Saturday, September 08, 2012

Double-minded Republicans

By Andrew C. McCarthy
September 8, 2013

After a first term that has been historically abysmal, President Obama stands a good chance of being reelected. How can that be?
Here is the blunt explanation: We have lost a third of the country and, as if that weren’t bad enough, Republicans act as if it were two-thirds.
The lost third cannot be recovered overnight. For now, it is gone. You cannot cede the campus and the culture to the progressive, post-American Left for two generations and expect a different outcome. So even if Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter — and he has actually been much more effective, and therefore much worse — it is unreasonable to expect a Reagan-style landslide, and would be even if we had Reagan. The people coming of age in our country today have been reared very differently from those who were just beginning to take the wheel in the early 1980s. They have marinated in an unapologetically progressive system that prizes group discipline and narrative over free will and critical thought.
The narratives are not always easy to follow. In the progressive weltanschauung, good and evil are relative. Good is whatever it is said to be in the moment; don’t ask anyone to explain why “choice” is a value when it involves killing the unborn, though it is seen as an obvious nuisance when it involves the right to choose the double cheeseburger over the salad. Evil is contextualized and root-caused into vaporous abstraction. We no longer know whether it’s wrong — only that, whoever may have done it, it’s our fault.
Yet, even with good and evil enveloped in fog, progressive narratives remain sharply Manichaean: You can always tell the heroes from the villains. Obama is a hero because he cares. Conservatives are villains because they don’t. And Republicans are villains because they are conservative.
None of these statements is true, of course. Obama cares about Obama, which is hardly heroic. Conservatives are repulsed by government intrusions into the private sphere because we believe private citizens are better than government’s social engineers at promoting prosperity for everyone. And today’s Republican party is not very conservative: At a time when the welfare state is — inevitably — collapsing of its own weight, Romney and Ryan run as its guardians. They’ve come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
Still, the truth is increasingly irrelevant. Contemporary American politics is about emotion and perception. And this is a game Republicans will never win — and not, as they would have you believe, because the deck is stacked against them.
Certainly, the media, the academy, and most of our society’s major institutions are heavily influenced by progressives, if not outright controlled by them. It is therefore a given that elite opinion will portray Republicans as villains. Yet, that longstanding challenge for Republicans has never before been an insuperable one. In America, at least until now, the avant-garde has never been able to tame the public. It has always been possible to run against elite opinion and win — if you make a compelling counter-case.
Today’s Republicans do not. Indeed, they cannot, because they have accepted the progressive framework. Their argument is not that the welfare state, deficit spending, federalized education, sharia-democracy promotion, and the rest are bad policies. Their argument is not that Washington needs to be dramatically downsized. It is that progressive governance is fine but needs to be better executed.
Ain’t that something to rally around! The counter-case is supposed to demonstrate why the other guys are deeply wrong. You’re not going to get very far with “We’re not as bad as they say we are.”
It is hard to complain about Obama’s $5 trillion in new debt when you added $5 trillion just before he did. “Well, we took eight years and he took only four” is not exactly a response that stirs the soul — particularly when the country took two centuries to amass the first $5 trillion.
Then there’s Medicare, which the GOP has made a pivotal election issue. The problem with Medicare is not just that its current formula is unsustainable, or that Obama diverted a staggering amount of projected future spending on it into yet another bank-breaking entitlement. It is that the national government is innately incapable of running an entitlement program. Is the election about the side that grasps this versus the side for which enough is never enough? Surely you jest.
As constituted, our government offered two visions of “providing for the general welfare.” First is the Madisonian principle that Congress’s capacity to tax and spend is strictly limited to its enumerated powers — which do not include running social-welfare programs. The second is a Hamiltonian gloss, giving Congress additional latitude, provided that its schemes benefit all Americans equally — which would preclude welfare programs that take from A for the benefit of B.
Once you abandon these moorings, once you accept a wealth-redistribution system in which government becomes the arbiter of “social justice,” the ball game is over. If government is given license to even the scales between the have-nots and the haves, the political incentive to even them will be constant and overpowering: Enough will never be enough. If the rationale for giving government this power is that the asset in question is corporate property, not private, what is to be the limiting principle? Why health care but not housing or income? And when it comes to providing for the truly needy among 310 million people, central-government planners will simply never be as good at it as decent societies and their local governments. And so the allocation of burdens and benefits in federal entitlement programs is guaranteed to be warped, wasteful, and ultimately unsustainable.
Yet, no political party is making that case. Both candidates want you to know they are sentries of the safety net. And no major conservative journal or think tank, it seems, would have it any other way. Concededly, the GOP’s approach, “Let’s work within this implausible system and do the best we can to patch it up . . . someday,” is a more attractive position than Obama’s “Let’s break the bank now.” But inspiring? . . . Not exactly.
The third of the country we’ve lost may seem like a decided minority. Progressives do not need more than that, though, to run the show, not today. They proved that at their own convention this week, with the laughable platform-amendment episode.
The smarter Alinskyites among them realized that taking God and Jerusalem out of the platform was a blunder, so they ordered them put back in. Under the rules (ahem), that required a two-thirds’ vote of the delegates. When the vote was publicly taken, it became embarrassingly clear not only that there were not two-thirds in favor but that the “nays” may have had a majority. But the minority “ayes” are in power, and that’s all they needed. They peremptorily deemed themselves the victors. The amendments passed, and, after some brief groaning, the rest of the Left got with the program.
It was as rigged a vote as you’d find in any banana republic. But Democrats are unembarrassed — maybe even unembarrassable. It’s like the Obamacare debate in Congress: They’re not worried about what it looks like; they’re worried about winning.
Today’s Republicans are worried about what it looks like. Winning is secondary. What matters most is that they not appear too mean on a stage they’ve allowed their bare-knuckles opponents to set. Their consultants tell them: “It’s not what you stand for; it’s how you get to 50 percent plus one. So soften your edges, drop the philosophy crap, and if you need to show the media some backbone, find a conservative to bash.”
There is a big conservative base out there — bigger than the third of the country we’ve lost. But they’re left to scratch their heads and say, “I’m supporting this guy . . . why?” The response comes a little less quickly after each fit of pique: “Oh, right, because he’s not Obama.”
That’s a lot, but will it be enough?
Obama’s base, that lost third of the country, may not be as enthralled as they were in 2008. But they are committed, utterly convinced about who the villains are, and prepared to be as chameleon as it takes to reel in, from the culture they dominate, the additional 15 percent or so needed to push their guy across the finish line. That’s how what should be a landslide for his opponent becomes a squeaker.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Choice not part of this future

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
September 7, 2012

According to Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, invited to address the Democratic convention and the nation, America faces a stark choice this November. "During this campaign, we've heard about two profoundly different futures that could await women in this country – and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past," she cautioned. "That future could become real."
In one of those futures, women will be "shut out and silenced," rape victims will be "victimized all over again," pregnant women will "die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms," and "access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it." If you're wondering where all that is on your ballot form, just check the box marked "R."
"We know what this America would look like," warned Miss Fluke sternly. "In a few short months, that's the America that we could be. But that's not the America that we should be. And it's not who we are."
Fortunately, the America that we could be that isn't the America that we should be doesn't have to be the America that we would be. The good news is that "we've also seen another America that we could choose. In that America, we'd have the right to choose," said Miss Fluke. This would be "an America in which our president, when he hears that a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters, not his delegates or his donors. And in which our president stands with all women. And strangers come together, and reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here, and you give me this microphone – to amplify our voice. That's the difference."
So, if you're looking for an America where strangers lift up Sandra Fluke and amplify her voice, that would be the box marked "D."
"I've seen what these two futures look like," she said. "And six months from now, we're all going to be living in one future, or the other. But only one." Because you can't have two futures simultaneously, even under Obamacare.
With respect to Sandra Fluke, I think there's a third future looming. The paperback edition of my book comes out in a week or so, and you can pretty much get the gist of it from the title: "After America." For me, the likely scenario isn't that the Republicans will be terrorizing rape victims or that the Democrats will finally pass the necessary legislation to make contraception available for the contraceptively starved millions crying out for it, but that America will be sliding off the cliff – literally, as Joe Biden would literally say. And when America slides off the cliff it lands with a much bigger thud than Greece or Iceland. I'm not certain that the Republicans will be able to prevent that happening. But I know that the Democrats can't. America owes more money than anybody has ever owed anyone in the history of the planet. But millions of Americans don't see it, and millions of those who do see it don't see it as a problem.
Sandra Fluke is one of them. She completed her education a few weeks ago – at the age of 31, or Grade 25. Before going to Georgetown, she warmed up with a little light BS in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Cornell. She then studied law at one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation, where tuition costs 50 grand a year. The average starting salary for a Georgetown Law graduate is $160,000 per annum – first job, first paycheck.
So this is America's best and brightest – or, at any rate, most expensively credentialed. Sandra Fluke has been blessed with a quarter-million dollars of elite education, and, on the evidence of Wednesday night, is entirely incapable of making a coherent argument. She has enjoyed the leisurely decade-long varsity once reserved for the minor sons of Mitteleuropean grand dukes, and she has concluded that the most urgent need facing the Brokest Nation in History is for someone else to pay for the contraception of 30-year-old children. She says the choice facing America is whether to be "a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn't apply to our bodies and our voices" – and, even as the words fall leaden from her lips, she doesn't seem to comprehend that Catholic institutions think their "voices" ought to have freedom, too, or that Obamacare seizes jurisdiction over "our bodies" and has 16,000 new IRS agents ready to fine us for not making arrangements for "our" pancreases and "our" bladders that meet the approval of the commissars. Sexual liberty, even as every other liberty withers, is all that matters: A middle-school girl is free to get an abortion without parental consent, but if she puts a lemonade stand on her lawn she'll be fined. What a bleak and reductive concept of "personal freedom."
America is so broketastically brokey-broke that one day, in the grim future that could be, society may even be forced to consider whether there is any meaningful return on investment for paying a quarter-million bucks to send the scions of wealth and privilege to school till early middle-age to study Reproductive Justice. But, as it stands right now, a Cornell and Georgetown graduate doesn't understand the central reality of the future her elders have bequeathed her. There's no "choice" in the matter. It's showing up whatever happens in November. All the election will decide is whether America wants to address that reality, or continue to live in delusion – like a nation staggering around with a giant condom rolled over its collective head.
Any space aliens prowling through the rubble of our civilization and stumbling upon a recording of the convention compatible with Planet Zongo DVD players will surely marvel at the valuable peak airtime allotted to Sandra Fluke. It was weird to see her up there among the governors and senators – as weird as Bavarians thought it was when King Ludwig decided to make his principal adviser Lola Montez, the Irish-born "Spanish dancer" and legendary grande horizontale. I hasten to add I'm not saying Miss Fluke is King Barack's courtesan. For one thing, it's a striking feature of the Age of Perfected Liberalism that modern liberals talk about sex 24/7 while simultaneously giving off the persistent whiff that the whole thing's a bit of a chore. Hence, the need for government subsidy. And, in fairness to Miss Montez, she used sex to argue for liberalized government, whereas Miss Fluke uses liberalism to argue for sexualized government.
But those distinctions aside, like Miss Fluke, Miss Montez briefly wielded an influence entirely disproportionate to her talents. Like Miss Fluke, she was a passionate liberal activist who sought to diminish what she regarded as the malign influence of the Catholic Church. Taking up with Lola cost King Ludwig his throne in the revolutions of 1848. We'll see in a couple of months whether taking up with Sandra works out for King Barack. But what's strange is that so many people don't find it strange at all – that at a critical moment in the affairs of the republic the ruling party should assemble to listen to a complacent 31-year-old child of privilege peddling the lazy cobwebbed assumptions of myopic narcissism. Lola Montez was what botanists would call a "sport" – morphologically distinct from the rest of the societal shrub. The tragedy for America is that Sandra Fluke is all too typical.

There's more missing from the Democratic platform than God and Jerusalem

By Andrew C. McCarthy
PJ Media
September 6, 2012

Do you see the words “Hamas” and “Hezbollah” in here? Me neither.
Of course, there’s a difference. The omission of God and Jerusalem from the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform was quite intentionally meant as a demotion, very much in keeping with Obama administration policy. The jihadists, by contrast, are moving up in the world.
As for God, there’s not room in this universe for two The Ones. In cases of conflict, the president has made it abundantly clear that his pieties control, and the pious better get with the program: Domestically, abortion-on-demand and wealth-redistribution to assure free contraceptives for thirty-something co-eds; internationally, close cooperation and billions in U.S. aid for regimes that abet the persecution of Christians, Jews and other religious minorities.
On Jerusalem, administration mouth-pieces and apologists remain as tongue-tied as they were before The One completed his “evolution” on gay marriage. And for precisely the same reason: their grudging public position — Jerusalem is sorta Israel’s capital, but we’re mulling that one, so get back to us on, say, November 7 or so — is miles apart from their private conviction — Jerusalem (or as Obama’s counterterrorism czar, John Brennan, puts it, “al-Quds”) is a “final status” issue that we can’t prejudge because our Muslim friends consider it theirs.
And about those Muslim friends … my friends at the Center for Security Policy remind us of what the Democrats’ 2008 platform had to say about Hamas and Hezbollah:
Our … commitment [to Israel], which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region – a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of Al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah…. [W]e must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and stand with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.
Four years later, with Israel’s security situation dramatically — and not coincidentally — worse than it was when Obama was elected, Hamas and Hezbollah have been dropped from the platform. They have not changed, mind you. They continue, without a scintilla of apology, to deny Israel’s right to exist and seek its destruction. But they are this administration’s friends — or, at the very least, friends of its friends.
Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose takeover of Egypt President Obama abetted and is now subsidizing with American taxpayer dollars. Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any jihadist organization other than al Qaeda, got theBrennan seal-of-approval in 2010 as “a very interesting organization” with many “moderate elements.” Both terrorist organizations are supported by the anti-Israeli regime in Turkey, whose Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is Obama’s closest confidant in the region. Erdogan insists that they are not terrorist organizations but “political parties.” (Erdogan’s Islamization of Turkey and support of jihadists bent on annihilating Israel are subjects of my forthcoming book, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.)
Regardless of U.S. law, which designates Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists whom it is a crime to support, the administration has sided with the Islamists: When Secretary of State Clinton launched Obama’s “Global Counterterrorism Forum” — in conjunction with Turkey, and in partnership with Egypt and Saudi Arabia — Israel, the world’s leading terror target, was excluded. The administration’s preferred allies regard terrorist attacks against Israel as legitimate “resistance” against an illegitimate “occupier.” The Democrats are going along for the ride.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Bill Clinton Pulls the Race Card

By John Fund
September 6, 2012

In his speech last night, Bill Clinton shamelessly played the race card in an attack on voter-ID laws. He veered from a discussion of the economy to say “If you want every American to vote and you think it’s wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.”

His timing in attacking efforts to combat voter fraud couldn’t have come at a more ironic time. Just yesterday, a Democratic state legislator in Clinton’s native Arkansas pled guilty along with his father, a West Memphis police officer, and a West Memphis city councilman to a conspiracy to commit voter fraud.

Democratic representative Hudson Hallum was part of a conspiracy to bribe voters in three separate elections in 2011.

“In a nation in which every person’s vote matters, protecting the integrity of the electoral process from those who seek to win office by cheating the system is critical,” assistant U.S. attorney Jane Duke said in a statement released by her office. Attempts to steal votes “have the devastating effect of eroding public confidence in elected officials and disenfranchising voters.”

Prospectors say that two campaign workers for Hallum assisted voters in filling out absentee ballots and were guilty of “actually completing absentee ballots in some instances without regard to the voter’s actual candidate choice.” In some cases, voters were given money in exchange for surrendering control of their ballots. Ballots for Hudson’s opponent were also destroyed.

At one point, Hallum told Philip Wayne Carter, the city councilman, that “We need to use that black limo and buy a couple cases of some cheap vodka and whiskey to get people to vote.”

Clinton has been similarly sloppy in his attacks in the past. 2008, he played the race card by comparing Barack Obama’s level of support in South Carolina to that of race-agitator Jesse Jackson — and the resultant bad publicity imploded his wife’s primary chances in that largely minority state.

Then last year, he told a group of young Democrats that “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”

Clinton was speaking of laws to impose voter-ID requirements in several states that had previously allowed anyone to vote without proving they were who they said they were. The corrupt group ACORN showed just how easy it is to manipulate the system before it collapsed in a maelstrom of scandal. Their widespread voter-registration fraud in recent years drew national attention to the problem and criminal actions.

In a new book, Hans von Spakovsky and I point out that voter-ID laws make it harder for a person to vote at multiple locations and block illegal aliens from voting. Combined with a cleanup of voter-registration laws and absentee-ballot security, such laws can dramatically increase voter confidence in our elections.

The week before Clinton’s 2011 attack on voter ID, Democrats in Rhode Island’s legislature approved a photo-ID law to combat what African-American state senator Harold Metts, the bill’s co-sponsor, called “a serious and ongoing pattern of voter fraud in this state.” The bill was sponsored in the state house by Gideon Fox, that body’s first African-American speaker.

Clinton’s attacks on voter-ID laws, along with those of Attorney General Eric Holder, ignore the fact that a recent Washington Post poll found that 74 percent of Americans favor having people show an ID when they vote, including 65 percent of African Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics. Most voters believe showing ID — a necessity in our daily lives — is common sense. For those few who lack an ID, getting them a free one is doing them a favor and helping them enter the mainstream of American life.

But critics such as Bill Clinton and Eric Holder prefer to drum up racial fears and tensions with constant references to Jim Crow and poll taxes. Their criticism is not only unwarranted. It is reckless and irresponsible. 

Obama's (Un)American Auto Bailout
September 5, 2012

My column today previews tonight's DNC celebration of the massive redistribution of wealth from American taxpayers to...foreign auto plants and overseas auto workers. Tonight's speakers will wrap the auto bailout in red, white, and blue. The antidote to their narrative-warping is for the GOP to amplify the voices of the victims of Obama/Big Labor cronyism and command-and-control market meddling: the Delphi workers, the bondholders, the dealers, the ripped-off taxpayers, and the rule of law. Seize the day, seize the narrative.

Related: Obama Didn’t Stand By Nonunion Delphi Workers


Obama's (Un)American Auto Bailout
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cue "Fanfare for the Common Man" and rev up the Government Motors engines. Wednesday is Great American Auto Bailout Day at the Democratic National Convention. Party propagandists have prepared a prime-time-ready film touting the "rescue's" benefits for American workers. UAW President Bob King will sing the savior-in-chief's praises.

But like all of the economic success stories manufactured by the White House, the $85 billion government handout is a big fat farce.

"I said I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back," Obama bragged on the campaign trail. Here's the inconvenient story they won't tell you:

GM is once again flirting with bankruptcy despite massive government purchases propping up its sales figures. GM stock is rock-bottom. Losses continue to be revised in the wrong direction. According to The Detroit News, "The Treasury Department says in a new report the government expects to lose more than $25 billion on the $85 billion auto bailout. That's 15 percent higher than its previous forecast."

The claims that GM paid back its taxpayer-funded loans "in full" -- a story peddled in campaign ads narrated by Hollywood actor Tom Hanks -- were debunked by the Treasury Department's TARP watchdog this summer. GM still owes nearly $30 billion of the $50 billion it received, and its lending arm still owes nearly $15 billion of the more than $17 billion it received. Bailout watchdog Mark Modica of the National Legal and Policy Center adds: "In addition to U.S. taxpayers anteing up, Canada put in over $10 billion, and GM was relieved of about $28 billion of bondholder obligations as UAW claims were protected. That's an improvement of almost $90 billion to the balance sheet, and the company still lags the competition."

While the Obama administration wraps the auto bailout in red, white and blue, it's foreign workers and overseas plants that are reaping redistributive rewards.
GM has increased its manufacturing capacity in China by an estimated 55 percent after the bailout, according to industry watchers. GM's Dan Akerson crowed at the Beijing auto show earlier this year: "One of our aims is to help grow a new generation of automotive engineers, designers and leaders right here in China." The U.S. auto giant's ventures with the Communist regime include Shanghai OnStar Telematics Co., Ltd.; GM China Advanced Technical Center; FAW-GM Light Duty Commercial Vehicle Co., Ltd., in Harbin, Heilongjiang; FAW-GM's Changchun plant in Changchun, Jilin; FAW-GM Hongta Yunnan Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd., in Qujing, Yunnan; and Shanghai Chengxin Used Car Operation and Management Co., Ltd.

In Europe, the UAW's appointee to the Government Motors Board of Directors, Steve Girsky, recklessly pushed the feds to hold onto GM's failing German-based Opel AG. The Great American Auto Bailout has been subsidizing this hemorrhaging enterprise while Obama failed to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise to salvage plants like the one in GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis. According to Forbes magazine, "GM Europe, comprised mostly of Opel and its sister brand, Vauxhall, lost $617 million in the first half of 2012, on top of a $747 million loss in 2011 and a $1.8 billion loss in 2010. In all, GM has lost almost $17 billion in Europe since 1999."

While Team Obama lambastes GOP rival Mitt Romney for outsourcing, Government Motors is now planning to invest $1 billion over the next five years -- not in America, but in Russia. That's on top of $7 billion total in China, close to $1 billion in Mexico, and $600 million for a shirt sponsorship deal with Manchester United, the British soccer club.
The DNC will put a rank-and-file U.S. autoworker on stage to back up Big Labor's cheerleading of the deal. Rest assured, this human shield will not tell viewers how Obama and the union bosses colluded to pervert bankruptcy law and shaft some 20,000 nonunion Delphi auto parts workers. The forgotten victims saw their pensions erode by up to 70 percent; their health benefits disappeared. The first lady is radio silent. Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett ducked questions about the Delphi injustice from The Washington Times here in Charlotte.

Only in a fantasyland where America has 57 states, "JOBS" is a three-letter word and bailouts are "achievements" does Obama's rescue math add up. "Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry," Obama vows. God help the American worker.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Q & A with Michael Koryta

August 14, 2012

Michael Koryta has given us one of the the best PI series with his wounded detective Lincoln Perry. He took a break from straight up crime with a group of supernatural thrillers, like The Cypress House. He’s come back to crime now with a moving novel, The Prophet. Michael will be joining us for our Noir At The Bar thisThursday, August 16th at 7pm, at Opal Divine’s on 6th St. As you can tell from our recent interview, he is as smart as his work.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: While The Prophet definitely has your voice, it’s a bit different from your Lincoln Perry series and the five other thrillers you wrote. How did it come about?
MICHAEL KORYTA: The Prophet is a book I’d wanted to write for a long time, actually, and I couldn’t find the right way in. I knew the starting point – a kid who was supposed to get his sister home from school safely and didn’t. She was abducted while walking a short distance home, killed by a guy who was supposed to be in jail and had skipped out on bond. As an adult, the older brother is a bond agent, he’s made his life a mission of atonement for something he can never set right. But I wanted to pair him against another brother who had gone another way. At first I started with a minister. That didn’t take, though, it was too on-the-nose, I think. So it wasn’t until I found the other brother, Kent, as the high school football coach and community hero and who has involved himself with prison outreach programs that I really got the story rolling. I needed that dramatic tension between the two of them.
MP: What I love about the book is that the emotions of Adam and Kent ring true for the violent situations they have to deal with. How difficult was it to deal with such sobering subject matter?
MK: I appreciate hearing that, because it was certainly the goal. I told my editor early, this one has to hurt, it has to cut to the bone, or I didn’t do it right. If people ask me my favorite of my own work I’d probably say The Cypress House, and then I’d say that The Prophet is the best, and the reason would be that I think it does have a higher level of emotional reality and depth. Though you know an author is the worst judge of his own work. It was a damn sad book to write, though, it really was. I remember commenting on that a lot to the people close to me. I’d finish a writing session feeling wrung out and exhausted in a way I never had with a book. It wore on me emotionally and I was surprised by that. My emotional investment with Adam was very deep, and as you can imagine, that made it a painful story most of the time. He’s a pretty wounded guy, he’s very damaged. In this really bizarre way, I kept wishing I could save him, that I could force him to make different choices. Now, of course I could, I’m the writer. But it doesn’t feel like that. It feels as if the characters have free will and you’re narrating a drama that you can’t stop.
MP: You last three books had an element of the supernatural to them. Did it seem much of a change dealing with more banal or “real” evil?
MK: Well, because I’d started my career with straight crime fiction, I don’t think it was as much of a shock to the system. I originally anticipated the killer’s voice would be used more than just in the prologue and that would provide almost a support system for the creepiness I was losing by giving up the supernatural edge. But that didn’t hang together. In the end I felt as if I wanted him to be the guy who walks us around the town and introduces us. And we know he’s there, but the town doesn’t, and then he smiles and winks at us and he’s gone into the fog and we’re waiting to see him again. And knowing that we will.
MP: Both with The Prophet and your Lincoln Perry books, you appear to use the characters as the source of style and mood. How do you approach creating them when they dictate so much?
MK: Yeah, that’s a fair observation, though I can’t explain much about the process. Their moods feed the narrative, and the atmosphere of the books build from the inside-out, but that’s not something I can sit back and assess at the start. It just develops as I get to know them better.
MP: One rule some writers follow is never to discuss politics and religion, but you explore Kent’s faith very deftly. Did you find it a challenge?
MK: No, and I don’t get the idea that you’d never discuss those things — unless you wanted to avoid making a point and thus limiting your audience, in which case you’re writing with marketing in mind. Dangerous ground to tread. But I’m not making a point, I’m trying to turn them into real people as much as possible. And real people have religious and political views, you know? To real people, those things tend to matter a great deal, no matter what camp they are in. So I’d feel odd hiding those traits away. I’d feel odder still writing about “good people” who have to be in one camp or the other, that’s the sort of cable-news world I have no interest in exploring. I’m interested in flaws and struggles. So in this one I’m writing about two brothers who had to cope with intense grief. I considered the ways in which people do cope, in real life, and I landed in a place where one brother would have gone down the road of faith and forgiveness and a desperate need to believe that this happened for a reason, that sort of assurance against a random act of violence, while the other believes the only thing that can possibly be done to set it right is to kill the killer. Revenge, blood for blood. And I think we see a lot of the latter in crime fiction but not much of the former, perhaps because it seems such a passive route to take? I don’t know. But I thought back to my days working as a reporter and a PI and observing how people dealt with tragedy, and those were the two paths that seemed most dominant. So I sent one brother down each path with the idea that they’d meet along the way.
MP: I found out that you’re contributing a piece on Scott Smith’sA Simple Plan for Books To Die For, a collection of essays from crime fiction authors about one of their favorite crime novels. What do you want to draw from that book for your own work?
MK: Oh, wow, so much. He’s a master. That book certainly informed The Prophet because I think it’s a great novel about brothers, dark though it may be. What Smith does there is create a wonderful character arc in that when we meet Hank, we not only understand his decisions, we can buy into them. Is he making the right choice? Well, no. But is he making one we might just possibly make ourselves, given the same opportunity? Sure. And then we watch it play out from there, and it is all the more intense because throughout the story you have that uneasiness that stems from the sense of “I am not so far from this…” I think about it a lot watching BREAKING BAD, I would be stunned if Vince Gilligan did not read that book. If he didn’t read it, he’d enjoy it. Because there is a shared sensibility at play there. I just love that book. Adore it. One of the greatest debut novels in crime fiction history.
MysteryPeople will host Michael Koryta in another round of Austin’s Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s Thursday, August 16 at 7p. He’ll be joined by George Weir and Jesse Sublett. Crime fiction, music, beer & good times. All are welcome.