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The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957. Only now, through bestselling author Larry Tye’s exclusive look at the senator’s records, can the full story be told. Demagogue is a masterful portrait of a human being capable of immense evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. His ambitions knew few limits. Neither did his socializing, his drinking, nor his gambling. When he finally made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda and angered many with his sharp elbows and lack of integrity. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism. By recklessly charging treason against everyone from George Marshall to much of the State Department, he became the most influential and controversial man in America. His chaotic, meteoric rise is a gripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equally sudden fall from fame offers reason for hope that, given the rope, most American demagogues eventually hang themselves.


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The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957. Only now, through bestselling author Larry Tye’s exclusive look at the senator’s records, can the full story be told. Demagogue is a masterful portrait of a human being capable of immense evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. His ambitions knew few limits. Neither did his socializing, his drinking, nor his gambling. When he finally made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda and angered many with his sharp elbows and lack of integrity. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism. By recklessly charging treason against everyone from George Marshall to much of the State Department, he became the most influential and controversial man in America. His chaotic, meteoric rise is a gripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equally sudden fall from fame offers reason for hope that, given the rope, most American demagogues eventually hang themselves.

30 review for Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This is a very long and rather dense book.......but WOW!!! Review to follow Review This response at the Army-McCarthy hearing, from Judge Joseph Welch, will always resonate with those who are interested in the career of the red-baiting, untruthful, and possibly mentally disturbed Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. As McCarthy publicly turned on a "friend" who he felt did not support him with fervor, Welch said; "Until this moment Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessn This is a very long and rather dense book.......but WOW!!! Review to follow Review This response at the Army-McCarthy hearing, from Judge Joseph Welch, will always resonate with those who are interested in the career of the red-baiting, untruthful, and possibly mentally disturbed Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. As McCarthy publicly turned on a "friend" who he felt did not support him with fervor, Welch said; "Until this moment Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness.....You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" This marked the moment that the career of McCarthy was over and when he fell, he fell fast. I will not go into his childhood and early life which takes up a large part of this book......needless to say, he was a dangerous bully from the start and through some dirty tricks and bribes, was elected United States Senator from Wisconsin. Freshman senators usually were fairly quiet and observant during their first couple of years into their term, while they learned the rules and etiquette of the position. Not so, McCarthy. He burst on the scene as if he was a tenured and respected man and immediately earned the rancor of the members. He took on everyone in a rude and crude manner and was an anomaly to say the least. But he had big plans and needed a "cause" to bring attention upon himself. He found that cause in chasing and identifying "commies" who were, in his imagination, working in the federal government. He began in, of all places Wheeling, WV, where he was speaking at a Republican dinner and waved around a piece of paper which he claimed contained the names of Communists (the paper was blank) and he transformed from a crank to one of the most menacing men in US history. In his career, he ruined the lives, reputations, and careers of innocent individuals and drove several people to suicide with accusations which had no basis in fact. He finally stepped over the line when he took on the Army and was castigated by a vote of the Senate. From this point, a committee to investigate his allegations was formed and the famous Army-McCarthy hearings (1954) were televised globally........the beginning of the end for the Senator as one falsehood after another was proven to be exaggerations and downright lies. He died, an alcoholic, in 1957. It would take pages to review this sometimes rather dense, book and it does have some slow sections. But overall, it is an in-depth and fascinating look,at a dangerous man, who for a short time, held the government and the population hostage to his lies. Recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    From the outset, Larry Tye in his new biography, DEMAGOGUE: THE LIFE AND LONG SHADOW OF SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY states that his book is about America’s love affairs with bullies, and certainly Joseph McCarthy fits that category. At a time where the concept of a “political bully” seems to be on every pundit’ lips in covering Donald Trump it is useful to explore the life and tactics employed by the epitome of that description. Confronted by Trump’s daily “bullying tactics,” many of which passed on From the outset, Larry Tye in his new biography, DEMAGOGUE: THE LIFE AND LONG SHADOW OF SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY states that his book is about America’s love affairs with bullies, and certainly Joseph McCarthy fits that category. At a time where the concept of a “political bully” seems to be on every pundit’ lips in covering Donald Trump it is useful to explore the life and tactics employed by the epitome of that description. Confronted by Trump’s daily “bullying tactics,” many of which passed on to the president from McCarthy through Roy Cohn, political commentators have been exploring how the American people elected Trump and how least 30-40% of electorate still supports him no matter what he does or says. People wonder how we arrived at our current state of partisanship, but if one digs into American political history, the McCarthy era seems to be an excellent place to start as the likes of Roy Cohn and others seem to dominate the political landscape. If one follows the progression from Huey Long, McCarthy, George Wallace, Newt Gingrich on to Trump and examine their characteristics today’s political landscape becomes into sharper focus. What separates Tye’s biography from those that came before, including David Oshinsky’s superb A CONSPIRACY SO IMMENSE: THE WORLD OF JOSEPH McCARTHY and Thomas C. Reeves’ THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOSEPH McCARTHY was his access to his subjects unscripted writings and correspondence, military records, financial files, and box after box of professional and personal documents that Marquette University made available for the first time after almost sixty years. As he has done in previous books like SATCHEL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND, and BOBBY KENNEDY: THE MAKING OF A LIBERAL ICON, Tye examines all aspects of his subject and delivers an unquestionable command of primary and secondary materials. To his credit Tye makes a valiant attempt at providing a balanced approach to McCarthy’s life and politics. No matter how hard he tried Tye has set himself a difficult task when like others he uncovers all the lies and bombast, but also his subject’s personal charm. He concludes that McCarthy was “more insecure than we imagined, more undone by his boozing, more embracing of his friends and vengeful towards foes and more sinister.” There are numerous examples in the book where Tye presents a McCarthy action and tries to give him the benefit of the doubt that previous biographers did not. For example, in addressing the facts and myths that followed McCarthy his military record stands out when one tries to be objective. “Tail Gunner Joe,” McCarthy’s chosen nickname actually volunteered for combat operations in the Pacific Theater during World War II, when he could have remained a “desk jockey” as an intelligence officer. McCarthy would serve for a year before he requested a discharge and achieved a number of medals as newly released military record reflect, but despite his bravery it did not stop him from repeatedly embellishing and lying about his service record. In addition, he engaged in political activity while in the Marines, trying to keep a political seat warm when he returned to Wisconsin which was “verboten” in the military. Another example deals with the Malmedy Massacre at the outset of the Battle of the Bulge as the German SS murdered over 350 American POWs and 100 Belgian civilians. As a new senator McCarthy needed an issue to enhance his political credentials so he defended the Germans in the Senate Sub-Committee, which he was only an observer arguing that they were only following orders and were coerced and beaten by American prosecutors, in addition to opposing “retributive justice.” McCarthy’s real motivation was the preponderance of German voters in Wisconsin and some would argue that there was a strong element of anti-Semitism on his part. Tye correctly points out that McCarthy’s antics during the Malmedy hearings was “just a warm-up act.” As McCarthy’s behavior surrounding the massacre muddied the historical record as it provided a glimpse into his senatorial future as he would employ a scorched earth strategy on any issue, he became involved in. He fell for conspiracies and always elevated charges that he was spoon fed. He would enhance his skills in dealing with the press, providing them with phrasing that they sought, and manipulate them in order to disseminate his views to his constituents. The bombast, bullying, and lies which would later become his trademark were all present during the Malmedy investigation. One of Tye’s best chapters, entitled “An Ism is Born,” follows the pattern that McCarthy exhibited as a circuit judge, his military career, and his Senate campaign in 1946. Tye provides exceptional detail and command of all aspects of McCarthy’s motivations and the creation of his February 1950 speech in Wheeling, W. Va. When he announced that there were 205 communists serving in the State Department. Tye follows his disingenuous approach using innuendo as his primary tactic despite the advice of Congressman Richard M. Nixon to cease and desist this approach. The Lincoln Day Dinner, the occasion for the speech was a natural extension of McCarthy’s playbook that he used up until that time and would now enhance as he discovered the “Communism” issue which would dominate the remainder of his political career. Tye does a nice job providing examples of demagogues in American history. He highlights men like Ben Tillman, Father Coughlin, Huey Long whose footsteps McCarthy easily fit into. Tye also traces anti-communism in American history beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s administration, the Palmer Raids, all part the Red Scare following World War I. While tracing this theme Tye includes the Truman administration which instituted loyalty oaths and a crackdown on suspected communists. With the House Un-American Activities Committee chaired by Martin Dies after World War II, the climate was set for the likes of McCarthy to latch on to this issue to base a reputation. Congress would underestimate McCarthy and failed to measure the nation’s temperature. It was not only kooks who succumbed to communist conspiracies, but patriotic organizations. No matter how few facts McCarthy presented, how many lies he told, and how many old accusations he recycled, Congress did not learn the futility of taking on a man of “wit, whimsy, and mendacity” who when forced into a corner would transform himself into a pit bull or lamb, depending what the situation called for. Tye carefully examines McCarthy’s approach to investigations. Once elected in 1946 he usurps publicity and actions from legitimate Senate committees with false accusations against “supposed communists.” It is in 1952 once Republicans gain a Senate majority and McCarthy gains the Chair of the Government Operations Committee and the Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations that he is unleashed. He could now hold his own hearings, summon witnesses, issue subpoenas, publish findings, and bully anyone who tried to thwart him. Tye describes how McCarthy would employ closed committee sessions in order to coerce witnesses with his tactics. He would bully anyone who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights marking people as guilty even if something had occurred earlier in life, or a friend might have voice communist sympathies, etc. In his committee innocence had to be proven. His smears were designed to convict anyone who came before the committee and have them implicate others, much like a 1930s Stalinist Show Trials. It is interesting that it took until 2003 to unseal the records of McCarthy’s executive sessions. McCarthy seemed to go after just about anyone. The Voice of America designed to confront Soviet propaganda in Eastern Europe was a major target; as was the Government Printing Office; overseas libraries and information centers; the poet Langston Hughes; and McCarthy even accused the State Department of book burnings. McCarthy could not have conducted these hearings and investigations without his pit bull, Roy Cohn. Tye delves into the role of Cohn who becomes McCarthy’s alter ego. He joined McCarthy’s committee as Chief Counsel with little legal experience. He used hearings as if they were a grand jury and presumed anyone who testified would crack under the right amount of pressure. As Tye points out, “to Cohn, the ideal witness to drag from a private to a public grilling was one who’d grovel, stonewall, or otherwise ensure front-page headlines.” Cohn later would become Donald Trump’s mentor and there is a remarkable similarity in their tactical approach to any given situation. McCarthy and Cohn’s tactics fostered a high price. In a chapter entitled “The Body Count,” Tye delineates a number of deaths related to being persecuted by McCarthy and company. The suicides of Raymond Kaplin, an engineer at the Voice of America, former Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette, Jr, and former Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, Jr.; and Don Hollenbeck, a CBS reporter. Is it fair to lay these deaths at the feet of McCarthy, one cannot really say, but what one can say is that he created the climate that pushed many people over the edge, and the number of lives destroyed and/or were impacted is incalculable. The lives and careers of people like Reed Harris, professional diplomats known as the “China Hands” had their careers destroyed, as were many who were blacklisted in academia and the entertainment business. Perhaps the most famous or for that matter infamous case was McCarthy’s actions against the US Army. Known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings Tye recounts how even President Eisenhower, who had tolerated McCarthy for three years had enough. Tye delves into how Eisenhower would rage against McCarthy in private but enabled him in public. Eisenhower had a number of opportunities to deal with McCarthy but from 1952-1954 he did little to speak out or take concrete action. McCarthy could not have been as successful as he was without enablers like Eisenhower; Texas millionaires like Clint Murchison, H. L. Hunt, and Roy Cullen; Scott McLeod, the administrator of the State Department’s Bureau of Inspection who fed McCarthy material; FBI head, J. Edgar Hoover who did the same; politicians like John F. Kennedy, Robert Taft, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson all went along with McCarthy; the Catholic Church; and finally the American people - all facilitated McCarthy’s reign of terror. Tye’s recounting of the Army-McCarthy hearings is riveting and highlights the inequities of McCarthy’s system and how these inequities finally brought him down. A number of characters stand out in the narrative. Tye engages each in his analytical and personal style particularly Edward R. Murrow who stood up to McCarthy publicly on his television program. Tye explores David Shine, ranging from his admiration of McCarthy and Roy Cohn to his own privileged view of himself and his responsibilities. Jean McCarthy, the senator’s wife’s role as confidant and partner in exploiting communism is carefully evaluated. Anita Lee Moss, a victim of McCarthy and her courageous stand against his committee is told in detail. These are but a few that Tye incorporates into his narrative, they along with countless others were the victims of a paranoid and insecure man. Tye has written the definitive account of Joseph McCarthy’s personal and public life. Tye had documents availed to him that other authors did not making his account complete and enhanced by the author’s careful exploration of the important issues and personalities of the period. Tye’s biography drips with comparisons of President Trump and hopefully the American people will digest their similarities and take the appropriate action on election day.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob H

    This is an abundantly-researched and -told biography of one of the most destructive figures in American politics, a magisterial account of Sen. McCarthy's life, times, political career and ongoing influence. It's all there: his post-WWII election to the Senate, his infamous "I have a list" speech, his rampage through Senate committee hearings, the Army-McCarthy battle that defeated him, but not the lingering suspicions in American life. The author provides plenty of context: though it was "the M This is an abundantly-researched and -told biography of one of the most destructive figures in American politics, a magisterial account of Sen. McCarthy's life, times, political career and ongoing influence. It's all there: his post-WWII election to the Senate, his infamous "I have a list" speech, his rampage through Senate committee hearings, the Army-McCarthy battle that defeated him, but not the lingering suspicions in American life. The author provides plenty of context: though it was "the McCarthy period", the anti-Communist fervor, the witch hunts that destroyed careers and spread a civic paranoia, the antics of other outfits like the House Un-American Activities Committee, the boost to other politicians' careers from all this, notably Richard Nixon's -- all of this either pre-dated, grew with, and persisted long after his downfall and death. It persists to this day, and the book does, through McCarthy's assistant, Roy Cohn, tie him to the present day: indeed, Cohn was a young Donald Trump's attorney and mentor. For all the book's length, it's still a gripping read and a chilling story. It's still relevant as a look into American political shadows. Highest recommendation. (Read in advance-reading copy from Amazon Vine).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    There is already a lot of material on Sen. Joseph McCarthy, but this is the first to incorporate McCarthy’s personal papers (letters, military and medical records, minutes from closed hearings, etc. donated by wife, Jean) housed at Marquette University. The bio is heavily researched and footnoted. It begins with a chronology which the text mostly follows. Author Larry Tye has researched 2-3 generations of family, McCarthy’s early life, his unusual schooling, how he entered politics and how his na There is already a lot of material on Sen. Joseph McCarthy, but this is the first to incorporate McCarthy’s personal papers (letters, military and medical records, minutes from closed hearings, etc. donated by wife, Jean) housed at Marquette University. The bio is heavily researched and footnoted. It begins with a chronology which the text mostly follows. Author Larry Tye has researched 2-3 generations of family, McCarthy’s early life, his unusual schooling, how he entered politics and how his name became an “ism”. Tye gives detail on people caught in McCarthy’s web and how they were harassed. Closed door hearings seem to serve as screenings for the cases that will get the best headlines in the public hearings. Most “witnesses” (in actuality, defendants) wound up in these hearings due to long ago tangential relationships with (often former) communists or groups but posed no danger to the US. Smidgeons of information were magnified, in some cases there was no information at all. In all cases the “witness” was humiliated and many to most cases resulted in careers and families being destroyed. The Committee did not tackle high level people, and investigated a disproportionate number of homosexuals and Jews. The most interesting of the 9 chapters, for me were “The Body Count” and “The Fall. “The Body Count” covers the depth of despair that McCarthy’s hearings engendered. The number of suicides, alone, tells the story. One is an engineer involved in selecting less than optimal sites for Voice of America transmission towers. Another is a reporter attacked for being critical of the work of HUAC, another a Senator in despair over choices he made that resulted in public exposure of his homosexual son. Robert LaFollette, who lost the 1946 senatorial primary to McCarthy, was a progressive from an influential Wisconsin family. He was a threat to McCarthy and may have been worn down the the barrage of unfounded accusations against him and his family. Throughout the book you marvel that, with his heavy drinking and related health issues, McCarthy can even sit up. “The Fall” covers life after his censure by the Senate, when, at age 49 his body, essentially, gives out. He dies with no expression of sympathy for his victims (in fact, wants to find more) or recognition of what he has put the country through. The hearings are both the strength and weakness of the book. For those profiled there is a lot of detail, such that key points can be hard to get at and it doesn’t seem that the selection of those investigated is balanced. The best example of losing the forest for the trees is the lead up to the famous “Have you no decency?” turning point. While the question is very much deserved, the back story on the dialog that gave rise to it wasn’t clear. Was it the passion of the Army’s attorney who asked it? Did McCarthy’s interjection come close to exposing secrets that Roy Cohn had bargained to keep from the record? Since hundreds of others were severely punished for gossip and suspicion, was there something special about Fred Fisher or the flimsy charges against him? Is there a reason that not one of the cases selected for detail has a Hollywood affiliation or that there is no mention of the “Black List”. That the Committee’s key players were homosexuals (Roy Cohn, the Committee’s Chief Consul, David Shine, the Committee’s unpaid staffer, J. Edgar Hoover and perhaps McCarthy, himself) is unexplored. The chapter on enablers points a heavy finger at President Eisenhower who hated McCarthy but dithered. There are many examples of the press from reporters to publishers traded who headlines for leaks, tips and interviews. There are politicians who wanted to glow in his celebrity and top officials, who compromised to protect their departments. Before the age of accountability, there were many donors, some seemed to directly hire staff, pay for facilities and seem to help McCarthy pay his debts (he gambles and makes impulsive investments). One particular Texas oilman, Clint Murchison, is noted as a true believing donor and friend. Another publicly supportive friend was Cardinal Spellman. Joseph Kennedy was a supporter, which gave his sons a difficult legacy. He got McCarthy to put Bobby on the HUAC (RFK seemed to be the only person actually doing actual research before he quit) and Tye draws the bead from the anti-communist ethos to the Bay of Pigs. Tye considers JFK an enabler since he said nothing. Tye does a good job in showing the long effects of McCarthy and his “ism”. His anti-communism spawned foreign policy up to and during the Vietnam War due to the defensive DNA that politicians developed in the McCarthy years. The very posture (never admit, never apologize, always attack) of Donald Trump is that of his first attorney Roy Cohn (to know more about this, I highly recommend the film “Where’s my Roy Cohn”). While McCarthy still has defenders, it took two generations to wring the anti-communism from the American psyche. There is a lot here. The book is fully packed. To read it you need to want to know about McCarthy and this period.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Excellent Biography Joseph McCarthy was a Senator from Wisconsin who became famous claiming that there were communists in the military, arts and professions such as education that needed to be rooted out and dismissed. He held power for 8 years during a time when communism was a fear and Soviets has stolen nuclear secrets and China had experienced a communist revolution and half of Korea became communist. Truman tried to stand up to him and failed. His Republican colleagues loathed him and knew h Excellent Biography Joseph McCarthy was a Senator from Wisconsin who became famous claiming that there were communists in the military, arts and professions such as education that needed to be rooted out and dismissed. He held power for 8 years during a time when communism was a fear and Soviets has stolen nuclear secrets and China had experienced a communist revolution and half of Korea became communist. Truman tried to stand up to him and failed. His Republican colleagues loathed him and knew he was a con man but benefited from going along with him due to his popularity. Democrats didn’t seem to to stand a chance as a minority party in both houses and not having the presidency. President Eisenhower saw it best to not confront him and watch until McCarthy imploded himself. Edward R Murrow, the newsman, ran several shows in McCarthy and weakened him greatly. But he lost his TV News show partly due to his stance on McCarthy. McCarthy’s hearings on the army became essential television that ran like a soap opera in the daytime. Eventually he tripped himself up, especially after pursuing the military. The author compares him to our current demagogue, Donald Trump. Roy Cohn was McCarthy’s assistant and later coached Trump. What I found interesting was a difference between McCarthy and most demagogues, McCarthy was considered pretty smart and a hard worker. He did well in school and was known to work well in n his farm. He had to quit school in 8th grade but after the military attended college and law school before going into politics. In the military which he also did well and was considered a hard worker, he began to claim illness of sorts. Chronic infections and injuries that didn’t heal well He was found to have diabetes. He also began attaching himself to anti-communist conspiracy theories. This grew into his rabid anti-communism. Elected to the senate, he was only ousted when he threatened them. Great biography.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This is a well written comprehensive biography on Joe McCarthy. It is long--almost 500 pages, but overall, engagingly written so it is not a boring slog to get through. It reads much faster than 480 pages. In general, this is a straightforward chronological biography, starting with McCarthy's childhood on a farm, early years as a lawyer and then judge in Wisconsin, and his time in the Marines. The rest of the book focuses on his election to senator, the start of his red-baiting focus in a Wheelin This is a well written comprehensive biography on Joe McCarthy. It is long--almost 500 pages, but overall, engagingly written so it is not a boring slog to get through. It reads much faster than 480 pages. In general, this is a straightforward chronological biography, starting with McCarthy's childhood on a farm, early years as a lawyer and then judge in Wisconsin, and his time in the Marines. The rest of the book focuses on his election to senator, the start of his red-baiting focus in a Wheeling, WV speech that was almost about public housing(!), his meteoric rise, his various victims and targets, and his inevitable crash. There is also a lot of ink devoted to his two erstwhile aids Roy Cohn and David Schine, and an insightful chapter on Joe's "enablers" (everyone from his Texas money backers, Cohn and Schine, and Eisenhower (who never stood up to McCarthy) among others. I was unfamiliar with McCarthy apart from the standard high school history lesson so I really learned a lot from this tome. Tye writes in a straightforward and engaging manner. He does what he can to show McCarthy in a well rounded light--not just as the historical villain he is generally portrayed to be. I wouldn't say he is sympathetic; he generally is not. His below the belt tactics were developed and honed early and were vicious, often destroying lives. Tye goes through several cases where people caught in McCarthy's crosshairs committed suicide. He also makes it clear that often McCarthy didn't feel a personal animus towards his opponents; he seemed to consider it all part of the political game and was confused at chilly receptions he received by his sparring partners once the lights were off. I will say, though much of it does not show McCarthy as sympathetic, there are times where Tye made me feel sorry for McCarthy. Once the spell was broken and McCarthy was an outcast and shunned by the cowards who kowtowed to him and the sycophants who sucked up to him, Tye's description of him alone and confused were genuinely moving. There is a scene where McCarthy is kicked out of an event and he is caught crying in a coat room that legitimately made me tear up. One feature I really liked in this tome were the introduction and epilogue chapters which puts McCarthy in the larger American context of demagogues and demagoguery, including a discussion on Trumpism. I imagine the comparisons between the two will earn this book some negative reviews, but it puts Trump's rise in the context of Huey Long, Ma and Pa Ferguson, Father Coughlin, and Joe McCarthy. In between, the themes of anti-intellectualism and anger against "elites" and rhetoric about "real Americans" in McCarty's arsenal show that some things in American politics do seem eternal. The main criticism of the book I have is that it is heavy on the footnotes, which, if you actually read them, makes for choppy reading. I generally found the footnotes informative, so I liked reading them, but you have to jump up and down the page. Also Tye can really bury some explosive material in the footnotes--for example a paragraph of speculation that Joe McCarthy was a pedophile. That was a jaw dropper of a footnote, but is never acknowledged or followed up on in the book. Overall, it's an interesting, thorough, and well written book. If you are looking to learn more about Joe McCarthy, this is obviously a good selection. But if you are also looking to learn more about the tactics of demagoguery, the real damage it can do, and the effects McCarthy's particular tactics formed and influenced what came after, this is also a good, but chilling choice as you can see history beginning to repeat itself in some ways.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Larry Tye's Demagogue is the first full biography of Joe McCarthy in almost two decades. Tye (Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon) claims some advantages over past biographers, including the release of Cold War government files, Russian sources and access to McCarthy's private papers, which allow him to present a more rounded portrait of Tailgunner Joe. He presents young McCarthy as a genial, hardworking young man, a good if often lazy student, an able attorney and, most surprisingly, de Larry Tye's Demagogue is the first full biography of Joe McCarthy in almost two decades. Tye (Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon) claims some advantages over past biographers, including the release of Cold War government files, Russian sources and access to McCarthy's private papers, which allow him to present a more rounded portrait of Tailgunner Joe. He presents young McCarthy as a genial, hardworking young man, a good if often lazy student, an able attorney and, most surprisingly, defends his military record as honorable despite McCarthy's later exaggerations. But once McCarthy reaches Washington, no amount of "fairness" can rescue his reputation: his violent bullying (coupled with an odd tendency to commiserate with his victims afterwards, as if politics were merely a sport), alcoholism and utter indifference to fairness and due process destroys any efforts to rehabilitate him. Refuting conservatives who claim revelations about Alger Hiss, etc. vindicated McCarthy, Tye in fact shows that Venona did no such thing. Soviet espionage networks in the United States had already been deactivated or destroyed years before McCarthy came along, and only a handful of the hundreds McCarthy accused were even communists, let alone spies. The book, then, largely affirms the typical picture of McCarthy while adding some fresh details, such as folding in accounts of the homophobic "Lavender Scare," McCarthy's relationship with phony "professional witness" Harvey Matusow and the bureaucrats driven to suicide alongside the familiar stories of henchman Roy Cohn, victims Owen Lattimore and Annie Lee Moss and his archnemesis, Joseph Welch. There's also a heavy focus on those who abetted, or refused to confront McCarthy's rise: opportunistic Republicans, right-wing millionaires, Catholic reactionaries, liberals afraid to seem "soft on Communism," reporters insistent on seeming "balanced" towards an unbalanced figure, even Dwight Eisenhower, whom Tye scathingly characterizes as the "enabler-in-chief" for refusing either to directly confront or undercut the Senator. The weakest parts of the book explicitly connect McCarthy with Donald Trump, admittedly a tempting comparison, considering both men's ties to Roy Cohn; astute readers surely don't need this spelled out for them. Still, the new information and Tye's lucid, biting narrative make the book a worthwhile introduction to America's most memorable Red-baiter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Well written and well researched.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy by Larry Tye is a comprehensive and well-written biography that reads almost like a novel, albeit a dystopian one at times. I'll be honest, when I started the book I was anticipating almost 500 pages of interesting information but, like many long nonfiction books, presented in a rather dry manner. This is a period of American (anti)intellectual history I find quite intriguing so I was ready to just deal with it. But this book is engaging Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy by Larry Tye is a comprehensive and well-written biography that reads almost like a novel, albeit a dystopian one at times. I'll be honest, when I started the book I was anticipating almost 500 pages of interesting information but, like many long nonfiction books, presented in a rather dry manner. This is a period of American (anti)intellectual history I find quite intriguing so I was ready to just deal with it. But this book is engaging and kept me wanting to read more. No easy task when dealing with a figure that can stir so many strong, negative emotions. The writing is part of what made me round my rating up. The other aspect that cinched the rating is that much of this information is newly released, which means no matter how much we have read about McCarthy or the period, there is new information here. Any book that can present new material from primary sources, and in an engaging manner, deserves a solid rating. There will be a few points where the reader will feel a small bit of sympathy for McCarthy. That is a credit to Tye presenting such a vile human being in his full humanity and not just the inhumanity he showed to his fellow humans and countrymen. But that sympathy is short-lived and, for me, quickly overcome. Karma can be a, well, you know, especially when a cowardly bully loses the ability to bully. Then they become a shell of the person they were before, which was a shell of a real person. Yeah, I despise McCarthy and what he helped to do to this country, and I don't apologize for it. We get glimpses at both McCarthy's personal life and the closed door behind the scenes wheeling and dealings on Capital Hill. While revisiting the events can stir anger and frustration, Tye keeps us focused on the larger arc of the book, namely McCarthy's life in total, which keeps us looking ahead as well as behind. By ahead we also mean all the way to the newest bully on the block, little Donnie Trump. There is a highly publicized connection between McCarthy and Trump, one pathetic man named Roy Cohn. Between Trump's connection with Cohn and Roger Stone, we can easily see what type of snake Trump is: part McCarthy, part Nixon, and part feces. I highly recommend this to those interested in this specific period of US history, as well as readers who enjoy well-written biographies. I think that even those on the far right who might still find some redeeming quality in McCarthy will find enough here to keep them reading, though beware, at almost 500 pages it is far longer than the Dr Suess books you're used to. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ed Barton

    Joseph McCarthy polarized a generation, and there are many who see parallels in our time. Tye's book is exceptionally well written and provides a balanced view of the late senator's life and controversies surrounding the rise and fall of McCarthyism in the 1950's. From humble beginnings to dominating the news to obscurity and death all within 48 years, McCarthy is a paradox in his humanity, faith and amicability on one hand and his cruelty, lies and deceit on the other. A worth while and enterta Joseph McCarthy polarized a generation, and there are many who see parallels in our time. Tye's book is exceptionally well written and provides a balanced view of the late senator's life and controversies surrounding the rise and fall of McCarthyism in the 1950's. From humble beginnings to dominating the news to obscurity and death all within 48 years, McCarthy is a paradox in his humanity, faith and amicability on one hand and his cruelty, lies and deceit on the other. A worth while and entertaining read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    This portrait of Senator Joe McCarthy is thorough, enlightening, and dramatic, as Tye manages to capture every contradiction, organize every inconsistency, and showcase every parallel to modern politics. A perfect fit for those who want to understand today by studying yesterday. This was an ARC from Library Journal's Day of Dialogue in Boston, where Tye graciously signed my book with a broken arm, generously sharing stories of his research with all of us.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    A Foreshadowing of Donald Trump Consider some of the tactics of Joseph McCarthy in this well-written biography by Larry Tye: o Scapegoat and belittle your opponent with little restraint and few solutions. (This was the winning formula for McCarthy when he won his Senate race against respected incumbent Robert La Follette, heir to a Wisconsin political dynasty. It continued to serve him well as he rose to national prominence.)
 o Smear targets for their opinions rather than their behavior, and move A Foreshadowing of Donald Trump Consider some of the tactics of Joseph McCarthy in this well-written biography by Larry Tye: o Scapegoat and belittle your opponent with little restraint and few solutions. (This was the winning formula for McCarthy when he won his Senate race against respected incumbent Robert La Follette, heir to a Wisconsin political dynasty. It continued to serve him well as he rose to national prominence.)
 o Smear targets for their opinions rather than their behavior, and move on to the next target before it can be shown that “the mud doesn’t stick.”
 o Give reporters something juicy that will make their story front page news, however invented and outrageous the allegation of the moment. (To be seen as detached and neutral, reporters became stenographers, echoing McCarthy’s rants.)
 o Stoke public fear, in this case of Communism, and sow distrust of East Coast elites.
 o Find energy through rallies that are all about Commies all the time. Wave a stack of papers, “I have in my hand the proof.” Brandish but don’t reveal. (Mass gatherings of supporters reached a fever pitch as McCarthy was about to be censured by his fellow Senators.)
 In an eerie echo of what Donald Trump claimed about his own hard core supporters, pollster Gallup wrote in 1954, “Even if it was known [by his base] that McCarthy had killed five innocent children, they would probably still go along with him.” (In the Gallup poll, 50% of Americans had a favorable opinion of McCarthy, 29% an unfavorable opinion, and 21% had no opinion.)
 Seeing McCarthy’s power, his fellow Republicans were wary of challenging him. Ike comes in for particular criticism by author Tye for not taking on McCarthy even as he pressed his subordinates and those in the Senate to be tough. “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft rationalized McCarthy as he deplored his methods. McCarthy’s story is also connected to Donald Trump through Roy Cohn, an attorney who was then only in his 20s and who became McCarthy’s protege and chief counsel. Years later, Cohn represented Donald Trump as a defendant in a housing discrimination suit. Cohn then became a major advisor to Donald Trump, teaching him always to stonewall a lawsuit until the opponent tired and to use attack as a principal means of defense. Best known among McCarthy’s victims were prominent celebrity names, including the Hollywood Ten (Ring Lardner and Dalton Trumbull among others) who were blacklisted. For years they and many others, if they got jobs at all, did so under pseudonyms. Less known, but very damaging, was the effect on the State Department and American foreign policy. Experienced career professionals were forced to resign. Especially affected were China experts who were accused of “losing China” despite the fact that they were innocent of collaboration and were the best placed to help advise on a China policy in the interest of America after the Communists under Mao seized power. McCarthy’s downfall came about in a number of ways. McCarthy overstepped himself when he transitioned from attacking the State Department, with which few ordinary Americans could identify, and began to attack the U.S. Army. In 1954 most voters had proudly served in World War II or had close relatives who were veterans. They were proud of their service, and when McCarthy began to attack George Marshall and other Army leaders, his popularity, which had stood at 50% before the Army-McCarthy hearings, quickly dropped to 34%. But not least of causes of McCarthy’s downfall were his alcoholism and lack of focus. “Joe’s complete disorganization was obvious to anyone who attended his hearings…and became clearer still if you pored through his professional and personal papers,” writes Tye. After the Senate’s censure, McCarthy’s influence declined, his health problems mounted, and he died at age 48. Will Donald Trump follow a similar arc? Years ago, Republicans were equally fearful of attacking a figure that had so much Republican support. But McCarthy was only a U.S. Senator, not the President. Discredited, he lost influence as a coattail upon which Republican candidates could ride. By attacking the U.S. Army, in an era when it enjoyed widespread citizen respect, he went a step too far. He had neither the Bloody Pulpit of the presidency nor the ability to make Cabinet and other appointments as does Trump. McCarthy’s rise out of nowhere led to an equally sudden crash and burn. We’ll see if history repeats itself. In the meantime, author Larry Tye has written an engaging and pertinent biography of a demagogue who threatened American institutions and who was only constrained with difficulty.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) When it comes to someone like Joe McCarthy, it is hard to find an unbiased account of his life. With good reason, his name is synonymous with some of the worst in politics. However, Larry Tye manages to do about as effective a job as can be managed. He covers all aspects of his life, noting his humble origins and what drove him to the path his life would take. McCarthy was driven to success, and little would stand in the way of his goals. He could be charismatic, hard-working, and di (Audiobook) When it comes to someone like Joe McCarthy, it is hard to find an unbiased account of his life. With good reason, his name is synonymous with some of the worst in politics. However, Larry Tye manages to do about as effective a job as can be managed. He covers all aspects of his life, noting his humble origins and what drove him to the path his life would take. McCarthy was driven to success, and little would stand in the way of his goals. He could be charismatic, hard-working, and diligent in his aims. Yet, he was also a braggart, had no qualms about bending the rules or laws for his own aims, and had no real sense of empathy. He was a political animal, one who was out for the headlines and glory. He would come to find it, perhaps in the worst ways possible. Tye does try to dispel a number of rumors about McCarthy. While he did exploit his military service, his service was legitimate in the South Pacific. McCarthy was not gay, even if some of his closest associates, such as Roy Cohen, were. However, Tye does not sugar coat the failings and impact of McCarthy's actions. Even long after the fact, survivors and their descendants still harbor scars from his actions. Yet, McCarthy could not comprehend the damage his actions did. That cognitive dissonances, where he could slam one person one minute and then be warm and friendly the next, was perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his political life. Eventually, his poor health and the impact of being shamed lead to his early death. While he did find a few people with communist ties in lower tier positions and did get many government offices to revise their security procedures, his condemnation in history is warranted. He used lies, innuendo, violated constitutional and legal rights to wreck lives, ending careers and driving other to suicide. That is actions could and should have been stopped before they got out of hand is evident in hind-sight, but McCarthy tapped into a populace concerned and wary of the new world order and exploiting the fear of communism led him to his rise. The backlash from the establishment and the revelation of his failings led to his quick descent. Tye work is great for historical perspective, revealing the man behind the myth. Yet, a current analysis of McCarthy is even more relevant. His tactics and actions have parallels to modern political activity. That one of his protegees was Roy Cohen, who would mentor the current president, Donald Trump, is a key point of the work, and a major point of concern for the author. The audiobook was solid, but the rating would be the same regardless of the format. Worth the time to learn how a demagogue can rise and fall, and what their impacts can have for others.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Excellent biography of Joe McCarthy by Larry Tye. Well researched (as far as I can tell), with access to resources not previously tapped. Well-written, in that it was accessible and readable, unlike some biographies which are so dense as to be indigestible. But also supremely depressing. He writes that the demagoguery of McCarthy will always be with us, continually recycling, sometimes diving below the surface, only to reappear periodically. He mentions Andrew Jackson, Huey Long and others as ex Excellent biography of Joe McCarthy by Larry Tye. Well researched (as far as I can tell), with access to resources not previously tapped. Well-written, in that it was accessible and readable, unlike some biographies which are so dense as to be indigestible. But also supremely depressing. He writes that the demagoguery of McCarthy will always be with us, continually recycling, sometimes diving below the surface, only to reappear periodically. He mentions Andrew Jackson, Huey Long and others as examples of the type, and of course our 21st century version, Donald Trump. He leaves us with the solace that while these demagogues rise fast, they fall even faster. But he does not suggest any way to prevent their rise in the first place. (but then, is it the job of a biography to do that?) Very well worth reading. The parallels between McCarthy and Trump are numerous and unsettling: • First and foremost, find an enemy, "the other" and continually abuse them • Understand the news cycles, and deliver un-verifiable lies just in time for publication • Make up or exaggerate stories to suit your narrative, and when caught out in a lie, move on to the next lie • Coopt the "hatred of elites" that a percentage of America has • Ditto the anti-intellectual wave that periodically surfaces • Ignore all norms of political reasonable behavior • Raise money any way you can, hide its sources • Delay and obfuscate all legal searches of your behavior • Defend Nazi / Russian soldiers who killed American GIs. • Assault the Voice of America • Destabilize morale in the civil service, especially the State Department • Frighten the members of your own party so they won't fight you, even when they disagree with you

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    Fromt1950 to 1954 McCarthy inspired by early cold war paranoia ruined lives, blackballed people and went on a demagogic campaign riding a red scare to popularity and power. America has had many political scares and many scumbucket politicians to stoke the fears and demonize an enemy. McCarthy wasn't the first and he wasn't the last. Of course, the right is much better at this stuff in the USA than the left usually because it has rich friends hence the biggest microphone. I look at the second red Fromt1950 to 1954 McCarthy inspired by early cold war paranoia ruined lives, blackballed people and went on a demagogic campaign riding a red scare to popularity and power. America has had many political scares and many scumbucket politicians to stoke the fears and demonize an enemy. McCarthy wasn't the first and he wasn't the last. Of course, the right is much better at this stuff in the USA than the left usually because it has rich friends hence the biggest microphone. I look at the second red scare as the first tentative push back of the left after the new deal, a foundation of anticommunism that would serve it well as a base throughout the cold war and long after to rollback any progress especially on the labor and inequality front. McCarthy was excessive, a bully and liar but the campaign continued by the right sometimes with some responsibility but very often not. McCarthy is a bogeyman of going to far but the same demons in the body politic he summoned are still active today.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob Lund

    *** DNF *** I just couldn't get through this one. It's typically right up my alley: political demagogues, corruption, sex scandals, etc. But the book's length is enormous, plus it's curiously very dry. Yet, just under halfway through, I was flabbergasted at the similarities between Trump and McCarty: his assault on the media, his circus-like chaotic crusade, his reckless private behavior, his lack of a moral compass, his denigration of his enemies and friends alike, his apathy with truth. Like our *** DNF *** I just couldn't get through this one. It's typically right up my alley: political demagogues, corruption, sex scandals, etc. But the book's length is enormous, plus it's curiously very dry. Yet, just under halfway through, I was flabbergasted at the similarities between Trump and McCarty: his assault on the media, his circus-like chaotic crusade, his reckless private behavior, his lack of a moral compass, his denigration of his enemies and friends alike, his apathy with truth. Like our current worldwide pandemic and the H1N1 outbreak of 1918, McCarthy's brand of political upheaval is nothing new. Let us learn from history now!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill Baar

    I learned a few things about McCarthy. I didn't realize Robert Kennedy worked so closely with him and was a friend. Tye would have written a better book had he let McCarthy's story speak more for itself and avoided weaving in theories about traditions of American Populist Demagoguery from Jackson, Long, Wallace, to Trump. Another second book on Populism and Demagoguery would have served Tye better especially if he better defined things and made a case for why the subjects connect. Including them I learned a few things about McCarthy. I didn't realize Robert Kennedy worked so closely with him and was a friend. Tye would have written a better book had he let McCarthy's story speak more for itself and avoided weaving in theories about traditions of American Populist Demagoguery from Jackson, Long, Wallace, to Trump. Another second book on Populism and Demagoguery would have served Tye better especially if he better defined things and made a case for why the subjects connect. Including them in this one just creates paragraphs I sped through writing them off as moments of Tye with too much Trump on his mind.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I really enjoyed this book, while I had at first had my doubts because Joe McCarthy, the subject, is a horrible person. The author has produced a "definitive" biography, as the marketing blurb says. It covers in great detail every element of McCarthy's life, and deeply documented from a variety sources, including personal interviews, contemporary magazines and newspapers, and a trove of recently released material from McCarthy himself. I liked it far more than I expected, and felt compelled to ke I really enjoyed this book, while I had at first had my doubts because Joe McCarthy, the subject, is a horrible person. The author has produced a "definitive" biography, as the marketing blurb says. It covers in great detail every element of McCarthy's life, and deeply documented from a variety sources, including personal interviews, contemporary magazines and newspapers, and a trove of recently released material from McCarthy himself. I liked it far more than I expected, and felt compelled to keep reading because there was always a question of what new outrage McCarthy might commit. Another element of the book that works well is that the author touches on the notion of bullies being part of the American political landscape. McCarthy, of course, is one of the most notable bullies in our history. Other bullies are briefly discussed throughout. I felt the balance of this these was right, and not too overwhelming. Some advice. The main text is is about 500 pages long, and there's roughly 100 additional pages of sources. If you're looking for a quick read or an overview, this may not be the book you are looking for.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Ferriter

    ** 4 stars ** This was a thorough and excellently-researched biography of Senator Joseph McCarthy of the "Red Scare" and McCarthyism fame. The book details McCarthy's humble beginnings as one of seven children in an Irish-Catholic farming family in Grand Chute, WI, his service in the Marines during WWII, and his early bids for political power prior to becoming an elected U.S. Senator from Wisconsin in 1948. Fun fact: McCarthy actually started out as a New Deal Democrat before becoming a Republica ** 4 stars ** This was a thorough and excellently-researched biography of Senator Joseph McCarthy of the "Red Scare" and McCarthyism fame. The book details McCarthy's humble beginnings as one of seven children in an Irish-Catholic farming family in Grand Chute, WI, his service in the Marines during WWII, and his early bids for political power prior to becoming an elected U.S. Senator from Wisconsin in 1948. Fun fact: McCarthy actually started out as a New Deal Democrat before becoming a Republican (he learned that being a Democrat was less likely to get him elected in Wisconsin). One thing that is clear from McCarthy's early life and career prior to becoming a senator as biographer Larry Tye portrays him is that McCarthy was always on the lookout for the next big thing. He comes across as quite Machiavellian in nature, willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold on to political power. He didn't have an ultimate consuming vision that he attempted to bring to fruition, just one power grab after another (which, in a way, makes American fascination with and support of him all the more terrifying). As a junior senator in 1950, McCarthy gave a now-infamous speech during a Lincoln Day dinner in Wheeling, WV that launched his political career as a Communist witch hunter (or anti-Communist crusader, if you prefer), claiming that he held in his hand a list of 205 names of people who worked in the State Department with known ties to Communism. There was no list, the speech was all rhetorical bluster and showmanship designed to whip the audience into an emotional frenzy. But McCarthy had capitalized on an issue that had Americans very nervous given the early days of the Cold War and the highly public cases of accused Communist spies Alger Hiss in 1948 and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951. Thus began his short reign of terror as the most well-known anti-Communist in the United States (perhaps even in the world). For about 18 months (Jan 1953-June 1954), McCarthy was chair of a Senate subcommittee that investigated individuals with alleged Communist ties. During this time, working with his right-hand man Roy Cohn and assistant G. David Schine, McCarthy called 546 witnesses, held 445 preliminary inquiries, and 157 investigations, ruining dozens of lives and many more people's career prospects with his unfounded claims, rhetorical bullying, and invocation of the phrase "Fifth Amendment Communist." He was finally brought down by the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in spring 1954 and officially censured and condemned by his colleagues in the Senate in Sept 1954. After this public downfall and loss of power, McCarthy became more and more reliant on alcohol and became withdrawn and depressed, dying in May 1957 at age 48 of severe alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens. While some parts of this book were slower-going and I wished Tye had written in a more narrative style, I learned SO MUCH about McCarthy and found the book fairly engaging overall. There are also extensive footnotes throughout the text that give the reader even more information about McCarthy, including explanations of some sources that are at odds with one another. Tye was the first person granted access to McCarthy's personal papers, archived at his alma mater Marquette University; McCarthy's widow Jean Kerr donated these papers to Marquette under the condition that they were sealed for 50 years, which became open in 2017. Tye makes good use of these archival records, particularly in a chapter on McCarthy, Cohn, and Schine's closed-door investigations. Although the size and heft of the book is somewhat daunting, it is not quite as long as it seems. From about page 485 to the end of the book consists entirely of notes, an extensive bibliography, and the book's index. I would recommend this book if you want to learn more about McCarthyism, the Red Scare, anti-Communist fervor in the United States, or how demagogues think and act. Tye draws parallels in the introduction and epilogue between McCarthy and Donald Trump, giving us reason to hope that, as with most demagogues, Trump (like McCarthy before him) will eventually be the maker of his own undoing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Larry Tye, author of biographies ranging from Bobby Kennedy to Satchel Paige to Superman (yup), wrote "Demagogue," his biography of Joe McCarthy, after gaining access to a trove of previously unreleased documents, medical records, personal notes, and other insider reflections on perhaps America's most polarizing 20th century figure. The result, "Demagogue," is a deep dive into the life of a confounding man and the persistent American trait of finding such horrible men so compelling. In most respe Larry Tye, author of biographies ranging from Bobby Kennedy to Satchel Paige to Superman (yup), wrote "Demagogue," his biography of Joe McCarthy, after gaining access to a trove of previously unreleased documents, medical records, personal notes, and other insider reflections on perhaps America's most polarizing 20th century figure. The result, "Demagogue," is a deep dive into the life of a confounding man and the persistent American trait of finding such horrible men so compelling. In most respects, Joe McCarthy is unique. A puncher from the hardscrabble farmland of Wisconsin, McCarthy came from virtually nowhere to become a United States Senator in his late 30s and who insisted on "peeing in the punch bowl" at the Senate. He did this by unleashing the most sinister of witch hunts, searching for Communists across the American government. A true bully, he went after the little guy using merciless, underhanded tactics and a staggering amount of hypocrisy. Utilizing aggressive staff - including both Bobby Kennedy and future Donald Trump mentor Roy Cohn - McCarthy used innuendo, dishonesty, and a widespread anti-Communist mania to destroy lives and create the movement that now bears his name . . . and is synonymous with American shame. And he did all this before the age of fifty, while battling a range of debilitating health issues and raging alcoholism that eventually killed him. Tye also puts McCarthy in a surprising line of American demagogues, including Huey Long of Louisiana and Father Coughlin from Michigan, who successfully played on American fears to become national figures. Those extend to our current President, who has learned some of the more obvious lessons from McCarthy's rise to national prominence. Tye doesn't spend too much time drawing the parallels between McCarthy and President Trump, but he doesn't need to - you don't need to underline the connections between Senator McCarthy, who rose to national prominence through sweeping, reckless allegations of Communism and Trump and his sweeping indictments of "the Deep State" and birtherism. Senator McCarthy eventually got his comeuppance after accusing the U.S. Army and its leadership of harboring Communists. As of the date of this writing, it appears that President Trump is about to get an electoral comeuppance from Joe Biden. Only time will tell if that parallel holds true. "Demagogue" is a scary tale that shows how easily one man could blast into national prominence by playing on the darkest fears of his fellow Americans. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is a biography of Joe McCarthy, a senator from the state of Wisconsin. Larry Tye is an American non-fiction author and journalist known for his biographies of notable Americans wrote this biography. Joseph Raymond McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in the Unite Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is a biography of Joe McCarthy, a senator from the state of Wisconsin. Larry Tye is an American non-fiction author and journalist known for his biographies of notable Americans wrote this biography. Joseph Raymond McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread communist subversion. In this lengthy biography, Tye looks to correct misconceptions large and small, including what actually took place behind closed doors of the 1953–1954 Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and how McCarthy could be incongruously generous to those he had just publicly upbraided. Analyzing the origins of McCarthyism, Tye describes McCarthy's last-minute decision in 1950 to substitute a talk on housing policy for a speech alleging communist infiltration of the U.S. state department, and President Truman’s 1947 Loyalty Order, which mandated checks on nearly five million federal employees and applicants and identified 299 subversive organizations, including the Jewish Culture Society. The book's most provocative sections, including a posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder and a roundup of claims that noted homophobe McCarthy was gay, add color but lack definitive proof of these theories. Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is written and research rather well. Drawing from a previously unavailable archive of McCarthy's unscripted writings and correspondence, Tye wrote this sure-handed account of the rise and fall of the Wisconsin senator. Though Tye occasionally veers into minutiae, he maintains a brisk pace throughout. The result is a searing and informative portrait of the man and his specific brand of self-aggrandizing demagoguery. All in all, Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is a timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

    While I knew some things about the McCarthy era, it was only a gloss, with a lot of my notions set by "The Crucible" and "Goodnight and Good Luck". Larry Tye's excellent book gives a lot more depth on the events of the time, as well as a complex, sensitive portrayal of McCarthy himself. I found myself struck by several things. First, that the era of McCarthy's witch hunts was so short, being just a few years. Second, I understand much better just how supine and spineless so many were in the face While I knew some things about the McCarthy era, it was only a gloss, with a lot of my notions set by "The Crucible" and "Goodnight and Good Luck". Larry Tye's excellent book gives a lot more depth on the events of the time, as well as a complex, sensitive portrayal of McCarthy himself. I found myself struck by several things. First, that the era of McCarthy's witch hunts was so short, being just a few years. Second, I understand much better just how supine and spineless so many were in the face of McCarthy's accusations. Third, I knew that McCarthy made up a lot, but I had little idea that he just flagrantly made up virtually every accusation he hurled. (Sounds familiar, here in 2020.) Fourth, and most saliently, I was amazed to find myself actually feeling sorry for McCarthy. He was a tiny, sad, empty shell of a man. He had no real strategy. He had no real purpose. He craved and needed attention, and he found a way to get it. When deprived of it, he collapsed in on himself like a sullen child and proceeded to drink himself to death. He was a monster, of course, and he utterly destroyed innumerable lives while vastly reducing the ideological range of American politics, but he was like a sickly mouse standing in front of a floodlight, its shadow cast against a wall suggestive of a creature far larger and threatening. A final take away was just integral Roy Cohn was to McCarthy's reign of terror. A vicious, relentless, utterly amoral knife-fighter, McCarthy came down in part because Cohn was playing the part of an external id, pushing him on with his worst impulses. It makes the fact that Cohn was Trump's mentor all the more terrifying. Indeed, I was surprised, and sadly so, just how much Trump re-capitulates McCarthy, being the farce to that tragedy. This is a book many need to read so that they can understand the current moment better.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    Larry Tye gained access to a trove of never released historical documents from Marquette University to complete his painstaking research and pen his newest biography. His research pays huge dividends in this exhaustive look into life of Joe McCarthy. It gives us a full and nuanced picture of a man that has fomented controversy for more than a century and in its presentation enables us to see how easily democratic institutions can fall under the sway of a demagogue and wannabe autocrat. The highl Larry Tye gained access to a trove of never released historical documents from Marquette University to complete his painstaking research and pen his newest biography. His research pays huge dividends in this exhaustive look into life of Joe McCarthy. It gives us a full and nuanced picture of a man that has fomented controversy for more than a century and in its presentation enables us to see how easily democratic institutions can fall under the sway of a demagogue and wannabe autocrat. The highlights of McCarthy's Senate reign are known to most Americans but what Tye provides is a great deal of detail and context in which those events took place. Most interesting to me was the level of complicity by much of the media covering his "shows" and the pragmatism and cowardice of the the Republican senators that supported his demagoguery. Until the end, even the president failed to speak out directly against McCarthy's populist terrorism. Tye also draws interesting parallels to demagogues past and present, including Trump. While these pieces could have become a partisan distraction they were instead brief and incisive, showing the differences as well as the similarities between the two. This was a very comprehensive and compelling read and, although the writing was occasionally tedious, it stands as a remarkable achievement deserving of a recommendation

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    McCarthy had very little interest in the truth. He craved power and attention above all else. Just like today, the media and a loyal base gave it to him. The bigger the lie the better headlines. His Republican party colleagues looked the other way time and time again because he was a good fund raiser and because they saw that it was good politics to be in the red baiting game. The Democrats were too scared to stand up for fear that they would look soft on communism. You could easily swap the nam McCarthy had very little interest in the truth. He craved power and attention above all else. Just like today, the media and a loyal base gave it to him. The bigger the lie the better headlines. His Republican party colleagues looked the other way time and time again because he was a good fund raiser and because they saw that it was good politics to be in the red baiting game. The Democrats were too scared to stand up for fear that they would look soft on communism. You could easily swap the names and policy issues around and you would think you were in 2016. I am certainly not the first person to point out the similarities between Senator Joe McCarthy and Donald Trump, but after reading this book I can clearly see the parallels. It is no coincidence therefore that one of Donald Trump's early mentors (they would meet up to five times a day) was Roy Cohn, who was Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel. The book does drag quite a bit when cataloging all the hearings. They are important context, but could easily be slimmed down to make for better reading during the second half. Still, an interesting book and one that gives me a better understanding of a fascinating and unpleasant era in American politics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Edwards

    A great audio book (4 stars), with a lot of new information from archives that were previously inaccessible. I actually ended-up feeling somewhat sorry for the man, whose life seemed to be built on taking shortcuts, especially when it came to fame. While far from blameless for the lives he derailed on account of his false accusations, Roy Cohen really stands out as an unrepentant a-hole, and future adviser to Trump. It amazes me how many Americans (a full 50%) fell under the spell of this Charla A great audio book (4 stars), with a lot of new information from archives that were previously inaccessible. I actually ended-up feeling somewhat sorry for the man, whose life seemed to be built on taking shortcuts, especially when it came to fame. While far from blameless for the lives he derailed on account of his false accusations, Roy Cohen really stands out as an unrepentant a-hole, and future adviser to Trump. It amazes me how many Americans (a full 50%) fell under the spell of this Charlatan, in the same way that we're seeing it today (the author manages to steer clear of the obvious comparisons until the Epilogue). Joe actually hated the term "McCarthyism," but its unfortunately lived on, with a life of its own. It's interesting to note that it was only a year after his death that the John Birch Society was founded, as was the ultra right-wing "National Review," by one of his disciples - William F. Buckley, Jr. All-in-all a very good read (listen), and recounting of one of the darkest periods of modern American history - highly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    It’s no surprise to learn in this biography that Joe McCarthy was a drunk, a habitual liar, a philanderer and a backstabber, and that those were mostly his good qualities. What’s more surprising in Demagogue is its explanation of what the reaction was in the media and in society at the time when he whipped up his infamous red scare into its highest froth. There were a lot of people who contemporaneously saw him for the sham that he was and that’s the most revealing and interesting aspect of this It’s no surprise to learn in this biography that Joe McCarthy was a drunk, a habitual liar, a philanderer and a backstabber, and that those were mostly his good qualities. What’s more surprising in Demagogue is its explanation of what the reaction was in the media and in society at the time when he whipped up his infamous red scare into its highest froth. There were a lot of people who contemporaneously saw him for the sham that he was and that’s the most revealing and interesting aspect of this as previously didn’t realize that there was any pushback or voices of resistance to him at the time. The book also serves as a reminder that this is really where the essence where the modern republican party was forged. The New Yorker review for this wrote that the author overstated their case in having access to McCarthy’s records and that these have been widely available since the early 90’s. This might be the case, but the author did create a very full portrait of the man and his era.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Woodstock Pickett

    Interesting read. Exhaustively researched, with a 50 page bibliography. And one or two observations by the author stood out for me, when I consider the headlines of the past four years. Journalism, in attempting simply to cover various public appearances and speeches of Sen McCarthy succeeded in giving him a wide audience. It's not an easy question to ponder - to consider the role of the press in reporting on controversial personalities and controversial activities. Secondly, a great many persons Interesting read. Exhaustively researched, with a 50 page bibliography. And one or two observations by the author stood out for me, when I consider the headlines of the past four years. Journalism, in attempting simply to cover various public appearances and speeches of Sen McCarthy succeeded in giving him a wide audience. It's not an easy question to ponder - to consider the role of the press in reporting on controversial personalities and controversial activities. Secondly, a great many persons, both in the public eye and in private; in governmental service and in the private sector, who disagreed with McCarthy and disapproved of his techniques in his various Senate committee hearings, did very little to express their discomfort. One has to wonder, without widespread reporting and lacking any real push back, what would McCarthy's career have been like?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Atkins

    I've read a couple of books by Larry Tye, Superman and Satchel, and find him to be a very good researcher. He writes in a very readable style and is able to convey historical information in an interesting format. I learned quite a bit about McCarthy from reading this book. The Kennedys had an interesting relationship with him, and Robert Kennedy was actually on his staff for a while. I was disappointed that Tye really did not cover, or mention, the lasting effect McCarthy had on several prominen I've read a couple of books by Larry Tye, Superman and Satchel, and find him to be a very good researcher. He writes in a very readable style and is able to convey historical information in an interesting format. I learned quite a bit about McCarthy from reading this book. The Kennedys had an interesting relationship with him, and Robert Kennedy was actually on his staff for a while. I was disappointed that Tye really did not cover, or mention, the lasting effect McCarthy had on several prominent people in Hollywood. Tye covers McCarthy's personal and political life, giving details that, before this book, many likely were unaware of. My one disappointment with the book is that (it seemed to me at least) that Tye constantly gave McCarthy more of a break than he deserved.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    My grandmother often talked about Senator Joe McCarthy and how awful he was. With that background I found my interest piqued when I heard author, Larry Tye, interviewed on NPR. Demagogue, The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is a very long book (500 pgs.). So I chose to listen to the audiobook and was enthralled as I puttered around the house and yard working on various projects. Mr. Tye draws some comparisons between Senator McCarthy and President Trump. He also points out how many My grandmother often talked about Senator Joe McCarthy and how awful he was. With that background I found my interest piqued when I heard author, Larry Tye, interviewed on NPR. Demagogue, The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy is a very long book (500 pgs.). So I chose to listen to the audiobook and was enthralled as I puttered around the house and yard working on various projects. Mr. Tye draws some comparisons between Senator McCarthy and President Trump. He also points out how many politicians and reporters of the time behaved towards the Senator. Although repetitive at times, I found Demagogue to be an informative listen.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carl Upthegrove

    This is an excellent read. It's a very important topic dealt with in a balanced manner. The author doesn't shirk his responsibility to make the damage McCarthy clear but he also does not ignore the senator strong points. The book also devotes ample coverage to those who wittingly and unwittingly enabled McCarthy. The authors knows how topical this subject is in 2020 with another demagogue, Donald Trump, in the White House and he touches lightly on a comparison of the two during the book and at t This is an excellent read. It's a very important topic dealt with in a balanced manner. The author doesn't shirk his responsibility to make the damage McCarthy clear but he also does not ignore the senator strong points. The book also devotes ample coverage to those who wittingly and unwittingly enabled McCarthy. The authors knows how topical this subject is in 2020 with another demagogue, Donald Trump, in the White House and he touches lightly on a comparison of the two during the book and at the end. Highly Recommend this to those interested in History, Political Science and the subject of demagoguery.

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