Cover image for Joseph McCarthy : reexamining the life and legacy of America's most hated senator
Joseph McCarthy : reexamining the life and legacy of America's most hated senator
Herman, Arthur, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
404 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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E748.M143 H47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E748.M143 H47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Senator Joseph McCarthy is remembered as a self-serving and hypocritical man who recklessly destroyed people's lives through anticommunist witch hunting. This re-evaluation shows that the more that is learnt about communism in America, the more McCarthy is proven to be accurate in his charges.

Author Notes

Arthur Herman is adjunct professor of history at George Mason University and coordinator of the Western Civilization Program at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He lives in Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The time may be ripe for a reassessment of the Wisconsin senator whose name has become, for some at least, a synonym for witch-hunting, but achieving a balanced judgment remains difficult. Herman, coordinator of the Smithsonian Institution's Western Civilization program, won praise for The Idea of Decline in Western History (1997). Here, he dispels myths and provides a sympathetic portrait of an important midcentury political figure; in the end, however, he must be counted as a McCarthy partisan in the continuing controversy over how serious a threat Communist subversion represented between World War II and Vietnam. Herman's slant on this larger issue is evident, for example, in his attacks on McCarthy critics, or in the fact that his comments on Jack Kennedy are often drawn from revisionists like Peter Collier, David Horowitz, and Thomas Reeves. Although all can learn from Herman's thorough research, conservatives are more likely than liberals to agree with his view of Tailgunner Joe. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Given recent revelations from Soviet-era archives and new thinking about the Cold War, this biography was probably inevitable. Readers can therefore be thankful that Herman, a historian at George Mason University, 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. McCarthy himself was as much a phenomenon as McCarthyism. He rocketed from local Wisconsin office directly into the Senate, where he was quickly marginalized by the defenders of that institution's decorum, which he then scorned and attacked. 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, in the 20th century. Unfortunately, he fails to provide a full picture of the manÄhusband (of Jean Kerr, critically important to McCarthy's career), father, sometime bon vivant. Nevertheless, Herman's book is an important contribution. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The principal victim of McCarthyism, according to Herman (George Mason Univ., Washington, DC), was Joe McCarthy himself. A body of recent scholarship has sought to recast what usually has been viewed as a hysteria instead as a period when Communist subversion was an authentic threat. Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History) 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, Senator Joe McCarthy (LJ 6/15/59). Thomas C. Reeves's The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy (LJ 4/1/82) remains a more reliable biography than either. Optional for public and academic libraries.ÄRobert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Herman, a historian, has written a highly provocative biography of former Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. Challenging the scholarly work on McCarthy, Herman emerges with a picture that defends him. Although acknowledging that McCarthy made many blunders and overplayed his cards, e.g., calling Owen Lattimore "Moscow's top spy" without evidence to prove it, Herman argues that the anticommunist crusade that McCarthy led was justified because the Soviet Union had, in fact, been operating a successful spy ring in the US. Many of the Senator's actions are explained away by pointing to those of others. The author cites LBJ and his exaggeration of his war record compared to that of McCarthy and how the press treated it, unfair press coverage, and the impact of overall "liberal" influence as reasons for McCarthy having such a tarnished reputation. Herman based his biography on manuscript collections as well as published sources and is familiar with the literature. Readers will have to decide whether his "revisionist" account of the junior senator from Wisconsin will become a persuasive challenge to the more traditional accounts. All levels. A. Yarnell; Montana State University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Part I Origins
1 Wisconsin and the Wider Worldp. 21
2 The Class of '46p. 41
3 Fatal Attraction: Liberals and Communismp. 60
4 The Forties: Democrats and Communistsp. 72
Part II Rise
5 The Enemy Withinp. 93
6 The Tydings Committeep. 113
Part III Fall
7 Failure at the Topp. 139
8 Supporters' Clubp. 158
9 McCarthy Rampantp. 183
10 McCarthy Triumphantp. 195
11 Republicans Ascendantp. 208
12 McCarthy Against the Pressp. 230
13 McCarthy Against the Armyp. 238
14 McCarthy Against Himselfp. 258
15 Censurep. 279
16 Extinctionp. 295
Part IV Legacy
17 Beyond McCarthyp. 311
Epiloguep. 321
Appendix I McCarthy and the Doctorsp. 329
Appendix II The Strange Case of Annie Lee Mossp. 333
Notesp. 339
Bibliographyp. 373
Acknowledgmentsp. 385
Indexp. 389