Sunday, August 20, 2006

Me George, you Macaca

Senator George Allen has always played up the folksy/populist persona. At best this Gomer Pyle routine is tiresome, at worse it can be demagogic as we saw when he singled out a dark skinned Webb volunteer for name calling. It is bad enough this man represents Virginia in the United States Senate but he is under serious consideration for the Presidency. We cannot assume American voters will recognize his limitations covered up by a smart campaign organization – that’s how we ended up with George Bush.

However, there is still hope. The Senator’s name-calling incident has at least brought attention to him before a national campaign can repackage him as something he is not. Mike Allen writes in today’s Washington Post,
Allen, eldest son of the legendary Redskins football coach, had what
the storybook star Alexander would call a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad
week, which triggered the perverse consequence of prompting Beltway types to
reevaluate whether he has what it takes to remain on their '08 radars. (No one
ever seems to take your temperature when you're healthy.)….

Until now, Allen had openly positioned himself as Bush's true
successor, a genuine Reaganite in a field of moderates and ideological acrobats.
He certainly has cultivated a Bush-like folksiness; he talks charmingly of
"grub," "pesky bureaucrats" and the "right many" times he has stopped at his
favorite restaurant on the road, IHOP. He shares Bush's fondness for boots, too.
After he won election as governor in 1993, I asked him if he would wear them
into the statehouse. " 'Course!" he replied. "I don't have any shoes." It turns
out he really did give up wingtips after a consultant recommended them when he
was running for the Virginia House of Delegates in 1979 and he lost.

On Wednesday, the two Georges will appear together at a cocktail
fundraiser held by Ed Gillespie, who was chairman of the Republican National
Committee under Bush and is now treasurer of Allen's leadership political action
committee, which could help fund his presidential exploration if he wins
reelection to the Senate in November.

There are key differences between the two, though. Allen, 54, is
three inches taller and six years younger than the president. And where Bob
Woodward found that Bush could give detail-rich answers to scores of complex
questions at a stretch, Allen embarrassed himself in January by replying "For
what?" when a New York Times reporter asked his opinion of the nomination of Ben S. Bernanke, which had been announced three months before and was coming to a Senate vote. (Hint: His predecessor was Alan Greenspan.)…

For now, Allen, like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), says he
is focused only on reelection, with nary a thought of the White House. In the
Virginian's case, that's getting more believable: Democrat James Webb, a Vietnam
veteran who was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, could give the senator quite a run in a state that is becoming less reliably

And Allen certainly did not help himself two Fridays ago when he
made fun of a Webb campaign volunteer who was following him around. Such workers are called "trackers," and both parties use them. But Allen pointed to the
dark-skinned volunteer -- a Virginia native of Indian descent -- before
welcoming him "to America and the real world of Virginia" and calling him
"Macaca." The word can be a slur (it literally means a type of monkey), but
Allen aides said it was a play on "mohawk," for the 20-year-old's partly shaved
head. Webb's campaign soon posted the embarrassing clip on,
producing a spate of front-page stories.

But Allen failed to follow the other George's playbook for what to
do when caught red-handed. Allen, in at least two interviews, apologized to the
volunteer "if he's offended" -- kind of like telling your girlfriend you're
sorry that she's mad at you….

Allen's indiscretion reinforced one of his fundamental
vulnerabilities: his past embrace of the Confederate flag, which he says was a
manifestation of youthful rebellion. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza provoked
astonished murmuring in GOP circles with a May article about "George Allen's
race problem." The 5,000-word evisceration revealed that Allen, at age 17, had
worn a Confederate flag pin for a yearbook photo at his high school in Palos
Verdes, Calif. Allen's office confirmed to Lizza that it was a rebel flag, and
said it was possible that he also sported the Stars and Bars on his Mustang, as
classmates had recalled….

And this just in from Ben Craw at TPM Café:

As Senator George Allen (R) tosses and quakes in his bed with febrile
visions of monkeys, Mohawks, and fecal matter, challenger Jim Webb (D) is
reaping the benefits, as a new Rasmussen poll shows Webb trailing by only 5
points, a 6 point swing for Webb since last month, confirming WaPo’s assessment
that Allen Flap May Give A Boost To Webb. The poll was taken on August 16 –
Allen’s “macaca” comment came on Friday, August 11, while the video itself and
news of the incident was all over the place by Monday the 14.

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