Byline: Stephen Goode, INSIGHT
Everyone seems to know who Ann Coulter is. She makes liberals froth at the mouth like no other right-wing commentator, with the possible exception of Rush Limbaugh, and that's doubtful. Even conservatives, when they don't love her, can take exception to the hard-hitting, relentless invective she hurls in the direction of liberals of all stripes.
But Coulter must be doing many things right. Her new book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, has been on the New York Times best-seller list for seven weeks and has sold many hundreds of thousands of copies. It was the same with her previous two books, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, which came out in 2002, and the 1998 High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. Slander ran for eight weeks at No. 1 and then for an additional 15 weeks on the Times list exceptional accomplishments for any author.
Coulter was dubbed "the shock-jock, right-wing political commentator" on Amazon.com, but she's much more than that. In Treason she takes on the standard view of American history since the 1950s and argues that it is wrong and must be changed. At the center of her argument is the late senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose standard image has come down to us as a coarse, brutish man whose anticommunist tirades merely were publicity-grabbing stunts. In the end, according to this standard view, McCarthy did more to further the cause of communism than to halt its course by himself being more buffoon than statesman.
For Coulter this is more than bad history, it is an outright lie told by liberals to paint McCarthy in a bad light and disguise their own all-too-tolerant attitude toward communism. McCarthy, she writes, "was tilting at an authentic Communist conspiracy that had been laughed off by the Democratic Party."
And in making a laughingstock of McCarthy, notes Coulter, "The Democrats had unpardonably connived with one of the greatest evils of the 20th century." Democratic treachery did not end with McCarthy, in Coulter's opinion. Since his time, the profoundly anti-American, antipatriotic heart of liberalism has manifested itself in "Vietnam, Watergate and the elites' abiding hatred for Ronald Reagan."
When Coulter hits her stride, which is often in Treason, no one can rival her precise and biting wit, which has made her a favorite among many conservatives. She writes, for example, "Being antiwar in Hollywood was an act of bravery on the order of the keynote speaker at a PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] awards dinner making jokes about [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon."
And, "In a country of almost 300 million people, liberals get seven men to issue an opinion from the Supreme Court and they want the rest of us to shut up about abortion forever. But before going to war to eliminate a potential nuclear threat, we need to convince every last American that it was necessary."
Coulter argues that setting things right must begin with revising how Americans view McCarthy: "Unless we fight for proper treatment of history and counter the nonsense images of McCarthy, no history can be safe from the liberal noise machine."
Insight: Treason is a powerful, provocative title. Did you have that word for the title in mind from the start or did it come to you as you were working on the book?
Ann Coulter: From the very beginning.
Q: For decades, indeed, ever since the 1950s, Americans have been taught to regard Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, as crude and rude, a coarse example of American politics at its worst, a demagogue. How do you see him?
A: Joe McCarthy was an American hero vilified by the left because he was on to them. As Hubert Humphrey [then a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota, later a vice president and 1968 presidential candidate] admitted at the time, "McCarthy's real threat to democracy is the fact that he has immobilized the liberal movement. …