Review

Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

by Ann Coulter


When we launched Bookreporter.com seven years ago, we decided not to publish negative reviews. It wasn't that bitchiness was beyond us --- we are New Yorkers, it comes with the territory. Our thought was that life is just too short to focus on books that, sadly, aren't worth reading. Better to praise the worthy, better to help the wrongly ignored.

But every once in a while, a book comes along that is so ugly --- so jammed with mean-spiritedness, so wrong on the facts, so blatantly designed to add more hate to a planet desperate for love and understanding --- that we must set aside our high-minded approach and write something that might look to some like a "negative review." It is nothing of the kind. It is, very simply, a Consumer Warning.

TREASON, by Ann Coulter, is such a book.

In this instant bestseller, Coulter asserts that there are people called "liberals", and they are all traitors whose greatest hope is that the Stalins and Saddams and Osamas kick American butt. This is nonsense. Indeed, as anyone who lives in the real world knows, it has to be nonsense because there are no "liberals," not in the cartoon-like way Coulter conjures them --- as single-cell organisms obsessed with fulfilling a single-minded goal. No such creatures exist, just as there are no "conservatives." You just can't successfully navigate a day with a narrow-bore view of the universe.

But when it comes to media, common sense be damned. If you insist on a cartoon vision of the world, you can be quite successful these days --- if, that is, you're interested in being praised by the vast American "conservative" audience. The recipe? Simple. Just get with The Program.

I do not say this as one of those "liberals" who hates "conservatives." When I was Editorial Director of AOL, in fact, the first person I hired --- the very first --- was the openly conservative Matt Drudge. Why? Because I like smart people who are interesting and provocative. And some conservatives are very smart. And then again, many of them --- like many people who'd describe themselves as liberals --- are just plain stupid. That is why Fox News is so successful. It plays to the stupids, and it's always right, and it tells you that if you pay close attention and repeat what they tell you, you can be right too. That's very consoling in a complex world where even a great work ethic and superior intelligence can't guarantee you a job.

Coulter is the Queen Bee of this currently fashionable black-or-white style. For her there is absolute truth (conservative Republicans) and demonic wrong (liberal Democrats). It's not surprising that she's zooming up the bestseller list --- she's got a great act. She tosses her long blonde hair on talk shows, screams louder than the liberals who are trying to get a word in, and people cheer. And she's kind of funny, in a vulgar way you don't expect from someone who's got Cornell University, the University of Michigan Law School, and the U.S. Department of Justice on her resume. (Sample: Asked on ABC's The View if she had ever seen two women having sex, she replied, "Not since Katie Couric interviewed Hillary Clinton.")

The problem is when Coulter gets serious. Then she gets crazy. I don't mean crazy like Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live. I mean crazy as in weird, off-the-wall, borderline wacko. Consider: Almost half of her book is an attempt to portray Sen. Joseph McCarthy --- one of the greatest demagogues since, say, Hitler --- as a misunderstood patriot. Why don't you know that he was a Great Man? Because Democrats have warped your minds with their treasonous lies. And because the media --- all owned by Democrats, it would appear --- have orchestrated a 50-year cover-up.

Others have taken this crackpot argument apart --- some of them conservatives who find Coulter an embarrassment to their cause. (For sustained anti-Coulter screeds, look at Andrew Sullivan and Dorothy Rabinowitz and Spinsanity). So I'll take just a brief moment to address the level of accuracy in her reporting.

Coulter writes: "To hear them [liberals] tell it, in the forties and fifties, anyone who read the Village Voice was liable to be hauled before a congressional Star Chamber and forced to "name names" --- presumably of other Village Voice subscribers." Well, no. First, after Sen. McCarthy was censured by the Senate in 1954, his career was pretty much over. No one was being hauled into Congress on a Commie witchhunt after that. And then there is another factual problem: The Village Voice wasn't launched until 1955 --- long after McCarthy's crusade was ashes.

So not only is the animating thought of that sentence false, every single word of it is wrong. My question: Did Coulter know that when she wrote the sentence? Is her blizzard of footnotes an honest effort to document her sources --- or a way to blind readers to bogus assertions like this? Does she care when she makes a mistake? Or would she shake her hair and offer up her standard explanation for all criticism of her work: Just one more liberal effort to discredit her.

But to take her writing as a serious effort to re-examine our political history is to miss the point. In the same way, it misses the point to wonder if Coulter really believes what she writes or is just cashing on the least compassionate brand of conservatism since Joe McCarthy started randomly wrecking lives of civil servants. All that gives her too much credit. For me, this is the only interesting question about Ann Coulter: Is she mentally ill?

I mean, does anyone outside of a right-wing militia seriously believe "liberals side with the enemy," that "sedition always held a strange attraction for Ivy League types with three names," that Harvard Law is "not exactly an unheard-of training ground for Communists"? The Democrats "lost" Vietnam? Gee, I thought Nixon was President. Watergate as "the left's final revenge"? Even Nixon didn't believe that --- and he was a professional paranoid. Needless to say, Coulter's certainty extends into contemporary events: She knows for dead certain --- as our government no longer seems determined to prove --- that Saddam was developing nukes to hand over to al-Qaeda.

It's not just ideas and events that send her over the top. People do too, especially in their oh-so-telling personal characteristics. "College dropout Michael Moore" --- that's a charge she likes so much she repeats it. Dennis Kucinch is a "strange-looking little man." Norman Mailer's "last successful novel was written fifty-four years ago." And Coulter is no friend to women --- she wishes liberals would "pipe down a little the next time 'our' fighting boys are caught pinching a few giggling drunks at Tailhook." Maureen Dowd? She's "still angry with men like Bush because she wasn't invited to the prom."

But where Coulter really drops all pretense that the thesis of her book has any basis in rationality is when she finally gets around to telling us who has committed treason. Well, the Democrats, of course --- all of them. Do they have names? Of course not -- Coulter's not about to libel anyone still living (which is one reason she spends so much time slagging the long-deceased "traitors" and "Communists" unearthed by Joe McCarthy). The best she can come up with: a couple of actors who criticized the war in Iraq. But they're technically innocent --- the war hadn't been launched when they spewed their defeatist venom. Former President Jimmy Carter? That's another story; he criticized the war after it started. So he just might be guilty of treason. Yes, Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

This stuff might be amusing on talk radio. It's rather like Samuel Johnson's remark about a woman preaching or a dog walking on its hind legs --- you don't judge how well it's done, you simply admire that it's done at all. But then you consider the world real people are actually living in, a world in which there is plenty of venality to go around and more than enough misery, hunger, and disease for a dozen universes. And you think how remarkably corrupt it is for an intelligent person to put on an unproductive, divisive sideshow about "liberals" and "treason" in a time of increasing pain.

And then you remember: This woman is no deep thinker, she's not even a revisionist historian. Like her idol, Sen. McCarthy, she's a demagogue who takes pleasure pulling the wings off butterflies and insulting anyone who says a word against her. And you realize that you don't have to rise to the bait, you don't have to engage her and give her the debate she wants --- the debate that's on her terms, the conversation that's all about her.

I say: Ann Coulter is a defective product. Something bad happened to her long ago, and now she's a basket of hurt. She has no idea how to fix herself --- maybe she doesn't even grasp she's troubled. And there's nothing we can do to help her. So turn away. Reject her. If you bought her book, return it. When she appears on TV, change the channel. Because the hate Ann Coulter spews isn't funny. It isn't accurate. It's just hate. And do you really want to support a hater?


If you own a television and turn it on at least occasionally, you've recently seen Ann Coulter all over the place promoting her new book, TREASON. Her promotional tour started on Good Morning America, where she made those assembled appear as if they were auditioning for the main character parts of Act I, Scene I of Macbeth. Coulter was a featured guest on Hannity & Colmes later in the week. Hannity gazed at her in frank but chaste adoration, while Colmes beheld her with a gleam in his eye that appeared to hint that he wished his putty were in her hands. Of course, I might be projecting here. She was also on Hardball, where her responses to a bellicose Chris Matthews improbably rendered him even more incoherent than usual while giving his program's anemic rating a much-needed upward blip, however temporary.

Coulter receives varied reactions like these from various quarters wherever she goes. One need go no further than TREASON to determine why. TREASON is by turns bombastic, argumentative, and insulting. It is an angry book that is tempered with humor, but angry nonetheless. It is also just what the doctor ordered as an anecdote for a revisionist history that continues to be rewritten day by day.

Prior to Coulter, it was supposed to be the duty of conservatives to suffer in silence and patience the slings and arrows of insult as if the receipt of the same was to be their natural lot in life. A book title like STUPID WHITE MEN is to be taken by its targets as merely descriptive; the irony of the ultimate application of that title to the author of that manuscript (the large, hygienically challenged gentleman with the movie camera and the ball cap; I forget his name) was somehow deliberately lost along the way. The title RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, which managed to cram three lies into seven words, was the funniest part of a tome written by a gentleman who is allegedly a humorist, though his work uniformly brings forth a grimace rather than a giggle.

Coulter, however, does not suffer fools gladly; she gives it back from the right and is not polite about it. The term "fighting fire with fire" comes to mind. This has caused some consternation among the self-anointed; it violates the natural order of things. The result is that TREASON has been the target of some negative braying. As a farmer once told me, the biggest hogs squeal the loudest when stuck.

So what does Coulter do in TREASON that has drawn such ire against her? She merely presents an airtight, incontrovertible case demonstrating that liberals in the United States, far from being a noble opposition, consistently and irrevocably come down against America on every conceivable issue; rewrite history in order to do it; and are blithely, deliberately ignorant of their own inconsistencies.

Coulter begins by single-handedly rehabilitating the reputation of Joseph McCarthy, using the words and actions not only of McCarthy but also of his attackers and detractors. History concerning what is called the McCarthy era has been so thoroughly distorted that bringing the public perception back on the reality track would seem to be impossible. And, indeed, it would be, but for something called The Venona Project. If you are unfamiliar with The Venona Project, TREASON provides a good, basic introduction to it. Suffice to say that The Venona Project consisted of the decoding of Soviet espionage messages that were passed to Communist spies working within the United States government, setting policies and subverting the government from within. Both McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers, were both right. There were, in fact, Soviet agents working to subvert the American government from within. Anyone who has ever compared Russian toilet paper unfavorably with Charmin owes those gentlemen a vote of thanks on that basis alone --- and for so much more, too.

But why does Coulter revisit events that took place over 50 years ago? Her reason, as is demonstrated in TREASON, is to show that the methods and reasons for existence of the Left haven't changed. Nixon was not attacked because of Watergate; he was vilified because he successfully attacked subversion in the United States government during the 1950s. Liberals, as Coulter demonstrates, never forgave him for it. Coulter is not an apologist for the Nixon presidency --- she notes, correctly, that conservatives disliked only two things about the Nixon years: his foreign policies and his domestic policies --- but she is quick to give him credit for what he was able to accomplish.

Coulter also revisits the Reagan years, irrefutably demonstrating again and for all time that Ronald Reagan single-handedly pulled the props out from under the Soviet Union at a time when that nation's worldwide expansion seemed inevitable. The Left simultaneously belittles his accomplishment and hates him for it. Where Coulter's genius --- and that is not too strong a term --- is demonstrated is that she totally disrupts and disintegrates the liberal conventional viewpoint with their own words. One would think that this is easy to do; if so, why hasn't it been done before now? Coulter does all of this, and more, and turns the world right side up, all in less than 300 pages.

TREASON, with its companion volumes, HIGH CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS and SLANDER, may be the most important pieces of literature concerning our country and how it works (and why it sometimes does not) that have been recently published. Read, and let the scales fall from your eyes. Highest possible recommendation.

 

 --- Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth


Review II by Joe Hartlaub

If you own a television and turn it on at least occasionally, you've recently seen Ann Coulter all over the place promoting her new book, TREASON. Her promotional tour started on Good Morning America, where she made those assembled appear as if they were auditioning for the main character parts of Act I, Scene I of Macbeth. Coulter was a featured guest onHannity & Colmes later in the week. Hannity gazed at her in frank but chaste adoration, while Colmes beheld her with a gleam in his eye that appeared to hint that he wished his putty were in her hands. Of course, I might be projecting here. She was also on Hardball, where her responses to a bellicose Chris Matthews improbably rendered him even more incoherent than usual while giving his program's anemic rating a much-needed upward blip, however temporary.

Coulter receives varied reactions like these from various quarters wherever she goes. One need go no further than TREASON to determine why. TREASON is by turns bombastic, argumentative, and insulting. It is an angry book that is tempered with humor, but angry nonetheless. It is also just what the doctor ordered as an anecdote for a revisionist history that continues to be rewritten day by day.

Prior to Coulter, it was supposed to be the duty of conservatives to suffer in silence and patience the slings and arrows of insult as if the receipt of the same was to be their natural lot in life. A book title like STUPID WHITE MEN is to be taken by its targets as merely descriptive; the irony of the ultimate application of that title to the author of that manuscript (the large, hygienically challenged gentleman with the movie camera and the ball cap; I forget his name) was somehow deliberately lost along the way. The title RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, which managed to cram three lies into seven words, was the funniest part of a tome written by a gentleman who is allegedly a humorist, though his work uniformly brings forth a grimace rather than a giggle.

Coulter, however, does not suffer fools gladly; she gives it back from the right and is not polite about it. The term "fighting fire with fire" comes to mind. This has caused some consternation among the self-anointed; it violates the natural order of things. The result is that TREASON has been the target of some negative braying. As a farmer once told me, the biggest hogs squeal the loudest when stuck.

So what does Coulter do in TREASON that has drawn such ire against her? She merely presents an airtight, incontrovertible case demonstrating that liberals in the United States, far from being a noble opposition, consistently and irrevocably come down against America on every conceivable issue; rewrite history in order to do it; and are blithely, deliberately ignorant of their own inconsistencies.

Coulter begins by single-handedly rehabilitating the reputation of Joseph McCarthy, using the words and actions not only of McCarthy but also of his attackers and detractors. History concerning what is called the McCarthy era has been so thoroughly distorted that bringing the public perception back on the reality track would seem to be impossible. And, indeed, it would be, but for something called The Venona Project. If you are unfamiliar with The Venona Project, TREASON provides a good, basic introduction to it. Suffice to say that The Venona Project consisted of the decoding of Soviet espionage messages that were passed to Communist spies working within the United States government, setting policies and subverting the government from within. Both McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers, were both right. There were, in fact, Soviet agents working to subvert the American government from within. Anyone who has ever compared Russian toilet paper unfavorably with Charmin owes those gentlemen a vote of thanks on that basis alone --- and for so much more, too.

But why does Coulter revisit events that took place over 50 years ago? Her reason, as is demonstrated in TREASON, is to show that the methods and reasons for existence of the Left haven't changed. Nixon was not attacked because of Watergate; he was vilified because he successfully attacked subversion in the United States government during the 1950s. Liberals, as Coulter demonstrates, never forgave him for it. Coulter is not an apologist for the Nixon presidency --- she notes, correctly, that conservatives disliked only two things about the Nixon years: his foreign policies and his domestic policies --- but she is quick to give him credit for what he was able to accomplish.

Coulter also revisits the Reagan years, irrefutably demonstrating again and for all time that Ronald Reagan single-handedly pulled the props out from under the Soviet Union at a time when that nation's worldwide expansion seemed inevitable. The Left simultaneously belittles his accomplishment and hates him for it. Where Coulter's genius --- and that is not too strong a term --- is demonstrated is that she totally disrupts and disintegrates the liberal conventional viewpoint with their own words. One would think that this is easy to do; if so, why hasn't it been done before now? Coulter does all of this, and more, and turns the world right side up, all in less than 300 pages.

TREASON, with its companion volumes, HIGH CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS and SLANDER, may be the most important pieces of literature concerning our country and how it works (and why it sometimes does not) that have been recently published. Read, and let the scales fall from your eyes. Highest possible recommendation.

   --- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth and Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
by Ann Coulter

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2004
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • ISBN-10: 1400050324
  • ISBN-13: 9781400050321