In her sensational new bestseller, Ann Coulter turns back to the dark days of the 1950s and introduces us to a man who was hauled in front of a Senate committee and repeatedly harassed until he reluctantly named names.
The postmaster general monitored his mail, he and his staff were bashed as homosexuals, the press buried him with invective, and his respectable war record was mocked. Driven to drink by the constant persecution, he died at the age of 49.
That man was Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Coulter writes, "Everything you think you know about Joe McCarthy is a hegemonic lie." The motive? "Liberals invented the myth of McCarthyism to delegitimize impertinent questions about their own patriotism."
If you don't think history can be rewritten this effectively, consider that someone reading only The New York Times 20 years from now no doubt would conclude that Ken Starr was the biggest pervert of the 1990s.
As for McCarthy's "reign of terror" against alleged communists, Coulter documents that so-called blacklisting in the '50s helped more careers than it harmed.
Coulter points out that no one anymore asks if McCarthy right in his accusations. But in 1995, thanks to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, transcripts of counterintelligence tapes were declassified that, combined with newly available KGB records, showed that, if anything, McCarthy lowballed the number of communists in the U.S. government.
So how did the Democrats in the Senate at the time respond to McCarthy's concerns about Soviet infiltration of the government? They investigated McCarthy.
But Coulter's "Treason" is not primarily about McCarthy. She documents 50 years of remarkably similar statements that go like this, "Of course, I'm no fan of (Stalin, Castro, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden), but the real threat to America is (Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, George W. Bush)."
While defenses of McCarthy have been published before, what makes "Treason" so provocative is Coulter's assertion that it is legitimate to question the patriotism of mainstream political figures. After all, she says, liberals do it all the time.
When Phil Donahue says, "The real patriots are the protesters," he is by implication questioning the intelligence and patriotism of those who don't protest. The Dixie Chicks win praise for a thoughtless attempt to appeal to a foreign crowd, while Toby Keith and Charlie Daniels are merely knee-jerk, angry jingoists.
It's about time someone challenged the notion that the real way to be patriotic is to express one's hatred of America loudly.
A chapter titled "How Truman Won the Cold War During the Reagan Administration" shows how liberals went from hysterically declaiming Reagan's insistence that America could win as a "radical departure" from other presidents to saying, after the Berlin Wall, fell that, "Reagan was just following the policies of other presidents who should get just as much credit."
This is not just a historical point. Coulter thinks it is relevant that the same people who still say there is "no evidence" that Alger Hiss and Henry Dexter White, key aides during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, were Soviet spies also scoff at every case Ashcroft brings against domestic terror networks and see "no evidence" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
"Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America," Coulter writes. "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."
"Treason" will be the most talked-about and fought-about book of the year. It is as witty as Michael Moore thinks he is, but, in her case, those troublesome things called facts actually back up Coulter's thesis.
Coulter has a columnist's tendency to deliver a great line before establishing the basis for it and the occasional overstatement that will give her enemies ample chance to gasp in horror while ignoring the real premise.
But anything that gets these overdue arguments going is worthwhile. Besides the predictable screaming from the Left, it will be interesting to see who on the Right will try to curry favor with The New York Times by distancing themselves from Coulter's rhetorical flourishes.
Let the fun begin.