Politics & Policy

Jim Webb’s Favorite Constituent

Mark Levin is on the air.

It is Monday night and Mark R. Levin is already plenty mad. He starts out his ABC radio show calmly reading:

Media depictions of the fighting typically showed tired and frustrated American and South Vietnamese soldiers, while often using stock propaganda footage of communist troops marching cheerfully down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The elders who made their names in younger days on such allegations as U.S. troops lying about their “body counts” gave almost no mention of the horrendous communist military casualties, despite the most newsworthy item of those few weeks: the Hanoi government officially admitting it lost 1. 1 million soldiers dead and another 300,000 still missing from the fighting, compared to American losses of 58,000 and South Vietnamese of 254,000. And few discussions recalled the Hanoi pledge in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that Vietnam would be reunited only by peaceful means, with guarantees of individual freedoms in the South, as well as internationally supervised free elections.

To the contrary, on the heels of Mr. McNamara’s comments regarding the “unwinnable” strategy he concocted and failed to adjust during the first four years of war, media air waves were filled with a litany of speeches proclaiming “vindication” by those who otherwise might have been forced to answer hard questions regarding their conduct and beliefs during the late 1960s and early 1970s. For some, such conduct was betrayal. For others, it was only a stupefying naiveté. But for most, there has been a persistent conspiracy of silence that has lasted for decades, accompanied of late by an attempt to leap over the carcasses and the devastation that followed the communist takeover, to simply pretend it did not happen.

When forced to comment, those who opposed our attempt to assist the building of a democracy in the South picked up the debate in its present makeup, pointing to the Hanoi government’s efforts in the past few years to liberalize the economy and reach out to the Americans in the wake of the collapse of their Soviet ally and the continuing menacing growth of the Chinese.

As a consequence, the best opportunity of a lifetime was lost for the many who still wish to put a generation’s most bitterly divisive period into proper historical perspective.

“He’s angry about the appeasers,” Levin comments, as if about ready to roll on another rant, of the kind his fans love him for.

As you’ve likely guessed (the title of this piece kinda gave it away, didn’t it?), Levin was reading from an essay by none other than James Webb, Democrat of Virginia, who is now Mark’s junior U.S. senator. The essay appeared in Strategic Review in 1995. In 2007, however, Webb is leading the Iraq surrender caucus in the United States Senate — so he was rhetorical target number one for Levin Monday night: “Jim Webb, now the antiwar senator . . . Today, four years into this war . . . he insists we do exactly what he condemned 12 years ago.”

Why is it, Levin wonders, that while Mitt Romney is viewed as a dishonest flip-flopper for changing his mind on abortion, Jim Webb is seen as an honorable antiwarrior?

While expressing his sincere gratitude and admiration for Webb’s military service, Mark can’t help but get in before show’s end a line in the recently released Reagan Diaries. Webb had resigned as Navy secretary over budget cuts. Reagan noted he didn’t think that the Navy was too upset to see Webb go.

Levin is sometimes silly, sometimes spiritual, but always spirited, and he calls it as he sees it — even praising Lindsey Graham (whom he usually calls “Goober Lindsey Graham”) after Graham fought the good fight against Webb on Meet the Press last Sunday over the Iraq issue.

Listening to Mark, though, you can’t help but worry about his vocal cords, especially if the topic is Democrats undermining the war effort. How does the man not lose his voice? For two hours every weeknight, he can be at the top of his voice most if not all of the time. His voice gets a rest every so often, when a Marine dad calls; Mark then stops to play the Marine hymn, followed by a tribute to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. But odds are, by the end of the segment, Mark will be yelling again, angrier than ever, that the media and politicians like Senator Webb are hurting “our brave men and women” on the march against the enemy.

If you can know how good a radio host is by the quality of his audience, “the great one” — as friend Sean Hannity has long referred to him — is a great American who attracts great Americans, regularly hearing from not only Marine dads, but military moms, wives, siblings, servicemen, and veterans. Levin’s got a passion for America, and for life — and it reverberates through the airwaves. And most refreshing, something you can’t take for granted on the radio: He really knows what he’s talking about. He can cite sources and dates and times. And if he’s not the expert on a subject, he’s got someone on who is.

Levin started out guest-hosting for Sean Hannity and for Rush Limbaugh (Rush calls him “F. Lee Levin”). He began his own show as a WABC radio host in 2003, airing in the New York market. In February 2007, an ABC Radio Networks press release announced: “Levin has experienced incredible growth . . . and is generally recognized by the Talk industry as one of its brightest rising stars. The program has just hit 100 affiliates and is in 19 of the top 25 Metro markets.” A SmartMedia trade article around the same time noted: “In the Fall 2006 ratings Levin is #1 on the AM band across the board, in virtually all demos, in The Big Apple.” ABC lauds the show, pointing out that after only 18 months into national syndication, Levin is heard on over 130 stations and by four million listeners.

While critics may dismiss Levin as a synthetic creation of high-powered friends, anyone who listens to his show regularly, reads his work (some of it which appears on NRO), or just plain knows Mark knows better — there’s nothing synthetic about him. He’s an entertaining, no-nonsense host you frequently learn something from — whether it be breaking news, a point of law, or a great story. You meet great guests and callers.

And he has passionate fans: Check out marklevinfan.com, a lively site which reliably posts audio from and commentary on the show. An IT professional who likes to go by “Mark Levin Fan” started listening to Levin on WABC while driving his son to his evening karate lessons. MLF recalls, “My son started asking me questions about Mark one day that I couldn’t answer. So, I told him we could go to his website and get the answers. Much to my surprise, Mark didn’t have a website. My son told me I should make one for him. . . . I started off running a blog and soon added a forum and then a photo album. Along the way, I have recruited a loyal team of helpers, the Levinites, without which I would have burned out a long time ago.” “Fan” Tim Sumner says: “I was a professional soldier, use to a world where the only answers you gave or expected were straight ones, the mission came first, and you carried your share of the load. Mark Levin gives straight answers and demands them, is a patriot who uses his talents to promote a strong national defense, and gives a lot of himself in the process.”

The radio gig, as it happens, is actually a side job for Levin. A veteran of the Reagan administration, Levin worked for Ed Meese at the Justice Department. He’s a hands-on president of the Landmark Legal Foundation and bestselling author (of Men in Black, pushing back against judicial activism on the Supreme Court). The book is an approachable contemporary history that cites the Founders much more than international law (Ruth Bader Ginsberg did not blurb it). He’s currently working on two books — including one on man’s best friend — for Mary Matalin’s Threshold imprint.

Levin could write many a book, and prove to be a careful factfinder, day after day, until his last on this earth — and he probably will; but if you are “Chucky Schmucky Schumer” or “BJ Clinton” (yes, read that as you like), or anyone from “MSLSD,” you’re never going to like Mark Levin. You’ll only find yourself on his show if — like Mike Gravel, who recently submitted to an interview with Laura Ingraham in the apparent belief that she was Dr. Laura Schlessinger — someone on your staff mistakes the interviewer for someone else.

And if you’re Senator Webb, good luck. As Mark loves to remind his listeners, it was a very tight win in November. He may have the “Washington Compost” on your side, but do not expect a repeat performance for Webb, if Mark has anything to say about it.

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