August 21, 2006

It's a Beautiful Morning

It's been truly gorgeous in the Fedroplex lately. Like the rest of the country, we baked through that miserable heat wave earlier this month, but after it broke a couple weeks back, we've had a nearly unbroken string of stunningly beautiful days. Apart from a little rain, it's been perfect. The skies are a perfect azure, marbled with a few wispy cirrus clouds. The sun shines down benignly, making you feel warm and glamorous without burning you to a crisp. Even the humidity that's the usual bane of Washington summers has been largely AWOL lately. It's as close as we can get to paradise this time of year.

With weather like this, my mind's been playing hooky. I keep hopping up from my desk to "clear my head" with a sun-kissed walk around the lake. (Even the Canada geese that often torment me are feeling too relaxed to hiss these days.) I keep staring out the window, which offers a perfect view of the parking lot; even the vast expanse of asphalt looks beautiful in weather like this. And I feel relaxed, easy like Sunday morning, a rare experience for a wound-too-tight sort like me. I sit on the lake shore, close my eyes, let the breezes nuzzle me, and pretend that I live in San Diego or somewhere like that, where the Augusts are actually bearable. It's lovely.

All of this is my lame attempt to explain why I haven't commented on the Great Macaca Kerfluffle. While this Virginian has been masquerading as a Californian, our favorite Californian-masquerading-as-a-Virginian, Senator George "Gomer" Allen, has been trying to dig himself out from under a loose-minded quip he made last week. I was following this story, and I meant to write about it, but this weather got in the way. Dave Barry once wrote about the Bahamian "Lethargy Zone," which he discovered on a trip to Bimini. According to Dave, when you get to the Bahamas, you find yourself pondering such weighty matters such as, "Should I scratch my armpit Now? Or Later?" That's essentially what this weather has done to me. I said to myself, "Should I use my lunch hour to write a lengthy screed about Senator Allen and his diarrhea of the mouth, or should I go sun myself on that park bench over there?" Suffice to say, it was no contest.

Fortunately, PG at Half the Sins of Mankind has picked up the slack, and written a lengthy screed that's probably better than what I would have written, if I ever got around to it. (Incidentally, the title of her post strikes a chord with me, since there was a kid in my neighborhood who used to say "That's mighty white of you." And he grew up in the same cosmopolitan, multicultural suburbs that I did. Strange.)

At any rate, after all the hubbub and the shouting, I find myself sort of in the middle on this. I tend to disagree with the people who think that Allen was using the word "macaca" as a deliberate racial slur; I've heard the case, and it seems thin to me. I think Allen just used the first funny-sounding made-up name that came into his head. Admittedly, this isn't much of an improvement, but the people who are screaming that Allen was calling Sidarth a monkey are reaching, I think.

However, I also don't buy the Republican spin on the incident. Perhaps I would believe their spin, if I knew which spin I was supposed to believe. The Allen camp has issued a dizzying string of hare-brained and ever-shifting explanation. First, they claimed Allen was referring to Sidarth's mohawk haircut (which he doesn't have). Then, they claimed "Welcome to America" was an attempt to "welcome" the Webb campaign to the "real" part of Virginia (even though Webb's family hails from that very same part of the state). Then they claimed that "macaca" meant "s***head," which seems like an odd thing to offer as a defense (is it really any better than calling the guy a "monkey")? And then... well, the arguments got even stranger from there. (This is a funny parody of the Republican line of defense.)

I think that all this incident proves, really, is that George Allen is none too bright (how do you say something like that to someone who is videotaping you on behalf of your opponent?), has a mean streak, and has the sort of simple-minded view on race ("Foreign people are weird") that is pretty much inappropriate beyond grade school. All of this gibes pretty neatly with the picture of Allen that I've received from thoose who have seen him up close, so it's no big shock to me. But it's nice of him to fill the rest of the world in on this.

How will this affect the campaign? It's not going to knock him out of the Senate. (Ask Trent Lott.) Allen's always had a bit of a race problem (see also his bizarre fascination with the Confederacy, and the noose he used to hang in his office, for instance), but Virginians already knew this, and it's not going to beat him now. Jim Webb is a good guy, but he's pretty much a resume in search of a better candidate and campaign. (Memo to Mark Warner: Where are you now that we need you? Bet you wish you'd decided to run for this seat now.)

I think it's a lot likelier, though, that this incident will put an end to any serious chance Allen had of becoming president in 2008. The ever-growing file on Allen and racial issues now had a compelling sound bite and video clip, and that should be enough to finish him.

How could this be? How could it sink his presidential aspirations, two years down the line, but not cost him a Senate seat right now? Are Virginians a bunch of unreconstructed racists?

No. (Not most of them, at least.) Rather, imagine if you were dating a man, and you found out that he was having an affair with your sister? You'd dump him flat, right?

Now, imagine that you'd been married to that same man for 20 years. You knew he had a reputation as a Casanova, but you'd married him anyway. Would you still be so quick to leave him when you discovered he was carrying on with Sis? Maybe not. It's a lot easier to kick someone you've just met to the curb, as opposed to someone you've shared so much history with. You've made an investment; there's more at stake. Also, it's not as though you didn't have any sign this was coming.

So, come November, I predict Virginia will still find itself in bed with ol' Gomer. But there's still time for America to refuse his proposal. I'm hopeful that America will see through his pick-up lines and turn him down.

If you'll excuse me, it's time for another walk in the sunshine...

Posted by Mediocre Fred at August 21, 2006 10:37 AM | TrackBack

I've been considering about a half-dozen posts about the good Senator Allen. I've hit a couple different angles, mostly about his bullying as a kid and his Confederate poseurism. I've also raised the question about why the Dems didn't go after this guy like they did Leiberman and you know.. pick up a seat, maybe?

The problem I have is this: All posts about Senator George Allan only need to be 4 words long.

This guy's a yutz.

Posted by: frinklin at August 21, 2006 09:25 PM

The Democrats couldn't recruit a better candidate because, at the time, they thought Webb was that candidate. Believe it or not, they were actually grateful when Webb entered the race, since he's a better candidate than they figured they'd get. (He was in the military! Ooooooh!) The primary alternative to Webb was Harris Miller, a man who knew how to run a sophisticated campaign, but a pro-outsourcing businessman and lobbyist, not to mention a proud liberal, rarely a winning combination in Virginia.

Suffice to say, the Democratic bench is not very deep here.

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at August 22, 2006 05:26 AM

I actually think Webb is a pretty good candidate. And somebody I can support since he's an old Reganite. I just wonder -and continue to wonder- why he hasn't seen the explosion of energy that Ned Lamont has.

Posted by: frinklin at August 22, 2006 05:32 PM

I like Webb, but he's a considerably better candidate on paper than he is in practice. As for your question about why Webb hasn't generated the "explosion of energy" that Lamont has... if you define "energy" as netroots chatter, then yes, Lamont has generated a lot more of it.

I think the answer is twofold:

1. The netroots seem more jazzed about purifying the party than about getting more Democrats elected, period. Hence, they'd rather back a Lamont over a fellow Democrat than get excited about a moderate like Webb, or Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, even though (in my opinion) upgrading from Allen to Webb or Santorum to Casey is a lot better from a Democratic perspective than a Lieberman/Lamont switch.

2. Until the "macaca" flap, no one thought Webb had much of a chance to win. Even now, it would be hard to rate Democratic chances for a pick-up here as better than in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Ohio, or even Tennessee.

If you have a more compelling explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at August 24, 2006 07:07 AM

No, I think you've nailed it pretty well, especially regarding the purification of the party. It is sad, since I think a Lamont/Leiberman switch is really negligable in the long run, and Webb-for-Allen or Casey-for-Santorum is obviously a huge difference.

I've seen that Casey's lead has shrunken recently. I'm not sure why, but it makes for a more interesting race.

Posted by: frinklin at August 24, 2006 09:56 PM

I think Casey's lead had nowhere to go but down, since we wasn't really going to win by 20 points. Also, Santorum is an energetic, likeable campaigner, and that plays well. I think this race will tighten a little further yet before Election Day, but in the end, I think Casey holds on. Santorum is just too far to the right of his state. There aren't enough votes in "Pennsyltucky" (the fairly rural and conservative part of the state) to offset Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. (Also, Casey's moderate-to-conservative social stances will play well in Pennsyltucky.)

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at August 25, 2006 05:05 AM
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