This weekend, after White House communications director Anita Dunn forthrightly declared war on Fox News, some people thought she might have gone a little too far in explaining a tacit understanding in the Obama administration that they didn’t deal directly with the right-leaning network. One almost expected to see a clarification of the remarks afterward, as Fox anchors like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck gleefully ran with the story. But of course, Dunn’s statements had been carefully scripted by the Obama team — as is pretty much everything you hear from them, except things that are supposed to be off the record. And what’s more, Dunn herself was selected to fire off the opening salvo for a specific reason: On a strategy team largely dominated by men, she’s acknowledged to be the toughest member.
According to the Washington Post, this lifelong political consultant is the only person in the communications department that “can withstand the blowback.” A veteran of the Obama campaign, she started work in Democratic politics in the Carter administration, and worked on John Glenn and Bill Bradley’s failed presidential bids. She’s known as a ruthless and smart strategist who is not afraid to fight with the media.
But there’s another reason she was picked for the Fox News fight — she’s only an interim communications director, filling in until the end of the year. If this whole skirmish backfires on Obama, she’ll be gone in two months and the administration will have time to distance itself. In other words, the communication team’s toughest member is also their sacrificial lamb.