RED-BAITING GONE HORRIBLY AWRY…. Glenn Beck picks the strangest things to get hysterical about. Yesterday, for example, he nearly had a breakdown discussing a speech interim White House Communications Director Anita Dunn delivered earlier this year. Dunn noted comments from “two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Theresa.” She jokes, “Not often coupled with each other!”

In the video of a speech to high school graduates earlier this year, Dunn cited Mao’s response to skeptics who pointed out that their party was facing steep disadvantages while fighting the Nationalist Chinese: “You fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.” After asking the audience to “think about that for a second,” she said, “You know, you don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths, OK? It is about your choices and your path.”

Likewise, Dunn cited Mother Teresa’s response to a young person who wanted to work at her orphanage in Calcutta: “Go find your own Calcutta.” Dunn then reiterated: “Go find your own Calcutta. Fight your own path. Go find the thing that is unique to you, the challenge that is actually yours, not somebody else’s challenge.”

It doesn’t sound especially shocking. That is, unless you’re Beck, who insisted on the air yesterday that Dunn “worships” “her hero” Mao Zedong. At one point, referencing Dunn, he gets up and attaches a communist hammer and sickle to a blackboard, right around the time he tries to connect Dunn to the deaths of 70 million Chinese: “This is her hero’s work! 70 million dead!”

In reality, Mao references aren’t especially unusual in American politics. In last year’s presidential campaign, for example, John McCain quoted Mao on the campaign stump, and Beck didn’t seem to mind. A few years ago, George W. Bush encouraged Karl Rove to read a Mao biography. Media Matters found prominent conservatives like Barry Goldwater’s “alter ego” Stephen C. Shadegg, Cato Institute president Edward H. Crane, and GOP strategist Ralph Reed all referencing lessons from Mao Tse-Tung.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that McCain, Bush, Reed and others are secret conservative admirers of Mao’s reign, and should hereafter be featured with hammers and sickles, but it’s probably saner to assume that they, like Dunn, have simply used Mao as a historical reference.

There is a larger context here. Dunn recently trashed Fox News, describing the Republican network as “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” She followed up over the weekend, accurately describing Fox News as “a wing of the Republican Party.”

Yesterday’s hour-long tantrum was, in all likelihood, Beck’s form of payback.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.