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Joseph McCarthy

Re-Examining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator


Arthur Herman (View Bio)
Hardcover: The Free Press, 1999.

Joseph McCarthy

"Readers can therefore be thankful that Herman has given us an occasionally strained but generally fair study of McCarthy rather than a one-sided defense or assault on him. The book will surely be controversial and subject to attack from all sides, for its author insists that we must hold McCarthy's enemies and victims to the same standards to which we hold him…. Depicted by Herman as a reckless, uninformed, publicity-seeking, hard-drinking, mocking man, McCarthy doesn’t easily evoke sympathy. But Herman successfully situates the anticommunist zealot in his place and time and among his opponents and supporters better than anyone before him and (by conjecturing cautiously, for example, that he suffered from hypomania) helps us understand, if not honor, his methods and their consequences. In arguing that McCarthy was ‘always a more important figure to American liberals than to conservatives,’ Herman opens new avenues for understanding American liberalism, as well as McCarthy's own Republican Party…. Herman's book is an important contribution." — Publishers Weekly

"Herman attempts an ambitious job indeed: the historical rehabilitation of the Wisconsin senator whose name became an ism. For all his recklessness, this book's McCarthy was essentially correct that Soviet operatives and fellow travelers had a free pass into the government. And for every brutality committed by McCarthy, Herman has one to cite on the part of opponents in politics or the press, who finally did in a man weakened by alcoholism and by the roguery of aide Roy Cohn. Provocative and well written, the book is really an extended argument, with Herman as interested in skinning liberals as he is in McCarthy's story. It might be an opposite bookend to the classic anti-McCarthy work by Richard Rovere." — Library Journal

"A combative corrective to the view of McCarthy as red-baiting demagogue that finds the true villains in the liberal establishment and the mainstream media. Using archival materials from the former USSR and declassified US materials, Herman offers evidence validating McCarthy's anti-Communist pursuits: Alger Hiss, the US Army, pro-Communist federal employees. Most satisfying are his Senate scenes, which have the page-turning life of an Allan Drury novel…. To his credit, Herman provides a more distanced view than Richard Rovere did in his benchmark 1959 biography." — Kirkus Reviews

"[A] brave, eponymously titled biography, [it] argues persuasively that 'McCarthy was making a good point badly.'...[A] balanced portrait of the man and his times...outstanding, cool-headed, and [a] much-needed reappraisal of a poorly understood man." — John J. Miller

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