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It’s Been 14 Years Since the “Macaca” Incident: Some Thoughts…and an...

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The following is updated from this August 2016 post, including what Jim Webb and George Allen have been up to since 2006, at the...

Bullying Story: Mitt Romney’s Macaca Moment?

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Mitt Romney debateGeorge Allen MacacaAs Lowell detailed with in his book Netroots Rising with Nate Wilcox, George Allen's macaca moment wasn't just about one use of a bullying racial slur - it fit a pattern of mean-spirited, racially questionable behavior by Allen. The polls didn't move right away, but kept moving steadily as Allen's bungled, ever-changing attempts at explanation prompted voters to ask themselves again and again, "Do we really know George Allen?"

As Josh Marshall writes at TalkingPointsMemo today, the Mitt Romney bullying episode may prompt a similar re-examination of Romney's moral character:

High school for a 65-year-old is a long time ago. I'm 43 and it seems like a long time ago. I was a different person in many ways. What strikes me most about this story is Romney's intense equivocation. First he didn't remember the incidents. Then he apologized to anyone who was offended but without saying he remembered anything specific. Then he said that he definitely didn't know or think the kid they attacked was gay, even though he apparently didn't remember the attack.

None of that really adds up. And I think this is long enough ago that if Romney just came clean and said it was almost 50 years ago and he regrets it that would be sufficient for most people.

If Romney had immediately copped to the episode & apologized, it could've been a chance to show newfound compassion & personal growth. Instead, after getting testy again just yesterday and with his clueless campaign directing reporters to former classmates who actually confirm the bullying, Romney's prickly flim-flamming non-apologies are reinforcing everyone's worst impressions of him - a dishonest, untrustworthy jerk.

UPDATE by Lowell: TPM reports that "Mitt Romney clashed with a state commission tasked with helping LGBT youth at risk for bullying and suicide throughout his term as Massachusetts governor over funding and its participation in a pride parade. He eventually abolished the group altogether." So, how has this guy changed since high school, exactly?  

Ben Tribbett on Obama’s Majority and the Senate Race

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The numbers reported for President Obama in Virginia earlier today are not a harbinger for a Kaine victory. That is obvious from the poll. Last month, Ben Tribbett examined some of the changes in the electorate and how those will affect the down ticket races in 2012.

Earlier today, I commented that the electorate's memory fades dramatically over the span of six months. Lowell pointed out that if the public is reminded about it constantly, with a barrage of advertising, it is like it happened yesterday. However, I recalled Ben's comments (toward the end of this video) about bringing up the macaca incident recently at a college Democrats chapter. Over half the audience, he said, had no idea what it was.

"People who don't know all that information, don't have all that history, are very vulnerable to cross-over." - Ben Tribbett

After looking at the numbers and considering Ben's analysis, Lowell's observation that the Republicans are doing Kaine a favor with their attempts to hang Obama around his neck is insightful. The President is far from an albatross.

McDonnell’s “Macaca” Moment

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Poor Bob McDonnell. He just can't run away from that danged transvaginal ultrasound controversy the wingnuts in his party stirred up and he went along with. If he's reading the press, he's bound to see media outlets predicting that his vice-presidential hopes have disappeared into a blob of ultrasound jelly.

The Economist this week features an article detailing what it calls McDonnell's political "tone-deafness and inattention to detail." While he won the governor's mansion as the "jobs governor," not a crusader for right-wing social wedge issues, from the early days of his administration he has been repeatedly inciting those very fights. Remember his proclamation praising Virginia's Confederate history, the one that omitted any mention of slavery? Or, how about his appointment of Fred Malek, once Richard Nixon's infamous "Jew counter," to head his commission on shrinking state government.

The Economist also points out that by first praising the idea of forcing what amounts to state-demanded object penetration rape of a woman and then changing his mind to simply require a completely unnecessary transabdominal ultrasound that a woman must pay for, McDonnell brings to mind again that 1989 thesis he wrote for Pat Robertson's school, the one in which he called feminists  "detrimental to the family" and said public policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators."

Larry Sabato also recently weighed in on this, declaring it has severely damaged McDonnell's chances to be on a national ticket.

Sheen Bags Macaca Meltdown Award

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I would like to hereby congratulate Charlie Sheen, winner of this year's coveted Macaca Meltdown award.  Sheen joins the list of distinguished past awardees, Sarah Palin and Eliot Spitzer (tie) (2008), Mark Sanford and John Edwards (tie) (2009) and Michael Steele and Lindsay Lohan (tie) (2010).  All follow in the fine tradition set by Virginia's former Senator George Allen, for whom this award is named, and in whose likeness this trophy has been carved.

Allen set the standard for the public meltdown, back in August 2006, when the senator was at the top of his game, his re-election a sure thing, and his name being bandied about as a major contender for president.  It was then that Mr. Allen decided would be a good time to pick on a young Indian fellow (S.R. Sidarth) who was videotaping him, including using a little-known racist slur against Sidarth, "macaca."

In the words of the Macaca Meltdown Maestro:

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 [...] Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

Wasting Time in the GA Short Session

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Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Campbell) has proposed legislation that creates a special class of citizen. Apparently, politicians are more entitled to privacy than the rest of Virginians. The bill ostensibly prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices for "opposition research." The quaint, teensy bill is lazily crafted or deviously designed.

"We are still entitled to some privacy." - Delegate Byron in the GPS Tracking News

Apparently we can still put GPS devices on political figures' persons, in their phones, on their dog's collar...implanted...wherever. Offered January 12, the bill was filed days after Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents were attacked by a gunman outside a Tucson supermarket. It comes across as a sly attempt to prey on latent paranoia. This bill's protections would have done nothing to change the events in Tucson and is inappropriately timed.

A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding in Article 6 of Chapter 4 of Title 18.2 a section numbered 18.2-60.5, relating to placement of electronic tracking devices in or on vehicles of political adversaries; penalty.

Aqua Buddha: Rand Paul’s Macaca Moment?

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In the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Virginia, it wasn't as if George Allen's lead collapsed the day the video of Allen tauntingly calling a Democratic staffer "macaca" came out. It was the first in a chain of events -- Allen's multiple, convoluted explanations, news of his Jewish heritage & his virulent rejection of it -- that prompted voters to ask themselves, "Do I really know who George Allen is?" When they took a second look at Allen's phony cowboy boots next to Jim Webb's combat boots ... well, you know how that went.

At TPM this morning, Josh Marshall says Rand Paul's inability to offer any coherent explanation to the Aqua Buddha controversy may have similarly shaken Kentucky voters' faith that they really know who Rand Paul is:

It's his response that seems weird. Why won't he just deny it? Or say it was a college prank and move on? And what's with the grandiose backing out of the final debate? Why won't he show up and face the guy who smacked him? (Paul's actually kept this one in suspense. He's going to announce [Friday] whether he'll show up for the second debate.)

In other words, it's sounding like a pretty good example of what I've called "bitch slap politics", a form of political gambit in which the substance of the attack is less important than showing the recipient can't or won't defend himself.

It took Webb weeks to close the gap with Allen, while Jack Conway has only days to catch Paul. But the gap is much smaller. Could we be looking at an upset in Kentucky?

Webb and Allen Redux?

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The Richmond Times Dispatch's Jeff Shapiro attempts to analyze a 2012 rematch of Senator Jim Webb and former Senator George Allen today. If what he opines is true, Allen should stay away from a rematch. The problem is, at least for criminal sentencing, he doesn't get Webb much at all.

Sadly, Shapiro either has ignored Webb on the issue of our criminal justice system or doesn't understand the sorry state of a society that locks away too many who haven't conformed. It seems that he believes Webb's focus on this issue is simply a self-serving effort to attract minority voters with the lure of a shameful situation that disproportionately affects African-Americans and other minorities. Well Jeff, that Webb is a wily one. Years and years ago he studied and visited Japanese criminal justice and prisons because he knew that one day he would need to use incarceration as an issue in his reelection campaign against an ethnically bewildered opponent.

That Webb is "a distant brooder who is schmooze-challenged as a candidate" can't be argued. He is not going to win by glad-handing. The Senator will have to rely upon his record. So for the other side, it is important to discredit or diminish his accomplishments in office. Criminal sentencing is one that can be twisted, particularly by a no shades of gray, law and order advocate like Allen. About the only accomplishment that will be off the table might be the GI Bill. So to win, Webb's campaign will have to develop a clear theme of commonsense populist action to counter the misrepresentations.

Actually, it is difficult to be certain of Shapiro's argument until the very end of his piece where it sort of falls into place. Shapiro seems to think that Webb would win in a rematch because Webb is the lesser of two evils for African-American voters. The "macaca moment," for Shapiro, is the fulcrum that will give Webb the advantage. Shapiro misattributes the Chinese proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" to explain why Webb would draw some of the motivated Obama voters. But it may be Allen himself who pulls the plug on a race against Webb. There are many other reasons to vote for Webb over Allen or any other; Webb just has to get them out there.