Andrew C. McCarthy
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The biggest threat to American values and citizens isn’t terrorism per se, says Andrew McCarthy. It’s the tentacles of Islamism that are reaching into the heart of American society and politics. Mildly inflammatory, but not entirely original. But how about this? McCarthy claims a vast conspiracy is underway in which American leftists—chief among them President Obama—are in league with Islamists in an effort to destroy capitalism, curtail individual freedoms, and dispatch with traditional Western values.
What’s the Big Deal?
An Islamist in the White House? How’s that for a big deal? Sure, with failed car bombs in Times Square and the Tea Party gathering steam ahead of midterm elections, it’s hard to go more than a day without constant reminders that we’re living with both Islamic terror and American partisan politics. And here we’ve got a decorated former federal prosecutor arguing that the president and his party are in cahoots with the nation’s foremost enemy. Too bad it’s all for naught: this book is utter bunk.
Buzz Rating: Hum
One-Breath Author Bio
A contributing editor at the National Review, McCarthy also wrote Willful Blindness, which recounts his experience as the prosecutor of “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman and other conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The Book, in His Words
The essentials of the [leftist and Islamist] visions coalesce: They are totalitarian, collectivist, and antithetical to the core conceit of American constitutional democracy and individual liberty. Today’s left-leaning, Islamophilic Obamedia consciously ignores the convergence, but America’s 44th president and America’s enemies have a common dream” (page 17).
Don’t Miss These Bits:
1. Alarmist, overhyped, and unproved. Early on, McCarthy describes an Obama interview with PBS during the 2008 presidential campaign in which Obama said of his foreign-policy approach (the emphasis is McCarthy’s), “I am the messenger who can deliver that message.” McCarthy takes it and runs, “Would anyone seriously believe that Obama, a deft communicator and no stranger to celestial imagery, was not intentionally evoking images of Islam’s Prophet in remarks fashioned for Islamic consumption?” He says it’s part of a coded message to Islamists: they had a friend in Obama, one who would help them bring Sharia (Islamic law) to American shores. Wait, what?
2. Ban Muslims. Without a hint of irony, McCarthy darkly recommends that “given the prevalence of anti-Constitutional beliefs in Islam, foreign Muslims should not be permitted to reside in America unless they can demonstrate their acceptance of American constitutional principles” (page 41). First, his premise about Islam being at odds with the Constitution makes no sense (and he offers no sensible argument for it), and he completely avoids the puzzling question of how to prove “acceptance.” Fear not, though. This is just part of his general xenophobia. Later, McCarthy complains that too many Africans have been permitted into the U.S. “without any evident concern about cultural differences that made assimilation unlikely” (page 332). Funny—isn’t that the standard that racists once used to keep out ethnic groups like the Chinese and (for a guy named McCarthy, an irony overlooked) the Irish?
3. Nobody is safe. In McCarthy’s world, even philosophers who inspired the very American ideals he frantically defends still manage to threaten those very same values. Since few people will buy the idea that the Democratic Party and Hizbullah are on the same team against apple pie, baseball, and the flag, McCarthy resorts to history to make his cockamamie argument: “The ties that bind Islamists and the radical Left emerge clearly if we delve briefly into . . . Jean Jacques Rousseau,” the 18th-century father of the social contract (page 172). Rousseau, he argues, prioritized the common good over individual freedom, putting him firmly in a league with Muhammad and communist Karl Marx. Rousseau’s radical antidemocratic thinking surely would have been shocking news to the Founding Fathers.
4. Still unconvinced that Barack Obama’s in alliance with the ayatollah? Well, get this: since Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser embraced socialism and allied with the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow the Egyptian monarchy in a military coup 50 years ago, McCarthy reasons that a democratically elected United States government is willing to conspire with radical Muslim extremists today. “Expert analysts . . . fatuously pronounce that the radical Left and fundamentalist Islam could never make common cause . . . A useful snapshot of the fitful marriage between Islamists and Leftists is provided by the early history of modern Egypt” (page 162–163). Or something like that, at least. We still haven’t made sense of the parallel.
Swipe This Critique
What this book really needs is a thorough fisking. McCarthy marries a simplistic and unoriginal argument about Islam to a sloppy talking point that Barack Obama is a communist by way of shoddy history and dangerous misunderstandings of Islam. McCarthy says “moderates” might be able to save us from an Islamist takeover, but it’s unclear who meets his lofty standard. After all, he readily paints even mainstream figures like Rep. Keith Ellison and the Council on American-Islamic Relations as radical. His anti-Islam tunnel vision is so severe that he rejects scholarly consensus even on subjects as mundane as medieval Muslim music (seriously!). One potential reason: McCarthy eschews mainstream academic experts in favor of New York Post columnists and right-wing bloggers as, um, research. Frustratingly, the book lacks any suggestions for addressing the many problems McCarthy sees. But even if the reader is willing to believe there are Islamists hiding under every rug and behind every tree, McCarthy doesn’t come close to proving that there’s been a big change between the Bush and Obama administrations, thus undermining the book’s key premise.
Seemingly every author McCarthy cites is “irrepressible,” “brilliant,” or (most frequently) “invaluable.” If you want to know what their actual qualifications are, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere, because all you get here is name-dropping shrouded in flowering compliments.
Prose: Readable, although McCarthy is a virtuoso of the mixed metaphor: “Mightn’t Occam’s razor have reared its head by now?” (page 316).
Aesthetics: Truly a beautiful, striking cover design.
Miscellaneous: The author faithfully cites every article he quotes, but offers no support for scores of controversial, confusing, and downright dubious “facts.”