10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2007
It is critical that Americans more thoroughly understand the processes and motivations of its governmental leaders, and Walter Karp certainly offers a perspective that goes against the grain of popular perception. His critique of the political parties' perfidy during the Carter and Reagan years is thoroughly compelling. His writing style is a bit histrionic, but then the topic may well require it. In addition, the issues revolving around the corruption and misuse of presidential power during the eighties, the siphoning of funds from the general coffers into the hands of the extremely wealthy, and the enrichment of special interests all perfectly mirror the Bush administration's crimes. Those on the right side of the political spectrum should be outraged by the policies high government purports to implement under the guise of conservative principles.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2006
The late Walter Karp, the great overlooked political writer of the last 50 years, turned the full force of his scathing wit and brilliant intellect on modern American politics in "Liberty Under Siege," the last book published during his lifetime. The book was condescended to by reviewers, and it never found the audience it deserved. Never mind the fact that the events Karp is writing about took place two decades ago. You can't understand politics as it works in our country today unless you read this book.
His opening chapter, describing the quiet patriotism and pride that flowed through America during the bicentennial, is genuinely stirring, but the rest of the book describes "Oligarchy's" relentless attempt to tear down the old republic and replace it with a cold and ruthless empire whose citizens "dwell in darkness," forbidden to congregate in public forums, hypocritically lectured about the evils of alcohol and drugs, ignored and lied to by their leaders, who take their money and use it to wage foreign wars, oblivious to the hungry and sick in their own land.
There are no heroes in this book, not even Jimmy Carter, who comes across less as a "tribune of the people" than a sort of well-meaning schmuck who lacks the fire to stand up to the party system. If Carter had appealed to the people just once, he might have exposed Congress's mendaciousness and saved his presidency, but he seemed unable to believe that his own party would deliberately unite against him, even as the idiotic Ted Kennedy tried to stage a coup d'etat against him. That they did indeed betray Carter is proven by the fact that, after Reagan's election, the Democrats rallied behind the new president. What kind of "opposition" party is this?
Ronald Reagan, the "vile tyrant" with "an appalling capacity for repelling truth and believing falsehood" arouses Karp to blistering diatribes: "Reagan is ignorant, deliberately, willfully ignorant, scarcely knows who works for him, rarely asks a penetrating question. . . . His arms control proposals sound fairer to him if he does not know and so he never inquires." Reagan's economic policies he deems "a tyrant's crime against a free people's freedom to decide their own fate." The book ends with a long look at the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Watergate is replayed with a happy ending for the "truthless man" in the Oval Office. Karp was fond of quoting Charles Peguy: "The triumph of the demagogue is short-lived, but the ruin is eternal."
Grim as its outlook is, the book is also exhilarating. Beside Karp, the political commentators we've got today seem a watery, dull bunch. No writer since H.L. Mencken has been so brilliant in denouncing the "lying pantaloons" in Washington, and few writers since the 19th century have been so eloquent in their defense of "the old America that was free and is now dead."
16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 1998
I've never read anything quite like Liberty Under Siege. It is a thrilling indictment of the elites in the news media and government, whom Karp accuses of betraying the American people. Karp is a great writer, but Liberty Under Siege, while worthwhile reading, is nowhere near the level of his other books such as the Politics of War and Buried Alive. Regrettably, I have to strongly criticize the book. Karp makes too many far-fetched and unsubstantiated claims in Liberty Under Siege.
Part I of the book is a review of the Carter administration and its struggles with Congress. Karp's theory is that elites in the Democratic Party, e.g. Tip O'Neill and Scoop Jackson, deliberately destroyed Carter's presidency to keep control of the party from the people. I don't think Karp backs up this very controversial theory with enough evidence. Part II is a harsh indictment of the Reagan administration and of the Democratic party leaders. Karp accuses them of colluding against the American people. Again, he does not make a convincing case for this theory.
In fairness to Karp, he does make some valid and important points. He rightly blasts Congressional leaders of both parties for undermining campaign finance laws and allowing money to subvert the political process. He also rightly blasts Reagan for his poor record on civil liberties, especially his undermining of the Freedom of Information Act. If Karp had simply confined himself to dispassionate criticism of the political establishment, his book would have been much more effective. The conspiracy theories will unfortunately obscure his legitimate points.