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Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First

Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First

by Mona Charen

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his book is a perfect example of how today's liberals have completely rewritten history to cover up their own role on the wrong side of the Cold War.


his book is a perfect example of how today's liberals have completely rewritten history to cover up their own role on the wrong side of the Cold War.

Editorial Reviews

I prayed that such a book would be written but doubted anything so wonderfully readable and instructive at the same time would come along. But here is Mona Charen's great explication of the central conflict of our times.—National Review
Publishers Weekly
Syndicated columnist and CNN commentator Charen offers a moral indictment of those public figures-politicians, entertainers and professors-who, she says, stubbornly refused to see communism for what it was: a brutal, dictatorial death machine. Throughout the Cold War, some public figures and activists cheered the Communist movement and berated America for its capitalist ways. Famous actors traveled to Cuba to smoke a cigar with their favorite dictator; posters of Che Guevara, Castro's military leader, adorned college dorms during the '60s; the Soviet Union was praised and defended for its social progress. Charen particularly singles out the media as having played a significant role in distributing tendentious if not false accounts of world events. One example tells of Katie Couric's visit to Cuba in 1992. Upon her return, according to Charen, Couric raved about Cuba's "terrific health-care system," but uttered not a word about the men and women detained in Cuban prisons. The author highlights the kind of historical revisionism and self-hatred that marked some of America's most noted public figures and warns that the lessons learned from communism are just as relevant today. The tragedy of September 11, Charen says, has produced a cadre of left-leaning pundits who wasted no time in blaming America for the violence perpetrated by terrorism. Charen is operating as a polemicist here, and some readers will object to her tarring all liberals with the same brush. But there is a strong market for conservative polemics today, and many readers will cheer Charen on. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Regnery Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Useful Idiots
How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First

Chapter One

The Brief Interlude of
Unanimity on Communism

It is better to be a live jackal than a dead lion -- for jackals, not men. Men who have the moral courage to fight intelligently for freedom have the best prospects of avoiding the fate of both live jackals and dead lions. Survival is not the be-all and end-all of a life worthy of man....Man's vocation should be the use of the arts of intelligence in behalf of human freedom.
--Sidney Hook

In March of 1983, President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals, used words that would resonate throughout the remainder of his presidency and beyond. Speaking of the "arms race," he said, "I urge you to beware the temptation of pride -- the temptation blithely to declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil."

The use of the term "evil empire" provoked a fusillade of contempt from the American liberal Left. Many news reports characterized Reagan's language as "strident" (or found observers who would). The Associated Press quoted Lord Carrington, former British foreign secretary, as condemning "megaphone diplomacy," and calling for "dialogue, openness, sanity, and a nonideological approach to the dangerous business of international affairs."

Henry Steele Commager, then a professor of history at Amherst, was quoted in the Washington Post a few days later, identified only as a "distinguished historian," not as what he was: a well-known liberal intellectual. He condemned Reagan's speech as "the worst presidential speech in American history, and I've read them all. No other presidential speech has ever so flagrantly allied the government with religion. It was a gross appeal to religious prejudice."

Time magazine's Strobe Talbott, who would later serve as deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, made his disapproval clear. "When a chief of state talks that way, he roils Soviet insecurities."

Hendrik Hertzberg, a former speechwriter for President Carter and later the editor of the New Republic magazine, was beside himself. "Reagan's speeches are much more ideological and attacking than any recent president's speeches," he told the Washington Post. "Something like the speech to the evangelicals is not presidential; it's not something a president should say. If the Russians are infinitely evil and we are infinitely good, then the logical first step is a nuclear first strike. Words like that frighten the American public and antagonize the Soviets. What good is that?"

The notion that that harsh criticism of the Soviet Union had to be stifled because it would lead to nuclear war was rarely stated as bluntly as Hertzberg did, but it was widely believed on the Left, and resulted in a tendency -- evident until the day the Soviet Union closed its doors forever -- to excuse, airbrush, and distort the aggressive and despicable acts of that regime.

Mary McGrory, a columnist for the Washington Post, never quite got over her amazement at Reagan's obtuseness. Months later, writing on a related matter, she noted that "The president ... embarrasses them [members of Congress] with his talk of the Soviets as the 'evil empire,' but they think he has convinced the country that the communists are worse than the weapons."

It was obvious to liberals that the exact reverse was the case. It made some observers almost panicky to think that Reagan actually believed what he said. George W. Ball had been undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He, too, referred to the "evil empire" speech as proof that Reagan was dangerous and simplistic on foreign policy. Writing of events in the Middle East, he condemned Reagan for "obsessive detestation of what you call the 'evil empire.' ... Mr. President, you have set us on a dark and ominous course. For God's sake, let us refix our compass before it is too late."

"Primitive, that is the only word for it," fumed Anthony Lewis, of the New York Times. "Believers, Mr. Reagan said, should avoid 'the temptation of pride' -- calling both sides at fault in the arms race instead of putting the blame where it belonged: on the Russians. But there again he applied a black and white standard to something that is much more complex. One may regard the Soviet system as a vicious tyranny and still understand that it has not been solely responsible for the nuclear arms race. The terrible irony of that race is that the United States has led the way on virtually every major new development over the last thirty years, only to find itself met by the Soviet Union."

Of course, even if Reagan had said that the Soviet Union was "infinitely evil," and we, "infinitely good," as Hertzberg recalled the speech (Reagan had not said that), it hardly follows logically that the "next step" would be a nuclear first strike. Hertzberg is a Harvard educated editor and certainly capable of understanding this, but fear distorted liberal thinking.

Sovietologist Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University disapproved of Reagan's rhetoric. Yet he provided evidence that it had hit home among the aged bosses of the Kremlin:

President Reagan's rhetoric has badly shaken the self-esteem and patriotic pride of the Soviet political elites. The administration's self-righteous moralistic tone, its reduction of Soviet achievements to crimes by international outlaws from an "evil empire" -- such language stunned and humiliated the Soviet leaders ... [who] believe that President Reagan is determined to deny the Soviet Union nothing less than its legitimacy and status as a global power ... status ... they thought had been conceded once and for all by Reagan's predecessors.
Useful Idiots
How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First
. Copyright © by Mona Charen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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