It seems that Allen, speaking in Breaks, Virginia, a town near the Kentucky border, introduced a young Jim Webb volunteer, S.R. Sidarth, who’s been following him around, videotaping Allen’s speeches.
Allen decided to have a little fun at the videoptaper’s expense by introducing him to the crowd. It would have been fair game and maybe even nothing more than a bit of friendly joshing between the campaigns but it turned far uglier when Allen said:
"This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."
Bloggers, starting with Not Larry Sabato, went into overdrive trying to figure out what the ‘Macaca” label meant. Although Dick Wadhams, from Allen’s campaign, attempted to explain it as a reference to Sidarth’s “Mohawk haircut” a picture over at Raising Kaine shows clearly that Sidarth doesn’t have a Mohawk. They’re long out of style anyway so that was a lame explanation.
One suggested meaning was that Allen had mispronounced Macaque, a small, brown monkey. The term may also be a racial slur among the French speaking Tunisians. Allen’s mother is a French Tunisian so one line of speculation is that it was a term that might have been used in his family.
NLS, the Washington Post and Raising Kaine now all have copies of this videotape of Allen’s remarks, so you can go over to it and judge for yourselves.
The biggest problem with George Allen, though, is that he’s a wannabe Southerner who doesn’t get it.
Yes, there are bigots down South. There are also bigots in Canarsie, Brooklyn, parts of the Bronx, and certainly in Boston too. But embracing Southern culture doesn’t mean having miniature nooses in your office, hanging up the Confederate flag, and wearing cowboy boots when you are really from Southern California.
Lots of thoughtful Southerners from both major parties and of all political stripes have spent many years trying to heal the racial wounds of the past, especially in the South, while still trying to hold on to all that was good about Southern culture including its love of tradition, its romanticism, its wonderful storytelling tradition (let’s face it many of our nation’s best writers are Southerners), and it’s beautiful musical traditions. Everything from bluegrass to the haunting mountain folk songs to Nashville’s country sounds to blues.
And Southern cuisine is among the finest in America too from Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina barbecue to the wonderful lowland seafood dishes.
There’s a great deal of Southern culture – both white and black – to be proud of. Its racist past is not among of those things. And yet it’s precisely that which Allen seems to hold most dear. Could it be because he never really understood Southerners or true Southern culture?
It's a long way, after all, from the beaches of Southern California to the the real Virginia, which is Jim Webb's heritage. Let's face it, Webb is the real deal so he doesn't need to wrap a Confederate flag around himself and swagger and posture.