The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 07, 2003  

Smart-Mouthed Pundit Trashed on the Journal’s Op-Ed Page

How shoddy does a conservative pundit’s writing have to be for the gang at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to give Dorothy Rabinowitz space to tear her to shreds?

Ann Coulter kind of shoddy. And Rabinowitz lets her have it today (“A Conspiracy So Vast,” July 7), focusing hard and fast on Coulter’s ridiculous defense of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy:

You can read all about McCarthy’s downfall, and the alleged dupes and traitors responsible for it, in “Treason,” a new book by Ann Coulter, the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives. It derides McCarthy’s critics and brands the notion of McCarthyism itself as a myth and “the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times.” She also thanks her publisher for his bravery -- a suggestion that it took courage to publish this work. Here we are, only up to the acknowledgments page, and already enjoying a laugh.

For all her vaunted research and expertise, Coulter’s understanding of McCarthy’s role in history is slight, as Rabinowitz clearly demonstrates. And when Coulter isn’t making errors, or separating herself from reality -- “The portrayal of Sen. McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is ‘sheer liberal hobgoblinism,’ Ms. Coulter maintains.” -- she’s grasping at the thinnest of straws:

Ms. Coulter has not just set about rehabilitating McCarthy as a martyr destroyed by anti-American leftists -- she has also set about rehabilitating the most notorious of his cases, the kind dramatized in famous film clips of the period. Cases like that of Annie Lee Moss, a black code clerk who had lost her job at the Pentagon when she was hauled before McCarthy’s committee as a security risk and Communist Party member. She had been confused with a different Annie Lee Moss, the witness explained -- and who Karl Marx was she could not even say. So evident was Ms. Moss’s confusion at what she was doing there that applause erupted in the hearing room when Democratic Sen. Stuart Symington declared he believed her.

But the evidence against Ms. Moss was not insignificant, the author of “Treason” now maintains. The code clerk had said there were two other people called Annie Lee Moss listed in the Washington phone book -- whereas the two others were actually Anna Lee Moss and Annie Moss. Dynamite evidence, as far as Ms. Coulter is concerned -- case closed.

And snarky as any self-respecting blogger, Rabinowitz adds, deservedly, “Yes, a book with everything -- and we don’t forget the classy prose. ‘Needless to say, the scrawny pinko was also a failure as a soldier,’ writes Ms. Coulter, about Peress.” [Ed.: Army Capt. Irving Peress, falsely accused by Sen. McCarthy of being a Communist.]

I’m not an expert about Sen. McCarthy, but there are plenty of them out there, ready to reveal every mistake, every faulty footnote. And if Coulter’s book falls apart in the early chapters, the discussion of the “McCarthy era” that forms the very foundation of her thesis, what’s left? More of the same. And the same, by the way, is getting very old.

[Post-publication addendum: On Coulter and Treason, see also Joe Conason in, which would probably hire Coulter in a minute if they had enough money; The Yes/No Interlude; TBogg; Scoobie Davis Online; and Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler.]

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