Experience" -- placed blame for his dystopian American vision on the Obama administration and urged the audience to take the fight to the polls (and attend Beck's Aug. 28 "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial).
"These are not Democrats" he said. "They are revolutionary Marxists."
"I think he's great," said Sharon Browder of Port Orchard, Wash. "He's inspiring, he's focused. We love him. We're proud of him. We need him."
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who preceded Beck onstage, dismissed Elena Kagan, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, as not worthy for consideration because of Harvard Law School's policy barring military recruiters while she was dean. "You don't need hearings," he said.
In defense of gun ownership, he said, "Government has no business trying to stop you as long as you are a legal and law-abiding citizen," earning a standing ovations and shouts of "Newt" in the style of rock stars who have filled this arena on other nights. (NRA members who stayed long enough did get to hear the Charlie Daniels Band.)
On Saturday night, Gingrich previewed themes in his new book "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine." Though its official release date is Monday, signings were scheduled during the meeting here that winds to a close on Sunday with a prayer breakfast and an appearance by rocker and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent.