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Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First Hardcover – January 1, 2003
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From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Political gab-show regular Charen does a bang-up job of summarizing one of the Right's oldest complaints: that left liberals--whom she distinguishes from anticommunist liberals such as Vietnam-era U.S. senator Henry Jackson--never saw a communist regime they didn't like. She opens the indictment at the cold war's end, which left liberals wouldn't report as a free-world victory because, she says, they idolized Mikhail Gorbachev, overvalued communist full employment, and were (and are) knee-jerk anticapitalists. In subsequent chapters on Vietnam and its aftermath, liberals' love affair with Stalinist Russia, and the overturning of Grenada's and Nicaragua's revolutionary regimes, Charen quotes one liberal's embarrassing statement after another and juxtaposes them devastatingly with the tolls of death, imprisonment, and impoverishment in communist states. She is wonderfully convincing until she comes to the Elian Gonzalez affair and the war on terrorism, where principled conservatives may demur that the Clinton administration did the right thing--returning Elian to his father--very poorly, and that the present administration is reacting wrongly to what are crimes, not casus belli. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Get with it Amazon!
It is a fine work, but a work that attacks and heralds both sides. It should not have received the mindless one star evaluations that so many automatons of the left have obviously given it. Nor I think the five star rattings of the die hard right.
It is however, a work that should be in every modern history class in American High Schools. It demonstrates just how idiotic, egotistical, corruptible, illogical and completely void of common sense both sides of the political, judicial, and social spectrums can be.
I have to admitt that as a conservative I almost put it down during the first and second chapters. I actually thought I had been dupped into buying a left-wing hate mongering book in the disguise of a right-wing leaning book.
But as I struggled through the feelings that Mona was attacking conservatives and my own beliefs, I realized that she was in fact better at being fair and balanced than Mr. O'Reilly, Shaun Hannity and Alan Colms or any of the rest of the political commentators today.
She seemed to be the adult version of Kyle Williams, the 14 year old columnist on WND.com, who is more poltically savy than many of his elders these days. You see he, being young, has not fully aligned himself yet and can point out the flaws in both sides. Mona just does it with more experience and style. I commend her for it.
Mona Charen seems to take the right to task at the outset of each chapter or each subject and rip the conservatives scabs off their own booboos, pulling down the facade of self-righteousness, which exposes the open wounds of their own mistakes, errors and folly. Then she presents varioius researched facts that place a bandage on our sucking chest wounds while comparing our mistakes with with the naieve, dangerous and damaging philosophies and ideologies of many prominent left-wing socialist (communist) sympathizers.
Sure one could look at this as a completely biased book in favor of the right, but I sure did not. I found it a fair assessment of the stupidity of both sides. As I began to grow accustomed to the scheme of manuver she had chosen, I became more interested, enthralled and captivated by it; yet I also found myself significantly uncomforable with my own perceived tower of political invulnerablitiy. In short she made me question my own conservatives pride due to some pretty significant bungling by those on the right in the past.
Charen has made me stop and reconsider that there are terrible mistakes being made on both sides and no single person has all the answers nor the correct remedies for all that ails us. It just seems that the left has more than it's fair share.
Perhaps that is as good a place to start as any...both sides finally for the first time admitting that both are right in some ways and both are wrong in some ways and that moving to far in either direction is mindless, partisan rubbish.
I truly believe however that Senators Kennedy, Schumer, Leahy, Boxer, Feinstein, Byrd, Clinton and a few others are much too far left and that many others in congress from the left are just misguided parisan Mongols. But there are some on the right who could also use an attitude adjustment to meet in the middle. Not the Schumer, Kennedy or Boxer middle, but the true middle. But unless those icons of mindless liberalism change we will never get there.
Perhaps we should take all of the icons who now rule both sides with iron fist, like Dashcle, Byrd, Schumer, Lott, Delay and others and brush them aside and begin again with representatives, beliefs, laws, rules and judical opinions that will somehow speak to both sides of the most pressing issues we face today.
In any case Mona clearly demonstrates that Democratic Republics, "are" the last best hope of the world and it is absolutely assured that immoral communism or facism, and/or degenerate socialism and any other government controlled by tyrants an aristocracy or a fearless leader is unacceptable and causes more human destruction by far.
A very good book, a little hard to dive into at first and just a little bit too stiff for my liking but, I still highly recommend it for the reader, young and old, who enjoys seeing both sides being pelted with their own brain-dead mistakes.
The bulk of Charen's book deals with liberalism in the aggregate. She notes how post 60s liberals saw Communism through the lens of a half-hearted sympathetic patina that somehow managed to excuse every Communist bloodbath while failing to excuse what it saw as a genocidal equivalent from the United States, even when it was clear that this equivalent existed more in the minds of the left than in the minds of the victims. The deaths of millions due to Stalin's forced collectivization is not only portrayed by the liberals as either non-existent or grossly exaggerated but even if it did happen, the United States was somehow at fault. This then is the core thesis of the left. Evil exists in this world, but where it has been identified, it originates in the capitalistic excesses of America. Mona Charen in USEFUL IDIOTS tells in compelling detail that idiots go through life with self-imposed blinders, the result of which is destructive to those who even now look to the left for help and guidance.
You will never be able to show such people they are idiots, useful or otherwise. Talking to them would just give you a headache. But, talking to those who believe these people to be the 'Elite', will be more rewarding ( how smart can these people be if they are looking up to idiots?).
Still a good book, and enjoyable read, one that will make you mad, from time to time.