Sunday, September 24, 2006

George Allen -- Right on Issues, Wrong on Minutia

So says an article in the Weekly Standard, which seems upset that their man for 2008 has allowed himself to be defined by meaningless trivia and innocent gaffes.

The article gives a good discussion of Allen's history, and does an excellent job debunking the baseless charges hurled at Allen from the left. I learned some stuff I didn't know. For example, that Allen made the same decision I did to stay in Virginia after college, and at about the same time:

A year later, Allen graduated from the University of Virginia law school. By this time, his family had made the decision to return to California. Allen chose to stay in the Old Dominion. He had come to love the commonwealth's history, its landscape, its people. "I was going to go into a partnership with someone in Charlottesville in an old building built in 1814," he told Barnes. "Mr. Jefferson played the fiddle there, allegedly. I bought this old building." Soon after, his prospective partner opted out of the arrangement. Allen was alone. He renovated his new property himself. "I lived in it while renovating," he said. There was no shower. "I started my law practice and then bought a log house out in the country, in the woods. Charlottesville is where I wanted to take my stand."

Oh, and I also bought an old home, here in Manassas, and spent some time renovating it (that's another story)

They talk about his service as governor, again in glowing terms:

There ought to be little argument that Allen was one of the most successful governors of the 1990s. He abolished the parole system as promised, signed into law a parental notification abortion statute, and shepherded to passage a welfare reform plan that eliminated benefits after two years on the dole. He signed into law the Standards of Learning (SOL) education reforms, the model for President Bush's No Child Left Behind act. Allen, who criticizes No Child Left Behind on federalism grounds, likes to point out that the standards he championed are far tougher than Bush's. The best evidence of Allen's success as governor came in 1997, when Virginians elected his handpicked successor, Attorney General James Gilmore, governor on a tax-cut platform.


They give a surprisingly good concise explanation for Allen's "Jeffersonian Ideals" -- as a fan of Libertarianism, I've alway appreciated how Allen melds the concept with his conservative principles:

Throughout his career, Allen has sought to govern by the principles of what he calls "common-sense Jeffersonian conservatism." In March, when I asked Allen what this meant, he said, "It means I trust free people." As a symbol of Virginia's heritage, and as a model for self-government, Jefferson has served as the touchstone for Allen's politics. "I look at Reagan as a modern-day Thomas Jefferson," he told me. Then, unprompted, he quoted from Jefferson's 1801 Inaugural Address: "The sum of good government is a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another but otherwise leave them free to regulate their own pursuits of industry. And the government shall not take from the mouths of laborers the bread they've earned."


They also note that he shares MY frustration with the Senate. Not surprisingly, Webb's campaign has distorted this truthful observation to suggest Allen is "bored", or somehow "not concerned" with his job. But as you can see, it's just that he wants to accomplish things, and the Senate, well, doesn't always seem to have that goal:

The Senate has frustrated Allen. He said it surprised him "how long it takes for them"--his fellow senators-- "to get things done." He went on, "They're the most collegial bunch of folks you'd ever want to meet. I'd never seen more people take so much time to make a decision. They need action."


They deal directly with the absurd "racism" charges:

Last week, one outside adviser sent me a seven-page white paper of Allen's "African-American Accomplishments." These included, as governor, "safer communities," "enterprise zones," an "urban revitalization initiative," support for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, support for Black History Month, appointing a "significant number" of African Americans to state government posts, criticizing discrimination against black farmers, funding the Virginia Slavery Museum in Jamestown, "authoring a resolution" at the 1997 National Governors' Association meeting condemning church burnings, welfare reform, education reform, and support for hate crimes legislation. As senator, Allen has, among other things, cosponsored a resolution condemning the Senate for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation, and hosted, along with Georgia Democratic congressman John Lewis, two civil rights pilgrimages--one to Alabama, the other to Virginia.


The article mentions the good response Allen got from a recent Fairfax Republican "ethnic rally" event:

On a recent Saturday, post-"macaca," the Fairfax County Republican Committee held its Third Annual Ethnic Community Campaign Kick-Off Rally in the Edison High School auditorium in Alexandria. Outside the school, a few protesters milled about. One wore a gorilla suit.
...
You wouldn't have known that, though, from speaking to the people inside the crowded auditorium, who made up an incredible collection of hyphenated Americans. According to the event program, there were, in alphabetical order, Afghans, Africans, Bolivians, Chinese, Colombians, Cubans, Filipinos, Indians, Iranians, Koreans, Pakistanis, Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, Salvadorans, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese--all waving American flags, carrying balloons, and wearing buttons embossed with the names of local Republican political figures.

A local party activist named Gary, a retired engineer who recently returned from an overseas vacation, told me he paid no attention to the protesters. Gary is white. Sen. Allen's verbal slip-up, he said, was excusable, even understandable. "He felt too relaxed and slipped. It came out the wrong way," Gary said. Then he paused and smiled. "Sometimes I get into trouble like that, too."

Onstage, Puneet Ahluwalia, a northern Virginia businessman, introduced Allen, who launched into a cheerful and enthusiastic mangling of greetings in the native languages of those assembled, racing through each phrase, stumbling over diphthongs and glottal stops, and barely pausing to acknowledge the audience members, who laughed, yelled out corrections, and cheered. It was a pleasant scene: a run-down school auditorium filled with delighted Americans, young and old, and a veteran politician who still was smiling. And here, for the moment, no one had any questions about Allen, race, or ethnicity, and the protesters outside might as well have been a thousand miles away.

I wish politics could be that way all the time. I wish we could stop playing the politics of personal destruction. If Allen had given a major speech, or written and published an article attacking the ability of blacks to do a job, that would be a real charge that would require an answer
(oddly, Webb did that about women, and nobody in the media seemed to care). But the Webb campaign's exclusive focus on tearing down Allen and his family have soured the political discourse, just like they did against Harris Miller, their Democratic Primary opponent.

The article also takes the Washington Post to task, showing the absurdity of their m-gate obsession simply by noting the overwhelming coverage:

A second reason is the incredible amount of coverage the Washington Post devoted to the controversy. According to the Lexis-Nexis research database, prior to August 15, 2006, the only mention of "macaca" in the Post occurred in a June 2003 "Travel" piece that mentioned the famous monkeys of Gibraltar. Between August 15 and September 18, however, the Post mentioned the "macaca" incident some 44 times. During that time, "macaca" appeared in seven front-page (A1) news articles. It appeared in six front-page "Metro" (B1) articles. It appeared in no less than three editorials and one op-ed column. This sort of coverage is what reporters mean when they say "flood the zone."

Of course, us conservatives know why the Washington post would "flood the zone" on what was a single disrespectful comment to an opponent's campaign worker. But this also again demonstrates that the word isn't as offensive at some pretend. IN fact, the article confirms something I had speculated about when the story first appeared:

He is also curious. As Sidarth tells it, after the Breaks event he sought out a dictionary and looked up "macaca," which he found refers to a genus of monkey, and in certain cultures is used as an ethnic slur.

In fact, even today you can go to dictionary.com and you will find only 3 references for "macaca", none of which suggest a slur of any kind. But the important thing is that Sidarth was not offended immediately. He had to look up the word before he had any idea what it meant. And even in his own self-serving account, he wasn't "offended" until he saw the definition, and it wasn't until then that he put the video out.

The video became available on late monday/early Tuesday, and Allen apologized on Tuesday -- so much for the misrepresentation that Allen apologized "too slowly". The article doesn't explain why it took Allen another week to apologize directly to Sidarth, which is odd because even I know that answer: Allen wanted to apologize personally, but Sidarth stopped showing up at his events (I assume on orders of the Webb camp). After spending a week hoping to apologize to his face, and apologizing (too much I thought) in the press, Allen gave up and tracked him down to apologize by phone.

Politically it would have been better for Allen to just call him up the first day, but Allen actually CARED that he had hurt Sidarth's feelings, and wanted to make sure the young man personally understood that. IT wasn't political for him, it was a misunderstanding that he wanted to correct because that is the kind of man Allen is.

But for the purpose of the article, this apparently wasn't important -- because their fault with Allen is NOT that he occasionally says the wrong thing, but that he let the story get out of hand. They fault his campaign staff, and they fault him, for not handling what they and the rest of us know should have been a one-day story. I don't fault Allen so much because I don't see how you can overcome three weeks of unpaid political attacks by the Post, but I do share their frustration.

But this is a political issue, not a personal one. This is not an attack on Allen's character, or his position on issues, or on the fact that he is an excellent Senator. It's about how he handled a meaningless event.

The also fault him for his handling of the question about his Jewish Heritage, for the same reason -- they understand his position, and don't think the issue or the question was appropriate, but wish he could have done a better political job.

Well, I guess at one level I wish Allen had done a better political job, because then we would be talking about real issues that actually matter instead of this crap that the Webb campaign wants to talk about.

1 comment:

SWAC Girl said...

Thanks for your indepth breakdown of the Weekly Standard article. It is research info to keep for future use....