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Flynn's "Term Limits"

September 2, 2013 - Jodelle Greiner
I can see why Vince Flynn was investigated by the government.

In “Term Limits,” Flynn’s first novel, he asks what would happen if America forced her politicians to do what the people wanted — or they died.

In one night, three politicians are murdered and D.C. is running scared after a group issues a letter taking responsibility for the murders and warning that more will come unless the politicians balance the budget and get tough on violent criminals. They quote Thomas Jefferson, “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive... it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” They demand that America return to government by the people, for the people, instead of being run by career politicians who make deals for their own benefit. “None of you are out of our reach,” the letter warns, “not even the president.”

While the people charged with protecting the president try to find out whether this is a foreign terrorist group or a home-grown para-military group, FBI Special Agent Skip McMahon is suspecting something else. These guys went to great lengths to avoid killing civilians and the murders were executed with detailed precision. All of that makes McMahon think they are commandos trained by America’s own military.

Congressman Michael O’Rourke is a freshman representative from Minnesota, who lost his parents when they were hit by a drunk driver years ago. A take-charge Marine in the Gulf War, he’s disgusted by the gridlock in Washington and already knows he won’t run for another term. He has no intention of voting for President Stevens’ budget because Stevens refuses to cut unnecessary programs like the Rural Electrification Administration, which costs $500 million annually, or make an effort to slash the $5 trillion national debt. When O’Rourke hears about the murders, he’s not sad — those men were some of the worst in abusing their positions — but he’s afraid he knows who might be behind the murders, and that he set it all in motion.

McMahon and O’Rourke race against time to find the group committing the murders before more politicians die. What they don’t realize is there is an even more malevolent force at work much closer at hand.

Flynn’s strong, uncompromising writing is what drives this novel. There is quite a bit of clandestine action when the assassins track their prey, but Flynn’s real point is how the underhanded political maneuvering is ruining D.C. and this country.

A Minnesota boy, Flynn’s prose reflects the blunt, no-nonsense Upper Midwest sensibilities of getting the job done. That conviction comes across clearly when O’Rourke explains to his fiancee, Liz, why he’s disgusted with the legal system that allowed the repeat drunk driver on the streets to kill his parents.

“And why was he allowed to walk the streets? Because we don’t have enough money to keep him in jail.” Michael poked himself in the chest. “Let me let you in on a little secret. We have the money. We have more than enough of it, it’s just that the egomaniacs who run this country would rather spend it on programs that get them votes.”

Even though Flynn wrote this book in the mid-1990s, it’s still relevant — in some ways, maybe more so now than then. Our national debt has risen to $16.7 trillion and our politicians seem to have more loyalty to their party than to the voters who elected them. Flynn asks intriguing questions about why our political leaders continue to allow the debt to rise when they could take steps to control it. Flynn is one of the very few authors to step out of line and challenge why we keep doing things the same way when we know they don’t work.

Flynn raises scenarios — assassinating politicians and strongly questioning the way politics is conducted in D.C. — that would certainly set some officials’ teeth on edge. According to Wikipedia, “His sixth novel ‘Memorial Day’ actually garnered a security review by the DOE (Department of Energy) due to concerns that the book contained classified material surrounding nuclear security. This security review was also mentioned in internal memos by the FBI and Secret Service.”

Obviously, killing politicians in real life isn’t the answer, but Flynn is asking if anything short of that will get America off the fast-track she’s on to destruction from within. It’s been more than 16 years since Flynn published “Term Limits” and we are no closer to answering those questions.

I decided to read “Term Limits” after I heard of Flynn’s death in June of prostate cancer. Only 47 when he died, Flynn had learned to deal with the reading problem dyslexia and went on to write 14 novels. “Term Limits” is the only one that does not feature counter-terrorism agent Mitch Rapp.

I will probably read his other books in the future. If “Term Limits” is any indication, Flynn’s death has silenced too soon a voice that could make us think.


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