Thursday, August 31, 2006

ALLEN FOLLOW-UP Washington Jewish Week asks the question that the gentile press is apparently afraid to touch:
We know that Sen. George Allen's mother is French-Tunisian, but [Forward writer] E.J. Kessler says that the Virginia Republican's mother was born Jewish.

A campaign spokesperson, however, tells us that Allen's mom "is of French, Italian and some Spanish descent, but we're not aware of any Jewish ancestry in her background."


The campaign spokesperson, Dick Wadhams, told WJW that Etty Allen was "raised in a Christian home." He didn't know what denomination.
It's helpful, I suppose, to get this denial on the record. But the denial itself raises more questions than it answers.

Among them: Now that Senator Allen (R-VA) has been confronted with evidence of his Jewish ancestry, what's his reaction? Does he accept the evidence?

More to the point: Why has Allen avoided speaking to the issue thus far? What downside could there possibly be to acknowledging that he has Jewish roots?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

INCURIOUS GEORGE? The mother of Sen. George Allen (R-VA) is Jewish. Who cares?

The short answer is that context matters: Given Allen's not-so-secret love affair with the confederate flag--and after the recent flare up over his "macaca" musings--it's a scrap of new information that complicates the Senator's story.

Specifically, since Allen has long cultivated a tobacco-chewing, good ol' boy persona (after having spent his formative years in Chicago and California) it's notable that his mother comes from an ethnic and religious heritage that contrasts sharply with the tradition embraced by her son, a practicing Episcopalian.

But where the Allen heritage story really gets interesting--and where it gets sticky--is the way the Allen family has reckoned with that Jewish past: There's circumstantial evidence, at least, to suggest that the younger Allens have worked actively to gloss over, and even run from, the truth.

It's not an open-and-shut case--which is probably why the story hasn't yet been touched by the mainstream media. And making the allegation requires wading into some tricky terrain--which may be why prominent lefty bloggers (even those who pushed the "macaca" story) haven't touched it.

But it's worth sorting through what we learned from E.J. Kessler's article in The Forward:

--Etty Lumbroso Allen, George's mother, was born into a prominent Jewish family with a documented history dating back to the 15th century.

--In her autobiography FIFTH QUARTER, George Allen's sister Jennifer notes that when the Germans invaded North Africa during World War II, "the Nazis took away my mother's father," although he escaped from harm.

--Elsewhere in the book, Allen writes about her parents, "The priest said he would marry them only if Mom agreed to raise as Catholic any children the marriage might produce...As a young woman, my mother had an 'incident' with a priest in Tunis, so Mom said 'Over my dead body' to the priest. My mother and father were married by a justice of the peace in a Jewish friend's home with two witnesses."
It would be helpful, clearly, to read the book. But Jennifer Allen certainly seems to be trying to thread a needle here, particularly in the second passage--to steer clear of outright falsehoods while nonetheless avoiding any mention of her mother's ancestry.

As Kessler--momentarily setting aside her (his?) detached tone--writes, "Why was there any question as to whether Etty Allen would raise the family Catholic, unless she herself wasn't baptized in the faith?"

Of course, Etty Allen may have hidden her heritage from the Allen children. Jennifer Allen may not be tiptoeing around the ancestry issue here so much as parroting what she'd heard from her mother.

But two further pieces of evidence militate against this interpretation.

First, back to the Forward piece:

Senator Allen told the Richmond Times Dispatch in 2000 that his grandfather was imprisoned [by the Nazis] because "he sympathized with the Free French and the Allies and coveted the concepts of freedom of thought, expression, religious belief and enterprise."
Does this ring true? That Allen's grandfather was imprisoned, at least in part, because of his love of freedom? His commitment to capitalism?

It's certainly possible that Etty Allen explained her father's detention to the Allen children in these terms. But color me skeptical. Given what we know about George Allen's Dixie-loving California boyhood--his capacity for self-invention and reinvention--it sounds more like the kind of convenient, politically-expedient explanation that candidate Allen might have dreamed up himself.

Second, consider this quote from Charlottesville Daily Progress columnist Bob Gibson, courtesy of The Plank:

It's funny, but the only time that George Allen ever wanted a correction from me in 27 years of covering his races was when I wrote about his mother's Jewish family origins. He insisted, through a press secretary, that his mother was raised a Christian.
Sounds like a man with his Judaism radar turned on. Which makes it harder to believe that Allen just never got around to asking questions about his mother's heritage.

All that said, it's anything but a slamdunk case: If George Allen is running from his Jewish heritage, it would take more information than has surfaced, so far, to prove it.

Of course, the fastest way to resolve the question would be to hear directly from Allen himself.

So what is he saying?

"Allen's campaign spokesman, Bill Bozin, did not return several detailed messages, left over two days, that asked what the senator and his family know about his mother's heritage," The Forward tells us.

CONTRAPOSITIVE will keep you posted.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

POLITICAL CONVERSION? This article (via The Plank) makes a strong implicit case that the mother of Sen. George Allen (R-VA) is Jewish by birth; that the family has long known this; and that Allen's Jewish heritage has been deliberately kept quiet.

More on this in a later post.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER It took a while, but someone at The Times finally realized that readers deserved to know about the nuttiest comments Sen. Joe Lieberman (Lieberman-CT) made during his Tuesday appearance on Glenn Beck's radio show:
During that interview, Mr. Beck said that invading Iraq on the basis of a perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction was a "nice side benefit" but that the broader goal was to "go and pop the head of the snake in Iran."

"I don't think anybody had the courage or could actually come out and say that with world politics the way they are," Mr. Beck added.

Mr. Lieberman responded: "Well, you're right. And I think if I fault the administration for anything before the war--because I think we did the right thing in going in to overthrow Saddam--it's that they oversold the WMD part of the argument."
This is now Ned Lamont's race to lose. If he isn't able to exploit Lieberman's kooky blunder, he will have no one to blame but himself.

UPDATE: Elsewhere, The Times finally notes that the word "macaca" is indeed a racial slur--a full week after this was common knowledge to anyone paying close attention.

What is today--make-up day?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

LAMONT WATCH Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) appears to have left the building.

How else to explain his strange performance this morning on right wing pundit Glenn Beck's radio show?

BECK: I've been saying this before we even went into Iraq, that we're trying to change the face of the Middle East. The weapons of mass destruction was a nice side benefit. We were trying to go and pop the head of the snake in Iran. That's what we were trying to do. And I don't think anybody had the courage or could actually come out and say that with world politics the way they are.

LIEBERMAN: Well, you're right. And I think if I fault the administration for anything before the war--cause I think we did the right thing in going in to overthrow Saddam--it's that they oversold the WMD part of the argument.
How many senate Republicans would have the inclination--let alone the gall--to endorse that argument? I can't see solid conservatives like Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) agreeing to the proposition that in Iraq "we were trying to go and pop the head of the snake in Iran."

And I have a tough time picturing even a spineless Bush loyalist like Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) making the case that the administration's only significant mistake before the war was talking too much about WMDs. (If you think that distorts the meaning of the passage, go ahead and read it again.)

Has Lieberman been locked in a closet with Paul Wolfowitz for the last six months? Does he even want to win this race? Or is he just gunning for a spot in the Neocon Hall of Fame?

In a word, bizarre.

UPDATE: In its Wednesday edition, The Times devotes an entire quote-laden article to Lieberman's appearance on Glenn Beck's show. But the passage above--inarguably the most salient chunk of the conversation--goes unmentioned.

Monday, August 21, 2006

NUMBERS Number of US military fatalities in Iraq since the war began: 2611

Number of "laughter episodes" noted today in the official White House transcript of the President's morning press conference: 25

UPDATE: Both figures are up from March 21. On that date, 290 fewer US troops had died in Iraq; four fewer laughter episodes were noted in the transcript of that morning's presidential press conference.

Friday, August 18, 2006

LAMONT WATCH Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) hires a Republican consultant:
Joe Lieberman's indie CT SEN campaign sent out a release to announce the hiring of two new consultants: media/direct mail consultant Josh Isay and pollster Neil Newhouse.


The more curious hiring, of course, is Newhouse, a partner in one of the most prestigious Republican polling firms in the country...what makes the hiring curious is that Newhouse is a Republican and has a slew of clients who will likely raise the ire of Democrats, particularly activist Democrats.

This cycle, Newhouse's most notable client is PA Sen. Rick Santorum...Newhouse is also the chief pollster for one of the Democrats' top House targets, CT 02 GOP Rep. Rob Simmons.

In '04, the firm worked for the biggest Dem killer of the cycle, John Thune, who knocked off Tom Daschle. And in '02, the firm's biggest name client? None other than a Bush, Jeb Bush, that is, in FL.
--Hotline On Call political blog
You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
--"True Colors" by Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly (sung by Cindy Lauper)

MUST SEE TV Kola Boof lived with Osama Bin Laden for several months in 1996--at least that's what she alleges in DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, her autobiography.

The book delivers some interesting insights into the mid-90s Bin Laden (via Harpers):

1. He had a thing for Van Halen and the B-52s.
2. He smoked marijuana from a gold (colored?) hookah.
3. He talked often about his strongs feelings for Whitney Houston, and about having Bobby Brown killed.
4. Favorite TV shows? MIAMI VICE, MACGYVER and, yes, WONDER YEARS.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

DEAD WOOD Dan Aibel's short play GOING OUT is now available in snazzy book form.
Photo by Willow Lawson
L to R: Christopher Yeatts and Vince Terlep.

Performance rights are also available.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

THE LIBERAL MEDIA By Tuesday afternoon it was widely known that:

1). "Macaca" is a racial slur used by French speakers to describe North Africans.
2). The mother of Sen. George Allen (R-VA) is a French Tunisian (a Tunisia native of French descent).
3.) Allen speaks French.

This doesn't in itself prove, I don't think, that Allen intended to hurl a racial epithet at campaign worker S. R. Sidarth last week.

But it's worth noting that none of these facts--not one of them--made it into accounts of the controversy in Wednesday editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

UP IN SMOKE His comments haven't received much press yet. But Sen. George Allen (R-VA) appears to have dashed whatever presidental ambitions he had when, last week, he called an Indian-American UVA junior "macaca" at a campaign rally.

Will it prove the undoing of his 2006 senate bid as well?

UPDATE: The Plank digs deeper. And it's not getting any prettier...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

SERIOUSNESS WATCH Anyone else think there's something deeply troubling and vaguely schizophrenic about the Administration's tendency to deal seriously with security concerns only after a particular threat surfaces?

Should we really have to reinvent our airport security procedures every time a plot gets uncovered? Or might it make more sense to think comprehensively about the vulnerabilities we face and adopt a comprehensive strategy that plugs as many gaps as possible.

Granted, there will always be new threats, and adjustments will occasionally need to be made. But the threat of liquid explosives was known and understood. If they're a serious danger today, where was the Transportation Security Administration yesterday?

And while we're on the subject, how about securing air cargo and our ports?

LAMONT ROUNDUP For my money, the best commentary on the Lamont victory is the analysis here, here and here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

LAMONT WATCH The political earthquake in Connecticut will continue rumbling for some time.

One early observation: It's almost impossible to avoid concluding that Sen. Joe Lieberman would have won the primary had he not drawn himself up an independent bid insurance policy.

Put another way, the moment Team Lieberman decided to disregard the primary's verdict--that's when they lost the primary.

Monday, August 07, 2006

LAMONT WATCH Even in Minnesota, they're talking about the Connecticut senate constest.

Billmon debunks Sen. Joe Lieberman's latest so we don't have to.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

GONE FRINGING Posts may be few and far between over the next two weeks, during the Minnesota Fringe.

UKRAINE MOROCCO MONTE CARLO, a play by CONTRAPOSITIVE's own Dan Aibel will be alighting at the festival for five performances between August 3 and August 10.

More information here.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.