The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, April 27, 2006

George Allen: the presidential hopeful with plenty of baggage

TNR has an interesting article about another Bush-Republican who would be president, Senator George Allen of Virginia. According to the article, Allen "has emerged as the principal conservative alternative to John McCain in the early jockeying among 2008 Republican presidential candidates." Which makes sense, with Santorum and Frist's ambitions on seriously thin ice.

But as the article notes, Allen is all too typical of today's GOP-- hiding draconian ideology behind whatever public persona is in vogue among his constituents, and possessing a lengthy personal history of extremism, racism, and violence.

In the early '90s, Allen exuded the revolutionary spirit of the Republican insurgency. His 1994 inaugural address as governor promised to "fight the beast of tyranny and oppression that our federal government has become." That year, he also endorsed Oliver North for the Senate even as Virginia Senator John Warner and others in the party establishment shunned the convicted felon. At North's nominating convention, Allen proposed a somewhat overwrought approach for beating Democrats: "My friends--and I say this figuratively--let's enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats."

But, while Allen may have genuflected in the direction of Gingrich, he also showed a touch of Strom Thurmond. Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection--and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination--an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "governor seen leading va. back in time."