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Beast of the Month - December 2006
George Allen, GOP Senate Re-election Loser
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
George Allen, on the campaign trail, 2006
In any normal election year, hands down, the most offensive, tasteless moment of the campaign would have come on October 23, when Rush Limbaugh responded to a political ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox for Democrat Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, endorsed McCaskill due to her support for stem cell research, research that may one day cure the disease he suffers from. In the ad, his body can be seen weaving at the torso, his head bobbing from side to side (a sadly normal response to severe Parkinson's.) Rush responded in his ever entertaining way by mocking Fox, raving like a psychotic Oxy-addict: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act... Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." (As he said this, Limbaugh could be seen in a video, later spread via YouTube and Keith Olbermann's Countdown, crudely trying to mimic Fox's violent movements.) How did Limbaugh know it was a fake? "This is the only time I've ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has." (To be fair to Rush, a viewing of the entire Back to the Future trilogy would confirm a lack of the body movements.) Then, in a wonderful "pot calling the kettle black" moment, Limbaugh bluntly declared: "This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox." (The good news: Limbaugh's hack attack on Fox apparently backfired, as McCaskill won her race over incumbent Jim Talent by three points.)
Sorry Rush: for once, you're goig to have to settle for the tasteless silver. The gold would have to go to Bob Corker and the Republican National Committee. After Harold Ford, Jr. took a slight lead in polls against Corker for the Tennessee Senate race, the RNC released an ad that included a attractive blonde female (played by an actress) saying she "met Harold at the Playboy Party," followed by her winking as she seductively cooed: "Harold, call me." Harold Ford, Jr. is, incidentally, an unmarried African-American. The not-so-subliminal message of the ad to white Tennessee voters: vote for Harold Ford, Jr. and niggers will be having sex with your blonde white women. RNC chairman Ken Mehlman claimed he couldn't pull the ad even if wanted to, while Corker called it "distasteful and declared, I think it ought to come down. Both were being disingenuous: the ad itself states that "the Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising, while even White House press secretary Tony Snow conceded on Chris Matthewss Hardball that "if he (Corker) wants it to come off [the air], itll come off." (Sadly, the ad worked: Corker pulled ahead and won.)
Birth of a Nation-style tactics aside, however, 2006 was basically a bust for the GOP. True, there was one noted victory by a conservative, pro-Iraq War candidate: unfortunately for the Republicans, it was Joseph Lieberman. Meanwhile, with the exception of Governor Arnold's re-election in the Golden State, there was little the Republicans could crow about: Democrat incumbents won all their House, Senate, or Gubernatorial races, and the GOP failed to take over a single seat occupied by the Democrats as well. End results of the no-hitter: the Dems easily took control of the House for the first time since the Gingrich "Revolution" of '94 with at least 232 out of 435 seats, reclaimed the majority of state governorships 28-22, and, perhaps most surprisingly and important, won six seats in the Senate to control it 51-49.
In any normal election year, the election loser poster boy for the GOP would be Rick Santorum, the buffoonish soon-to-be ex-Senator from Pennsylvania. A class of '94 veteran, he rose to number three man in the Senate, despite his amazing ability to make asinine comments in public that rival Limbaugh satirizing Parkinson's or GOP attack ads on African-American candidates. His most infamous example came in 2003, ranting about how legalizing homosexuality would lead to "man on dog" sex - a statement that perhaps reveals more about his own twisted leanings than the dangers of repealing anti-sodomy laws. Apparently, Santorum will have some free time to explore his fixation on canines, as he lost handily to Bob Casey, Jr. by eighteen points.
Still, as has already been noted, 2006 wasn't a normal year politically, and the real poster boy for GOP failures (aside from George W. Bush, that is) was Senator George Allen of Virginia, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
At the start of this election season, Allen was viewed as a strong contender for the 2008 Presidential race. (In a 2005 survey of Washington insiders by National Journal, Allen was the voted frontrunner for the GOP nomination.) He also was deemed a virtual shoe-in for re-election in one of the reddest of Red States, even if Democrats had recruited the formidable Jim Webb to battle him. (Webb, a Vietnam war hero, is a former conservative Republican and Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, until disgust over the failed Iraq War forced him to switch party allegiance.) Allen's strategy was simple: whip Webb in the re-election, then prepare for his real battle in two years against McCain, Rudy and Hillary.
It was a good plan. After all, like another George in the GOP, Allen has an "awe-shucks" common man style to him (he regularly wears cowboy boots, chews tobacco and peppers his speech with football metaphors on the campaign trail) that he combines with a tough guy swagger. Unlike Shrub, he is a real-life ass-kicker: while the runty Dubya was a cheerleader at Andover, Allen is a six-foot four former high school quarterback from SoCal, the son of the late Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George Allen, Sr. Of course, like many Republicans, though he was in favor of the Vietnam War, Allen avoided military service with a student deferment. (You can only take being a badass so far, after all, before it gets a little dangerous.) Also, his good ol' boy act seems a tad affected, since he grew up only in the Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas (according to numerous sources, he became obsessed with Southern redneck culture while growing up watching episodes of Hee Haw.) Despite this, and though the fight had been a little tougher than expected, Allen still had a double-digit lead in the polls on August 11, 2006.
And then the Macaca hit the fan.
Something hit the fan, at least, when Allen referred to S.R. Sidarth (an Eastern Indian Webb campaign volunteer videotaping the campaign stump) as such. "Macaca" is a racially derogatory term for dark-skinned people used by whites in Africa: the term derives from macaque, a genus of monkeys. Coincidentally, Allen's mother was born and raised in the French North African colony of Tunisia. Allen, for his part, denies he knew of any racist overtones to the word, claiming it was a made-up mishmash of mohawk (a reference to Sidarth's mullet-styled hair) and caca, a slang term for excrement. "In other words," explained a Republican close to the Allen campaign, "he was a shit-head." (This, of course, is so much better than referring to someone as a monkey.) Oddly, Allen's explanation hardly settled the issue of racial overtones over his comment. Adding to the insult was Allen's snide putdown of "Welcome to America" to Sidarth, even though Sidarth (the only non-white in the audience of 100) was born and raised in Virginia himself (unlike the phony Southerner Allen.)
Suddenly, Allen had a real campaign battle. Aiding the fight was revelations over Allen's often dubious history, many of which had long been reported. Among the greatest hits:
* The eldest child of the Allen family, he was a violent and abusive brother growing up, according to his sister Jennifer (who wrote a book on her family upbringing, titled Fifth Quarter.) Over the years, he threw his brother Bruce through a glass door, tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone, and, in the case of Jennifer, once dragged her upstairs by her hair for staying up after bedtime, held her by her feet over Niagra Falls on a family vacation and smashed a pool cue over her boyfriend's head. According to her book: "George hoped someday to become a dentist. George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession -- getting paid to make people suffer."
* A decade before The Dukes of Hazzard hit TV and made Confederate flags on cars cool and non-racist, he drove around with the Rebel Jack on his red Mustang in high school, according to multiple witnesses. (When asked about this, Allen claimed not to remember, but added "it is possible.") In his senior photo from high school, he wore a Confederate flag pin on his collar. Note that this was before he'd ever lived a day in the South.
* The night before a big basketball game with a black inner-city high school next to Watts, he and some friends spray-painted racially tinged graffiti (including the phrase, "burn, baby, burn") on his mostly white Palos Verdes High. It was meant to look like a nasty prank from the opponents to fire the team up in an era of racial riots.
* A Salon.com investigation uncovered that while at the University of Virginia, he regularly used the term "nigger" in a derogatory fashion for African-Americans, according to multiple college teammates. (Unsurprisingly, he only used the term around white teammates.) Ken Shelton stated that "Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place.'" He added that Allen nicknamed him "Wizard" in honor of Robert Shelton, a former imperial wizard of the KKK. During a hunting trip, he stuffed a deer head in the mailbox of a black resident as a Godfather-era prank. (That George Allen sure is a wacky guy!) According to one witness, during poker games, he would refer to black-suited cards he didn't like as "a 'nigger card' he needed to get rid of." He referred to blacks as "roaches" as well, and used the term "wetbacks" for Latinos. Allen also continued his affinity with the Confederate flag. Another teammate put it bluntly: "My impression of him was that he was a racist."
* Multiple warrants were issued for his arrest in 1974. He has yet to release the records explaining what the warrants were for. His divorce records from his first wife (from 1979 to 1983) have remained sealed as well, but there are rumors he was an abusive husband. (Perhaps these rumors are false, but since the records remain sealed, Allen has nobody to blame but himself for this.)
* His obsession with the Dixie flag didn't end in college: until 1992, he hung one prominently in his living room. (He unconvincingly claims it was part of a flag collection.) In 1993, his first statewide television ad for governor included one. He also had a noose hanging from a ficus tree in his law office.
* In 1979, while running for Virginia's House of Delegates, he ran an ad opposing a congressional redistricting plan that would create a congressional seat for blacks. In 1984, he voted against a state holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. That same year, he co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a virulent segregationist politician.
* As Governor, he issued a proclamation (drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans) declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month, celebrating a "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." His successor, a fellow Republican, changed the proclamation to denounce slavery, something he failed to do.
* In August 2006, it was uncovered that Allen owns stock in Barr Laboratories, makers of the Plan B "morning after" pill, even though he opposes abortion rights. In October, the AP reported he failed to disclose stock options granted from two companies, even though Senate ethics rules required him to do so and both firms were contractors to the federal government. The two companies, Xybernaut and Commonwealth, had previously received assistance from Allen when he was Governor, and put him on their board of directors after leaving office. (In another quid quo pro, a third company receiving assistance from Governor Allen, Com-Net Ericsson, would later hire him as an advisor.)
* On October 31, Mike Stark, a liberal blogger, Marine veteran, and Virginia law student (thus a constituent) was assaulted by three Allen supporters at a campaign stop after asking questions about his arrest record and sealed divorce papers. He was put in a headlock, thrown to the ground, and forcibly escorted from the hotel the event was held. Allen did nothing to stop the attack. (The video was later distributed by YouTube.com and Keith Olbermann's Countdown.)
Thanks to all this, Webb managed to pull slightly ahead in the polls (though one gave his lead as eight points) going into Election Day. Even a smear attack using Webb's fictional books by the Drudge Report (utilizing information received from the Allen campaign) couldn't change the tide. Still, as recent history would prove, the GOP doesn't give up that easily. In the days leading up to the election, Democratic Party voters (especially African-Americans, the most loyal Democrat voting bloc) received phone calls falsely claiming their polling place had changed, while others received calls (from those pretending to be from the Virginia Elections Commission) threatening arrest if they showed up to vote. Buckingham County (which is heavily African-American) was flooded with fliers that read: "Skip This Election" in large bold-face letters. Harassing robo-calls were repeatedly sent to Democrats and independents feigning support of Democratic candidates in hopes to turn off voters. (The FBI has launched an investigation over these abusive and illegal practices, though little results should be expected.)
In the end, it was too little, too late for Allen and the GOP. Either the Republican's attempts at voter fraud were too little, or the backlash was too strong, and Webb (and thus the Democrats in the Senate) was declared the victor on November 8. Though the margin of victory was slim (49.6 percent to 49.2) the GOP decided not to contest, likely because:
A) They knew a closer examination of the ballots would likely only increase Webb's lead, and expose voter suppression in African-American areas;
B) If they did, they would be viewed as hypocrites for crying "Sore Loserman" after the 2000 Prez race;
C) Even if they did manage to squeeze a victory in Virginia and thus retain control of the Senate, the long-term damage of being tied to a barely concealed racist was a losing long-term strategy; or
D) All of the above.
Whatever the reason, thanks to Macacagate, the GOPs utter domination of all three branches is no more. As George Allen Sr. would put it: The future is now.
In any case, we salute George Allen as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Georgie!!!
Thanks must go to the following: AMERICAblog ( http://americablog.blogspot.com ), Mike Stark & CallingAllWingnuts.com, MediaMatters.org, The New Republic ( http://www.tnr.com ), RawStory.com, Salon.com, TruthDig.com & YouTube.com.
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