Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Warning From the Webb Campaign and FCDC Chair

I just received this in an email from Ginny Peters, the Chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee:

"Hi All:
I have been informed by the Webb campaign that George Allen is doing a push poll. Please don’t hang up on them. The Webb campaign would like to know what they are saying. Write down as many questions as you can. So, if you get one of these calls please call Larry Byrne at the Webb Campaign and let him know what the polling questions are. Thanks, Ginny"

The number for Webb Headquarters is 703.778.4080.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

George Allen's Jewish Problem

What do Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Wes Clark all have in common? Besides the obvious that they are all Democrats and three of them are viewed as possible Democratic presidential candidates?

What else all four of them have in common is that they were all raised Christian and consider themselves practicing Christians today. And all of them also have Jewish blood. Jewish relatives. And none of them knew it growing up.

Madeleine Albright’s father made a conscious decision to convert and to have his family also convert to Catholicism before World War II to escape the growing anti-Semitism that was engulfing Europe in a flood of hatred. Because he was a prominent diplomat, he got his family to safety in England and Madeleine never knew until the mid-1990s that she had Jewish ancestors. Although she is still a Christian, she embraced all of her heritage and publicly acknowledged her history.

Basically, John Kerry and Wes Clark did the same. Kerry found out that his grandfather was Jewish and had converted to Catholicism as a young man. In fact, one of Kerry’s brothers converted to Judaism to marry a Jewish woman. When the Kerrys found out their family history, his brother quipped that if he had known earlier, he wouldn’t have had to go through all the ritual and ceremony of a conversion. In fact, he actually would have because according to Rabbinical Law, Judaism is traced through the mother’s family line not the father’s.

Wes Clark also found out as an adult that his father was Jewish. His mother never told him because she didn’t want him to be subject to prejudice while growing up in Arkansas. She raised him as a Baptist, which was her religion.

Hillary Clinton also had a distant relative who was Jewish, which she announced while running for the Senate in New York.

What all of them have in common, however, is that none of them threw a temper tantrum when reporters asked them about their Jewish roots.

George Allen actually would not be considered Jewish because his mother Etty’s father was the one who was alleged to be Jewish. Judaism, again, according to Orthodox Rabbinic Law, is traced through the mother’s line. So unless Etty had a Jewish mother or converted she would not necessarily be considered Jewish.

George Allen can breathe a sigh of relief. He obviously was highly offended when somebody asked about this. At last night's debate between Allen and opponent Jim Webb, WUSA-TV reporter Peggy Fox raised the question, as reported by Dana Milbank, in today's Washington Post

Although I am a staunch Webb supporter, I really, really don’t want to pile onto George Allen about this. Really.

I would like to believe that his anger at Peggy Fox, when she raised the question, at the Allen-Webb debate yesterday, based on an article she saw in the Jewish Forward, about Allen’s mother’s Jewish roots, was because the question followed a previous Fox question that asked whether Allen had ever heard the word Macacca from his French-Tunisian mother.

Macacca is reputed to be a European slur word for blacks, Arabs and other peoples of color. Allen might have taken Fox’s question to imply that Etty was bigoted and used racial slur words while the Allen children were growing up.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Allen could have heard the word innocently enough as a child from a distant relative or acquaintance of Etty’s. In my otherwise liberal family, I heard some foolish relatives use words that my parents would never countenance. My folks wouldn’t have approved such language, but they couldn’t keep me sheltered from those who did use it. You can love your relatives despite their shortcomings. But you sure don’t get to pick them.

So Fox may not have meant to cast any aspersions on Allen’s mother. And Allen had every right to defend his mother from any charge of personal bigotry.

But his anger at the implication that he might have some Jewish relative lurking in a closet somewhere was way out of proportion. It seems almost like he considered the mere suggestion that he might have some Jewish blood a real insult.

Being Jewish myself, I have to wonder about that. A proportionate response to Fox’s question would have been either denial if it wasn’t true or simply admitting that he didn’t know if that was the truth. But getting angry and then staying angry even after the debate suggests that more might have been going on in Allen’s mind.

After all, Fox didn’t accuse him of being a Communist, a money grubbing Shylock, or a traitor. Or did she?

Those are all the stereotypes that bigots have of Jews.

I don’t believe that Allen is a conscious anti-Semite. He is, after all, a big supporter of Israel. He has Jewish political supporters too. And if you asked him, he’d probably be insulted that you would even think such a thing.

But at some level, being asked about a Jewish relative was offensive to him. And we know he dislikes being called Felix, which was the name of his supposedly Jewish grandfather. Might there be a connection there?

It sounds to me like George Allen, once again, has some ‘splaining to do. He may be thin skinned. But if something like that insults him, his Jewish supporters have a right to know why.


Allen has indeed admitted his Jewish roots in this updated article from the Washington Post’s website, written by Michael Shear. But why does he still seem so begrudging and angry at Peggy Fox. After all, she didn’t out him for something shameful? Or does he still think she did?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wanna Help Jim Webb - Just Show Up!

This may be the most important post I write this week. It's not an original piece of writing. There's no analysis of current events. In fact, it's probably the most boring post I've ever done. All I did was cut and paste an announcement and reformat it to make it easier to read. It could have been drudgery except for the fact that it was a labor of love.

All it is is a list of events and activities that you can show up for to help the Webb campaign. And that's what makes it so important. All the words on all the websites in the netroots won't matter without your help going door-to-door to meet and talk with voters. Show up, canvass, be part of the crowd at an event, work a table, pass out campaign literature, phone bank. It all helps.

There's a line from an old West Wing episode - not an exact quote, but it went something like this - "Decisions are made by those who show up."

Here are ways, places, and contacts where you can go to help Jim Webb. So, just show up!

Televised Debates—Come be a part of history!
MEET THE PRESS with Tim Russert WHERE: NBC Studios, 4001 Washington DC, NWWHEN: September 17, Sunday. Meet at 7:30 am. Debate starts at 10:30 amINFO: 703-778-2781NOTE: We will gather afterwards to watch the debate as it's broadcast!

FAIRFAX CHAMBER OF COMMERCE DEBATE with George Stephanopoulous WHERE: Hilton Hotel, 7920 Jones Branch Drive, McLean VAWHEN: September 18, Monday. Meet at 10:00 am. Debate starts at 11:30 amINFO: 703-778-2781

Upcoming Outreach Events—most events involve only a 2-3 hour commitment.

Washington County Fair—a great musical line-up!
WHERE: Washington County Fairgrounds, Abingdon, VA
WHEN: Sep 11-16, Mon – Fri 6 pm – 9 pm, Sat 10 am – 8 pm,
need people for Fri & SatINFO: Blake Andis , 276-451-0194 or 276-676-0315

14th Annual Centreville Day Parade & Festival—a major political parade, come join the fun!
WHERE: Centreville Historic District, Centreville
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am - 6 pm INFO: Mary Lee Cerillo 703-830-3435,

Reston Multi-cultural Festival—an award-winning event!
WHERE: Lake Anne Village Center, Reston, VA
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am - 6 pm INFO: Leslie David,

43rd Street Festival of the Arts—the arts come alive in Richmond
WHERE: 43rd St., Downtown Richmond
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am – 5 pmINFO: Nichole Herbig, 804-852-7224,

Southeastern Gun Show—another fine Sportsmen for Webb event
WHERE: Hampton Convention Center, Hampton VA
WHEN: Sep 16-17 Sat–Sun, 9-5, 10-4
INFO: Jim Kirkman,, 703-314-6895,

Bluemont Country Fair—a great small-town fair in the Blue Ridge foothills!
WHERE: Bluemont, VAWHEN: Sep 16-17 Sat-Sun, 10 am – 5 pm
INFO:, 202-997-7275,

Wilderness Trail Festival—a celebration of southwest history & culture
WHERE: Downtown Christiansburg, VA
WHEN: Sep 16 Sat 9-5INFO: Henry Tieleman,, 540-382-7961

Manassas Old World Festival
WHERE: Harris Pavilion, Manassas
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 11 am - 5 pm INFO: Tom Counts 571-330-6621,

18th Annual African American Heritage Festival
WHERE: Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton City
WHEN: Sep 16 -17, Sat-Sun 10 am - 5 pm
INFO: Greg Kane 804-651-7195

Manassas Art Festival
WHERE: Harris Pavilion, Manassas
WHEN: Sep 17, Sun 10 am - 5 pm
INFO: Tom Counts 571-330-6621,

Neighborhood Canvasses—involves only a 2-3 hour commitment. It's easy...and fun!
WHERE: Webb Headquarters, 1916 Wilson Blvd, Suite 304, Arlington (Courthouse metro)WHEN: Every Saturday 10 am & 1 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm, Tues & Wed Evenings 6 pm
INFO: Christie Fanelli, 703-310-6756

Alexandria City
WHERE: Alexandria Democratic Committee, 618 N. Washington St.
WHEN: Every Saturday 10:00 am & 1:00 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm
INFO: Christie Fanelli, 703-310-6756

Fairfax County—Mount Vernon
WHERE: 4701 Manor Drive, Alexandria, VA
WHEN: Sept 16, Saturday 10:00 am & 2:00 pm
INFO: Doug Reimel,

Fairfax County—Burke
WHERE: Cherry Run Elementary School, 9732 Ironmaster, Burke
WHEN: Sept 16 Saturday 10:00 am & 1:00 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm
INFO: Mike Burns 703 455 1014

Fairfax County—Chantilly
WHERE: Poplar Elementary School, 13440 Melville Lane, Chantilly
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 1:00 pm
INFO: Jessica Bearden, Susan Southworth,

Fairfax County—Reston
Reston Regional Library (front steps), 11925 Bowman Towne Dr, Reston
WHEN: Sept 16, Saturday 10:00 am
INFO: Alex Blakemore, 703-620-3315

Fairfax County—Reston
Reston Library, 11916 Bowman Towne Dr, Reston
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 3:00 pm
INFO: Sloane Kuney, 703-887-7841 sloanekuney@gmail.comFairfax County—

Oak Hill Elementary School, 3210 Kinross Circle, Herndon
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 1:00 pm
INFO: Jessica Bearden, Sue Langley 703 403-0190

Fairfax County—Springfield
Saratoga Elementary School, 8111 Northumberland Road, Springfield
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 3:00 pmI
INFO: Chris Ambrose, 703-314-7556,

Fairfax County—Fairfax
WHERE: Olde Creek Elementary School, 9524 Old Creek Dr, Fairfax
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 12:00 noon
INFO: Mike Burns, 703 455 1014

Fairfax County—Burke/Springfield
WHERE: White Oaks Elementary School, Shiplett Blvd, Burke
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 12:00 noon
INFO: Sharon Stark, 703-978-9180 Bob Pearson,

Go out and be a participant. Volunteer! Just Show Up!

Oh, and don't forget to have some fun doing it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001: The Day That Stole Our Innocence

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my office when my husband called me excitedly and told me to turn on the television. I was busy and annoyed. I snapped at him, “I don’t have time for silly sports trivia or some entertainment fluff. I’ve got a job to do.”

Fortunately, he didn’t get insulted and hang up. Instead he kept insisting that I turn on the office television.

At about that time one of my co-workers, who already had it on, let out a yell. Something about New York, explosions, and the Twin Towers.

Because of the distress in her voice, I went rushing in just in time to see, on the small screen, an airplane disappear behind one of the towers and then explode.

We all watched with horror. As Matt Lauer tried to explain what he was seeing, the world watched another plane disappear and explode. I was shaken. One plane crashing midair into the tower could have been a tragic accident. Two was a deliberate assault.

My first thought, as I went back to my desk to call and tell my husband that I had indeed seen what he was talking about, was that another country had to be behind it. A ragtag band of terrorists couldn’t possibly have access to a large jet plane to do this. Some rogue nation with a nationalized airline had to be behind it. Maybe Iraq. Maybe Saudi Arabia. Maybe Iran. My mind raced as I tried to figure it out. I never dreamt hijackers could do such a thing.

Then suddenly sirens were going off and lights flashing. Fire alarms in our building in downtown DC were wailing and my co-worker was yelling “Get out. We’ve got to get out. Now!”

“Now!” She insisted as I dawdled.

It was possibly shock. No. Probably stupidity to the 10th degree.

But it never occurred to me that we might be next, even though I worked not far from the White House. All I could think is that it couldn’t possibly be a fire drill. It had to be a crank caller taking advantage of the shock and confusion to phone in a false alarm. Some awful sicko who got satisfaction from adding to the chaos and tragedy.

It was only as I was racing, along with hundreds of others, down the halls of our large office building, and I heard the shouts “They got the Pentagon,” that I realized we actually could be a target.

“They got the Pentagon.” And another co-worker was sobbing. Oh God, Linda’s husband works there.

At some point I felt myself to be deadly calm. I thought soberly that we could all die. No exaggeration, no histrionics. Just the very real possibility. And all I thought was, God, if I do see your face today, then I’m sorry for all the things I should be sorry for.

Then, keep running. Comfort Linda, still sobbing. Try to make sense out bedlam.

When we were out of the building, I tried to reach my husband, who worked only a few blocks away, by cell phone. Nobody’s cells were working. All I could think was that if I could get to his office, I would be able to find out what had happened. I told Linda, “Come with me. We can call from Dan’s office and find out about your husband. I bet Dan's phone will be working.”

I still didn’t get it that this wasn’t local. Wasn’t just our building but citywide pandemonium. Linda decided to head for home and her children. I walked to Dan’s office, like a homing pigeon programmed by instinct on where to go.

I found him sitting outside his building talking to some of his co-workers. It was a gorgeous sunny day. From a distance it looked like everybody was just enjoying the balmy fall weather. It was only when I got closer that I saw the expressions of fear and disbelief.

We waited for our other carpooler to show up, which she did. Dan and I were of a mind to wait until the crowds of cars had thinned out. I remember saying, “By now whoever did this has lost the element of surprise. Whatever damage they’re going to do, they’ve done for the day. They’ve probably gotten out of Dodge by now.” And I was actually disappointed by that. How would we find them? How would we hunt them down and make them pay for this if they had left town? If they had indeed gotten out of Dodge as I predicted, how would even know who had done this to us?

At that point, what I was feeling was no longer the calm that came from simple shock, but logic that had taken back over. Our carpooler wanted to leave immediately. She had no stomach to hang around. She still felt like a sitting duck.

So we joined the caravan of cars inching its way out of the city. We couldn’t go out in any direction heading to Virginia because it was too crowded. So we crawled towards Maryland.

Three hours later we had navigated our way back on to the beltway and were heading in the direction of Virginia. We stopped at Inova Fairfax Hospital to try to give blood but others told us that there already was a line with a wait of up to six hours and the hospital was sending people home. People so needed to something. Anything to help.

At home, I tried to call my aunt and cousin who live in lower Manhattan. “You won’t be able to reach them,” my husband was saying just as my aunt actually answered the phone.

Even I was stunned that I reached her. I had to do something, go through the motions. But I never expected to get through. The news was saying the lines were all tied up and cell phones were still not working. Once I was reassured that she was ok, but shaken because she had seen the explosion at the Twin Towers from her building, I called my mother to report that her sister and niece were safe. My mother had been calling, unable to get through to any of us. Why my phone worked and I was able to connect to everybody I’ll never know.

Then, still feeling like a caged animal, I went upstairs to go on line. An instant message flared up on my screen, “Check the message boards,” it commanded me. Some on-line friends from a West Wing fan site that I frequented were trying to account for all their Washington and New York friends. I was the last one missing in action. I was surprised at all the buzz about finding me, so I immediately posted. So did the instant messenger, reassuring everybody that I had been found. I quickly explained that I had just then gotten in and called my mother and aunt.

I was accounted for by those who cared about me. Everybody I loved was safe. The numb, preternatural calm and logic suddenly wore off and I burst into tears. It felt like the dam finally bursting.

Today, I didn’t want to remember it. Instead, I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to be innocent again. None of us ever will be. The worst thing that Osama bin Laden robbed us of was our innocence. Our sense that we live in a safe and friendly universe.

The boogey man came that beautiful September day and made our worst nightmare come true.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jim Webb's History

Nancy Reagan asked the Webb campaign to remove all reference to her husband from the new Webb for Senate television ad that’s scheduled to begin running on Monday. On Friday a letter was faxed to campaign headquarters from the Reagan Library at Mrs. Reagan’s request. As this article in the Washington Post points out, Mrs. Reagan has made similar requests in the past to the conservative Club for Growth; to President Bush, who during his 2004 presidential race claimed to be heir to the Reagan legacy; and to other Republicans who sought to use the Reagan imprimatur for their campaigns.

Nobody can doubt Mrs. Reagan’s sincere attempts to protect her husband’s memory and legacy. Indeed, while he was alive, nobody was more fiercely protective of President Reagan – both his reputation and his actual well being – than Nancy Reagan. Her boundless love and respect for her husband can’t be doubted ever. In his life and death, she remains devoted to the protection of her beloved Ronnie.

As a wife, myself, I understand and admire her dedication to her husband’s memory. But I also think Jim Webb has every right to use the footage of President Reagan praising him during a 1985 speech at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The ad shows Reagan saying, “James’ gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decorations.” According to the Washington Post, an announcer’s voice continues and the image morphs into a picture of a young Jim Webb in uniform.

I disagree with the Reagan Library’s contention that this could be misconstrued as a Reagan endorsement of Webb’s run for the Senate. With all due respect to both Mrs. Reagan and the Reagan Library, at the president’s death, there were very public and well attended events to mark that passing. His body was brought from California to the nation’s capitol where he lay in state. His funeral was televised. There can be no doubt that it would be impossible for him to endorse a current political candidate so nobody can fairly claim that the ad is an attempt to mislead the public.

All Jim Webb is doing in his commercial is pointing out his service as a much decorated Marine as well as a cabinet official appointed by Ronald Reagan. He is also well within his rights to show Ronald Reagan’s words of praise for him since they were uttered publicly by a public figure. At no time during his life did Ronald Reagan ever retract them.

And at no time has Webb ever repudiated Reagan. Just the opposite. He still proudly considers himself a Reagan Democrat.

It’s the current administration Webb disagrees with. He is opposed to their mishandling of the war in Iraq and the economy, whose recovery has aided the wealthy and not benefited the middle class or even reduced poverty. He has never criticized the Reagan Administration. In fact, he is justifiably proud of his service to it.

However even more important, every candidate has a right to show pictures of himself with a respected leader and to quote praise from that leader. That’s why I don’t think George Allen should remove from his website the picture of himself shaking hands with Ronald Reagan either.

Nobody running for office should mislead the public by implying support that truly isn’t there or by doctoring images to suggest more than really took place.

But every candidate – including both Webb and Allen – has a right to run on his real record of accomplishment and on his real history. And the simple fact is Jim Webb really was Reagan’s appointee and really was praised at a public event by the late president.

That’s James Webb’s history. It belongs to him.

UPDATE: Although I stick by everything I've written above and I still think he has every right to use that footage of Reagan praising him, after spending the better part of the day reading other blogs - both the pros and cons - I believe that it might be to Jim's advantage to honor the wishes of a grieving widowed first lady.

First let me say that I believe Jim Webb will do what he believes is the honorable thing. If he sincerely believes that he is right to show that footage and Nancy Reagan is wrong, or just partisan, in asking him to take it down, he will stick to his guns. But if he comes to see it as an act of gentlemanly graciousness to remove it, no campaign operative in the world will stop him.

The one thing I know about Annapolis grads is that they take the honor code very seriously. For Webb, it will come down to integrity. He'll behave as an officer and a gentleman, whichever way he decides.

However, I am a more cynical, more crass political person than he is. I've done the mental algebra. For me, the equation comes down to this. The damage to Allen has already been done. Everybody understands that Webb was the Vietnam hero who worked in the Reagan Administration and served his country honorably. He didn't spend the war at a dude ranch. Webb's the real deal.

On the other hand, Webb doesn't have much money for ads. People with computers have already seen this one. And the media and bloggers have covered it. The public gets it that Webb's a Reagan Democrat and former secretary of the Navy. If he withdraws the ad out of respect for Nancy Reagan's wishes (no matter how unreasonable those wishes may appear to us), he gets even more favorable publicity. And people still discuss the ad more.

And he has that much more money to move on to still another ad. It's not such a bad idea to honor Mrs. Reagan's wish.

As I said I'm sometimes cynical in my calculations. But the truth is, I really do believe that doing the right thing is sometimes its own reward too.