Allen: Questionably Racist Decisions Came As a "Kid" ... Aged 25, 32 And 41
Sen. George Allen (R-VA) had an uncomfortable few minutes explaining to NBC's Tim Russert why he was no longer the man who in earlier years had made questionably racist decisions.
Allen, on this morning's Meet The Press, started by again offering why he insulted a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for challenger Jim Webb, calling the man a "macaca" -- a slur that literally means "a monkey,' but also can mean "shithead" -- or Macaque, a French slur used to describe North Africans. (Allen is of French Tunisian descent.)
Allen, whose campaign had offered several explanations along the way, said "macaca" was a made-up word. Only he knows the truth.
"It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised," Allen told Russert.
He may think that, but recent polls suggest Virginians don't think it was an unintentional slur.
Russert, with actual facts at his disposal, asked this damning follow-up:
RUSSERT: This is not the first time that people have looked at your record, and, and, and raised questions. The New York Times said, “In 1984, as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Mr. Allen opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After being elected governor in 1993, he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.” And the Associated Press says, “Allen used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.” Can you imagine black Americans, black Virginians reading that? What would they be thinking about George Allen, and why did you do that?
And that led to this amazing exchange:
ALLEN: There are a lot of things that I wish I had learned earlier in life. I grew up in a football family, as you well know, and my parents and, and those teams taught me a lot. And one of the things that you learn in football is that you don’t care about someone’s race or ethnicity or religion, it’s a meritocracy, it’s a level playing field, and it’s what we should aspire to in our society. ... Through the years I’ve learned and I’ve grown, and I’ve learned from people. I’ve learned in the civil rights pilgrimage that I went down to Selma and Montgomery and Birmingham, and, and listened to heroes of the civil rights struggle...
RUSSERT: So no more, no more Confederate flags?
ALLEN: On the Confederate flag — look, I wish I had had these experiences earlier in life, because I would have made decisions differently. The Confederate flag — as, as a kid, I was rebellious, anti-establishment, I still am. And I looked at the flag as a symbol for that.
RUSSERT: But you were governor.
Let's break it down.
Allen was born in Southern California, and grew up there and in Chicago. He wasn't a "good ol' boy" growing up in the segregated South (not that this would excuse racist behavior). He didn't get to Virginia until age 19, when he transferred from UCLA to the University of Virginia.
So, when Allen wore a confederate flag on his lapel in his high school yearbook picture -- being rebellious -- he did so in Southern California. He associated himself, unnaturally, with the Confederate (aka racist) South.
It seems contradictory to say, "I grew up in a football family, as you well know, and my parents and, and those teams taught me a lot," on the one hand, and then say "on the Confederate flag — look, I wish I had had these experiences earlier in life."
On the one hand, Allen learned from his parents and his father's football teams not to be a racist. On the other hand, he learned to be a racist. Something's amiss.
But logic wasn't Allen's strong point during his stay on Meet The Press.
"As a kid, I was rebellious, anti-establishment," he said. But consider:
-- He was 25 when he opened a law office in Charlottesville, Va., in which he kept a noose -- a symbol to many people of a time when black Americans were lynched. He was at least 25 when he had a confederate flag displayed in his living room.
-- He was 32 when he opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
-- He was 41 when he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.
-- He was at least 41, and perhaps as old as 46, when he kept a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.
In other words, Allen wasn't a "kid" when he made these decisions.
Only Allen knows the truth about Allen. But his lame excuses, which began with his explaining away "macaca" last month, only continued today on Meet The Press. Whether it costs Allen a chance to retain his Senate seat this November -- and a chance at the presidency in 2008 -- remains to be seen.
But in football vernacular, Allen was "stumbling and bumbling" this morning. It's hard to believe Virginians won't notice.