A new biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on exclusive access to his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings.
Tye’s journalistic chops are on full display here. Most notably, he gained exclusive access to McCarthy’s private papers, housed at Marquette University, the alma mater of his subject. This was a scholarly breakthrough ... a welcome dose of nuance to our understanding of a man who is largely known by the 'ism' that bears his name ... new details abound ... Do any of these revelations fundamentally change how we should think about McCarthy? Probably not. But Tye has produced a compelling and rich biography that will become the new authoritative text on its subject ... a welcome reassessment of McCarthy for the Age of Trump.
Larry Tye gives us the fullest account yet of the crusading junior senator from Wisconsin ... the rigor of his research ensures he goes far beyond the caricature to give us a portrait of nuance and depth ... McCarthy’s personality is important because McCarthyism was not an intellectual project. The senator had no program of ideas, no set of policies he wanted to enact. It was always clear what he was against, but never what he was for, other than Joseph R. McCarthy. And as Demagogue demonstrates, it is not clear that even he knew what his ultimate goal was. It was just more.
Tye captures 'Low Blow Joe' in all his shambolic ingloriousness. A former Boston Globe reporter and author of a well-regarded Bobby Kennedy biography, Tye is a relentless digger, and he had more access than earlier historians — McCarthy’s family papers and medical records were, for the first time, opened to him, and he was able to mine long secret congressional transcripts. The result is an epic expose that may overwhelm readers with its detail but will leave them shaking their heads over the rise and fall of the greatest demagogue in American history, with the possible exception of the current White House incumbent ... Tye calls President Eisenhower 'enabler in chief' and accuses him of a 'policy of appeasement' against McCarthy. This judgment is too harsh. True, Eisenhower was slow to stand up to the senator from Wisconsin, but as historian David Nichols and others have shown, Eisenhower effectively worked behind the scenes to wreck McCarthy, or perhaps better said, enable him to destroy himself.