I too cringed, Trunk. . .

when I heard about Ann Coulter’s project. I even encouraged my 15 year old daughter, who wanted to read Coulter, to try Slander instead of Treason, fearing that the latter book would be over the top (in the end my daughter decided to read both). To be sure, a popular work reappraising the issues associated with McCarthy is overdue, and a reappraisal of McCarthy himself is not to be despised. Historian Arthur Herman (author of an outstanding recent book on the Scottish Enlightenment) produced such a reappraisal a few years ago, but it didn’t reach a large audience.
The problem seems to be that, unlike Herman and William Buckley decades earlier, Coulter may have produced a whitewash rather than a proper reappraisal. My daughter told me she could not recall any criticism by Coulter of McCarthy except, perhaps, that he proceeded too cautiously. This view strikes me as untenable. Although McCarthy was largely correct about the big picture, his “blunderbuss” approach (to use Buckley’s term) was inexcusable and set back the cause of anti-communism (as Whitaker Chambers predicted it would). As my conservative cousin from New York (who watched the Army-McCarthy hearings on television) puts it, McCarthy was “temperamentally unsuited” for the worthwhile role he attempted to play.


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