The Supreme Court is not often the stuff of bestsellers, but in recent weeks a conservative lawyer's full-throated attack on the court has been flying off the shelves, reaching as high as third place on the New York Times bestseller list.
The 288-page book, "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America," by Mark R. Levin, arrived amid expectations of a pitched battle in Washington over a replacement for ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. It argues that the court's decisions in favor of abortion rights, gay rights, economic regulation and affirmative action have created "de facto judicial tyranny" and an economy "lurching toward socialism."
"The judiciary, operating outside its scope, is the greatest threat to representative government we face today," writes Levin, a former Reagan administration official turned talk-radio host.
With endorsements for the book from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative media icons, Levin has also reached millions through appearances on radio and television, providing his audience with intellectual ammunition for the impending struggle over the court's future.
Yet this publishing phenomenon has gone almost completely unnoticed outside conservative circles.
"The fascinating thing is that it's a bestseller on a subject where 100 percent of us who present ourselves as experts haven't read it," said David Garrow, a law professor at Emory University who has written widely on Supreme Court history.
"It's a classic case of a fired-up red-state America," said conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, who has had Levin on her show. "It's a classic case where the mainstream media misses the boat of a whole segment of society that has a big, big problem with the courts injecting themselves into matters that should be left up to the people."
"Men in Black" was the brainchild of executives at Eagle Publishing Inc., the corporate parent of Regnery Publishing, a 58-year-old conservative house that published "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" during the 2004 presidential campaign.
In mid-2004, Eagle approached Levin, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese III. Levin turned the book out in time for release Feb. 7.
"Our audience has been screaming for a book on the courts," said Jeff Carneal, president of Eagle Publishing. Carneal spoke at a recent Eagle-sponsored reception in honor of the book at Morton's, a downtown restaurant; the guest list included Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and Theodore B. Olson, formerly President Bush's solicitor general, along with numerous lawyers, think tank staff members and lobbyists.