You’ve got to hand it to Glenn Beck.

I mean, when in the history of this great republic has a man been able to set so many political fires and escape without getting burned?

Just a few short years ago, Beck was a fledgling cable news host with barely enough viewers to fill the unused space in my garage. His tenure at CNN was a largely forgettable exercise.

And then he got into the arson business.

Cloaked in the American flag and armed with a chalkboard, Beck’s tune changed almost as soon as the lights went up in the Fox News studios. His meteoric rise at Fox and his hugely popular radio show were due, in part, to his well-honed expertise in hyper-partisan, racial pyrotechnics.

Yesterday was no different.

As the Glenn Beck Show team casually discussed the merits of the current GOP field for president, Beck himself issued an ominous warning: if President Obama loses his 2012 re-election bid, he said, riots would break out in cities across the United States.

“I firmly believe that race riots are on the way,” Beck said on his radio and Internet show. “They are being encouraged.”

According to the Beck, “they will take this country down.”

And just who are “they”? Well, “they” is us.

You see, according to Beck, African-Americans don’t believe in democracy. We don’t believe in the rule of law or even personal accountability. We wouldn’t miss an excuse to loot the local 7-11 and torch a few abandoned cars on an open avenue. It seems that it’s in our nature to form felonious, bat-wielding gangs to get what we want—even if that means attacking innocent, hardworking white people.

Need proof? One need only look across the pond to Britain. The inference is that what happened in London over recent days will happen here.

Police in London have announced more than 1,900 arrests for assorted acts of violence, arson, and looting.

Forget basic the basic social science around riot structure. Never mind that there is an entire body of work devoted to the study of social uprisings and that the number one predictor is not race, but economic repression. People like Beck don’t know and don’t care what a “flash point” is. They pay no attention to what happens before a riot is ignited, and choose to focus only on the lawless environment that ensues.

No, Beck would have you believe that an American race riot will happen because the Obama Administration is actively seeding the ground for one. U.S. cities will burn and innocent people will be hurt if President Obama loses next November. To hear Beck tell it, all of this is being actively encouraged by the Obama Administration. “If it looks like they are losing, the uber left, they will take it down. If I can’t have it, no one will.”

And who could disagree? After all, according to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), this is the most “anti-American administration” in his “lifetime.” Appearing on The Janet Mefferd Show yesterday, DeMint told said the President Obama is promoting “socialist-style, collectivist policies.”

If there’s anything “un-American” going on, it is this: setting fire to a tender box full of our collective fears for your own political gain is among the most reprehensible, immoral acts of cowardice I have witnessed in my lifetime.

Using the public airwaves to accuse this president, or any other in recent memory, of purposely baiting people into acts of violence against their neighbors is downright despicable, utterly devoid of any basic human decency, and shamelessly self-serving.

But one thing Beck is not known for is shame.

There was a time when we thought people like Beck simply needed to be ignored. No one in their right mind, after all, would believe his manic tirades, right?

Wrong.

Beck has a devoted audience of millions. With his unmatched ability to pluck and manipulate “facts” from history books to support his dangerously distorted worldview, he has built an entire media empire on this brand of baseless flame throwing.

He isn’t alone.

For every Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, there are dozens of would-be pundits waiting in the wings to take their place. Legions more are producing Internet radio shows from their basement studios, all spewing the same distasteful, hate-filled litany of conspiracy theories you can hear on The Glenn Beck Program on any given day.

Of course, there is little chance that Beck’s cooked-up fantasy of an American nightmare will come to pass. Not one of the GOP primary candidates who took the stage in Ames, Iowa night has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the general election. One could add Texas governor Rick Perry or reality show personality Sarah Palin to that mix and still come up with a losing hand.

None of that makes a difference to Beck. His only job is to set the fire. And run.