The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy

Overview

When Cold War tension was at its height, Joseph ("call me Joe") McCarthy conducted an anti-Communist crusade endorsed by millions of Americans, despite his unfair and unconstitutional methods. Award-winning writer James Cross Giblin tells the story of a man whose priorities centered on power and media attention and who stopped at nothing to obtain both. The strengths and weaknesses of the man and the system that permitted his rise are explored in this authoritative, lucid biography, which sets McCarthy's ...

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The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy

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Overview

When Cold War tension was at its height, Joseph ("call me Joe") McCarthy conducted an anti-Communist crusade endorsed by millions of Americans, despite his unfair and unconstitutional methods. Award-winning writer James Cross Giblin tells the story of a man whose priorities centered on power and media attention and who stopped at nothing to obtain both. The strengths and weaknesses of the man and the system that permitted his rise are explored in this authoritative, lucid biography, which sets McCarthy's life against a teeming backdrop of world affairs and struggles between military and political rivals at home. Chapter notes, bibliography, index.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Timely and significant...If I were a high school teacher concentrating on the postwar era, I would devote a good part of my course to discussing this book for the cautionary tale it tells."—New York Times Book Review

"This lucid, authoritative portrait offers readers a compelling, real-life cautionary tale of blind ambition and the reckless pursuit of power. A tour de force."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Giblin's unmistakable research and passion for the subject add up to a comprehensive portrayal of a complex figure. Abundant source notes and further reading suggestions conclude this expansive undertaking."—Publishers Weekly

"Excellent quality archival photos and political cartoons appear throughout."—School Library Journal

Steven Heller
The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe ­Mc­Carthy draws attention to a particular brand of home-grown demagoguery, the kind that wraps itself in Americanism. If I were a high school teacher concentrating on the postwar era, I would devote a good part of my course to discussing this book for the cautionary tale it tells.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Using extensive detail and context, this ambitious biography explores one of the country's most controversial senators. In 27 chapters, punctuated by b&w photos and political cartoons, Giblin (The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler) presents Sen. Joe McCarthy as a risk-taking, limelight-loving, revenge-seeking demagogue. The author takes readers from McCarthy's childhood in rural Wisconsin to his work as a judge, Marine, and, finally, U.S. senator. Little-known facts (McCarthy was a chicken farmer before starting high school at age 20, and he graduated in one year) pique interest early. However, the narrative bogs down somewhat. The introduction of numerous political figures and their backgrounds, international crises (alleged torture of German WWII prisoners by the U.S., battles in the Korean War, etc.), polling data, and excerpts from Senate hearings may have younger readers losing the man amid the contextual asides. (Older audiences, though, should appreciate the comprehensiveness.) While the extensive background slows the story, Giblin's unmistakable research and passion for the subject add up to a comprehensive portrayal of a complex figure. Abundant source notes and further reading suggestions conclude this expansive undertaking. Ages 12–up. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Giblin's thorough biography of Senator Joe McCarthy is written for a generation who may know little or nothing about the senator. McCarthy's life is recounted in enormous detail, beginning with his early life before he got into politics when he was a chicken farmer from Wisconsin. Giblin weights the book heavily with details about McCarthy's political life and even more on what made him famous: his investigations of government officials who might have possible communist ties. Giblin tries to put the events of the time into historical perspective for teen readers and gives historical background and explanation as needed. The Army-McCarthy hearings are also recounted in great detail with many quotes being taken directly from the transcripts themselves. This biography follows McCarthy until his death, and even includes updates about those closest to him explaining what happened to them since McCarthy's death. This book is exhaustive in its research and explicit in detailing from where the research came. While the publisher recommends it for ages 12 and up, high school students and adults would find this book a good reference source. It is recommended for libraries and history classes for high school and above. Reviewer: Marcie Flinchum Atkins
VOYA - Amy Fiske
True to the title, this books provides a thorough chronicle of McCarthy's career, starting with his humble beginnings on a small Wisconsin farm. Gifted with natural charisma and fierce ambition, McCarthy showed great promise in his early years. This time of his life, however, also reveals a worrisome pattern of playing fast and loose with ethics. This pattern was consistent throughout his career, from an early campaign to be a Wisconsin Circuit Judge through his mission to ferret out Communists and subversives. His shaky ethics and outrageous tactics were his undoing; McCarthy's career wrapped up in a cloud of disgrace when the Senate voted to censure him in 1954. Today's students have no political memory of the Cold War, let alone Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s. More information about the events leading to the Cold War would provide better historical context to help young people understand the ideological panic that allowed McCarthy to gain and abuse power. A bit troubling is Giblin's use of Wikipedia as a source, although he states that he "accompanied it with parallel research in the Columbia Encyclopedia." But why use Wikipedia at all? Despite this worry, the research is sound and Giblin effectively and objectively reports McCarthy's life and career from start to finish. This book will be a welcome addition in a unit on the Cold War or twentieth-century American History. Reviewer: Amy Fiske
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Giblin includes considerable information about McCarthy's background and earlier career, but devotes most of the book to his election to the Senate and use of intimidation and smear tactics to gain enormous political power before his eventual public disgrace and early, alcohol-related death. The author provides limited background and context about the public fear of communism, but his main focus is on McCarthy's actions and the damage they did to innocent people and organizations. He includes extensive detail about McCarthy's campaigns and Senate hearings, which occasionally makes for dry reading. However, that problem is eclipsed by the weaknesses of the author's sources and his dated perspective on the McCarthy and early Cold War era. His most cited sources are biographies by Thomas Reeves (Stein & Day, 1982) and journalist Tom Wicker (Houghton, 2006), but he also repeatedly cites Wikipedia and the Columbia Encyclopedia. Although his source discussion mentions recent scholarship based upon declassified materials in the U.S. and the Soviet Union that documents Soviet espionage and penetration into the American government from the 1930s through the Cold War, he does not adequately take those discoveries into account. McCarthy's behavior and methods were inexcusable, but his crusade makes more sense when placed into the larger context of Cold War fears and the peril that those on the left, many admirers of the ideals of communism, faced when Americans began to view the Soviets as enemies and those who had associated with them as traitors. Excellent quality archival photos and political cartoons appear throughout. An additional title.—Mary Mueller, Rolla JuniorHigh School, MO
Kirkus Reviews
A masterful chronicle of one of 20th-century America's most catastrophically influential figures. The Sibert Medal winner portrays McCarthy as an energetic and personable campaigner with a gift for public speaking and also as a manipulative opportunist who readily resorted to personal attacks and distortion or fabrication of facts to win elections and advance his agenda. Giblin's most revealing insight into McCarthy's character is his utter lack of conviction in any cause he championed, even his infamous anti-Communist crusade in the 1940s and '50s-which, the author argues, could not have lasted as long as it did without the complicity of fellow legislators and President Eisenhower, who, however reprehensible they found his tactics, were too fearful of appearing "soft on Communism" to challenge him. This lucid, authoritative portrait offers readers a compelling, real-life cautionary tale of blind ambition and the reckless pursuit of power. A tour de force. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618610587
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 12/14/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 878,516
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Cross Giblin received the Sibert Medal for The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. The author of many acclaimed books for young readers, he lives in New York City.

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