The Obama Watch

The Obama Administration’s Inner Mao

Perhaps Dunn meant to say that he is one of her favorite media strategists.

By 10.22.09

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White House Communications Director Anita Dunn says that her comment about Chairman Mao as one of her "favorite political philosophers" has been badly distorted. Perhaps she meant to say that Mao is one of her favorite media strategists.

It is telling what Dunn regards as a reassuring defense: that she was only extolling Mao's can-do attitude and that her admiration for it came from Lee Atwater. "The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist," she said.  So now the reviled creator of the Willie Horton ad is someone Democrats feel they can safely hide behind? 

According to Dunn, she was simply telling the high school graduates to imitate Mao's means, not his ends.  Boy, what a relief. After all, his means were so blameless. "Figure out how to do things that have never been done before," she told the students. And how did Mao accomplish that again? By killing 40 to 60 million people?

What might be called dilettantish socialism, of which Dunn's bizarre graduation speech is a species (she thought it "ironic" to couple a mass-murderer with Mother Teresa in her motivational remarks to the graduates), is a recurring problem in this administration, and an expected one given that it reflects the sensibility of the boss.

Pressed by "Joe the Plumber" on the purpose of taxation, Obama fell back on the Marxist fragment "to spread the wealth around." His memoirs contain an oblique mention of a Marxist mentor. He learned his community organizing from Saul Alinsky and his liberation theology from Jeremiah Wright. He blurbed one of the books of a Marxist terrorist and "educator," Bill Ayers. And until recently, he was stocking his administration with figures like Van Jones, who openly talked of environmentalism as a tool of Marxist change.

That his communications director holds up Mao as a quote-worthy "political philosopher" fits into this picture nicely. And it is appropriate since White House aides are if nothing else pursuing a Maoist media strategy: control debates by trying to ban opponents from them. His press secretary Robert Gibbs even offered a Maoist-style take on Fox: it is motivated by "profit." Why would a company be trying to make profit? Perhaps its property should be confiscated.

But some reliable liberals are finding this Maoist media strategy a little too transparent for their taste. Dunn's anti-Fox antics were so ham-handed that not even Helen Thomas or Eugene Robinson on MSNBC could bring themselves to defend them.

It looked like a tired reprisal of an earlier popped trial balloon: Rahm Emanuel's unleashing of Paul Begala and James Carville in February on Rush Limbaugh in the hopes of driving a wedge between conservatives and moderate Republicans. That just increased Rush's profile and boomeranged back on Michael Steele.

Begala and Carville had been chosen for the task because they were outside the administration; Dunn, according to press accounts, was chosen for this one because she is an "interim" communications director and will soon be gone.

Fox is a "wing of the Republican party," declared Dunn. If that is true, does that make ABC the "west wing of the Democratic party"? Dunn can walk down the hall and chat about media bias with Linda Douglass, the ABC reporter turned Obama press aide. 

And what about MSNBC? To use Howard Dean's phrase, it appears these days to be the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. The vast left-wing conspiracy has never been stronger. But to a Maoist, a ninety-percent-Democratic press corps just isn't good enough.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.