August 18, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: Politically Incorrect

from the pages of the Washington Post...

Sen. George Allen on Tuesday sought to contain the political damage from remarks he made to a Fairfax County man that dredged up charges of racial insensitivity -- allegations that have dogged him for years as governor, senator and now presidential hopeful.

Despite a quick apology Monday, criticism poured in about Allen's use of the word "Macaca" to address a volunteer for the campaign of his Democratic opponent, James Webb, and also about another Allen comment, "Welcome to America." Democrats, left-wing bloggers and civil rights groups called him "insensitive" and "racist," while some conservatives called him "foolish" and "mean."

The question was fiercely debated all day: Was "Macaca," which literally means a genus of monkey, a deliberate racist epithet or a weird ad-libbed word with no meaning? And what was Allen trying to say by singling out the young man of Indian descent?

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Allen (R-Va.) said his remarks Friday to S.R. Sidarth, who at the time was videotaping an Allen campaign event on Webb's behalf, "have been greatly misunderstood by members of the media." He said Monday that "Macaca" was a play on "Mohawk," a nickname given to Sidarth by the Allen campaign because of his hairstyle. In Tuesday's statement, Allen said he "made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false."

The comments were made at a campaign stop in the southwestern Virginia town of Breaks, where Allen spoke to about 100 supporters. Moments after greeting the crowd, Allen repeatedly pointed at Sidarth, called him "Macaca, or whatever his name is" and went on to say, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," as the crowd laughed.

Meanwhile, Allen's past -- which includes a youthful admiration of the Confederate flag and an office that once displayed a noose -- lurched back into the public spotlight during the Republican's senatorial battle against [Democrat James] Webb, a Navy secretary during the Reagan administration.

I live in Virginia, the Old Dominion. It's a strange state, torn between its roots as a southern state and the promise of a place within the east coast megalopolis. It's part cosmopolitan, part rural, yet most of the state is fairly conservative. No matter which part you're in, however, it feels as if old-school southern culture lurks just beneath the surface. Why? Partially due to people like George Allen.

I don't think George is all that bright but I assumed he was bright enough to avoid such a stunning display of stupidity. I was wrong. And I'd be willing to cut him some slack and assume he just opened his mouth and made shit up if he didn't have a track record for being both a moron and a racist dickhead. But, why "macaca"? How is that a variation on "mohawk" as he claims? And if he was going for “Mohawk”, isn't that potentially inaccurate racism since the dude's from India? At the same time, what are the chances that George, who I suspect has difficulty tying his own shoes in the morning, had any idea what a macaca was? Unless that was the new racial epithet being discussed at last month's Klan meeting.

If you really want to see it for yourself, check out the video.

Posted by Chris at August 18, 2006 7:19 AM

What killed me was the "Welcome to America" part. Sidarth is American; he was born in Virginia.

Posted by: Alison at August 18, 2006 7:42 AM

Yeah, he can argue the meaning of "Macaca" all he wants but the "Welcome to America" part made it clear he was commenting on Sidarth's Indian decent. Some people should not be allowed to open their mouths.

Posted by: Beth in StL at August 18, 2006 7:54 AM

Didn't seem to be a very well prepared speech. And Ali said that Sidarth was born in Virginia. Duhh. or is that Duuh?

Posted by: cassie-b at August 18, 2006 8:06 AM

The word youre referring to is a French version of the n-word, popular with white people from formerly French-occupied countries. George Allen's mother is one of these white people.
Those kids will just repeat anything!

Posted by: That Girl at August 18, 2006 8:14 AM

These Fascists--er--Conservatives have always been so flexible in the way they defend their positions. Not only do they believe they're smarter and more fiscally knowledgeable than we are, but they say whatever they want and then do any one of the following:

*Rail against the liberals' insistence on "political correctness", which is just Repli-speak for "why can't I call this guy a n***er?"
*Claim we're just blowing things out of proportion and being divisive.
*Claim they never did what we accuse them of...even when videotape proof is offered.
*Refuse to admit or deny any words were spoken at all and then bring up Bill Clinton's blowjob as a method of distraction.
*Distract from the present sinkhole of a mess any given Republican might be involved in by vilifying Hillary Clinton, Jane Fonda or both.
*Bring up Hollywood liberals and their influence on the average person who reads people magazine...despite the fact that Republicans have brought more sorry-ass actors (Reagan, Gopher on Love Boat, Jesse "the Body" Ventura, Schwarzenegger...there are more) into politics than any other party.
*ANY criticism of Bush is met with either baseless projections of just how horrible a President John Kerry would have been OR bring up the War on Terror
*Claim ignorance over the meaning of a macaca....the offer a backhanded apology.
*Blame alcoholism
*Hypocrisy: It's wrong when we do it. It's a holy mission when they do it.

Just hide and wait while Allen picks one of the above as his defense.

Posted by: wordgirl at August 18, 2006 8:22 AM

Thank goodness for YouTube - many local media outlets in my area are reluctant to report on events such as this, for fear of appearing to take a liberal slant, which is sad.

Posted by: Betti at August 18, 2006 8:32 AM

Please, this is such a non-story. Another example of the media choosing to cover fluff when they could be asking hard questions of President Bush, or doing in depth stories of the plethora of serious problems out there, that they don't cover because it doesn't fit into a 30 second soundbite. It's the whole Howard Dean thing on the other side of the isle. Not everything that comes out of a candidate's mouth, be it gibberish, a barbaric yawp, or "shit" is news.

Posted by: Sheryl at August 18, 2006 8:48 AM

The problem is the generation Gap that these Senators are sitting in. That is not an excuse but more of my opinion. I believe that Senator knew what he was saying but did not realize that people would know it was offensive.
I hate political correctness and I think too many people are over sentivie to things people say but in this case I think he slipped. Got caught and is now going to make up shit to get his ass out of the fire.

Posted by: Bill at August 18, 2006 8:51 AM

As for the welcome to America thing, haven't you guys ever heard politicians say that when they leave Washing ton to campaign in "the real world"? "It's good to be back in the real world" or "in America" or insinuatinng that other politicians and their lackeys don't live in the real world or aren't in touch with America, that's what it seemed like to me.

I'm tired of people being declared rascist, or homophobes, or whatever the strawman of the day is, when really they're just run of the mill asses.

Posted by: Sheryl at August 18, 2006 8:52 AM

i was hoping for a little jonbenet ramsey this morning... :)

Posted by: ali at August 18, 2006 9:03 AM

I think he's a poo-head.

Of course, I'm also half asleep right now so my opinions on this topic are pretty few and far between.

I do, however, have family in Virginia. My mom's brother lives in Roanoke and my dad's brother lives in Virginia Beach. My dad was stationed in Norfolk, where my brother was born, and my mom took classes at Old Dominion.

Could I *be* any more off-topic?

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at August 18, 2006 9:08 AM

Yeah, it COULD have been an honest (STUPID) mistake, but dude used to display a goddamn NOOSE in his office, so he gets no benefit of the doubt from me.

Plus, as others have pointed out, he doesn't have any excuse -- plausible or otherwise -- for the "welcome to America" comment. Even if he meant it in some political, non-offensive way, he should have been smart enough to realize how it MIGHT sound and not say it. That's not political correctness, it's just common sense.

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 18, 2006 9:28 AM

I personaly think the whole thing is being blown out of proportion. I guess I'm just sick of the bickering that goes on between the democrats and republicans. It's always "He said she said", or "she said he said"...I don't give a crap, I just want real news.

Posted by: MrsJoseGoldbloom at August 18, 2006 9:29 AM

LOL. oh yes, good 'ol Mr. Allen. always good for a laugh, isn't he?

also, your description of VA is quite accurate, in my opinion. the county i live in is right in the crux of that; wanting to advance to that megalopolis, but still trying to hold back because of all the history, rural-ness, and culture. although i never really believed VA to be a hub of southern hospitality. just rednecks. heh.

Posted by: Judy at August 18, 2006 9:31 AM

I'd like to comment on one of the comments. Being an ass and being racist aren't always mutually exclusive. I think it's fair to say that Allen was being both. Yes, people do play the race card a lot...when they don't want to be called on the carpet for something they've done. If that is wrong (and I'm not saying it's not), then it is equally wrong to play the race card as an attempt to be derogatory. Macaca isn't anymore a derivation for Mohawk than Asshat is for the term matter how many times Allen claims that it is. Why not just refer to the guy by the nickname he's supposedly known by on the campaign trail...if in fact what Allen says about the nickname is actually true. Allen's being an ass AND a racist. That's bad enough. Defending it is worse. As for asking Bush some hard questions, I'd like that, too. Unfortuanately, he can't answer them.

I should add another bullet to my previous comment.
*When caught being criminal, stupid, or duplicitous, Conservatives respond with character assassination and spin (among other tactics). As in a case of rape, it's always convenient to attack the accuser.

Chris...I don't know why the e-mails are bouncing. I can't get one to you either.

Posted by: wordgirl at August 18, 2006 10:06 AM

Huh. I guess I haven't been following the national news this week, as I've missed this one.

I'm not a fan of political correctness, and goodness knows half of what comes out of my mouth isn't what I'd intended to say. That said, though, the guy clearly has a track record of (at the very least) old-school racism.

I think our politicians (Republican OR Democrat) *do* have to be held to a higher standard for their speech. They are our representatives out on the world stage. If they're constantly showing their true Asshatness when they think the mic is off, or when they think they're using some super-secret code word that nobody will understand, what is that saying about us?

At the very least, let's elect people that are smart enough not to say that stuff in public!

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at August 18, 2006 10:20 AM

George Allen is a racist idiot. Here's another one:

In Florida's 13th congressional district race, for the seat being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), Republican front runner Tramm Hudson (R) is the latest politician to make unforunate comments caught on amateur video. Said Hudson:

"I grew up In Alabama, and I understand, and I know this from my experience, but blacks are not the greatest swimmers or may not even know to swim."

Posted by: ann adams at August 18, 2006 10:24 AM

I missed the link to the story on my last comment.


Posted by: ann adams at August 18, 2006 10:27 AM

And he's so cheerful in his insult! Like he's baking cookies and offering them to all the nice ladies on the farm!

What a tool.

Posted by: Elaine at August 18, 2006 10:28 AM

Sorry, a quick PS: but how can people say blatant racism is not a news item?

Posted by: Elaine at August 18, 2006 10:29 AM

I'm with you: there's no way he was bright enough to know what 'macaca' means. NO WAY.

Posted by: s@bd at August 18, 2006 10:40 AM

Speaking of lowlife..I've heard from a reliable source that there's tobacco spitoons around his law offices. Yick.

Posted by: Sue at August 18, 2006 11:35 AM

I heard about this briefly and checked out the video now. What a piece of crap this guy is. So condescending, he clearly was meaning to be insulting and no amount of BS will convince me otherwise.

Posted by: Kate at August 18, 2006 11:44 AM

I agree with Beth in St.L---that was definitely a slam towards the Indian heritage. What a moron---seems they all have it in them at some point or another. I feel a Cynthia McKinney moment coming on.

Posted by: Michelle at August 18, 2006 1:46 PM

He and Mel Gibson should get together or something. Seems like they'd be great friends. Maybe they could help each other get each other's foot out of each other's mouth...or something....

Posted by: haley-o at August 18, 2006 3:40 PM

You know, George Allen is an idiot and I just hope that incidents like this will help people choose to vote for someone else. I love, love, love your description of Virginia. I have only lived here for four years, after being raised in California. Your description says what I have been feeling since I moved here. I love Virginia, but there is that strange mix of rural and cosmopolitan. If you drive south an hour or two, suddenly there are confederate flags hanging proudly hanging next to the American flag. I still have not grown used to that sort of thing.

Posted by: Nicole at August 19, 2006 9:16 AM

"I grew up In Alabama, and I understand, and I know this from my experience, but blacks are not the greatest swimmers or may not even know to swim."

Oh, well I was gonna call bullshit, but since he's from ALABAMA and all...

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 19, 2006 11:02 PM