To read the book reviews in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post or The Boston Globe, you might be unaware of the existence of the work of Mark Levin.
Unless you skip to the page with the bestseller lists.
Levin’s new book “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic,” last week hit No. 1 on all three New York Times bestseller lists for which it qualified — hardcover nonfiction, e-book nonfiction and the combination of the two. Yet the paper, like the others mentioned and their counterparts on the magazine rack, continues to ignore Levin, whose book signing at Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island led to huge lines on Aug. 17.
Conservative host Mark Levin preaches for small government.
So, who is this man of mystery considered unfit for mention despite selling millions of books?
Levin is one of the most successful nonfiction writers working and the host of a popular Tea Party-friendly conservative talk radio program that airs nationwide, weekdays at 6 p.m. on WABC here in New York. It claims 5 million listeners.
Levin is a polemicist. On the radio show, he comes across as Rush Limbaugh with a law degree. He calls for the impeachment of “Barack Milhous Nobama,” denouncing “French Republicans” (they give up too easily, and possibly eat fancy cheeses) and declares, in response to a threat to shut him down that, he said, came from a Republican congressman he wouldn’t identify, “I’m not going to put up with fascism on my watch.”
In a typical broadcast, he’ll start with the mellow tone of voice of a soporific late-night jazz deejay, then build into a full-on shout about, say, the perfidy of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for accepting an expansion of Medicaid in his state: “Screw Chris Christie!” he screamed last March.
Actually, there’s a bipartisan aspect to ”The Mark Levin Show.” If you like the sound of Republicans being provided with new bodily apertures without anesthesia, you can expect plenty to delight you.
Levin once said, “Who the hell died and made Karl Rove queen for the day?” Of John Boehner, “Get the hell off the stage, Boehner, you’re a screwup!” Of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, co-hosted by Republican Joe Scarborough, he said, “This is a program that has as its mission the destruction of conservatism.” He called John McCain “John McLame,” slammed Ann Coulter for being too nice to Mitt Romney and thwocked Glenn Beck for “acting like a clown” and “dividing us.”
His books carry a different tone: Here Levin is a bit more the professor than the bomb-thrower.
Levin’s new one, which is informed by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Federalist papers — a favorite phrase, “soft tyranny,” comes straight from Alexis de Tocqueville — isn’t just a collection of radio-ready zingers.
It’s thoroughly reasoned and ably backed up with quotations such as this one (from Jefferson): “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.”
“The Liberty Amendments” are 11 theoretical new constitutional amendments designed to re-emphasize a healthy suspicion of centralized authority. Levin suggests term limits of 12 years for senators and members of Congress, a balanced-budget amendment, term limits for Supreme Court justices, a voter-ID amendment and a sunset provision for federal agencies to automatically expire after three years unless renewed.
Some of his ideas might command bipartisan support (now might be a particularly good time to renew the term-limits fight, with Congress polling at about the same approval rating as Lyme disease), but given that two-thirds -- of Congress and three-quarters of states would have to approve any constitutional updates, most of the Levin amendments stand almost no chance of being passed. Especially the wittiest one: moving tax day to the day before Election Day.
That doesn’t mean the proposals are unworthy of discussion.
The likes of the Times may prefer to ignore Levin as a fringe figure, but that isn’t likely if he’s at the top of the bestseller list. His liberal equivalent, Michael Moore, enjoys saturation coverage in every paper and magazine every time he has a new product to promote.
Levin is speaking for millions when he says that DC is guilty of overreach, of stretching the Constitution’s boundaries until it becomes meaningless, and of sending us the bill.
Levin taps into the disgust with a system that isn’t able to pass budgets on time, consistently spends far more than it takes in and is beholden to lobbyists gaming the system who Obama falsely said would be unwelcome in his administration.
It isn’t just tinfoil-hat birthers who mistrust ObamaCare, which recently hit a disapproval rating of 54% and was seemingly designed to embody the Levin view of the government as capricious, unfair and whiplashed by unintended (but predictable) consequences such as companies cutting back workers to 29-hour weeks.
Levin reader-listeners feel left out of the national debate, and mostly the national media has responded by . . . trying to pretend he doesn’t exist.