January 30, 2006

NYT Columnist: Bush Reads “Mao: The Unknown Story,” Confirming That It’s a “Conservative” Book

As noted at this NewsBusters post last week, when it became known that President Bush was reading “Mao: The Unknown Story,” Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times pigeonholed the book:

The book might at first seem an odd choice for Mr. Bush, whose taste in biography, like that of other American presidents, runs to previous occupants of the Oval Office. But it is not so surprising given that “Mao: The Unknown Story” has been embraced by the right as a searing indictment of Communism.

As you can see from this October post that addressed Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s review of the book, it hasn’t exactly been “embraced” by bitter-enders on the left. Despite the book’s painstakingly thorough chronicle of Mao’s horrible death toll, Kristof still holds that Mao was “not all bad” for China (most of this quote is also at this “TimesWatch Worst of 2005″ NewsBusters post):

But Mao’s legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao’s entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world’s new economic dragon.

Just like that, 60-70 million deaths become collateral damage in the (fictional) advancement of women’s equality (see: “one-child policy”) and supposed economic rebirth (which didn’t begin until years after Mao’s death, and never would have happened while he remained alive, even if he had lived to be 100).

What I’m getting from all this is that “Mao: The Unknown Story” is being “embraced by the right” because it is the unvarnished if uncomfortable truth, while far leftists, in the face of facts that can only be disputed at the margins, if at all, aren’t happy with the book, because believing it would force them to let go of their 1960s romantic notions of Mao. Fortunately for those steeped in reality, you can be an open-minded person on either side of the political spectrum and accept the profoundly important work the authors, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, have done to shine the light of truth on one of history’s most evil people.

But thanks for the compliment to conservatives, Liz. And get a grip, Nick.

And, finally, I have to wonder if the Left’s near silence over Google’s Chinese censorship isn’t a hangover from its reluctance to acknowledge the full, ugly truth about Mao.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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