Politics, Politics

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Since there hasn’t been too much political talk around here lately — in the sense of talking about specific politicians or public policy initiatives — I thought I would post on a couple of stories I read today that interested me.

One is the developing story of Senator George Allen of Virginia, who is running for reelection (and rumored to be planning on a presidential run in 2008) and who memorably referred to a young man of Indian origin as “macaca” several weeks ago during a speaking engagement. Apparently some of Allen’s former teammates from UVA football have come forward with allegations that Allen regularly used the “N-word” and expressed racist attitudes during college. This is in addition to previous reports of his affinity for the Dixie flag and racist attitudes expressed more recently, as well as the macaca incident. So, there are two questions these stories raise: one, are they accurate? and two, if they are accurate, why are they important? I have my own views on these questions, of course, but I’m interested to hear what others think about it.

The other interesting story of the weekend was Bill Clinton’s Fox News interview with Chris Wallace. You can read the full transcript here. For my money, I have to say that it’s about damn time that a Democrat stood up for himself; I only hope that those who are still in office will be emboldened to do the same. With particular reference to the Somalia incident, one reporter at Salon has put together some supporting evidence here regarding who wanted to “cut and run” then. Interesting stuff.

11 Responses to “Politics, Politics”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I have mixed feelings on both issues. It seems fairly clear at this point that Allen has some issues when it comes to race, including problems with his own Jewish identity. (He’s sort of a humorless version of Anne Lamott’s Jewish friend who said he wasn’t a Jew, he was Jew-ish.) I’m inclined to overlook a certain amount of racism in college, since most of us are still more our parents than ourselves at that age, but Allen’s life since then hasn’t exactly been loaded with evidence of a change of heart.

    On the Clinton interview, I think he’s right that he did about as much as he could, given the climate at the time. (I even heard a journalist who covers these issues criticize Clinton for having gone after bin Laden too hard, making him both more anti-American than he already was, and a more appealing figure to other radicals.) OTOH, and I didn’t see the actual interview, it does seem like Clinton overreacted to the question. He gave Wallace, Fox, et al., room to roll their eyes and raise the “vast right-wing conspiracy” meme. A better answer, I think, would’ve been something like, “No, in hindsight, clearly we didn’t pursue bin Laden and al-Qaeda hard enough, but we went after them much harder than anybody at the time thought we should, especially Republicans, who turned it into a political issue.”

  2. Sandi Says:

    are you saying there isn’t a vast right-wing conspiracy? 🙂

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Oy! You’re such a meshuggeneh. 🙂

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’d really like to see the interview, but I don’t have cable right now. I’m kind of like Trent in that I think his reaction was a bit over-the-top, but it’s obvious he’s getting tired of the conservative attacks that he did nothing but sit on his hands. And I’m sure the recent ABC thing didn’t help. And I’m also sure that since he was on to talk about the Cliton Global Initiative…well, it seemed a bad time for Wallace to do a fair and balanced report about Clinton’s failures as a president.

    But, like Sandi, it was refreshing to hear someone stand up to their questioner. The tone I read into the transcript was pretty harsh, but he did seem to get beyond just being mad and pointed to specific information. I’ve no faith that any Democrats will follow suit.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I see Condi has sort of half-heartedly responded.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I also see that, in light of the weekend reports that the Nat’l Intelligence Estimate says the war in Iraq has made terrorism worse, Pres. Bush has decided to declassify the NIE. Since it contains sensitive information, it’ll have to be “edited” before release, of course.

    Given this administration’s track record of selectively using, leaking, and reporting intelligence products, does anybody have any doubt about what the “edited” report will say?

    Here’s what I expect: firm praise for elements of the “war on terror,” with bits of mild concern left in here and there to make the editing more credible. We’ll see, but if that’s not the case, I’ll eat my hat.

    (NB: I don’t own a hat.)

  7. Sandi Says:

    As noted in today’s Washington Post, two more sources have come forward stating that Senator Allen used racial slurs in college and in the early 1980s, respectively. (It’s buried near the end of a two-page story, along with a new twist I didn’t know about — a noose in Allen’s law office). It’s so much fun to watch this play out — kind of like when Trent Lott was dethroned.

    Which calls to mind what Bill said in response to the Lott debacle — basically, that Republicans say shit like that all the time, they just do it behind closed doors or in “safe” crowds, so Lott was being crucified for something that tons of other Republicans were guilty of.

    I don’t know the merit of the sources and the opposing sources in this particular story. But I will say that it does not tax my imagination in the slightest to imagine George Allen saying these things, in college or now. And although I might be inclined to forgive a youthful misperception if there were evidence of a wholesale change in thinking (lacking here, as JU pointed out), it would have to be accompanied by honesty about the past. And anyone who has an issue with his Jewish heritage has a SERIOUS race problem in my book. That’s like KKK material. The ham sandwich comment was just freakish.

    I think this is an example of a politician being an idiot about something because he’s that blinded by his own prejudices that he doesn’t even get how those prejudices will be received by others. On the one hand, it’s good to know who’s a racist, so I hate to discourage such revealing comments. On the other hand, if you’re too stupid to conceal the fact that you’re a bigot, maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to be President. 🙂

  8. Sandi Says:

    David watched the video of the Clinton interview and says that the transcript comes off much harsher than how he actually sounded during the interview. Which just goes to show that you lose a lot when you can’t see facial expressions and gestures and hear tone of voice.

  9. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’d really like to see the interview, but I don’t have cable right now.

    It’s on YouTube.com, I hear.

    I’ve seen a few snippets from it. Just based on those, he seems pretty heated up, to me, Sandi.

    (My word verification was “Qkegqw,” who, I believe, was a character in Moby Dick.)

  10. Sandi Says:

    I’m sure he was heated up … but we were just talking about particular parts (like the “you think you’re so clever”) that I thought were really shocking, but that David said didn’t stick out to him when he viewed the interview, although he can see how they would stick out when reading the transcript. David also pointed out that some of Bill’s gestures — like reaching forward — tempered the anger somewhat and made him appear more passionate than hostile.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he was heated up. We just don’t want to make this another Dean scream moment when it wasn’t.

  11. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I guess it turns out that the bits of the NIE the Bush admin. declassified don’t really make them look any better than the leaked part did. Consider my hat eaten.

    And it seems there are factual accuracy problems with Condi’s New York Post response to Clinton’s statements on Fox.

    And George Allen’s problems continue.

    Not the best week for Republicans.

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