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The New, Unabashed McCarthyism:

A Review of Treason: Liberal Treachery From The Cold War To The War On Terrorism


Friday, August 8, 2003

Ann Coulter, Treason: Liberal Treachery From The Cold War To The War On Terrorism (Crown Forum, 2003)

Senator Joseph McCarthy, a patriotic hero? Liberals all treasonous villains? First Lady, now Senator, Hillary Clinton's cries of a "right wing conspiracy," move over. That one statement for which Senator Clinton has been vilified for time immemorial by conservatives pales in comparison to the liberal conspiracy to betray the United States that is identified by Ann Coulter in her latest political diatribe, Treason: Liberal Treachery From The Cold War To The War On Terrorism.

Coulter's new book asserts that liberals have been wrong on every foreign policy issue for the last fifty years, and that at least since the start of the Cold War they have "contained, appeased, and retreated, often sacrificing America's best interests and security." Her re-examination of the lives of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss and every Democratic president since Truman will shock anyone to the left of Attila the Hun.

  • "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason."
  • "Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy."
  • "Liberals attack their country and then go into diarrhea panic if anyone criticizes them."
  • "Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America's self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant. Fifty years of treason hasn't slowed them down."
  • "Whether they are rooting for the atheistic regimes of Stalin and Mao, satanic suicide bombers and terrorists, or the Central Park rapists, liberals always take the side of savages against civilization."

Coulter's Failure to Define The Straw Man She Attacks

Who are these evil liberals, exactly? In her book, Coulter declines to provide a definition or distinguish liberals from "the Left". In televised appearances Coulter has boasted clearly that liberals are the Democratic Party and its members, every single one of them. Coulter's theory, therefore, runs into some historical anomalies.

For example, both Ronald Reagan and Strom Thurmond, two darlings of the Republican Party, were Democrats until 1962 and 1964, respectively - well into the Cold War period she discusses. Even ardent Republican Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was a Democrat until late into the Carter Administration.

Glorifying Senator Joseph McCarthy's Abuses

Coulter's analysis - some would deem it revisionist history - of Senator McCarthy and his escapades will be startling to most. She contends, amazingly, that "[t]he myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism."

As Coulter announced to millions on Good Morning America, "I really just have to ask people to hit the 'delete' button on everything you think you know about McCarthy, because it was a huge liberal myth. It was created to, to hide the left's collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis."

Apparently Coulter believes with all her heart that "[w]hat the country needed was Joe McCarthy." Such a comment seems akin to the now-infamous misstatement of former Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott when he suggested the nation would have been better off had it elected segregationist Senator Thurmond (by the way, then still a Democrat) president in 1948.

Coulter claims vast evidence supports her conclusion that McCarthy was right on the mark. She cites to the 1995 release of the Vernona papers, which were created through a top secret U.S. Signals Intelligence effort to collect and decrypt the text of Soviet KGB and GRU messages from 1943 to 1980.

According to Theoharis's book Chasing Spies: How the FBI Failed in Counterintelligence But Promoted the Politics of McCarthyism in the Cold War Years, Vernona reveals that the government's culture of suspicion and blacklists helped fuel McCarthyism's beliefs rather than vindicate his allegations.

Criticism of Coulter and her Book Abound

Coulter's book endlessly rambles and repeats itself, and continually makes illogical leaps and bounds. Her writing is wearying to both the eyes and mind of any reader not possessed by the same vitriolic hatred of these undefined liberals. She appears to operate on the principle that a falsehood or argument repeated often enough will ultimately be accepted as the truth.

Criticism of Coulter's book has been widespread among book reviews and editorials. In fact, it extends beyond the contents of her book and to her personally, many of which might be considered unfair or certainly irrelevant. Among them: "Lethally blond," (David Carr in The New York Times); a "right-wing telebimbo," (Alex Beam of the Boston Globe); a "sex kitten" with "long, blond peekaboo hair" and "Joe McCarthy in a little black dress" (Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch); and "a rail-thin, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, big-eyed leggy blonde who winkingly serves up X-rated ideological smut on liberals." (Sam Tanenhaus in Slate).

To be fair, Coulter, who sprung to public fame in 1996 as a conservative MSNBC legal pundit, is no intellectual lightweight. A former federal judicial law clerk, congressional staffer for Senator Spencer Abraham and constitutional attorney, Coulter was even named in a controversial article as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in 2001, by respected federal jurist Richard Posner.

Although Coulter does identify many issues deserving of legitimate debate and historical scholarship, this book is evidence of neither. Instead of a sound, reasoned discussion of the issues, there is largely only anger and rhetoric.

Coulter's Baleful and Growing Influence

Her controversial writings have caused many to seriously question whether she is a positive or negative influence within the Republican Party. Although even Conservative intellectuals have denounced her book, there is no mistaking her growing influence. She continues to inspire many on the Right - particularly young women who see Coulter as a dynamic leadership figure, one with independence and high-profile power, in an organization where they are a definite minority.

It is hard to say what is scarier, the text within Coulter's book or that those in the United States are actually buying and reading it as a serious work. Ironically,

Mark S. Zaid is the Managing Partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC. Mr. Zaid specializes in national security, FOIA and First and Fifth Amendment litigation. He is also the Executive Director of The James Madison Project (, a non-profit organization that seeks to reduce secrecy and promote government accountability, and the co-editor of "Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2002." He is, and always has been, a registered Independent, and has voted for and represented both Republicans and Democrats.

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