Friday, February 10, 2012

Obama goes Henry VIII on the church

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
February 10, 2012

Announcing his support for Commissar Sebelius' edicts on contraception, sterilization, and pharmacological abortion, that noted theologian the Most Reverend Al Sharpton explained: "If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we're going to have a separation of church and state."

Thanks for clarifying that. The church model the young American state wished to separate from was that of the British monarch, who remains to this day Supreme Governor of the Church of England. This convenient arrangement dates from the 1534 Act of Supremacy. The title of the law gives you the general upshot, but, just in case you're a bit slow on the uptake, the text proclaims "the King's Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England." That's to say, the sovereign is "the only supreme head on earth of the Church" and he shall enjoy "all honors, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities to the said dignity," not to mention His Majesty "shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be."

The president of the United States has decided to go Henry VIII on the Church's medieval ass. Whatever religious institutions might profess to believe in the matter of "women's health," their pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities and immunities are now subordinate to a one-and-only supreme head on earth determined to repress, redress, restrain and amend their heresies. One wouldn't wish to overextend the analogy: For one thing, the Catholic Church in America has been pathetically accommodating of Beltway bigwigs' ravenous appetite for marital annulments in a way that Pope Clement VII was disinclined to be vis-� -vis the English king and Catherine of Aragon. But where'd all the pandering get them? In essence, President Obama has embarked on the same usurpation of church authority as Henry VIII: as his Friday morning faux-compromise confirms, the continued existence of a "faith-based institution" depends on submission to the doctrinal supremacy of the state.

"We will soon learn," wrote Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "just how much faith is left in faith-based institutions." Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's vicar on earth, has sportingly offered to maintain religious liberty for those institutions engaged in explicit religious instruction to a largely believing clientele. So we're not talking about mandatory condom dispensers next to the pulpit at St. Pat's – not yet. But that is not what it means to be a Christian: The mission of a Catholic hospital is to minister to the sick. When a guy shows up in Emergency, bleeding all over the floor, the nurse does not first establish whether he is Episcopalian or Muslim; when an indigent is in line at the soup kitchen the volunteer does not pause the ladle until she has determined whether he is a card-carrying Papist. The government has redefined religion as equivalent to your Sunday best: You can take it out for an hour to go to church, but you gotta mothball it in the closet the rest of the week. So Catholic institutions cannot comply with Commissar Sebelius and still be in any meaningful sense Catholic.

If you're an atheist or one of America's ever more lapsed Catholics, you're probably shrugging: what's the big deal? But the new Act of Supremacy doesn't stop with religious institutions. As Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it: "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by this mandate." And so would any of his burrito boys who object to being forced to make "health care" arrangements at odds with their conscience.

None of this should come as a surprise. As Philip Klein pointed out in the American Spectator two years ago, the Obamacare bill contained 700 references to the Secretary "shall," another 200 to the Secretary "may," and 139 to the Secretary "determines." So the Secretary may and shall determine pretty much anything she wants, as the Obamaphile rubes among the Catholic hierarchy are belatedly discovering. His Majesty King Barack "shall have full power and authority to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities whatsoever they be." In my latest book, I cite my personal favorite among the epic sweep of Commissar Sebelius' jurisdictional authority:

"The Secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance."

Before Obama's Act of Supremacy did the English language ever have need for such a phrase? "Tooth-level surveillance": From the Declaration of Independence to dentured servitude in a mere quarter-millennium.

Henry VIII lacked the technological wherewithal to conduct tooth-level surveillance. In my friskier days, I dated a girl from an eminent English Catholic family whose ancestral home, like many of the period, had a priest's hiding hole built into the wall behind an upstairs fireplace. These were a last desperate refuge for clerics who declined to subordinate their conscience to state authority. In my time, we liked to go in there and make out. Bit of a squeeze, but it all adds to the fun – as long as you don't have to spend weeks, months and years back there. In an age of tooth-level surveillance, tyranny is subtler, incremental but eminently enforceable: regulatory penalties, denial of licenses, frozen bank accounts. Will the Church muster the will to resist? Or (as Archbishop Dolan's pitifully naïve remarks suggest) will this merely be one more faint bleat lost in what Matthew Arnold called the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" of the Sea of Faith?

In England, those who dissented from the strictures of the state church came to be known as Nonconformists. That's a good way of looking at it: The English Parliament passed various "Acts of Uniformity." Why? Because they could. Obamacare, which governmentalizes one-sixth of the U.S. economy and microregulates both body and conscience, is the ultimate Act of Uniformity. Is there anyone who needs contraception who can't get it? Taxpayers give half-a-billion dollars to Planned Parenthood, which shovels out IUDs like aspirin. Colleges hand out free condoms, and the Washington Post quotes middle-aged student "T Squalls, 30" approving his university's decision to upgrade to the Trojan "super-size Magnum."

But there's still one or two Nonconformists out there, and they have to be forced into ideological compliance. "Maybe the Founders were wrong to guarantee free exercise of religion in the First Amendment," Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post offered to Chris Matthews on MSNBC. At the National Press Club, young Catholics argued that the overwhelming majority of their co-religionists disregard the Church's teachings on contraception, so let's bring the vox Dei into alignment with the vox populi. Get with the program, get with the Act of Uniformity.

The bigger the Big Government, the smaller everything else: First, other pillars of civil society are crowded out of the public space; then, the individual gets crowded out, even in his most private, tooth-level space. President Obama, Commissar Sebelius and many others believe in one-size-fits all national government – uniformity, conformity, supremacy from Maine to Hawaii, for all but favored cronies. It is a doomed experiment – and on the morning after it will take a lot more than a morning-after pill to make it all go away.


Today's Tune: Patti Smith - Helpless

Party Like It’s A.D. 632

By Bruce Bawer
February 10, 2012

Recently the Partij voor Moslim Nederland (Party for Muslim Netherlands), which already enjoys a significant presence in various municipal governments in that country, announced that it intended to run candidates for the Dutch Parliament. An article in Forbes listed the party’s major principles, which included limits on “offensive” speech about religion; the criminalization of blasphemy and of the destruction of religious texts; immediate admission of Turkey to the EU; an end to support for Israel; and the free and unimpeded importation of Muslim brides from abroad.

Whether to work within existing parties, or to concentrate on forming and building up separate Muslim parties, has always been a key strategic question for the soft jihadists of Europe. Though there are Muslims in Norway who are prominent members of several large traditional parties, the country now has a Muslim party too. Founded in 2009 as the Independent Labour Party, it was obliged later that year to change its name to the Samtidspartiet (Contemporary Party) because of official concerns that it might be confused with the Norwegian Labor Party. When outlining the party’s goals, its founder, Norwegian-Pakistani Ghuffor Butt, focused on a desire for lower taxes, gas prices, and the like – making it sound like rather a libertarian party for Muslims. Formerly a cinema director, producer, and political journalist in Pakistan, as well as an actor in some twenty Pakistani movies, Butt ran – and, as far as I know, still runs – a successful store in Grønland, a largely Muslim district in Oslo, that sells Bollywood films.

Yet lest these credentials suggest he was a “liberal” and “modern” Muslim, Butt made it clear, in answer to a Dagbladet journalist’s questions, that his party’s other objectives included lifting the ban on hijab in the police force, establishing exclusively Muslim schools and hospitals, instructing immigrant-group children in their parents’ native tongue rather than in Norwegian, easing residence-visa rules, using taxpayer money to fund the building of mosques and pay the salaries of imams, punishing those who had reprinted the Danish Muhammed cartoons, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and prohibiting homosexuality. (Later, presumably loath to offend some of his allies on the left, Butt made a phone call to Dagbladet to walk back the bit about gays: while homosexual conduct is forbidden by Islam, he said, the party did not intend to change Norwegian law on the subject. Yeah, right.)

“If Norwegians didn’t drink alcohol, have premarital sex, and eat pork,” Butt told Dagbladet, “they’d be the world’s best Muslims.” He also suggested that Mossad was responsible for 9/11 and echoed the popular myth that Jews hadn’t shown up for work at the World Trade Center that day.

It is interesting to note that the official launch of this putatively Norwegian political party took place in Pakistan – yet another apparent indication of the way in which many Norwegian-Pakistanis view their relationships to their old and new homelands. As Butt explained, it was easier to reach Norwegian Pakistani voters in Norway this way because they didn’t watch Norwegian TV: thanks to satellite dishes, their sets are tuned to the Pakistani channels on which he was planning to do interviews. “In three years, Oslo’s mayor will be a Norwegian-Pakistani,” he predicted (wrong so far), and expressed the hope that within fifteen years a “second-generation immigrant” would be Norway’s prime minister.

Then there’s the U.K., where Muslims established the Islamic Party of Britain in 1989 only to dissolve it in 2006 after limited success in local elections. The party received widespread attention when one of its functionaries, in answer to a reader’s question on its website, said that gays should be put to death for “public…lewdness.” The party is no more, but it lingers on, after a fashion, in the form of the socialist Respect Party, to which it had intimate ties. Based in the immigrant-heavy city of Manchester, run by two people named Salma Yaqoob and Abjol Miah, and founded in 2004 in opposition to the war in Iraq, the party – which has what one might call a “special relationship” with the Muslim Association of Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) – calls for a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich to fund welfare programs, stauncher support for Pakistani, and a tough stance toward Israel; though it presents itself as a part of the left, it has soft-pedaled women’s rights and gay rights to garner Muslim votes. Its most famous member is the Hamas-loving international gadfly George Galloway, who represented the party in Parliament after his expulsion from Labour.

And let’s not forget Spain, where in 2009 Muslims formed the Partido Renacimiento y Unión de España (PRUNE), which – though it calls explicitly for a “moral and ethical regeneration” of Spanish society, with Islam as the motive force – denies that it’s a Muslim party. A similar situation obtains in Germany, where a party called the Alliance for Innovation and Justice, founded in 2010, also claims it’s not a Muslim institution, despite its overwhelmingly Muslim membership, its clearly Islamic ideological orientation, and its intimate ties with the ruling party in Turkey.

So it goes. In those places in Europe where Muslims have reached a certain percentage of the population, it’s not surprising to see Muslim parties cropping up, fielding candidates, and, eventually, winning elections – first for local offices, then for seats in Parliament.

One challenge facing all such parties, however, is that of convincing Muslims that a separate party is the best way for them to gain power. Indeed, while it’s important to keep an eye on these still relatively small parties, at present the far more significant problem is the readiness of the large, established parties that, in order to win Muslim votes, are quick to betray their founding principles – and to sell out the interests, rights, and security of members of constituencies (such as gays and Jews) that are increasingly being dwarfed by ever-ballooning Muslim populations. The possibility of those Muslim votes being siphoned off by newer, smaller parties with aggressively Islamic platforms can only encourage the major parties to shift their own agendas in even more Muslim-friendly directions.

It’s all part, needless to say, of the complex, subtle – and ominous – workings of soft jihad. Which is why the decision of the Party for Muslim Netherlands to dive into the parliamentary fray is a development worth taking note of. For it’s no isolated incident, but part of a much larger and constantly shifting picture – that of the steady, and seemingly inexorable, political Islamization of Europe.

The Gospel according to Obama

The Washington Post
February 10, 2012

At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, seeking theological underpinning for his drive to raise taxes on the rich, President Obama invoked the highest possible authority. His policy, he testified “as a Christian,” “coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’ ”

Now, I’m no theologian, but I’m fairly certain that neither Jesus nor his rabbinic forebears, when speaking of giving, meant some obligation to the state. You tithe the priest, not the tax man.

The Judeo-Christian tradition commands personal generosity as represented, for example, by the biblical injunction against retrieving any sheaf left behind while harvesting one’s own field. That is for the gleaners — “the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:10). Like Ruth in the field of Boaz. As far as I can tell, that charitable transaction involved no mediation by the IRS.

But no matter. Let’s assume that Obama has biblical authority for hiking the marginal tax rate exactly 4.6 points for couples making more than $250,000 (depending, of course, on the prevailing shekel-to-dollar exchange rate). Let’s stipulate that Obama’s prayer-breakfast invocation of religion as vindicating his politics was not, God forbid, crass, hypocritical, self-serving electioneering, but a sincere expression of a social-gospel Christianity that sees good works as central to the very concept of religiosity.

Fine. But this Gospel according to Obama has a rival — the newly revealed Gospel according to Sebelius, over which has erupted quite a contretemps. By some peculiar logic, it falls to the health and human services secretary to promulgate the definition of “religious” — for the purposes, for example, of exempting religious institutions from certain regulatory dictates.

Such exemptions are granted in grudging recognition that, whereas the rest of civil society may be broken to the will of the state’s regulators, our quaint Constitution grants special autonomy to religious institutions.

Accordingly, it would be a mockery of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if, for example, the Catholic Church were required by law to freely provide such “health care services” (in secularist parlance) as contraception, sterilization and pharmacological abortion — to which Catholicism is doctrinally opposed as a grave contravention of its teachings about the sanctity of life.
Ah. But there would be no such Free Exercise violation if the institutions so mandated are deemed, by regulatory fiat, not religious.

And thus, the word came forth from Sebelius decreeing the exact criteria required (a) to meet her definition of “religious” and thus (b) to qualify for a modicum of independence from newly enacted state control of American health care, under which the aforementioned Sebelius and her phalanx of experts determine everything — from who is to be covered, to which treatments are to be guaranteed free of charge.

Criterion 1: A “religious institution” must have “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose.” But that’s not the purpose of Catholic charities; it’s to give succor to the poor. That’s not the purpose of Catholic hospitals; it’s to give succor to the sick. Therefore, they don’t qualify as “religious” — and therefore can be required, among other things, to provide free morning-after abortifacients.

Criterion 2: Any exempt institution must be one that “primarily employs” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.” Catholic soup kitchens do not demand religious IDs from either the hungry they feed or the custodians they employ. Catholic charities and hospitals — even Catholic schools — do not turn away Hindu or Jew.

Their vocation is universal, precisely the kind of universal love-thy-neighbor vocation that is the very definition of religiosity as celebrated by the Gospel of Obama. Yet according to the Gospel of Sebelius, these very same Catholic institutions are not religious at all — under the secularist assumption that religion is what happens on Sunday under some Gothic spire, while good works are “social services” properly rendered up unto Caesar.

This all would be merely the story of contradictory theologies, except for this: Sebelius is Obama’s appointee. She works for him. These regulations were his call. Obama authored both gospels.

Therefore: To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

CAIR’s Crusade against 'The Third Jihad'

If you see something, don’t say anything.

By Clifford D. May
February 9, 2012

M. Zuhdi Jasser (pictured above) is a physician, a U.S. Navy veteran, an American patriot, and a Muslim who does not hold with those who preach that Islam commands its followers to take part in a war against unbelievers.

The Third Jihad, a documentary film that Jasser narrated, takes a hard look at those Muslims who are waging this war — both with bombs and by stealthier means. The film had been among the educational materials used to train New York City police officers dealing with terrorism. Then, last month, the New York Times went on what one might call a crusade against the movie, publishing a series of articles branding it a “hate-filled film about Muslims” and calling on Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to “apologize for the film . . . and make clear that his department does not tolerate such noxious and dangerous stereotyping.”

In the first of its stories, the Times charges that the film “casts a broad shadow over American Muslims.” That ignores the unambiguous statement with which the documentary opens: “This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radical.”

The story quotes Jasser as saying in the film: “This is the true agenda of Islam in America.” But what Jasser actually said in the film is that jihad is “the true agenda of much of the Muslim leadership here in America.”

Jasser has long argued — and he’s hardly alone in this — that the leaders of some of the wealthiest and most powerful organizations that claim to represent American Muslims are not as moderate as they’d have you believe. Prominent among such organizations is CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which appears to have been the driving force behind the coverage in the Times and in the Village Voice before that. The Times quotes CAIR spokesmen saying how outraged and offended they are by the film.

The Times chooses not to inform readers that CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial in the U.S. to date, the 2007 U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation et al. The Times neglects to report that the FBI has broken all ties with CAIR. The Times also does not mention that last year CAIR’s national organization lost its status as a tax-deductible charity after it failed to file required annual reports detailing revenues for three consecutive years as required by law. (The Times has raised pointed questions about funding for The Third Jihad. Why no interest in where CAIR’s money comes from?)

The paper never bothered to interview Jasser. Nor did the Times quote Robert Jackson, the only Muslim on the New York City Council, who told other reporters that while he “initially thought from reading about [the film] that it cast a negative image on all Muslims . . . it does not. It focuses on the extreme Muslims that are trying to hurt other people.” The Times turned down an op-ed by former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge and former CIA director (and current chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies) Jim Woolsey defending the film.

The Times’s stories present not a single factual error in the documentary. However, illustrating the first story was an image of the White House with a black Islamic flag flying above it. The Times called that “a doctored photograph,” leaving readers to infer that the filmmakers had done the doctoring. In fact, the filmmakers found that image on a jihadi website. (Such images are common on such websites, as any reporter working the terrorism beat should know.)

CAIR calls itself a Muslim “civil rights” organization, and most of the major media take it at its word. Jasser has pointed out that one of the main missions of such groups is to silence critics — to deprive them of their right to free speech. One of the ways this is done, Jasser says, is by making it appear that Muslim reformers are themselves extremists and, what is more, that they are “not part of the community (ummah), and so subject them to takfir (declaring them apostates). That is what the vicious distortions about this film do to my work and the work of so many others within the House of Islam who are trying to publicly take on the American Islamist establishment.”

Jasser adds: “Political Islam is the lifeblood of groups like CAIR; they will never publicly acknowledge its incompatibility with western liberalism and Americanism. Were Americans ever to finally become educated on the slippery slope between nonviolent Islamism (political Islam) and Islamist militancy, the legitimacy of these Muslim-Brotherhood-legacy groups would evaporate.”

The barriers to providing such education are growing. Mayor Bloomberg has denounced The Third Jihad. The NYPD has stopped showing it. CAIR is not at all satisfied. The organization has demanded that Commissioner Kelly resign and that the police department “offer a concrete plan to help counter the misinformation about Islam and Muslims provided to almost 1,500 officers through the screening of The Third Jihad.” That won’t be the end of it. Author Bruce Bawer noted in an op-ed this week: “Criticizing Islam is now a punishable offense in several European countries.” I happened to have read Bawer’s piece while waiting for a train in New York’s Penn Station. About the same time, I heard an announcement on the public address system: “If you see something, say something.” Zuhdi Jasser has seen something. CAIR wants him to shut up about it. And CAIR has friends in high places.

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


By Ann Coulter
February 8, 2012

Having given up on pillorying Mitt Romney for plundering his way to vast wealth -- because, unfortunately, it isn't true -- the NFM (Non-Fox Media) seem to have settled on denouncing him as a rich jerk.

Liberals are disgusted by people who made their own money, as Romney did at Bain Capital. But they admire ill-gotten gains, which is how John Kerry, John Edwards, Jon Corzine, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and innumerable other spokesmen for the downtrodden amassed their fortunes.

Democrats are very proud of the rich, patrician FDR -- who inherited all of his money and then launched a series of federal entitlements designed to bankrupt America 60 years later.

JFK also inherited his wealth, from a father who made his money as a bootlegger and stock manipulator. (In their defense, both men went on to create lots of jobs for bartenders and prostitutes.)

Kerry is in a special category of the gigolo. He acquired his fortune by marrying someone, who married someone, who inherited the money -- leading Kerry's children to refer to Teresa Heinz Kerry as their "step-money." In what can only be described as sheer luck, Kerry's first wife was also an heiress.

I've been diligently searching for the shrieks of horror from the media over John Kerry's tax returns when he ran for president eight years ago, but I can't find anything. (Although I did find a reference to Kerry's having served in Vietnam. Anybody else hear about that?)

Even when Kerry refused to release his wife's tax returns in order to avoid the humiliation of revealing his allowance, the press was demurely silent.

John Edwards made well over $50 million by shaking down hardworking doctors with junk science lawsuits -- as The New York Times has since admitted. The highlight of his carnival sideshows was when he channeled unborn children in front of illiterate jurors. (In the Democrats' moral universe, the unborn have no right to life, but they're perfectly acceptable as witnesses for the plaintiff in a malpractice suit.)

As I recall, Democrats were overjoyed with Wall Street financier-turned Democratic politician Jon Corzine. It was just three years ago, in 2009, when President Obama was hailing Corzine as one of the "best partners I have in the White House."

Today, prosecutors are trying to find out what Corzine did with hundreds of millions of his customers' money.

The media do everything they can to avoid looking into these mountebanks when they are active politicians. Then, when they're out of office, the NFM summarily announce that they always knew the Democrats were sleazeballs, and why are we still talking about them?

It's never a good time to talk about Democrat plutocrats until it's way too late to talk about them.

With Corzine, we'll have a window of three seconds to talk about his financial shenanigans. He's innocent until proved gui -- Convicted! -- What? You're still burbling about that guy?

Liberals will be carrying on about Richard Nixon until we're all long dead. Why has the time passed for them to really examine the man who was their vice presidential candidate only eight years ago and was desperately seeking the presidential slot just four years ago?

Until we hear ferocious denunciations of FDR, JFK, Kerry, Edwards and Corzine, liberals have no business criticizing Bain Capital.

Maybe some people are irrationally offended by the rich, but Democrats aren't. This is the party of George Soros, Goldman Sachs and Nancy Pelosi!

The six wealthiest senators are all Democrats, half of whom married or inherited their money. Some of the multimillionaire Democrats are:

-- Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the second-richest senator after Kerry, inherited his money.

-- Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the sixth-richest senator, married her money.

-- Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was a bogus dot-com multimillionaire, cashing out before the stockcrashed.

-- Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ninth-richest senator, who failed to pay taxes on her private plane until she was caught last year, married her money.

Meanwhile, with few exceptions, Republicans either made money on their own or they don't have it.

It's not an accident that Democrats oppose a tax on wealth, which they have boatloads of, but strongly support taxes on income, something they typically do not have.

Democrats don't hate the rich; they are the rich, luxuriating in fortunes acquired by inheritance or marriage, fleecing the taxpayer, trial lawyer hucksterism or disreputable money manipulation. Their contempt is reserved for those who engage in honest work for a living, whom they accuse of "greed" for wanting to pay the government a little less.


Austin Rivers lives up to the moment

By Eamonn Brennan
February 9, 2012

Duke's guard Austin Rivers, right, shoots the game-winning basket over North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller (44) during the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Duke won 85-84. (AP)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- SixFive

The seconds melted away. Austin Rivers kept dribbling.

Mason Plumlee was under the rim, another among the nearly 22,000 people crammed inside the Dean E. Smith Center, as helpless as each and every one. Later, he'd admit it: He was a little worried. He trusted Austin. It's just, well, those seconds were vanishing, and there Rivers was, dribbling them away. What if he missed? Would Plumlee have a chance to get a rebound?

"What is he doing?" Plumlee thought. "Is he going to shoot it?"


Seth Curry wasn't going to stand by and wait. He screamed at Rivers: "Shoot it! Shoot it!" It was futile. The crowd was too loud. No way Rivers could hear him. Would he get it off in time?


That's when Doc Rivers knew. He'd seen it before. His son had set things up this way: He had forced UNC center Tyler Zeller into an uncomfortable switch, and now he had the big man right where he wanted. Doc's son was hesitating on purpose, waiting for the 7-foot Zeller to back up -- just enough to see the rim, just enough to give it a chance.


It hung up in the air the way last-second shots do, floating through space at its own leisure, blissfully unaware of its brief journey's consequence. For half a second -- no more -- the arcing, dropping basketball was the only thing in the arena in motion. Twenty-two thousand froze in their seats. Some covered their eyes. The Dean Dome was underwater, muffled, a slow-motion scene from a cheesy action movie. The time played tricks.


And then, just like that, it was over. Duke 85. Carolina 84. Austin Rivers had just played the most important -- and the longest -- six seconds of his life.

"I swear the ball was in the air for like 10 minutes," Rivers said. "My heart dropped. I shot it with confidence, but when I was walking back it looked good and I was like, 'Please go in.'

"When it went in, my heart jumped. It was the best feeling I've ever had in my life."

Rivers' frequent use of the word "heart" feels appropriate. Of all the qualities he displayed Wednesday night -- the deep range, the twitchy speed, that tightrope ballhandling, the things that made him one of the most highly touted Duke freshmen in recent memory -- Rivers' heart, and the heart of his teammates, was the one that mattered most.

The Blue Devils looked dead more than once in the second half, at the mercy of a team too strong on the boards, too fast on the break, too good in too many ways, just too much. But each time the Tar Heels looked set to finally, forcefully pull away, Rivers hit a big 3 to keep them alive.

In the process, he made six 3s (five more than the entire UNC team), scored a career-high 29 points -- the most any Duke freshman has ever scored against North Carolina -- and answered every question this game has asked about his ability, his decision-making, his toughness and his will.

Oh, and he became a Duke legend. There's that, too.

"It's amazing what can happen when you have courage," Rivers said.
That's the word Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wrote on the chalkboard before the game: Courage. Curry used a different term: Faith.

However you choose to describe it, Duke had it, scrapping and clawing its way back from 12 points back, then 10, then 13, then 10, then seven, then four. The Blue Devils needed a little help from the three would-be stars of the game, too: Zeller, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes led the Tar Heels throughout, but Marshall's errant pass led to a Mason Plumlee steal and a Curry 3. Barnes, so peerless throughout the second half, charged into Ryan Kelly on an overzealous drive. Zeller, so dominant all night, missed key free throws and contributed a strange and brutally unlucky tip-in of a wayward Ryan Kelly shot.

In the final two minutes and 38 seconds, Duke erased a 10-point UNC lead. In that time span, the Heels not only didn't make a shot -- they didn't even attempt a shot. The final four possessions consisted of two turnovers and a pair of 1-for-2 free throw sequences.

The Dean Dome crowd could do little but wail and gnash and feel the nerves overcome what had been, for the 37 minutes and 22 seconds that preceded it, an expected and warranted coronation.

Without those two minutes and 38 seconds -- without Duke's hot shooting and timely plays and poise and self-belief -- Rivers' final six seconds never happen.

He was the key throughout. For much of the season, the prodigal freshman has been criticized for not living up to the hype that accompanied his arrival in Durham. He was too inconsistent, too prone to bad decisions, too willing to force his own offense, too weak on the defensive end.

He's been called overrated, erratic, even selfish. Rivers would unload bad 3s. He would drive the lane and force it up. He would miss open teammates, or he would be too keen to find them, or he'd get caught somewhere in between.

At times, the judgments -- harsh though they were -- were accurate.
Rivers was a gunner, a high-school scorer who couldn't adapt to the rigors of the college game. He was too hyped, too used to being the star, too accustomed to having everything come easy. At least, that's what everyone said.

Perhaps we've been spoiled. We're used to dominant freshmen in college hoops. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Jared Sullinger -- throughout the one-and-done era, when a player arrives with Rivers' brand of hype, we expect him to live up to it, and quickly. If he doesn't, the dreaded b-word -- bust -- is applied in short order. Our patience is nonexistent.

But maybe Rivers -- like the player across from him Wednesday night, Harrison Barnes -- simply needed what so many 19-year-olds need: time to grow.

"He has grown," his dad, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, told after the game. "They've done a great job with him here. He's always scored. But to do it at this level, to be efficient with it, to take a game on like this -- he's just really grown, and you can see it. It's just a proud, proud moment."

"All freshmen are going to have their ups and downs," added his teammate, Curry. "But we have faith in him."

That faith was rewarded on this night, and the reward was so much more than a win. Consider where this team was, where it appeared to be going: The Blue Devils' most recent game was a home loss to Miami, their second loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the past five games. Just three weeks ago, Duke was handed a similar defeat thanks to Florida State guard Michael Snaer's last-second 3.

Coach K's team was playing the program's worst defense of the past decade; it entered the game ranked No. 9 in the ACC in adjusted defensive efficiency. It couldn't rebound, it couldn't get stops, and it was playing a national title contender that would be exploiting those very characteristics.

The challenge appeared insurmountable. To win, Duke's offense would have to keep the pace. It would have to get big performances from, well, everyone. And something special -- something worthy of this storied rivalry -- would have to unfold.

"To hit a game-winner like that," Krzyzewski said, "is storybook. That's one of the best games [these two teams] have ever played."

Coach K has a way of downplaying the big moment, of treating the biggest and best games like just another day at the office. But even he couldn't downplay this one. Frankly, why try?

Thanks to Rivers, this game, that finish, that arcing 3 that hung in the air for 10 minutes -- and every moment that led up to it -- will become one of the all-time capital-M moments in a rivalry with too many to count already. Duke will remember it forever. UNC will do its best to forget.

And Rivers -- ballyhooed and beleaguered, embraced and dismissed -- will see his unlikely name etched in Duke-Carolina lore forever.

"It took me a minute to realize what just happened," Curry said. "It was just … surreal."

"I had no idea what he was doing," Plumlee said, laughing and shaking his head. "But Austin knew exactly what he was doing. What a …"

Plumlee paused. He took a second.

"Just … what a win."

How quickly can doubt become faith? How swiftly can defeat become victory? How soon can one shot become history?

Turns out, all it takes is six seconds.

Five …

Four …

Three …

Two …

One …

Eamonn Brennan covers college basketball for You can see his work in the College Basketball Nation blog. To contact Eamonn, e-mail or reach him on Twitter (@eamonnbrennan).

About The Shot

Austin Rivers' shot instantly goes on the Carolina-Duke series highlight reel, but it didn't cause Wednesday's loss.

By Adam Lucas
Feb. 9, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the game-winning 3 pointer over Tyler Zeller #44 to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-84 during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It was not about the shot.

You're going to see Austin Rivers's game-winning three-pointer a dozen times on Thursday, and every time it's going to infuriate you. The highlights will show that his buzzer-beater is how Carolina lost the game.

It was not how Carolina lost the game.

Up ten points with under 2:30 to play, it takes an unbelievable series of events to create a comeback. Like, for example, a pair of three-pointers off an offensive rebound and an uncharacteristic turnover, another offensive rebound that led to two more points, a Tar Heel tipping the ball into the Duke basket, and a last-second mismatch that leads to some uncertainty.

All of that had to happen. If any one of those five things doesn't happen--over a 150-second span in which the Tar Heels did not attempt a single field goal--this is a very different story.

But they all happened. All five of them. You could feel it starting to unravel a little after the second three-pointer. What happened?

"We just mentally fell apart," said Harrison Barnes.

Out of all the Carolina postgame locker rooms I've been in, over all the seasons and all the years, I don't remember any like this. There was no music, of course, because that's for wins. But there was also no talking. There was no sound of tape being cut off ankles. No shoes being slammed to the floor.

There was nothing. It was absolutely silent. Players met the media with their game jerseys still on, towels slung around their shoulders.

An obviously despondent Tyler Zeller was the last player to emerge. Understand this: to get anywhere close to blaming the loss on him is foolhardy. If Zeller hadn't shown up in the first half, Duke might well have taken a double-digit lead into the locker room and coasted through the second half. He had 23 points and 11 rebounds and was a couple of made free throws away from this story being about his epic Carolina-Duke performance.

But he didn't make them. Which meant he had to sit in front of the media, and had to somehow quantify what it must be like to shoot a free throw with 21,750 people watching, with their mother standing nervously in the first row near midcourt with her hands clenched tightly together, and then have to walk off the court feeling like you lost the game. He will blame himself much harder than any of us--hopefully--would ever blame him.
He will see those final 15 seconds before he goes to sleep, in his sleep, and the first thing when he wakes up. It is not easy for a big man to stay with a guard in that situation. Tyler Hansbrough did it against Florida State's Toney Douglas in Tallahassee in 2009. The reason we remember it is because it's such a unique play.

Teams practice almost everything. It's very hard to simulate your seven-footer having to go one-on-one against the other team's best scorer. In that moment, when there was no luxury of thinking--imagine if thousands of people talked for hours or days or weeks or maybe years about a decision you made in less than 10 seconds--Zeller made a choice he almost instantly regretted.

"I should have gotten up further," he said. "I didn't want to foul him. But you can't give him the three when you're up two."

He's right, of course. But it was not about the shot. It was about those two minutes before the shot, when Duke essentially did the exact opposite to Carolina of what the Tar Heels did to them in 2005, when Marvin Williams's three-point play capped a nine-point comeback in three minutes. Remember the euphoria of that shot, how you still get a little giddy when you see the replay? This was the exact inverse of that moment. This was a bottomless feeling as soon as the buzzer went off.

And in that way, it is about the shot. Not the game--the game was about those final two minutes. But that feeling of dread that settled over the Smith Center as Duke piled on each other near center court was not because of just losing the game. It was not about having to watch the celebration.

It's about the knowledge that we'll be watching that shot forever. It instantly goes right onto the essential Carolina-Duke highlight reel, with Walter Davis in 1974 and bloody Montross and Chris Duhon's layup and bloody Hansbrough and Danny Green over Greg Paulus and Jeff Capel's halfcourt heave. It is right there, already. You'll never be able to see any of those without also seeing Austin Rivers drop through a three-pointer.

That's why fans stayed frozen to their seats. It was sheer paralysis, the kind that comes when you know that what you just saw was instantaneously seared into your brain. There are very few moments like that. This was one. It instantly goes to the top of the most gut-wrenching regular season losses (NCAA Tournament losses are in an entirely different category) in Carolina history.

Roy Williams has now coached 311 games at North Carolina. I can only think of one regular season game when he has appeared as frustrated and downtrodden as he did on Wednesday night--that was in 2004, when Duhon drove the length of the floor to beat Carolina in overtime. From an outside perspective, that game didn't hurt as much as this one. In 2004, most of us were just thrilled to be relevant again. Just having an opportunity to win that type of game was enough to cause giddiness.

Eight years and two championships later, the expectations feel a little different. We're spoiled again, which is terrific. And the head coach, the one who was so jarringly disappointed in 2004?

He trudged through the locker room while his players did interviews. His jacket was off and his head was down. He looked, well, he looked exactly the way you felt at around 11:30 on Wednesday night.

He'll take the evening to despair. Sleep will not come easily.

But for him, tomorrow will not be about the shot. The shot is simply the tool that caused the fourth loss of the season. He doesn't have time or the inclination to worry about things like Carolina-Duke series highlight reels or where that comeback might rank in the history of the two teams or what it means about the rivalry.

At the end of his late night press conference, he started to provide a tiny window into what these next couple days might be like. How in the world do you come back from that? We're all going to wake up in the morning and it's going to be one of the first things we think about and the worst part is that it's going to be real.

You know how you feel. Imagine how they feel.

"You ought to be ticked off," he said. "You ought to be flat out ticked off. You're going to become more determined. If you start wallowing in sorrow for yourself or feeling sorry for yourself, you should just go home...We lost a game we could've won. If we don't learn something from that and come back more determined, I've got the wrong group. And I don't think I have the wrong group. We're going to come back and go to work."

Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly. He is also the author or co-author of six books on Carolina basketball, including the official chronicle of the first 100 years of Tar Heel hoops, A Century of Excellence, which is available now. Get real-time UNC sports updates from the THM staff on Twitter and Facebook.

Austin Rivers’ buzzer-beater adds to Duke-UNC lore

By Pat Forde
Yahoo! Sports
February 9, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammate Quinn Cook #2 after hitting a game-winning 3 pointer to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-84 during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It was nearly midnight on Wednesday. Doc Rivers had to go.

He needed to hightail it back to Boston, where the Los Angeles Lakers are waiting to take on Rivers’ Boston Celtics on Thursday night. But that reality could wait a sweet moment longer. Right now, Doc was not an NBA coach. He was a deliriously proud dad. And he was not leaving the Dean Smith Center until he had a chance to embrace his son, Austin, after he had the basketball moment of a young lifetime.

Finally, Austin emerged from the Duke locker room in sweats and walked 20 feet, back behind a black curtain, to see his family. They briefly relived the shot that became an instant classic in Blue Devils lore, the long 3-pointer that swished after the buzzer and shocked North Carolina 85-84 in one of the wildest installments in this endlessly compelling rivalry.

Then it was time. Austin had to get on the bus back to Durham. Doc had to get on a plane back to Boston.

“I’m taking off,” Doc said, wrapping his arms around Austin. “Just wanted to say I’m proud of you, son.”

Understand, Doc Rivers has won a world championship. He has experienced the ultimate in his life’s work. But this is family. To see it end this way? With the youngest of his three kids scoring 29 points in the biggest game of his life, capped off by a shot that reverberated across America?

“No better feeling in the world,” Doc said, smiling.

His tutelage was instrumental in making Austin the nation’s top-ranked high-school senior in 2010-11 and the leading scorer for this Duke team as a freshman in 2011-12. But the demands of the job mean that Doc Rivers has missed a lot of his kids’ games over the years. He’s made as many as possible – but possible is limited.

So being here for this was special. This was his first visit to the Dean Dome, his first Duke-Carolina game. For 40 minutes, he was into it as a fan – but until the end, he only came out of his seat when adversity struck.

When Austin was called for a charge, Doc stood up and clapped.

When Austin threw away a pass that turned into a Carolina layup, Doc clapped harder.

When the game seemed to be slipping irrevocably away – with the Tar Heels leading by 13 early in the second half, 11 later on and by 10 with 2:10 to play – Doc kept clapping for Austin and his teammates.

“I just wanted them to hang in there,” he said. “They were never out of it.”

No, they were never out of it. Even when it seemed like they certainly were out of it.

As many thrilling, improbable, memorable endings as there have been in the previous 232 installments of this series, this might be the all-timer. At the least, Duke now has its equivalent of the famous 1974 game in which the Tar Heels somehow came back from eight points down in the final 17 seconds to tie, then won in overtime.

But that one was on Carolina’s home court, as a top-five team against an unranked Blue Devils squad. This death-defying Duke rally came in enemy territory against the No. 5 team in the country.

“For me,” Mike Krzyzewski said, “that’s one of the best ones.”

College basketball fans (and writers) often are guilty of failing to appreciate the games as they happen because we’re so busy trying to forecast what it all will mean in March. This is no time for that.

There will be ample airtime, Internet space and newspaper ink devoted in the days ahead to The Big Picture. To discuss whether North Carolina is fatally flawed as a national title contender, or whether Duke is better than suspected. First, a game like this deserves to be savored for a while.

The gritty rally required some incredibly clutch shooting by Duke. It required some incredibly unnerved play by Carolina. And it required one absolutely stunning stroke of fluke luck.

The timeline of how it happened:

• Carolina’s Harrison Barnes bounces in a jumper for an 82-72 Heels lead with 2:38 left. Roy Williams calls timeout to plot endgame strategy, which apparently he cribbed from the captain of the Italian cruise liner.

• A Ryan Kelly 3-pointer was tipped, going out of bounds to Duke at 2:18. Nine seconds later, Tyler Thornton rises up and makes his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer. Score: UNC 82-75. Time remaining: 2:09.

• Williams turns to his assistants, asks how many timeouts he has left and calls one. Ensuing strategy session clearly cribbed from Rick Perry campaign. Time: 1:59.

• Mason Plumlee steals a weak pass from Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, who until that point had played a solid floor game. In transition, Duke finds Seth Curry on the left wing for an absolute bomb of a “3,” which he swishes. Score: UNC 82-78. Time: 1:48. “I think that was worth more [than three],” Krzyzewski said. “I was shocked by it. He was almost sitting in our lap.”

• Barnes is called for a charge. Time: 1:23.

• Kelly attempts a 3-pointer that misses, but he runs down the rebound on the baseline and swishes a jumper. Score: UNC 82-80. Time: 1:10.

• Plumlee gets too physical with Tyler Zeller on the low block and is called for a foul. Zeller misses the first throw and makes the second. Score: UNC 83-80. Time: 44.3 seconds.

• Duke calls time with 20.3 seconds left. Kelly shoots an airball 3-pointer from the wing that is off so badly, Zeller jumps beneath the basket for the rebound – and somehow manages to deflect the ball off the glass and into the basket for two Blue Devils points. Score: UNC 83-82. Time: 14.2 seconds. Asked if he’s ever seen anything like that, Williams responds, “No. It’s North Carolina-Duke. Never seen anything like that one.”

• With the sellout crowd of 21,750 actively losing its mind, Carolina inbounds the ball to Zeller, who is quickly fouled. The senior had had an epic first half, racking up 19 points and seven rebounds, but disappeared in the second half. He reappeared in the final minute, but in all the wrong ways – the missed foul shot earlier, the tipped-in basket. Zeller continued his calamitous minute by making just one of two free throws. Score: UNC 84-82. Time: 13.9 seconds.

• Plumlee snatches the rebound of Zeller’s missed foul shot and advances the ball to Rivers. He is a freshman, but he is the only logical choice to handle the ball at this point. He has shot the ball splendidly all night, keeping Duke in the game with five 3-pointers and 26 points. He is the creator on the team. And he has the clutch gene. “He believes he should be in games like this and play well,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m sure he’s fantasized about hitting winning shots and putting himself in this situation.”

Fantasy met reality nearly 25 feet from the hoop. Coming off a screen, Rivers found Zeller switched out onto him. It was a two-point game, so Rivers had the option of driving the ball or taking the 3-pointer.

“I just had to choose,” Rivers said. “Coach had a lot of confidence in me and gave me a chance to do something.”

For a brief instant, it looked as if he might dribble out the clock. But the coach’s son kept an eye on the clock above the backboard. The last number he saw was “2.” Like a certain Dukie with a flair for the dramatic 20 years ago – a guy named Christian Laettner – the clock in his head was reliable.

Against Kentucky in 1992, Laettner had the preternatural poise to take a balancing dribble before turning and hitting the most famous shot in NCAA tournament history at the buzzer. Against Carolina in 2012, Little Laettner feinted toward Zeller, created some last-second daylight and rose.

“I saw him backing off,” Rivers said, adding that Zeller had the disadvantage of not seeing the clock and knowing it was now-or-never time. “It looked good. I said, ‘Please go in.’ It seemed the ball was in the air 10 minutes.

“When the ball went in, my heart jumped. Best feeling of my life.”

When the ball went in and all those fans went mute, Rivers ran down the court with his hands at his sides (Laettner threw his hands in the air like it was a “Chariots of Fire” moment). He was gang-tackled by teammates around the opposite 3-point arc.

“Storybook,” Krzyzewski said.

While Duke rejoiced, the Dean Dome denizens recoiled in shock. Williams stressed that Duke won the game as much as Carolina lost it, but the late-game carnage was brutal: two turnovers, two missed free throws, two failures to collect defensive rebounds, two points tipped in for the Devils – and then Zeller fails to blanket Rivers far outside the arc.

“You ought to be ticked off,” Williams said of his players. “You ought to be flat-out ticked off. … My team better by God come back determined to be better. We lost a game we should have won.”

And Duke won a game it should have lost, thanks to an Austin Rivers shot that ranks among the greatest in Duke history.

“I always love it when a kid does something special like that,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s what he’s put on the planet to do.”

And the man who helped put him on the planet, Doc Rivers, was there to see it – not as a coach, but as a dad. No better feeling in the world, indeed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Obama’s Super-PAC-Men

Campaign-finance hypocrisy gone wild

By Michelle Malkin
February 8, 2012

The White House didn’t blow a dog whistle for deep-pocketed liberal donors on Monday. No, the administration whipped out a supersized vuvuzela. Blaring message: Let loose the campaign-finance-bundling hounds of “super PAC” war!

President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, who served as White House deputy chief of staff for operations before assuming 2012 reelection duties, announced the super-PAC super-flip-flop in a mass e-mail to supporters and a blog post published on the left-wing Huffington Post website. In a related conference call to major campaign-finance bundlers, Messina encouraged these high-dollar donors to start funding Priorities USA Action. That’s the Democratic super PAC founded by former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney.

Super PACs and campaigns are barred from coordinating with each other. Nevertheless, Messina said that “senior campaign officials as well as some White House and Cabinet officials will attend and speak at Priorities USA fundraising events.” Of course, they “won’t be soliciting contributions.” Wink, wink; nudge, nudge.

This brazen about-face for Team Obama is a goldmine of campaign lies, contortions, and epic hypocrisy. Let us count the ways.

* A bundle of contradictions. “Bundling” is the rustling up of aggregate contributions from friends, business associates, and employees — a practice, long condemned by Obama, to circumvent individual-donation limits. When he announced his presidential intentions in 2007, Candidate Obama decried “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.” He indignantly singled out “the best bundlers,” who get the “greatest access” to power.

Last week, Obama acknowledged having raised at least $74 million through his team of big-time bundlers, who have been showered with access, tax dollars, and plum patronage positions. This elite group of Hollywood celebrities (such as open-borders actress Eva Longoria), political cronies (such as Chicago bagman Louis “The Vacuum” Susman), and politically correct businessmen (such as bankrupt Solyndra investor George Kaiser) now totals a whopping 445 gold-card members.

* The roar of the revolving door. In his Monday announcement, Messina bragged about how the White House has enacted “sweeping” reforms to “close the revolving door between government and lobbyists.” In truth, the administration has widened the carousel and removed the brakes. The Obama-cheerleading Fishwrap of Record (also known as the New York Times) itself identified at least 15 bundlers “involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies.”

Moreover, “at least 68 of 350 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration in some capacity; at least 250 of the bundlers visited the White House, and another 30 have ties to companies that conduct business with federal agencies or hope to do so in the future,” according to a recent iWatch News report. Several first-time 2012 bundlers already have snagged administration posts:

* Norma Lee Funger, of Potomac, Md., who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama, was appointed last month to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

* Glenn S. Gerstell, of Washington, D.C., who bundled the same amount, was appointed to the National Infrastructure Advisory Commission last fall.

* Richard Binder, of Bethesda, Md., another $50,000-to-$100,000 bundler, was appointed to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health last spring.

And note: The most transparent administration ever still refuses to disclose recusal orders involving the nearly 100 lobbyists and ex-lobbyists on its payroll.

* Super-PAC super-hypocrisy. Super PACs are federal political-action committees that only make independent expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, candidates. Their birth and growth were fueled indirectly by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling in 2010. The decision overturned severe campaign-finance restrictions that essentially criminalized certain forms of political speech. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it during oral arguments: “We don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of FEC bureaucrats.”

Until this week, the Obama administration vehemently condemned the Citizens United decision and vowed to eschew super PACs. The entities are a “threat to our democracy,” Obama railed two years ago. The ruling would “open the floodgates for special interests,” he warned. And last July, Obama-campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt kept talking the anti-super-PAC talk. “Neither the president nor his campaign staff or aides will fundraise for super PACs,” he asserted. Now? President Obama and his wife won’t fundraise for the democracy-undermining super PACs. But countless other cabinet members and advisers, partying with Obama bundlers gone wild, will.

In 2008, Obama lambasted rival Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for criticizing independent expenditures while raking in big PAC bucks: “So you can’t say yesterday you don’t believe in them, and today you have three-quarters of a million dollars being spent on you. You can’t just talk the talk.”

Obama 2012 campaign motto: Empty talk? Yes, we can!

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. © 2012

Obama plays his Catholic allies for fools

The Washington Post
January 30, 3012

In politics, the timing is often the message. On Jan. 20 — three days before the annual March for Life — the Obama administration announced its final decision that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities will be compelled to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.

Preparing for the march, Catholic students gathered for Mass at Verizon Center. The faithful held vigil at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Knights of Columbus and bishops arrived to trudge in the cold along the Mall. All came to Washington in time for their mocking.

Catholic leaders are still trying to process the implications of this ambush. The president had every opportunity to back down from confrontation. In the recent ­Hosanna-Tabor ruling, a unanimous Supreme Court reaffirmed a broad religious autonomy right rooted in the Constitution. Obama could have taken the decision as justification for retreat.

And it would have been a minor retreat. The administration was on the verge of mandating nearly universal contraceptive coverage through Obamacare without public notice. There would have been no controversy at all if President Obama had simply exempted religious institutions and ministries. But the administration insisted that the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s Hospital be forced to pay for the privilege of violating their convictions.

Obama chose to substantially burden a religious belief, by the most intrusive means, for a less-than-compelling state purpose — a marginal increase in access to contraceptives that are easily available elsewhere. The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists.

The implications of Obama’s choice will take years to sort through. The immediate impact can be measured on three men:

Consider Catholicism’s most prominent academic leader, the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. Jenkins took a serious risk in sponsoring Obama’s 2009 honorary degree and commencement address — which promised a “sensible” approach to the conscience clause. Jenkins now complains, “This is not the kind of ‘sensible’ approach the president had in mind when he spoke here.” Obama has made Jenkins — and other progressive Catholic allies — look easily duped.

Consider Catholicism’s highest-ranking elected official, Vice President Biden. Biden had encouraged engagement with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on conscience rights. Now he will be remembered as the Catholic cover for the violation of Catholic conscience. Betrayal is always an inside job.

Consider Catholicism’s most prominent clerical leader, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan had pursued a policy of engagement with the administration. In November, he met face to face with Obama, who was earnestly reassuring on conscience protections. On Jan. 20, during a less-cordial phone conversation, Obama informed Dolan that no substantial concession had been made. How can Dolan make the argument for engagement now?

The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.

The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Who’s progressive in Wisconsin

By Charles Lane
The Washington Post
February 6, 2012

The 2012 U.S. elections could be the most exciting and consequential in years. In Wisconsin, we might be looking at political Armageddon.

Wisconsin is a swing state in the presidential race. There is a wide-open contest for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl.

And Republican Gov. Scott Walker, along with his lieutenant governor and several Republican members of the state Senate, will probably face a recall election in late spring.
The furious drive to oust Walker is the sequel to last year’s dramatic battle over his plan to limit collective bargaining by public-sector unions. Walker won that fight, despite tumultuous pro-union demonstrations in and around the state capitol and a boycott of votes on the bill by the Democratic minority in the legislature.

For public-sector unions, the Walker recall is no mere exercise in payback. The unions, upon which Democrats depend heavily for funding and foot soldiers, say Walker must be ousted and his reforms reversed for the sake of the middle class. Progressive values — even democracy itself — are in mortal danger.

Actually, the opposite is true. The threat to such progressive goals as majority rule, transparent government, a vibrant public sector and equality comes from public-sector unionism.

I had supposed that Walker’s victory in 2010, along with the victory of Republicans in both houses of the state legislature, entitled the people’s choices to make policy until the next election.

I had not realized that Wisconsin’s voters were allowed to elect representatives to do everything except change the rules on collective bargaining.

“But Walker never campaigned on curtailing union rights!” his opponents cry. What rule of American democracy says that public officials may do only what they explicitly promised before taking office, and nothing else? By that logic, President Obama could be impeached because he opposed an individual mandate to buy health insurance during the campaign, then supported it in office.

Of course, collective bargaining in the public sector is inherently contrary to majority rule. It transfers basic public-policy decisions — namely, the pay and working conditions that taxpayers will offer those who work for them — out of the public square and behind closed doors. Progressive Wisconsin has a robust “open meetings” law covering a wide range of government gatherings except — you guessed it — collective bargaining with municipal or state employees. So much for transparency.

Even worse, to the extent that unions bankroll the campaigns of the officials with whom they will be negotiating — and they often do — they sit on both sides of the table.

Progressives believe, correctly, that government can and should provide such public goods and services as education, parks, or aid for the poor and disabled. It’s axiomatic that the public is entitled to the highest quality at the best possible price. Yet unions, by their nature, increase the price of public services, without necessarily increasing quality. Just ask New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the “rubber room” where, until a couple of years ago, hundreds of union teachers languished, on full pay, while awaiting disciplinary hearings.

Which brings us to equality. To be sure, public-sector pay and perks hardly put union workers in the 1 percent. But their clout enables them to enjoy retirement and health-care benefits that are often better than those available to the middle-class citizens whose tax dollars support them. What’s fair about that? Even after Walker’s bill, Wisconsin public employees pay just 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions and a modest 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums.

Last year’s battle left Wisconsin’s electorate deeply polarized. Recent polls show residents evenly split on recall. But the recall election is not a simple up-or-down vote on Walker; he’ll face a Democratic challenger. In the only poll to pit him against named opponents, Walker beat each one.

Maybe there are enough voters in Wisconsin who support actual progressive governance — as opposed to “progressive” interest groups — to retain Walker.

Or maybe it’s dawning on Wisconsinites — even some who don’t like Walker’s policies — that it would be a disaster to cut his term in half at the behest of a special interest group. That would confirm Wisconsin’s public-sector unions as the state’s de facto rulers, which really would be the end of democracy.

Removing Planned Parenthood's Fig Leaf

By Mona Charen
February 7, 2012

Following a press conference by Washington state Senator Patty Murray, Planned Parenthood supporters hold up signs at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Seattle on Feb. 3, 2012. (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

Planned Parenthood would appear to have won this latest skirmish in the abortion wars. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation having first decided to withdraw future grants to the world's largest abortion provider, quickly retreated under a barrage of accusations, complaints and threats.

No fewer than 26 Democratic senators signed a letter to Komen saying, in part that, "It would be tragic if any woman --let alone thousands of women -- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack. We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision . . ."

Intoning that, "Politics have no place in health care," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a $250,000 matching grant to Planned Parenthood. Ever alert to the politically correct posture on everything, Bloomberg added, "Breast cancer screening saves lives, and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care."

But the real firepower came from the press and the Internet. NBCs Andrea Mitchell bore down on Nancy Brinker, the foundation's founder, pressing her to admit that women's health would suffer as a result of the Komen board's decision. The decision was "all about politics," reported the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times editorialized that for "a long time Komen's name will be connected more with ugly politics than with pink ribbons."

The foundation caved under the pressure with all of the groveling its opponents could have wished for. "We want to apologize to the American public," said the group's press release "for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives . . ."

So, all together now, Planned Parenthood is all about saving women's lives, and any criticism of PP is "ugly politics."

Except that observers of events over the past week may draw other conclusions. They may notice that any criticism -- even implied criticism -- of PP leads to a full-dress onslaught by the liberal echo chamber. And they may detect a certain over eagerness on the part of PP to downplay their abortion work.

The Susan G. Komen decision elicited such a heated response because it threatened to remove the "women's health" fig leaf from PP. By now, everyone has learned that PP, its own claims notwithstanding, does not provide mammograms. It provides referrals for mammograms. Considering that about 80 percent of PP clients are under the age of 35, and only 5 percent of breast cancers are found in women under the age of 40, it is unlikely that PPs manual breast exams and referrals for further screening are medically significant. Mayor Bloomberg could surely find better recipients for breast cancer screening contributions.

Throughout the Komen imbroglio, PP circulated another misleading statistic -- that only 3 percent of PPs services involve abortions. As Charlotte Allen revealed in a 2007 Weekly Standard essay, that figure is, well, inventive. They arrive at that number by counting every service individually. When a client comes in for an abortion, she gets a pregnancy test (one service), a pelvic exam (second service), an STD test (third service), a breast exam (fourth service), a package of contraceptives (fifth service) and so forth. But calculated as a percentage of revenue generated, abortion accounts for about a third of PPs business.

And 1 of out 3 clients who walks into a PP clinic is there for a pregnancy test. A third of those go on to have abortions.

Charlotte Allen drew attention to something else PP wants to obscure -- its dedication to providing confidential abortions, even to very young girls, which may be enabling statutory rape. A 14-year-old Cincinnati girl who was impregnated by her 21-year-old soccer coach was brought to a PP clinic by the coach. He paid for the abortion with his credit card. PP asked no questions.

Pro-life activist Lila Rose posed as a pregnant 15-year-old (she was a college student at the time) having a relationship with a 23-year-old. Together they visited two PP clinics in California pretending to seek an abortion. No employee expressed concern at the ages of the young people, though a PP employee in Santa Monica advised Rose to "pick a birthday that works" so that the clinic would not have to report them to the police.

That's why the initial Komen decision was so potentially damaging and elicited such a furious response. Those mammogram referrals are window dressing for a business with plenty to hide.

- Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .

Book Review: "Raylan"

Back on the Case

Elmore Leonard Returns With ‘Raylan’

The New York Times Book Review
February 5, 2012

Elmore Leonard and Timothy Olyphant on the set of "Justified".

In an essay that appeared in The New York Times in 2001, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,” Elmore Leonard listed his 10 rules of writing. The final one — No. 11, actually — the “most important rule . . . that sums up the 10,” is “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” It’s a terrific rule. In fact, I liked it so much that I passed it on to a creative-writing class I once taught. However, there’s more to it, which I didn’t pass on: “Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the ­narrative.”

Jazzy prose that occasionally lets go of “proper usage” is Leonard’s trademark. He’s a stylist of forward motion, placing narrative acceleration above inconveniences like pronouns and helping verbs. While this creates in most readers a heightened sense of excitement, newcomers may find the transition from complete sentences daunting; it may take a little time to accept Leonard’s prose before you allow it to do its work on you. I’ll admit to having to make such an adjustment when beginning “Raylan.” At the same time, I’m also a novelist who lives in fear of my copy editor; being such a coward, I can’t help respecting Leonard’s grammatical bravery.

While relatively new to Leonard’s novels, I’m not new to the subject matter here. The titular character, Raylan Givens, is also the protagonist of an excellent FX television series, “Justified,” which is based on Leonard’s novella “Fire in the Hole,” originally published as an e-book in 2000. Givens appeared in two earlier books — “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap” — but the success of “Justified” has prompted Leonard to put him back on the job.

For those still unfamiliar with Raylan Givens, he’s a United States marshal known for his ever-present cowboy hat and his quick draw. He also has good manners, is deferential toward women and demonstrates a certain reticence about speaking any more than is necessary. “I haven’t thought of anything worth saying,” he tells one character, who replies: “You just did it again. You make one-line declarations. You sort of mope around, so to speak, while your mind is flicking lines at you.”

While working in Miami, Givens once gave a mafia enforcer 24 hours to get out of town. When the clock wound down, Givens shot him dead. As penance, he was demoted back to his hometown in mountainous Harlan County, Ky., where feuding backwoods families, pot farmers and a heavy-handed mining company rule the land.

This sounds bleak, and it is. But in addition to kinetic storytelling and spot-on dialogue, Leonard has a cool wit. “You got me wrong,” Givens says, explaining himself to a dope dealer. “I’m marshals service. We go around smelling the flowers, till we get turned on to wanted felons.” Givens’s one-line declarations help ease the reader through the desolate landscape, and so do Leonard’s lively, idiosyncratic characters. “The thing people forget,” he remarked in a 2004 interview with The Guardian on the poor track record of film adaptations of his books, “is that I’ve been trying to do something new and different. . . . My characters are what the books are about: the plot just kind of comes along. But movies always want to concentrate on the action.”

This attitude lends a natural feeling to Leonard’s stories. Characters roll from scene to scene, urged on by self-interest and greed, bumping against one another and building up steam until they’re smashing together in orgies of violence. In “Raylan,” organ trafficking, strip mining, gambling and bank robberies motivate criminals to perform even more heinous acts, while Givens himself moves straight to the center, as close to a moral force as you’re likely to find in Leonard’s universe.

“Raylan” follows Givens through three assignments. In the first, he discovers a dope dealer in a bathtub, missing his kidneys — which the organ traffickers offer to sell back to the victim for $100,000. This case ends as it began, with a bathtub, but with two more corpses added to the mix. Next Givens is brought on as security for an ethically challenged mining company executive, a woman from West Virginia named Carol Conlan. The trouble is, Conlan and her driver were on hand for the shooting of an angry ex-miner, a murder Givens is also looking into.

The kidney business is wrapped up in a bloody climax, and the second story line starts cold, so the reader could be forgiven for assuming that “Raylan” is less a novel than a collection of novellas in disguise. While the second story contains echoes of the first, these feel more like casual references than threads tying everything tighter together. However, as Carol Conlan’s story fades out inconclusively and the third assignment begins — the search for a missing university student, Jackie Nevada, who’s also a suspect in a series of bank robberies — it becomes clear that Leonard is having fun with the structure of the crime novel, tossing aside the rules of cohesion in favor of keeping his narrative light on its feet, so it can run in unexpected directions. It’s a joy to watch characters from the earlier assignments come back into play, wrapping up loose ends and bringing Givens and Jackie Nevada together with an unexpected and beautifully minimalist tenderness amid all the blood and killing.

Our best crime writers are sometimes our most astute social novelists, concerned as much with our country’s ills as they are with sensational homicides, and even in the midst of his rat-a-tat narrative Leonard doesn’t forget this. Conlan’s story allows for extensive dialogues that document the environmental effects of mountaintop-removal mining and the mining company’s economic hold over the local population — though to call them dialogues would be stretching things a bit, since only Conlan, wicked from the moment of her entrance, gets to argue the company’s side.

A second theme is revealed when you notice that the three primary antagonists are female. This might be what “Raylan” is really about. Not gambling, mining or organ trafficking: It’s about women, and one marshal’s relationship to them. Whether they’re the puppet masters or the innocents, the killers or the victims, the women are often the smartest characters in the room, despite the fact that each of Raylan Givens’s three antagonists is more than a little hung up on him. But who wouldn’t be? A morally astute sharpshooter with nice Southern manners, a sense of humor and a clean cowboy hat — you don’t find men like him every day.

Olen Steinhauer’s latest novel, “An American Spy,” will be released in March.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Writer Vince Flynn aims for a 'Kill Shot' against cancer

By Craig Wilson, USA TODAY
February 6, 2012

Author Vince Flynn poses with "Consent to Kill" and a number of his other books in his home in Edina, Minn., on Sept. 2, 2005. (Jim Mone/AP)

SUNFISH LAKE, Minn. – Vince Flynn looks great, which disappoints a lot of people these days. Maybe disappoints is the wrong word. Perhaps surprises is better.

Diagnosed with stage III metastatic prostate cancer in November 2010, the best-selling thriller novelist says people are shocked when they see him out and about. "They expect me to look like total crap," he says. "I guess I'm supposed to show up with no hair and no eyebrows."

Not today. Flynn, at 45, is the epitome of a good-looking man in the prime of his life and still producing best-selling anti-terrorism CIA page-turners that are the darlings of conservatives. His 13th novel, Kill Shot (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $27.99), will be published Tuesday.

That said, Flynn acknowledges that his battle with cancer has not been a cakewalk.

"The road is far from over. … I had some problems last summer," he says, referring to the disintegration of his ischium (hip) bone because of cancer eating it away.

His medical roller coaster ride has included hormonal therapy and more than 40 radiation treatments, which made him " fatigued" but halted the advance of the cancer that had spread beyond his prostate.

He first knew something was wrong when he experienced extreme pain and fatigue on his last book tour.

"The first 48 hours of my diagnosis were hellish," he says. "Things just seemed to get worse and worse. We (he and his wife) were sneaking around the house, whispering so the kids wouldn't hear us. It was horrible.

"But I feel great now," he says, adding that recent scans have shown healthy bone growth and an 80% reduction of the cancer in his hip. He is no longer in any pain. "My doctors are very happy. We have this under control."

Flynn's can-do attitude isn't hurting things, either. It's evident in everything from his rapid-fire upbeat chatter to his easy laugh. He's beyond grateful for this new lease on life, although he acknowledges that surgery could be down the road.

"My doctors warned me repeatedly that if you don't stay positive, you don't do well," says Flynn, who dedicated his newest novel to them.

Fan club of presidents

Flynn's doctors at the Mayo Clinic would not talk about his case, citing patient privacy. But Philip Kantoff, who heads the prostate cancer program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, says Flynn's prognosis is good if his cancer remains contained and spreads no further. "Assuming that's the case, it's a controllable and potentially curable entity. It usually requires a combination of more than one treatment."

Flynn has a lot to live for. A beautiful wife, three "great" kids (a stepson, 16, and two daughters, 11 and 9), and a sprawling suburban Minneapolis mansion on 5 wooded acres where today he is sitting in front of a fire in the smoking room.

"I'm a bit of a libertarian," he says of his cigar smoking. "But I rarely do it anymore. I'm enjoying it less and less."

Instead he recently hired a chef to produce all-organic meals, and he's taking better care of himself, all in an effort to continue living the good life of a wildly successful author, praised by presidents.

Among them are Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who has called Flynn "a little too accurate" because Flynn's books are often so true to CIA actions around the world. Once, while catching a ride in Bush's limo from Andrews Air Force Base, Flynn was grilled by the then-president on where he gets his information.

"I started to stutter," Flynn says with a laugh.

Friends in high places

His 2004 Memorial Day, for instance, describes a raid very similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden last year. Often his books have been put on security review by the Pentagon before they are released, and they are even used by the Secret Service to identify possible lapses in their security.

"It used to astound even me," he says of his "clairvoyance." All he does, he says, is "connect the dots. I just look at what's going on in the world."

It doesn't hurt that he chats up the likes of Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, and Sandy Berger, national security adviser to Clinton. His conversations always remain confidential. "I can't go into details about them," he says.

It's a far cry from the days almost 20 years ago when Flynn, a Twin Cities native working in sales for Kraft Foods and then commercial real estate, began reading voraciously in an effort to conquer his childhood dyslexia. In the process he fell in love with espionage novels and decided to try writing one himself. His first book, Term Limits, was self-published in 1997 after Flynn received 60 rejection letters. After its immediate success, an agent signed him with Pocket Books. He has since moved to Atria.

Flynn says his books are "entertainment, educational and serve as cautionary tales." Heading the charge is rough-and-tumble CIA agent Mitch Rapp, who has been going about his covert anti-terrorism business since Flynn's second novel, Transfer of Power.

With 2010's American Assassin (which reached No. 2 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list), Flynn transported the rogue Rapp back to the beginning of his career. The new book, Kill Shot, is a second prequel. A third is planned but not yet written.

"I always wanted to go back to tell the story of how they turned Mitch into an assassin," he says. "But now I'm ready to get back to the here and now," he says. There's too much going on in the world today for Flynn to ignore and not work into his thrillers.

(CBS Films has optioned the rights to the Rapp character and will soon announce its plans to create an action-thriller movie franchise.)

Post-Its and power naps

Today Flynn writes in a second-floor office in the carriage house a few steps across a courtyard from the mansion. It comes complete with a fireplace, a daybed and enough counter space for Flynn to cover with note cards that he uses as reference when writing. The counter is bare today except for one Post-It. On it is written: DOUBT AND FEAR IS THE ENEMY.

"It's a good motto if you're going to fight cancer," he says.

Flynn's wife, Lysa, 45, once a model for the then-Dayton's department stores in Minneapolis, agrees.

"You have to have this great attitude," she says. "What you find out is that someone always has it worse than you do. It's life and we're all affected."

Flynn's longtime friend and editor, Emily Bestler, says Flynn's diagnosis put him behind a year, a fact that frustrated him far more than it did her. She understood his need for a year of intense treatment.

"It was no normal year," she says. "He was then writing with pain but never complaining. He was brave and had an amazing attitude. And he came through. It's his best book," she says of Kill Shot. "He only gets better."

Because Flynn had to stay close to home for treatment, Kill Shot was the first novel not written at his cabin on Deer Lake in Wisconsin.

"I'd go up there all week and work like a maniac." He'd pour himself a glass of red wine, get on his pontoon boat with a yellow pad in hand, and head out on the water. He'd then ask himself one question: "What's going to happen tomorrow?"

Now, when things aren't going well, he walks across the room to the daybed and takes a power nap. "It's what every writer needs: a daybed."

Friends on the right

At signings and readings, Flynn tends to attract men with conspiracy theories to share. "I'm always polite. I'm never dismissive with my fans. But it doesn't work to heat things up. I'm careful to not throw red meat to the crowd. I'm not talk radio."

But he does have a close friend in talk radio: Rush Limbaugh. He and his wife attend Limbaugh's annual winter weekend of golf and gab in Palm Beach.

"One of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. And one of the smartest guys I've ever met," Flynn says. Limbaugh sent his private jet to pick up the writer so he could attend the weekend during Flynn's recent cancer treatment.

Flynn's fans include a who's who of the conservative world, who often provide blurbs on the back of his novels.

Glenn Beck has even praised Flynn's books as "conservative porn."

Flynn says he has fans on both sides of the aisle. "But if the scales tip toward a more conservative audience, it probably comes from the pro-military, CIA and law enforcement theme of the books," he says. "And the idea that the United States is not the problem."

But unlike Limbaugh or Beck, Flynn is hesitant to jump into political waters.

Does he want to talk about the GOP candidates?

"Not really," he says with a laugh. "Some scare me. Some I like."