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Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 28, 2004
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More About the Author
"Washington Gone Crazy" was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and it was shortlisted for the Ambassador Book Award in American Studies. The New York Times Book Review included the biography among the 100 Notable Books of the Year. It won the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the best book on Congress from the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation in 2004. Learn more about Michael at www.michaeljybarra.com.
Top Customer Reviews
Democratic Senator McCarran (1876-1954) was the worker ant of anti-Communist legislation in contrast to his better known counterpart Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin. Corrupt and a law only to himself, Senator McCarran answered to no one and acted as he saw fit to do.
This biography is well-written but long (over 800+ pages) with a lot of legislative details and cultural background of the 1950's. Frankly some of this material has very little to do with McCarran's life and can be skimmed without losing any of the story. Overall, for the reader with a political interest, I recommend this book as a primer on American politics.
We think of the post-war period as the McCarthy Era. But McCarthy was, at the end of the day, a buffoon and a drunk. Even his advocates will concede that he didn't have the staying power for the long haul. By contrast, as Ybarra makes wonderfully clear, it was McCarran who had the energy, the persistence, the focus, to stay on issue and to get what he wanted-to congeal the forces of paranoia and xenophobia that go so far to make us what we are today..
McCarran's toughness and endurance surely owe something to his sheepherder past. His background influenced him other ways perhaps not so obvious. One is that it equipped him to be a loner who really didn't care for anyone else's good opinion. Better to be both loved and feared, said Machiavelli; but if you must choose one, choose fear.
Another McCarran quality was the sense of permanent outsidership, the conviction that he was one of life's insulted and injured. Finally, we have that favorite of the Freudians: an impassioned mother, convinced that her son might grow up to be a hero.
Ybarra is not a graceful stylist. But he is a dogged researcher which, in the end, is a virtue perhaps more to be valued than style. Others have remarked that he goes on a bit long. This second criticism seems a bit harsh: in the age of biographies as heavy as anvils, Ybarra is no more than a middleweight. He does have a bit of a weakness for going of on tangents: he seems not to know how to tell a McCarran story without giving the entire history of the issue that led up to it. Some may regard this as a disadvantage, but I must say, as one who obsesses over the history of the postwar period, I found every page a pleasure to read. For specialized tastes, surely, but for the right audience, this one is hard to beat.
From the post-Cold War perspective, Pat McCarran looks mighty perceptive. It is a flawed greatness, of course.
This is mainly a book about Nevada. Ybarra has written one of the first twenty-first century histories of Nevada. The book turns upside down all of our received wisdom of Nevada history. This is a story of Nevada's maturation into full statehood after a long struggle to survive.
Modern Nevada history begins in Tonopah, and Ybarra has given us a wide-ranging account of its political history. Tonopah men Tasker Oddie, George Wingfield, Key Pittman -- and McCarran -- are all authentic expressions of Nevada. And who else but a Nevadan would give election speeches into the 1940's on the value of Silver. "The Great God Pat," my dad still calls him.
When McCarran writes of Nevada (in his letters) it is with the loving voice of a native.
Nine out of ten readers will misunderstand this book because they are so unaware of their Cold War blinders and the conventional wisdom they carry around with them. Sorta like the reviewer who has missed the Venona revelation that Hiss was a spy and not a victim. McCarran wasn't a saint. He was extremist but not deranged.
I think Michael Ybarra writes with great style, and this is a very well researched book. The publisher could have done a better proofreading job. (The Truckee flows westward at one point, and McCarran travels by train from Reno to D.C. in a day.) Probably, the publisher failed to appreciate the historical magnificence of this work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very detailed book about Senator McCarran, his career, and the hearings and issues he led regarding what he perceived as a communist threat to America. Read morePublished on August 1, 2013 by Leon Czikowsky
GREAT SELLER, FAST TURNAROUND. I LOVED THIS BOOK. IF YOU ARE IN INTERESTED IN POLITICS AND THE GOINGS ON BEHIND THE SCENES DURING THE MCCARTHY ERA, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.Published on February 4, 2013 by Mark J. Meyer
This should be an exciting read, instead it is oppressive. The author must have gotten paid by the word. Read morePublished on April 11, 2012 by JLafayette
This is more than a biography, In order to understand the person and the career of Senator McCarran, the nature of the New Deal era, and the political polarization that went with... Read morePublished on April 4, 2011 by David B. Lowry
This book is great.... if you are looking to cure your insomnia. Another book about McCarran with no new outlook or insights. Skip it.Published on February 14, 2007 by Dave D