Biography, Nonfiction, Reviews, True Crime

Number 24: Addresses a Specific Topic

Shooting Star: The Brief Arc of Joe McCarthy

Tom Wicker

I did not know much about this era of American history when I began this book, but now that I’ve finished, I still don’t.

It is not the fault of the author, it is just that the subject is so banal, like evil. I fall asleep even thinking about it.

That’s why he was so successful.

Wait, was he successful?

It seems to me idle to argue that he was not a demagogue. If he enjoyed his success, he was not entirely sanguine about its cost in ruined lives and damaged careers.

That sounds successful to me.

Joseph R. McCarthy was a demagogue, certainly, but… he was also intelligent, energetic, audacious, personally generous… too avidly craving the affirmation of others, too recklessly seeking it in the battle he exalted, McCarthy too carelessly believed that the approval he won justified the means of its achievement… who fought desperately and with uncommon success to achieve the wrong dream.

Indeed.

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