Brace yourself; George Allen is back

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By Rick Howell

    I’d been hearing these reports that former U.S. Senator George Allen was considering seeking his old job again. But surely, I thought, he’s found something else to do with himself, and knows that people haven’t forgotten that infamous word he uttered in 2006.

    It looks like I was wrong on both counts. Grab your seat belt; Allen is back. He announced last week, over the Internet, that he will again be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
    That means, at the start, that he will seek his party’s nomination for the task of trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Jim Webb, or face off against another Democrat should Webb not run again.
    Allen won’t have an unobstructed path to the nomination. Some tea party woman - whose name escapes me and probably doesn’t matter, anyway - is also running. Even Del. Bob Marshall - a right-winger of cartoonish extremes - is said to be interested.
    But they won’t matter. Allen’s status is such in his party that if he wants the nomination again he will certainly get it. That could be exactly the problem for the state GOP.
    Has anyone forgotten “macaca?” If they have, the old You Tube video from 2006 will be all over the Internet again once the Senate race starts in earnest. That’s Allen’s problem, and the predicament of the Virginia Republican Party that’s ready to welcome him back.
    You have to remember that Allen was considered likely presidential material back in 2006. His Senate run that year was supposed to be a coronation, setting him up to seek for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
    But his national ambitions took a detour in a little community near the state’s border with Kentucky. Speaking before a nearly all-white crowd, the senator couldn’t help but take special note of the racial makeup of the one person in the crowd whose skin wasn’t all white.
    “Macaca, or whatever your name is…,” is how he described a young man of Indian descent, a volunteer for Jim Webb who was videotaping Allen’s public appearances.
    Apparently in a cocky mood for which he is famous, Allen felt the need to remind “macaca” where he was. Welcome, he said, “to the real Virginia.”
    The word turned out to be a common racial slur used in the Asian world, something similar to the “n-word” here. Allen must have known that, but he would never admit it.
It’s always fascinated me that Allen thought he could get away with such a thing. But again, he was speaking before a typical Republican rally, especially for a small Virginia town. The GOP is pretty much lily-white, and Allen knew it.
    Allen flailed about trying to explain his remark, with none of his comments deflating the realities of the incendiary video that everyone had seen. His campaign melted down further when another video caught his staffers roughing up a blogger in a hotel lobby.
    His narrow loss to Jim Webb not only ended his presidential ambitions, but it appeared to end his entire political career. Well, now, he’s back, but it certainly raises questions.
    Race has long been a prickly issue in the Republican Party, whether the person involved is Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, or George Allen. The party is owned and operated by white conservatives who, decades ago, derided the civil rights movement as “communist inspired.”
    Do Virginia Republicans really want to confront the whole “macaca” controversy again? They’ll have to if George Allen is their nominee.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.