“The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater from something I read in the late 1980s, so I hope I don't get my progressive friends mad at me. The use of the phrase ‘favorite political philosophers’ was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat -- at least with a certain Fox commentator whose sense of irony may be missing.”
So that is the beginning and the end of it for Ms. Dunn, but not for the conservative and liberal media outlets and blogs. In fairness to Ms. Dunn, let’s break her actions and defense down in a systematic manner as to reference points and perspective.
Anita Dunn’s Irony Defense
- Verbal irony: is a disparity of expression and intention: when a speaker says one thing but means another, or when a literal meaning is contrary to its intended effect. An example of this is sarcasm.
- Dramatic (or tragic) irony: is a disparity of expression and awareness: when words and actions possess significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not.
- Situational irony: is the disparity of intention and result: when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect. Likewise, cosmic irony is disparity between human desires and the harsh realities of the outside world (or the whims of the gods). By some older definitions, situational irony and cosmic irony are not irony at all.
“If Dunn's message was about the importance of perseverance and refusing to give up, she could easily have quoted a non-controversial figure such as Winston Churchill, Dale Carnegie, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Thomas Edison, but she chose Mao, a homicidal maniac. Remember that: she chose Mao as an example of someone whose ideas she elevates and exults.” When Dunn later tried to laugh the whole matter off, a parent of a high school student present in the audience at the speech by Dunn also didn't think the supposed joke was funny. "There was no irony, no sense of humor," he said. "Mao would have preferred to silence the opposition by a bullet to the head."
Anita Dunn and the Left's Finger Pointing to Republicans Referencing Mao
“But his policies, basically, were terribly, terribly destructive and I think that just makes it impossible for any serious person in the Western world, and I think an awful lot of serious people in China, to regard him as one of the great political philosophers. It’s outrageous and pathetic that a person, anyone in this country frankly, would still believe that,” said Ratliff.
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, commented on Dunn's remarks.
“Imagine what would happen if a White House communications director cited Adolf Hitler as one of her favorite political philosophers. Not only would it be an above-the-fold, front-page story in every major newspaper in the country, but there would also be outraged howls in the editorial pages." Mao killed more people than Hitler – they were two of the three worst mass murderers in the 20th century (the third being Joseph Stalin),” wrote Spakovsky. “However, the revelation of Dunn’s comments will probably be greeted by the mainstream media with a big collective yawn.”
“…this video that Glenn Beck played on his program of Anita Dunn, communications director for the White House, explaining earlier this year why Mao Zedong is one of her two favorite political philosophers, is a public service. The praise for Mao isn’t a throwaway line by Miss Dunn; she actually explains why he is one of the two people (along with Mother Teresa!) she turns to most when it comes to “fighting your own war.”
Arthur Waldron, in his October 2005 essay in Commentary, describes the architect of China’s Cultural Revolution this way:
“Mao was the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Much of the killing was direct, as in the torture and purges at Yan’an. After the Communist seizure of power in 1949, the practice became countrywide. Mao set his numerical targets openly, and stressed the ‘revolutionary’ importance of killing.” It is said of Mao — who was responsible for the death of some 70 million Chinese — that he derived a “sadistic pleasure” from seeing people put to death in horrible ways.