Book Review: Treason
By Scott Editor | More Book Reviews
November 2003

Ann Coulter's third consecutive #1 New York Times bestseller, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, hits liberals hard on two fronts: first by accusing them of pandering to Stalin and one of the most brutal Communist regimes in human history, and being weak on the current war on terror. The theme is that liberals have throughout history sided with the enemy, or at least, whichever side is against the United States.

Going against the strong currents of academia and the historians that have long established Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy as a negative force in America who "destroyed lives and reputations" through his infamous "witch hunts," Coulter does the unthinkable by audaciously defending the late senator who spent his entire career in the Senate outing either Communists or Soviet sympathizers working in a sensitive top-secret positions.

For decades McCarthy has been labeled a liar by the mainstream media, and Coulter gleefully reprints excerpts from the New York Times and Washington Post and other sources that regarded McCarthy as a plague.

Coulter's rebuttal is quite strong, however, thanks to a top-secret Army project that was declassified in 1995 called the Venona Project, a sequence of coded communications between the Soviets and the Americans that have long been accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee and ex-Communists like Whittaker Chambers. McCarthy was hardly a player in exposing what was already known.

Thanks to Venona, it is now absolutely confirmed that Alger Hiss was a Soviet Spy, despite his prominence in the Truman administration (and he was convicted of perjury before McCarthy ever became a senator). Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, among many others, were guilty of treason.

"It is a fact that hundreds of agents of this blood-soaked ideology became top advisors to Democratic presidents...Stalin's agents held top positions in the White House, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Army, and the OSS. Because of Democrat incompetence and moral infirmity, all Americans lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation for half a century. As Soviet spies passed nuclear technology to Stalin, President Roosevelt gave strict orders that the OSS engage in no espionage against the country ruled by his pal, Uncle Joe" (pg 34).

Yet for the last fifty years many in the media (and of course many liberals) touted the innocence of all those accused of being sympathetic to the Soviets - the Venona Project truly is damning and speaks for itself. You can read many of transcriptions for yourself on the Internet.

So naturally the negative reaction to Coulter's book lacks substance. Aside from the usual ad hominem attacks (it's a book by Coulter...who defends it must obviously be bogus), her critics go for the only angle she allows them to hit on; the "liberals are bad" point. Instead of rebutting the facts - such as the one of minor importance: McCarthy was right - Coulter's critics label Treason an anti-liberal "screed," saying its only purpose is to attack liberals.

Despite mass accusations, including one surprising criticism from ex-Leftist David Horowitz of, Ms. Coulter does not label all liberals and Democrats traitors, nor accuse them all of being guilty of treason.

Horowitz's main problem with Treason is that Coulter lumps all liberals together accusing them of all being pro-Communists traitors. And to be sure, the book opens: "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love America, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy."

Certainly this opening paragraph would make any liberal fume in disgust, not allowing Coulter any room for the hyperbole that makes her such an entertaining read. But let's not got lost in our emotions; Coulter never levels a blanket charge on all Democrats.

In his critique, Horowitz blasts Coulter for not recognizing the anti-Communist Democrats: "Is it the case that liberals like Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy sided with the enemy? Of course not. They were anti-Communists, hated by the left as “cold war liberals.” And they were not alone. There were many liberals – Scoop Jackson and Jeanne Kirkpatrick among them – who were just as worthy defenders of America and prosecutors of the anti-Communist cause."

Horowitz couldn't be any more correct, but next time he plans on criticizing a book it might serve him well to actually read it, for Coulter does not hide: "There were, admittedly, a few rare and striking exceptions to the left's overall obtuseness to communist totalitarianism. The Democratic Party was certainly more patriotic then than it has become. Throughout the sixties, the Democrats could still produce the occasional Scoop Jackson Democrat. John F. Kennedy's pronouncements on communism could have been spoken by Joe McCarthy. For all his flaws, Truman unquestionably loved his country. He was a completely different breed from today's Democrats. Through the years, there were various epiphanic moments creating yet more anti-communist Democrats. The Stalin-Hitler pact, Alger Hiss' prothonotary warbler, information about the purges and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" – all these had their effect" (pg 11).

The middle chapters are a tribute to Coulter's favorite president of the last century, the great Ronald Reagan. Dispelling any theories arguing the Cold War was won by anybody but Reagan, Coulter exhaustively recounts the days of the Reagan administration and how his did what the predecessors couldn't: bring the Soviet Union to a total collapse.

Sticking to the treason theme, Coulter charges liberals with opposing all anti-Communism measures and for sticking up for the Soviets (remember FDR called Stalin "Uncle Joe") at every turn.

Coulter wonders if there's a double standard looking back at the regimes of Hitler's Nazi Party and Stalin's Soviet Party. "In 2003, the New York Times cheerfully announced the introduction of a new, 'lighthearted' journal about Communism. This is an ideology responsible for nearly 100 million murders, or -- as the Times put it -- a 'divisive' ideology. How about a 'lighthearted' journal about suicide bombings or Nazism, also 'divisive' ideologies? Or must an ideology commit ten times the number of murders of Hitler's Nazi Germany before liberals call it lighthearted" (pg 191)?

Perhaps more people would be willing to celebrate McCarthy today if he blew the whistle on Americans who were in bed with the Nazis instead of the Soviets. According to Coulter, liberals by their nature have just been sympathetic to the Soviets and Communism...and she provides plenty of evidence and footnotes to back it up.

Lastly Coulter defends the War on Terrorism, and as most know, she's a major proponent of the Iraq War. Here one can debate the effectiveness of the Bush administration, as Coulter spends much of her book making the point that wars are won with Republican presidents and lost with Democrat presidents. Mr. Bush is seriously in danger of breaking the cycle, even if Coulter would never accept it.

It may be too early in history to judge the success of the war on terrorism. We've got a long way to go and I have always been one to reserve judgment. Coulter herself was wise not to skulk or devote too many pages to the current war, because she knew it wouldn't be over with the release of her book.

However the story of the Cold War is complete, and Coulter does a convincing job correcting the record and the legacy of Senator McCarthy. To be sure, I'm not necessarily defending the guy. I understand he was bullish (as were his critics equally on him). He used dirty campaign tactics. And Coulter defends the embellishment of his war record, though she argues it wasn't as embellished as liberals would have you believe.

The point is McCarthy was a human being, and an obviously flawed one. But Coulter only wants to know one thing despite whatever you want to say about the man or his methods: "Were there Soviet spies in the State Department?" Interestingly, no one has yet to offer a substantially rebuttal to Coulter's pro-McCarthy tome. Sure, there are plenty of attacks on her, and her general belief that liberals "strike the position of treason," but it's a telling sign when they only thing of Coulter's you can attack is her vocabulary choice.

Like it or not, the Venona cables confirm it all, on top of what was already available such as the testimony from ex-Communists, and the mounting evidence Coulter presents in her book. But it's the Venona Project that speaks for itself, and one must wonder why the media ignored the 1995 declassification of it. On second thought, considering the case Treason makes against the mainstream media, no wondering is needed at all.

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