Here’s a video from Glenn Beck which seems to show interim White House communications director Anita Dunn listing two of her “favorite political philosophers” in a speech: Mother Teresa and… Mao Tse Tung.
(Skip to 4:10 for the Anita Dunn clip)
Dunn initially juxtaposes the two to make it a joke. “Not often coupled with each other,” she says, to a few laughs. Dave Weigel thinks the whole thing’s a joke that everyone but Glenn Beck gets.
At that point in the video, it is clearly a joke. But then Dunn goes into a somewhat long history of Mao and Chiang Kai Shek in 1947 that’s a little bit too bright, and a little too hagiographic. It suggests that she was in fact not joking that Mao is one of her favorite political philosophers. The joke was the juxtaposition between him and Mother Teresa, not her beliefs. Her love of Mao’s political philosophy, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be one of the speech’s jokes.
If Anita Dunn does not understand what is wrong with citing Mao as a favorite political philosopher, then she is out of her mind. Is there anything in her background to suggest that she is indeed this crazy? Or is this simply a clip taken out of context?
Weigel notes in his blog post, and this Think Progress post expands on the point, that McCain and other right-wingers have also been quick to use some of Mao’s sayings, e.g. “it’s always darkest before it’s totally black.”
Of course there’s an important distinction between reciting aphorisms that are fairly universal and anyone could have said, and drawing a lesson from the specific actions and thoughts of a mass murderer as they pertain to mass murder — which is what Dunn does in the clip.
The more significant problem with interpreting this clip as evidence that Dunn is a revolutionary communist is that it lacks context. Beck played three or so full minutes of the clip on his show, but even so there are still possible mitigating circumstances.
For instance, it’s possible that it’s such a friendly and ideologically-attuned audience that Dunn thinks she can get away with making fine points about Mao without being questioned on the larger point that she deplores him as a communist dictatory. It’s entirely possible — I’ve certainly been at events where liberals feel comfortable enough with the audience to discuss the effiencies of communist health care systems without first bothering to disclaim communism’s atrocities. Similarly, I’ve heard conservatives praise South American dictators for implementing certain free-market reforms without mentioning at the same time that they appreciate that the people they’re talking about were in fact dictators.
The other problem is that, as far as I’m aware, there’s no other information out there that suggests that Anita Dunn is the kind of person who would talk about Mao’s achievements, let alone be a secret communist sympathizer.
Then again, she is the White House’s communications director, and the bottom line is that she’s supposed to communicate her political preferences a little better than this.