Thursday, August 24, 2006

George Allen, Apologies, Soft Teeth and Whiney Throats

There’s a very funny scene in the movie Gone With The Wind. Newly widowed Scarlett O’Hara is slightly tipsy when Rhett Butler calls on her. She has just lost her second husband, Mr. Frank Kennedy, who was originally her sister Suellen’s beau.

Scarlett had used her Southern belle charm and feminine wiles to get Mr. Kennedy to wed her not because she felt any love for him, or even animosity for her sister, but simply because he had money and the Yankee carpetbaggers had stuck a tax on Tara, her family’s plantation, that she couldn’t possibly hope to pay. For Scarlett, Tara was her land, her heritage, and her father’s great legacy to the O’Hara’s. So, save it she must at any cost.

But in doing so, she wrecked her sister’s life and Frank Kennedy’s life too. And she was directly responsible for his untimely death as well.

So in a rare moment of contrition, a self-pitying Scarlett O’Hara had nipped at a bottle of brandy and in that condition, she spilled her gut to Rhett about how she feared going to hell for all she had done.

He laughed and said, “Why Scarlett, you’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry that he stole but he’s very sorry that he got caught and is going to jail.”

One can’t help feeling the same way about George Allen’s belated apology to Siddarth for the macacca remark.

First, there’s the matter of the timing. It took Allen nearly two weeks to call Siddarth directly. Then, it was only after the SurveyUSA-WUSA-TV poll put the Senate race at 48-45 that he bothered to do it.

Meanwhile at the same time Allen was apologizing to Siddarth, his campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, was still busy blaming the whole fiasco on the liberal media for blowing it out of proportion. Here’s the money quote from today's Washington Post:

“Mr. Wadhams, an itinerant political hit man known for his nasty attacks on opponents, told Republican leaders in a memo sent over the weekend that the Webb campaign and the media had ganged up ‘to create national news over something
that did not warrant coverage in the first place.’

He continued: ‘Never in modern times has a statewide office holder and candidate been so vilified.’ In other words, Mr. Allen is the victim -- not the 20-year-old student whom he mocked with an insulting, possibly racist slur in front of scores of chortling supporters and demeaned by saying, ‘Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!’ ”

And while Wadhams was busy proving the campaign is still clueless about racial sensitivity, another Allen staffer was emailing conservative Republican bloggers, trying to stir the mud by attempting to inflame them over a satirical movie poster that Ben Tribett put up on NLS. That movie poster showed the faces of Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Jim Webb superimposed on the bodies of Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase from the old flick Three Amigos.

(Here's a link to the original post of the satirical movie poster and one to Ben's post about the Allen staffer's email to Republican bloggers.)

According to the Allen campaign, this was very offensive to Mexicans.

The simple facts are the following: 1) it didn’t come from Webb’s campaign but from an independent blogger who is completely beyond anybody’s control but his own; 2) has not offended any actual Hispanic; and 3) no actual Hispanic was offended by the making of the original film back in the 1980s.

Of course, look for Allen campaign staff and Republican bloggers to now spend endless time and pixels whining about how there is a double standard for Allen and Webb and how Democrats are terribly unfair to them.

The simple truth is that there is a world of difference between an independent blogger making fun of a candidate and a sitting senator using a racial epithet that is caught on tape to insult a real person. Remember, this was directed at a 20 year old young man who was one of the few non-whites in an audience. That had to be very uncomfortable for him.

More troubling is the fact that these people are proving on a daily basis that they really don’t know why Allen’s racist remark was so bad. They honestly don’t get it. They are the same people who probably couldn’t distinguish why Mel Brooks’ humor wasn’t racist while Andrew Dice Clay’s was.

For the racially challenged, here’s why. Dice Clay used racial stereotypes to make fun of black and brown people. Mel Brooks used the same stereotypes to make fun of bigotry and the bigots. They both took the same material but there was a huge difference in what they did with it and the messages they sent to their audiences. One attacked whole groups of people; the other affirmed tolerance and made fun prejudice.

Meanwhile, it’s not simply the racial insensitivity that has disturbed people but Allen’s meanness of spirit. He was caught on tape insulting and bullying a young person.

He has not shown any real contrition. While he was out apologizing, his manager was busy negating the apology by continuing to whine about how unfair the whole thing was anyway. It leaves the impression that they never meant the apology but grudgingly had to make it. Like Scarlett O’Hara, they are very sorry they got caught.

Meanwhile Allen, Wadhams, and their conservative Republican allies are like the classic bully in the schoolyard. When someone their own size comes along and stops them from bullying the smaller children, they run home to their mommas whining “unfair, unfair.”

Come to think of it, I don’t know if their teeth are soft. But they sure have whiney throats.


F. T. Rea said...

Nice job. One of the best pieces I've read on this gaffe's aftermath.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks Terry. I appreciate your comments.