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Saturday, October 28, 2006
I don't care about 27 years ago or 30 years ago or even 20 years ago. I don't care, unless the words and actions are part of a pattern that illuminates what someone does and says today.
But in George Allen's case I do care what he may have said or done in the past, because he continues to say and do similar things today. In George Allen's case, it is a matter character, and that matter of character should disqualify him from any position of public office or trust.
I will not revisit in detail the numerous stories about Allen's use of racial epithets while at UVa, which may place his use of "macaca" in a context of racism. What is not in doubt is that a sitting United States Senator acted like a bully. This seems to be a consistent pattern of the man's life. We have numerous citations in his sister's book, andin his Sept. 3 column A Punch Line: Monkey Business Troubled Others Before Allen Jeff Schapiro included the following comment (bolding added for emphasis):
By using the "m" word, Allen also bared for an audience in Virginia and beyond a mean streak a lot of us have seen it before -- that lurks just beneath his make-believe Bubba facade.
Perhaps Allen's penchant for spitting at - or near - people, particularly women, is related to this tendency of bullying. In that regard Bob Fertik's recent diary on the subject should be instructive, citing 4 cases previously publicized while seek information about possible additional incidents. With respect to spitting, it is worth noting that some speculation about the now-sealed divorce from Allen's first marriage is that Allen spit on his former wife - Taegan Goddard discusses this, including a reference to this Ryan Lizza story (behind a subscription wall).
All of this speaks to a pattern of character deficiencies in George Allen. And if anyone wants to argue that I am discussing personal behavior, the same pattern can be seen in his public behavior. May I remind readers of Allen's recent outrageous behavior on the floor of the United States Senate when he stole an amendment about to be offered by Senator Dick Durbin (see Here for a google search that will provide ample documentation of this gross misbehavior).
If there were any doubt about Allen's lack of character, his behavior and that of his campaign in the current cycle should provide the final evidence.
In the debate in Fairfax, Allen basically attacked reporter Peggy Fox for asking about his mother and his Jewish background, even though the question was relevant because Allen had just referenced his grandfather having been arrested by the Nazis, and because The Forward had run a story on Allen's Jewish roots. When forced to acknowledge his Jewish roots shortly thereafter Allen then tried to be "clever" with a reference to ham sandwiches and his mother's porkchops.
Perhaps more relevant is that in his first two-minute advertisement Allen said that
negative personal attacks and baseless allegations have also pulled us away from what you expect and deserve.. He also claimed that
I'm confident that if this Senate race is decided on issues, ideas and my proven record of performance, you'll allow me to continue serving you..
This would imply if not state several key things. First, Allen was prepared to run on issues and ideas, and that personal attacks and baseless allegations should not be part of the campaign. But what has been the record of his campaign since? With the exception of the second two-minute ad, the one with Sen. John Warner, almost everything released by the Allen campaign has been negative. Further, his attacks have not merely been baseless allegations, they have been demonstrably false charges, and/or distortions of the facts.
In fact, immediately after the seeming call to a higher level of campaigning, the Allen campaign released an ad featuring a woman who claimed to have been misquoted by Jim Webb in the famous article of 27 years ago, even though the woman's name is not in the article, nor could she point to any specific item in the article ostensibly offered by her.
Sen. Allen is fond of claiming that the average Virginian would be hit with $2,000 of additional taxes were Webb to replace him. Well, not really. If one took all the additional taxes and distributed them across the population it might come out to $2,000 per, but the average Virginian would not be hit with $2,000 of taxes. That's not how averages work, and such a claim is intellectually dishonest. It would be as if three working class readers of this blog and Bill Gates were to average his fortune, which for sake of argument we would value at 60 billion dollars. We would say the average of our little group of four was a wealth of 15 billion. Unlike the claim in the paragraph above, there is at least a mathematical truthiness to this statement, even if it is intellectually dishonest. But then, it is of a piece with the kinds of representations made by the current national administration as to the effects of its economic and tax policies, an administration with which Senator Allen concurs on almost every issue of importance, economic, military, security, and of gutting the Constitution.
We now have the Allen campaign resorting to selective quotations out of context from the writings of Jim Webb. It is clear from the coordinated talking points of Republican talking heads that this is a deliberate and well-planned attack upon Jim Webb intended to smear him. The Allen campaign, despite the statement of the Senator in that first two-minute message, has offered no positive agenda for the future. It has continued to engage in smears and unfounded allegations.
Given the campaign staff surrounding Senator Allen, this is not surprising. That he continues to use Chris La Civita, who has a history of these kinds of attack, is perhaps the only testimony we need as to the public character of George Allen. But it is worse. We have Dick Wadhams, who engaged in unethical behavior in his use of undisclosed paid bloggers to attack Tom Daschle. We have the use of Scott Howell who has also crafted the racist attack ad against Harold Ford in Tennessee. These are the people upon whom Senator Allen has chosen to rest his campaign.
And the Senator will no longer speak for himself, not in any open forum where he might receive a question he does not control. A person unwilling to accept questions from constituents, and from the press which serves as surrogates when we cannot be present, is unwilling to be answerable for his actions and those of his campaign. We saw this when Allen refused to take press questions and Jim Webb remained behind, as he does at every event, as he did in Alexandria on Thursday (an event which George Allen did not attend, sending a surrogate instead).
Public character matters. How one runs a campaign is, at least to me, a sign of character, of the kind of public servant one will be. Again, given Senator Allen's lack of a meaningful record in six years in the US Senate (other than the aforementioned theft of the amendment drafted by Senator Durbin), perhaps his campaign is a tacit admission that he cannot run on his record as senator. Perhaps that is why he repeats his "accomplishments" as governor, as his surrogate also did in Alexandria.
And perhaps it is his lack of character that will on the one hand allow him to attack Jim Webb's considered plans for beginning to solve the problems of Iraq, then turn and stand with Sen. John Warner who has just said that all options - including presumably those offered by people like John Murtha and Jim Webb -have to be on the table.
Some men grow as they age. They can readily acknowledge their mistakes and make amends. Others seem never to grow up. Perhaps as children of privilege they have never had to take responsibility for their actions. Their positions of privilege have sheltered them from true accountability for their misdeeds, their misjudgments, their bad acts. George Allen had hoped to succeed George W. Bush as president. They two Georges have much in common. Both are fake cowboys, although at least Senator Allen is not afraid of horses. As a young man Mr. Allen may have had mild punishment, as examination of the incident of painting his high school seems to indicate. But the testimony of contemporaries at UVa and the writings of his sister seem to indicate a person who has never truly been held to account. Thus he has continued patterns of behavior that can at this point only be described as clear indicators of a character insufficiently developed to be entrusted with high office.
I would not care what Mr. Allen had said or done as an adolescent or even as a young adult several decades ago, except that the actions of those days seem reflected in the words and deeds of the current election cycle. They seem indicative of a basic character, one that is not pleasant to contemplate. And were I to include in this posting all that has been discussed in the public arena the pattern one would inevitably discern would be far worse than merely not pleasant. In the overall context, taking advantage of position for financial benefit, thinking one exempt from reporting requirements on conflict of interest, having a noose and confederate flag in one's office, become relevant only as minor parts of an overall picture.
Ken Shelton, Allen's football teammate at UVa who is the source of the story about the deer's head and one of the sources for Allen's use of "nigger" sees a continuity of Allen's behavior. He has been quoted in a number of stories, including this one from CBS, about why he came forward:
"When I saw the look in his eye in that camera and using the word `macaca,' it just brought back the bullying way I knew from George back then," he said.
George Allen is and has been since his youth a bully. Jeff Schapiro makes clear that his bullying behavior was well known to observers in Richmond during his public service there. His actions in the "macaca" incident can thus be seen as a continuation of a pattern of behavior that is deplorable. His lack of honesty with the voters is despicable. I did not grow up in the South, and as an adolescent I used the word "nigger." I was wrong to do so, but I do not pretend that I never used the word. I also as an adolescent might try to explain away using a pejorative term like "macaca" or "nigger" but as an adult I should not have to because I should not be using such words. It is a lack of the Senator's maturity as well as of his character that he will not take responsibility for his misstatements.
Near the end of the first two-minute ad, Mr. Allen told us
In the weeks ahead, it's my hope to have an invigorating debate worthy of our rich history.The debate he has offered has not been invigorating, and demeans the proud history of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We can only hope that the voters of the Old Dominion will realize that George Allen lacks the character for public service. We can also hope that someone in the press will put together all of the pieces and paint the true portrait of George Felix Allen so that the voters of the Commonwealth can know the truth about the man who seeks reelection as our junior senator.