April 27, 2006
George Allen's Racist Past?
Apparently The New Republic is going to soon be running a profile of George Allen (R-VA), the senator many insiders see as the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. The story will feature a review what many would describe as racist behavior committed by Allen when he was younger. Before that profile comes out, it might be useful to consider other research that's been done on this subject. Brendan Nyhan wrote two posts on it last spring. I have my doubts about whether this sort of thing would prevent him carrying the GOP banner in '08 (a Democrat facing these charges would be dead - but that's one difference between the parties). But it's an issue that merits further investigation.
UPDATE: Ezra's take on it is brutal - almost as brutal as Allen's "thuggish" past behavior. As he notes, the article chronicles a lot of cruel misdeeds beyond racism.
Posted by armand at April 27, 2006 09:34 AM
| Posted to Politics
George Allen is an asshole, and racist or not he certainly seems to have Issues (or at least to have had Issues). But I find it surprising that you would say:
a Democrat facing these charges would be dead
given, for example, the past organizational affiliations of your state's senior senator.
I think it all depends on how convincingly one renounces one's youthful indiscretions -- and on those indiscretions really being limited to one's youth.
Oh, sorry, I should have been more specific - a Democrat who hopes to have a serious shot at his/her party's presidential nomination would be dead. There are sadly lots of places where being a big old racist doesn't bother the locals - and those places elect senators, mayors, whatever, some of whom are Republican and some of whom are Democrats.
But in terms of the extremely active constituencies one has to please to get the Democratic presidential nod, some of whom are extremely sensitive to racial issues, well in that race a Democrat with this past wouldn't have a shot. But similarly demanding and influential constituencies don't exist among the set of people who choose the GOP presidential nominee.
Two other quick thoughts that come to mind to just throw out there - 1) While everyone who writes for this blog lives in West Virginia and is aghast at George Bush's policies - that shouldn't imply that we care for Sen. Byrd (I don't think there's one fan of his here) and 2) isn't the lesson of Henry Hyde that we should try to drop "youthful indiscretions" from the lexicon? I'll cut people some slack for some of their past behavior at times - but continuing to use that type of phrasing seems to open up the possibility of "outs" from problems that a lot of people who should have known better don't deserve (a group that might well include Sen. Byrd).
I discovered the following on the web: "George Allen is credited with beginning a Virginia Republican renaissance when he started as a prohibitive underdog and defeated Mary Sue Terry, an established, well-financed Democrat, to take back the governor's office in 1993 for the GOP after 12 years of Democratic control."
...nice story, but it obscures a deeper, more disturbing truth. We all remember Mary Sue Terry's lead in the polls ... and soon before the election, your more irresponsible news outlets were publicizing a story spread by an obscure psychiatrist named William Gray. Gray was claiming that once upon a time he had treated a "lesbian lover" of the Attorney General's, someone he said later committed suicide. Pressed for details to back up his story, Gray took the opportunity to claim "doctor/patient confidentiality"(!). What was less publicized was the fact that Gray had lost his medical license in California owing to allegations of child molestation, charges that would be repeated after he set up shop in Virginia. When Mary Sue Terry learned of the case, she was publicly outraged at the lack of communication between state medical boards. In short, Dr. Gray had an ax to grind.
I've personally seen no evidence whatsoever of any communication between the Allen campaign and Gray (on the other hand, I've never really looked). What is beyond doubt, however, is that George Allen benefited to no small degree by this explosive rumor circulated by an enemy of his opponent. And what happened to Gray? He relocated to the Philippines following Allen's victory. His act of petty vengeance, in my view, was more instrumental in George Allen's rise than the efforts of such state media figures as Ross Mackenzie and Forrest Landon combined.