A tale of two quotes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Here is a tale of two sound bites. First: “Slav­ery built the South. I’m not say­ing we should bring it back; I’m just say­ing it had its mer­its. For one thing, the streets were safer af­ter dark.”

Sec­ond: “The third les­son and tip ac­tu­ally comes from two of my fa­vorite po­lit­i­cal philoso­phers, Mao Ze­dong and Mother Teresa. Not of­ten cou­pled with each other, but the two peo­ple that I turn to most to ba­si­cally de­liver a sim­ple point, which is: You’re go­ing to make choices. [. . .] But here’s the deal: Th­ese are your choices; they are no one else’s. In 1947, when Mao Ze­dong was be­ing chal­lenged within his own party on his own plan to ba­si­cally take China over, Chi­ang Kai-Shek and the na­tion­al­ist Chi­nese held the cities, they had the army. [. . .] They had ev­ery­thing on their side. And peo­ple said ‘How can you win? How can you do this against all of the odds against you?’ And Mao Ze­dong says, ‘You fight your war and I’ll fight mine.’ You don’t have to ac­cept the def­i­ni­tion of how to do things. [. . .] You fight your war, you let them fight theirs. Ev­ery­body has their own path.”

The first quo­ta­tion was at­trib­uted to Rush Lim­baugh. He never said it. There is no tape of him say­ing it. There is no tran­script of him say­ing it. Af­ter all, if he had done so at any point in the past 20 years, some­one surely would have men­tioned it at the time.

Yet CNN, MSNBC, ABC other net­works and news­pa­pers all around the coun­try cheer­fully re­peated the pro-slav­ery quo­ta­tion and at­trib­uted it, falsely, to Mr. Lim­baugh. And hav­ing a flat-out lie planted in his mouth wound up get­ting Mr. Lim­baugh bounced from a con­sor­tium hop­ing to buy the St. Louis Rams. NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell said the talk-show host was a “di­vi­sive” fig­ure, and fa­mously non-di­vi­sive fig­ures like the Rev. Al Sharp­ton and the Rev. Jesse Jack­son ex­pressed the hope that, with Mis­ter Di­vi­sive out of the pic­ture, the NFL could now “unify.”

The sec­ond quo­ta­tion — hail­ing Mao — was ut­tered back in June to an au­di­ence of high school stu­dents by Anita Dunn, the White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. I know she ut­tered it be­cause I watched the words is­su­ing from her mouth on “The Glenn Beck Show” on Fox News. But don’t worry. No­body else played it.

So, if I un­der­stand cor­rectly: Mr. Lim­baugh is so “di­vi­sive” that to get him fired, lefty ag­i­ta­tors have to in­vent racist sound bites to put in his mouth. But the White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor is so un­di­vi­sive that she can be in­vited along to rec­om­mend Chair­man Mao as a role model for Amer­ica’s young.

From my un­sci­en­tific sur­vey, U.S. school stu­dents are all but en­tirely un­aware of Mao Ze­dong, and the few who aren’t know him mainly as a T-shirt graphic or “agrar­ian re­former.” What else did he do? Here, from Jonathan Fenby’s book “Mod­ern China,” is the great man in a nut­shell:

“Mao’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ex­tinc­tion of any­where from 40 [mil­lion] to 70 mil­lion lives brands him as a mass killer greater than Hitler or Stalin.”

Hey, that’s pretty im­pres­sive when they can’t get your big fi­nal-score death toll nailed down to within 30 mil­lion. Still, as Pres­i­dent Obama’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor says, he lived his dream, and so can you, al­though if your dream in­volves killing, oh, 50 mil­lion to 80 mil­lion Chi­na­men, you may have your work cut out. But let’s stick with the Fenby fig­ure: He killed 40 mil­lion to 70 mil­lion Chi­na­men. Whoops, can you say “Chi­na­men“ or is that racist? Oh, and sex­ist. So hard keep­ing up with the Sen­si­tiv­ity Po­lice in this pan­si­fied po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, isn’t it? But you can kill 40 mil­lion to 70 mil­lion Chi­na­men and that’s fine and dandy: You’ll be cited as an in­spi­ra­tion by the White House to an au­di­ence of high school stu­dents. You can be any­thing you want to be! Look at Mao: He wanted to be a mass mur­derer, and he lived his dream! You can too!

The White House now says that Ms. Dunn was “jok­ing.” Any­one tempted to buy that spin should look at the tape: If this is her Fri­ars Club rou­tine, she needs to work on her de­liv­ery. But, for the sake of ar­gu­ment, try a thought ex­per­i­ment:

Mid­way through Ge­orge W. Bush’s sec­ond term, press sec­re­tary Tony Snow goes to Ch­ester A. Arthur High School to give a grad­u­a­tion speech. “I know it looks tough right now. You’re young, you’re full of zip, but the odds seem hope­less. Let me tell you about an­other young man fac­ing tough choices 80 years ago. It’s last or­ders at the Mu­nich beer gar­den — gee, your prin­ci­pal won’t thank me for men­tion­ing that — and all the nat­u­ral blonds are say­ing, ‘But Adolf, see rea­son. The Weimar Repub­lic’s here to stay, and be­sides, the in­ter­na­tional Jewry con­trol ev­ery­thing.’ And young Adolf Hitler puts down his foam­ing stein and stands on the ta­ble and sings a med­ley of ‘I Gotta Be Me,’ ‘(Learn­ing to Love Your­self Is the Great­est Love of All’) and ‘The Sun’ll Come Out To­mor­row,’ and by the end of that night, there wasn’t a Jewish green­gro­cer’s any­where in town with glass in its win­dows. Don’t play by the other side’s rules; make your own kind of mu­sic. And al­ways re­mem­ber: You’ve gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Any­one think he’d still have a job?

Well, so what? All those dead Chi­nese are no-name peas­ants a long way away. What’s the big deal? If you say, “Chair­man Mao? Wasn’t he the wacko who offed 70 mil­lion Chinks?” you’ll be hounded from pub­lic life for say­ing the word “Chinks.” But, if you com­mend the mur­derer of those 70 mil­lion as a role model in al­most any school­room in the coun­try from kinder­garten to the Ivy League, it’s so en­tirely rou­tine that only a crazy like Mr. Beck would be boor­ish enough to point it out.

That’s odd, don’t you think? Be­cause it sug­gests that our present age of po­lit­i­cally cor­rect hyper­sen­si­tiv­ity is not just morally un­se­ri­ous, but pro­foundly deca­dent.

Twenty years ago this fall, the Iron Cur­tain was com­ing down in Europe. Across the War­saw Pact, the jail­ers of the com­mu­nist prison-states lost their nerve, and the cell walls crum­bled. Matt Welch, the ed­i­tor of Rea­son mag­a­zine, won­ders why the an­niver­sary is go­ing all but un­ob­served. Why aren’t we mak­ing more of the big­gest mass lib­er­a­tion in his­tory?

Well, be­cause to cel­e­brate it would in­volve rec­og­niz­ing it as a victory over com­mu­nism. And, af­ter the left’s long march through the in­sti­tu­tions of the West, most are not will­ing to do that. There’s the bad to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism (Nazism) and the good to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism (com­mu­nism), whose apol­o­gists and, in­deed, fetishists can still be found ev­ery­where, even unto the White House.

Mr. Lim­baugh’s re­marks are “di­vi­sive”; Ms. Dunn’s are en­tirely nor­mal. But don’t worry, the new Fair­ness Doc­trine will take care of the prob­lem.

Mark Steyn is the au­thor of the New York Times best-seller “Amer­ica Alone” (Reg­n­ery, 2006).

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