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Senator George Allen Confirms Jewish Heritage:
It was rumored, as we noted before, and now Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) George Allen has confirmed it.
John Armstrong (mail):
Okay, someone's gotta say it.

"Funny, he doesn't look..."
9.20.2006 1:57am
The River Temoc (mail):
But is he a macaca?
9.20.2006 1:57am
Lev:
If Monsieur is condensed when speaking to m'sieur, is the senator from Hawaii Mr. Akaka condensed to M'akaka?
9.20.2006 2:31am
whig (www):
I seem to remember something about a Maria Schicklgruber....
9.20.2006 2:40am
Been Waiting To Use This Line... (mail):
He said "macaca" but he meant "meshuggenah."
9.20.2006 4:02am
Jeff Davidson (mail):
Hi -

In an earlier discussion here, a number of people wondered why the question had even been raised in a recent debate. Some suggested that Allen's oft-expressed pride in his heritage made questions about just what that heritage is reasonaable and appropriate.

It's more than that, though. To show his tolerance and his understanding of what minorities may face in different situations, Allen has often pointed out that his grandfather was imprisoned by Hitler. I believe, although I don't have the trancript before me, that he even did so in the debate in question.

If one argues that the fact that Hitler imprisoned your grandfather should be taken into account in judging one's fitness for office, questions about why your grandfather was imprisoned are a given, aren't they? And given who Hitler imprisoned, wouldn't a question about your grandfather's ethnicity be a given?
9.20.2006 5:34am
llamasex (mail) (www):
I thought this blog had a bit more class than going around "making aspersions" toward George Allen.
9.20.2006 5:55am
A. Zarkov (mail):
This “macaca” incident mystifies me. Suppose I say to someone “Hab SoSlI' Quch!” (your mother has a smooth forehead). Is it really much of an insult when you need a research project to find out what it means. To hear this insult pronounced go here, and click on the phrase.
9.20.2006 7:35am
The Arbusto Spectrum:
Zarkov - what mystifies you about the "macaca" incident? Allen pretty clearly called the only non-caucasian in his audience a monkey.
And I hope that you aren't a practicing scientist if you think that typing a word into the google search engine and clicking on the first result qualifies as a "research project."
9.20.2006 8:26am
wm13:
I think it's very distasteful that this topic has been raised. Why on earth would a candidate's ethnic background be relevant to anything? If the candidate himself raised it, I would think it was cheap politics; it's even more repellent when reporters or law professors go around harping on the topic.
9.20.2006 8:52am
Pete Freans (mail):
Well, I'm glad that's settled. So, should we dismiss him now as a viable Presidential candidate or wait until he runs?
9.20.2006 8:55am
cirby (mail):
Allen pretty clearly called the only non-caucasian in his audience a monkey.


"Clearly" is debatable, but the best you can say is tht he used a word that he shouldn't have used (never attempt vocabulary you're not really certain about).

The use of "macaca" as a racial or ethnic slur is obscure enough that it's possible the idiot used it innocently, not realizing the rude nature of the term among some groups. Much like some folks use "cracker" to describe some Southerners...
9.20.2006 9:10am
DummydaDhimmi:
So the "aspersions" are true...
9.20.2006 9:31am
Jimmy (mail):
Well, if he knew what it meant, and used it, then he was trying to be disparaging and rude to him. And if he didn't know what it meant, and used it, then he was trying to be disparaging and rude to him.

I'm not seeing the big deal as to his comprehension of what the word actually meant. And in the context of the rest of his statement, he was trying to dismiss him as a foreigner and outsider. The word "cracker" is definitely not a friendly term used to describe Southerners, and if someone called my Alabama cousin that, he'd be a little upset. Allen may be a politician, but he's no dummy. He knew what he was doing - even his dismissive delivery of the word left no doubt as to the slur-ish nature of it.

And as to his heritage - I am not sure how this confirmed knowledge changes anything as to his character or the nature of his comments. The fact that his relative was imprisoned by Hitler apparently has not made much of an impression on him as to the importance of cultural acceptance and understanding. Perhaps it makes things a little worse ? Perhaps the relative did a poor job of teaching his experiences to Mr. Allen ?
9.20.2006 10:00am
J_A:
Cirby,

I have known since my early teens that a macaca is a monkey, and so do many hundreds of thousands of Americans. I don't need to know anything about Senator Allen's mother's background (or do any kind or research) to figure out that he was calling someone a monkey.
9.20.2006 10:04am
TC (mail):
Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.
9.20.2006 10:04am
Houston Lawyer:
Has anyone looked into the background of that macaca guy? Maybe some simians there?
9.20.2006 10:56am
Derrick (mail):
A. Zarkov,

I have to say that I'm sincerely impressed. Anyone who is skillful enough to use Klingon to defend Allen calling a brown-skinned kid a monkey in his mother's native language deserves a gold star.
9.20.2006 11:00am
A.S.:
The left wing focus on Allen's Jewish heritage is just more racist campaign tactics from Democrats. What relevance does Allen's heritage have to anything? None that I can see, other than as a way to cause anti-Semites to vote for Webb. Which is pretty clearly the reason you see left wing blogs like Daily Kos go full out in promoting this, including even having a sympathetic reporter bring it up at a debate. No surprise, really - I mean, just look at what the Cardin campaign is doing up in Maryland, with staffers making "Oreo" jokes about Steele. But remember one thing about racism: IOKIYAD (it's OK if you're a Democrat). It's only front page news if you're a Republican.
9.20.2006 11:18am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I was more troubled by Allen's "macaca" comment because (1) he also said "welcome to America" to the guy, assuming from his skin color or ethnicity that he was an immigrant when, in fact, he was born in the US and (2) he was picking on the 21 year old kid by calling him out in front of a crowd of cheering Allen supporters. I think it showed Allen to be a jerk and a bully.
9.20.2006 11:22am
Steve:
just look at what the Cardin campaign is doing up in Maryland, with staffers making "Oreo" jokes about Steele.

From the story you linked to:

The staffer was fired last week after comments on the staffer's blog made racially charged comments including references to Oreo cookies and what Cardin considered anti-Semitic references as well...

Cardin also responded, denouncing the staffer's comments and actions. In a statement, Cardin wrote: "I am deeply offended and disgusted by the blog's racial and anti-Semitic overtones. The staff member responsible was promptly dismissed and will have nothing to do with this campaign."


Yes, clearly the Cardin campaign is fighting hard to win the racist and anti-semitic vote. Note also A.S.'s dishonest transformation of one fired staffer into "staffers."
9.20.2006 11:25am
Jacob (mail):
In 2004 there were stories about John Kerry's distant heritage and how he supposedly wasn't even aware of it. The talking point among conservatives wasn't "ooooh, he's Jewish, don't vote for him." It was "ooooh, he's Jewish, and was so ashamed of his heritage he hid it," in the same vein as the criticism of many Jewish notables who've changed their names. Like many talking points, it was repeated intensely and often for a few days and then discarded for the next one, so I don't know if it had any real impact on the vote. But after that I can see why George Allen would treat the subject of his background with gloves, considering how there are likely people out there capable of criticizing him for 1) bringing it up first, or 2) not bringing it up first. The media, as always, seem to be doing their best to further a stupid, easy-to-report meme.

If the Democrats really are trying to do to Allen what the Republicans seemed to be doing to Kerry (assuming the worst motivations and attitudes a candidate has for his own background), it really is a sad thing.
9.20.2006 11:29am
JohnAnnArbor:

The left wing focus on Allen's Jewish heritage is just more racist campaign tactics from Democrats. What relevance does Allen's heritage have to anything? None that I can see, other than as a way to cause anti-Semites to vote for Webb.

Webb (or his staffers) did a similar number on his primary opponent, so apparently they think it's a winning strategy.
9.20.2006 11:31am
The River Temoc (mail):
This “macaca” incident mystifies me. Suppose I say to someone “Hab SoSlI' Quch!” (your mother has a smooth forehead). Is it really much of an insult when you need a research project to find out what it means.

You, sir, are the son of a Romulan.
9.20.2006 11:37am
Steve:
Webb (or his staffers) did a similar number on his primary opponent, so apparently they think it's a winning strategy.

Webb's primary opponent decided to make a frivolous charge of anti-Semitism during the last days of a primary campaign where he trailed in the polls. People who parrot the charge as if it had merit appear similarly desperate.
9.20.2006 11:37am
MnZ (mail):
[Allen] also said "welcome to America" to the guy, assuming from his skin color or ethnicity that he was an immigrant when, in fact, he was born in the US

Actually, if you read his comments in context, Allen was contrasting where he was that day (rural Virginia) to were Webb was (a fundraiser with Hollywood big wigs). Given this, his "Welcome to America" comment could be taken as welcoming a Webb staffer to the "real" America.

[Allen] was picking on the 21 year old kid by calling him out in front of a crowd of cheering Allen supporters.

Let's be precise. He was a 21 year old Webb support who had volunteered to tail Allen with a video camera.
9.20.2006 11:39am
A.S.:
People who parrot the charge as if it had merit appear similarly desperate.

Once may be a "deperate charge". Twice is a pattern.
9.20.2006 11:41am
MnZ (mail):
But after that I can see why George Allen would treat the subject of his background with gloves, considering how there are likely people out there capable of criticizing him for 1) bringing it up first, or 2) not bringing it up first. The media, as always, seem to be doing their best to further a stupid, easy-to-report meme.


1) Bringing it up first meme:
"Allen is bringing up a heritage about which he knows nothing. He became interested in that heritage only late in life. He is a poseur."

2) Not bringing it up first meme:
"Allen did not bring up his heritage because he is ashamed of it. He would rather pretend that he is a Christian Southerner (and go for the bigot vote). He is a poseur."
9.20.2006 11:48am
davod (mail):
Jacob:

I do not recall any commentary suggesting the conservatives were trying to use Jewish heritage against Kerry. Then again, I wasn't looking for it either.

Additionally: Has anyone seen the female reporter who brought up Allen's Jewish background. Wouldn't it be just dandy if she was the epitomy (SP) of Arian womenhood - a buxom(SP) blond.
9.20.2006 11:56am
davod (mail):
PS:

If this was a political hit by Webb it was a great way to do it. Who could investigate a journalist without the furor overtaking the initial comments.
9.20.2006 12:02pm
Blindgambit:
Davod:

The female reporter, in fact, is a buxom blond, though her hair color might not have been natural.
9.20.2006 12:03pm
lewp (mail):
A.S.,

Re: "More racist campaign tactics from the Democrats"

Would you be more or less inclined to vote for John McCain if you discovered that he had fathered an illegitimate black child?
9.20.2006 12:04pm
A.S.:
Note also A.S.'s dishonest transformation of one fired staffer into "staffers."

You are correct. This was by one Webb staffer. Of course, Oreo cookies had been previously used as a racial epithet against Steele, but that was by supporters of the Democrat Townsend, not Webb. And let's not forget blogger Steve Gilliard's racist depiction of Steele in blackface. So it's not like the Webb campaign staffer Oreo statement has been the left-wing's only racist incident against Steele.

That's not to say that the left needs racism to use immoral campaign tactics against Steele. Remember when the DCCC illegally obtained Steele's credit report. That staffer plead guilty.

Funny how the media has forgotten about all these things but yet has focused so much on Allen's Jewish heritage and offhand macaca remark.
9.20.2006 12:16pm
A.S.:
Lewp: more. (Not that I would ever vote for John McCain anyway.) Why?
9.20.2006 12:17pm
Medis:
I absolutely agree that Allen having Jewish ancestors might be interesting from a biographic standpoint, but has no real relevance to the issues in this campaign.

But has anyone--with the possible exception of Allen himself--implied that there is actually something wrong with having Jewish ancestors?
9.20.2006 12:28pm
Steve:
Remember when the DCCC illegally obtained Steele's credit report. That staffer plead guilty.

Sure, I do remember that. I also remember the reaction of the higher-ups at the DSCC when they found out that this staffer had stolen the credit report. Not only did they suspend the staffer and order her to destroy the credit report, but they voluntarily reported the events to the U.S. Attorney's Office - long before anyone outside the organization knew about it. In other words, the staffer committed a crime; the institution did the right thing. All this is reflected in the stipulation you linked.

This business of cherry-picking actions by a few bloggers or staffers and claiming they represent some sort of "pattern" of improper behavior by the "left wing" is pure sophistry and I don't understand why anyone wastes their time at it. No one seriously thinks that when a sitting Senator makes a racist comment, it's a good answer to say "yeah, but some junior staffer for a Democratic campaign made a racist comment once, too!" Yeah, it's really amazing to you that the media has spent more time on the former than on the latter, isn't it. I'm sure you can't figure it out.
9.20.2006 12:36pm
Jeek:
But has anyone--with the possible exception of Allen himself--implied that there is actually something wrong with having Jewish ancestors?

It is pretty obvious that someone in the anti-Allen camp thinks there are a lot of Virginia voters who think there is something wrong with being Jewish, or they wouldn't have outed Allen.
9.20.2006 12:36pm
lewp (mail):
Guess I'm being too subtle/cryptic.

That was a question posed to South Carolina primary voters by members of the Bush campaign back in 2000. Just one of myriad examples of similar Rovian tactics.

Why? To point out the irony of accusing Democrats of racist campaign techniques.

This one amounts to a response in kind (or, rather, directed at the same people): "Your guy's a Maccacca!" "Oh yeah, well you're a jew!"

Compared to South Carolina, pretty tame stuff.
9.20.2006 12:37pm
Steve Rosenbach (www):
I don't see any way to defend Allen's 'maccaca' remark.

Likewise, I don't see any way to defend reporter Fox's question.

As to the facts of Allen's background, I find the whole thing insignificant politically but fascinating personally.

As a Jew (and a grateful and proud naturalized American refugee-immigrant,) I'm amazed and delighted to have seen all these prominent political figures over the past 10 years or so with recent Jewish ancestors (Kerry, Albright, Clark) or strong Jewish connections (Howard Dean's wife is Jewish and they are bringing up their kids as Jews; Kerry's brother converted [back?] to Judaism.)

As a card-carrying member of the IJC ( http://www.internationaljewishconspiracy.com/ ), I say, "only in America!"
9.20.2006 12:40pm
Medis:
Incidentally, I don't see the parallel between asking if someone has Jewish ancestors and calling a black person an "oreo".

The latter is indeed a racist concept, because it implies that there are certain ways black people should act and certain ways white people should act, and that black people shouldn't act like white people. But what is racist about asking if someone has Jewish ancestors? I don't see how that implies anything bad about Jewish people or people with Jewish ancestors.
9.20.2006 12:40pm
Steve:
Likewise, I don't see any way to defend reporter Fox's question.

Me neither. The first part of the question (is it true you have Jewish ancestors?) was simply irrelevant; the second part (if so, when did your family start denying it was Jewish?) was flat-out offensive.

The fact that Allen runs around with white supremacist groups is certainly fair game. Why some people feel compelled to make it into a psychoanalysis of whether he is some kind of self-hating Jew is beyond me.
9.20.2006 12:45pm
Medis:
Jeek,

"Outed" Allen? That makes it sound like he was trying to keep his Jewish ancestry "in the closet". And in that case, I think it would be relevant to the voters--not because he had Jewish ancestors, but because he was trying to hide that fact.

Incidentally, as far as I know it was Eve Kessler in The Jewish Daily Forward who most recently "outed" Allen, although apparently Bob Gibson of the Charlottesville Daily Progress wrote about this matter before. Anyway, here is what Kessler wrote about the political implications:

"This might complicate life for Allen, a practicing Presbyterian who besides running for re-election this year in Virginia is often mentioned as a possible Republican 2008 contender. Political analyst John Mercurio of National Journal’s noted tip sheet, The Hotline, said that any complication 'would depend largely on how this information was revealed.'

'If it was discovered that Allen knew this family history, but attempted to keep it under wraps for whatever reason, it could do great harm to any political campaign,' Mercurio wrote in an e-mail. 'He’d face serious questions, in the wake of the Macaca incident and his history with the Confederate flag, of whether he’s both racially prejudiced and anti-semitic. Given the intensely pro-Israel sentiment that exists in this country today, that could be a huge political liability — but on the other hand, if this is something he discovers and promptly reveals about himself, and does so with a sense of pride in his family history, I don’t think he’d face much backlash at all.'"

Again, this isn't an argument that there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestors, nor even is it an argument that voters in Virginia would have a problem with Allen having Jewish ancestors. Just the opposite, it is an argument that voters who are "intensely pro-Israel" might have a problem if Allen mishandled this issue.
9.20.2006 12:51pm
Steve:
Josh Marshall:

From The Richmond Times-Dispatch ...

Speaking with The Times-Dispatch, Allen said the disclosure is "just an interesting nuance to my background." He added, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."


Can someone pass on to Sen. Allen that we hope this isn't the first of several physical demonstrations of his non-Jewishness?

I laughed. Seconded.
9.20.2006 12:54pm
Medis:
By the way, I believe this is what the reporter asked. After rehearsing how people in the Jewish press looked into his mother's ancestry after the Macaca incident, she stated:

"You've been quoted as saying your mother is not Jewish. But it has been reported that her father, your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews, and if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended."

I absolutely agree that was a very creepy way of asking this question. For example, after the setup she could simply have asked something like, "Can you explain a bit more about your ancestry on your mother's side?"

But I really don't think that there was any intention here to suggest that there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestry.
9.20.2006 1:09pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Zarkov - what mystifies you about the "macaca" incident? Allen pretty clearly called the only non-caucasian in his audience a monkey.

Not “clearly.” Did you know what "macaca" means before you read it in the news. Did the person he is supposed to have insulted really know what it means? Did any of the people in attendance know? The whole issue of taking offense is one of manipulation. It’s time we started ignoring it, so it doesn’t work anymore and we can get on to real issues.
9.20.2006 1:16pm
A.S.:
But I really don't think that there was any intention here to suggest that there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestry.

Correct. The intent was to suggest that voters who think "there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestry" should vote for Webb. It's a crude appeal to anti-Semitism.
9.20.2006 1:16pm
MnZ (mail):
Here was the actual question:
"Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"

The first part of the question was strange, the second was bizarre. Moreover, this question offends me personally.

My wife's father is Jewish, and her mother is Catholic. She was raise with only a nod to each tradition. I was raised nominally Catholic (but my mother was Baptist). Like Allen's parents, we were married by a Justice of the Peace. We have several Jewish and non-Jewish friends.

Recently, I have become more interested in my Catholic faith. Although my wife and I have not children yet, we have discussed raising them as Catholic.

Assuming that we do, would it be fair to ask my children the following question?
"Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews (Baptists) and, if so, at which point Jewish (Baptist) identity might have ended?"
9.20.2006 1:19pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
A.S., I don't think the question is whether I knew that "macaca" was a slur. The question is whether Allen knew—he most surely did—and what's more, certain less respectable members of his targeted supporters knew too. Even those who weren't in on the game could probably guess from context that it wasn't something nice.

Before you continue on this defense, try it out on Jesse Jackson's "Hymie" remark. Did everyone recognize it as a slur? Et cetera. I think with a different choice of speaker, you'll see the weakness of your argument.
9.20.2006 1:38pm
cant get my account to work:
Here's Borat performing for some potential Allen supporters:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=CN_tHhHSLP4
9.20.2006 1:46pm
Pocket (mail):
Allen shouldn't be allowed to escape culpability for the "macaca" incident. When somebody who was raised by a colonial (Tunisian) French mother uses a word that is the colonial (Tunisian) French equivalent of "nigger," he should be labeled as what he is: an inveterate racist. The man is a disgrace. If Trent Lott was forced to resign for comments that were -- arguably -- less malevolent, then the Republican Party should treat Allen the same way.
9.20.2006 2:10pm
A.S.:
Andrew J. Lazerus - I think your comment should have been directed at A. Zarkov. Nonetheless, I would disagree with this: "The question is whether Allen knew—he most surely did".
9.20.2006 2:10pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
In 2004 there were stories about John Kerry's distant heritage and how he supposedly wasn't even aware of it. The talking point among conservatives wasn't "ooooh, he's Jewish, don't vote for him." It was "ooooh, he's Jewish, and was so ashamed of his heritage he hid it," in the same vein as the criticism of many Jewish notables who've changed their names.
Actually, with Kerry, it wasn't that he was Jewish qua Jewish that conservatives were trying to exploit; it was the fact that he was Jewish meaning not-Irish. He had gone around pretending to be Irish for political advantage in Massachusetts.

That's what the issue was.
9.20.2006 2:22pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
A.S.: You are right about Zarkov. I'm sorry.

As for whether that schmuck Allen knew the meaning of what he was saying, the idea that the maricón blurted out random syllables that just happened to be a slur in his putain mother's native tongue and that was already in use in white-supremacist circles (see my previous link), well, do you think my fingers have been hitting the keyboard at random here?
9.20.2006 2:24pm
Mark Field (mail):

Actually, with Kerry, it wasn't that he was Jewish qua Jewish that conservatives were trying to exploit; it was the fact that he was Jewish meaning not-Irish. He had gone around pretending to be Irish for political advantage in Massachusetts.

That's what the issue was.


He couldn't be both?
9.20.2006 2:25pm
Medis:
A.S.,

You say: "The intent was to suggest that voters who think 'there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestry' should vote for Webb. It's a crude appeal to anti-Semitism."

I really doubt that, particularly with a story coming from The Jewish Daily Forward. Rather, I think that Eve Kessler's report, and even Fox's question, at most were intended to suggest that perhaps ALLEN thinks there is something wrong with having Jewish ancestors, and thus that people who do NOT think there is something wrong with having a Jewish ancestry should vote for Webb instead of Allen.

MnZ,

I think the reporter's setup for the question makes it a slightly different situation than the hypothetical you describe. Again, her setup was that people had reported that Allen's maternal grandfather was Jewish, but Allen had said that his mother was not Jewish. In that context, it makes a little more sense to ask Allen to clarify these matters.

And I think that would also be the case if someone reported that your maternal grandparents were Jewish, but you had said that your mother was Baptist. In that case, I think it would be natural to ask how that happened, although once again I agree that the question asked by Fox was worded terribly.

By the way, I'm not sure being Baptist and being Jewish are exactly the same thing, since being Jewish is not just a religious concept (and for some, it doesn't seem to even require being religious, since I know atheists who claim to be Jewish).
9.20.2006 2:27pm
The Arbusto Spectrum:
Zarkov, in response to your questions:
I have known that a macaque was a kind of monkey since highschool. I don't know the person at whom it was directed, so I don't know whether he knew what it meant. Nor do I know whether the people in his audience knew what it meant. So I will happily remove the word "clearly" to which you object, but restate the fact -- Allen called the only non-caucasian member of his audience a monkey.
If the racist tendencies of a Senate candidate are not of interest to you, feel free to ignore them. But, I believe that racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry are real issues, and to try and convince me otherwise is a waste of time and space.
9.20.2006 2:31pm
Medis:
Mark,

Indeed. It would be like saying Allen has been pretending his mother's side of the family was French-Tunisian, when in fact they were Jewish. They could, of course, be both.
9.20.2006 2:33pm
Steve:
He couldn't be both?

He could, of course, but Kerry flat-out isn't Irish. The claim that he was going around Massachusetts "pretending to be Irish" is a major exaggeration, though. The most oppo researchers could come up with, as I recall, were a couple random comments in a 20-year span.
9.20.2006 2:44pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
The Allen campaign claims he didn't know this fact about his lineage until late in life, and that his mother hid the fact, thinking it would be easier on the family given how Jews had been treated during her time in North Africa.

But the real reason he didn't want to mention his Jewish descent: he is afraid that Rep Jim Moran [D-VA], will bust out his windows and steal his fillings.

In case you don't know that delightful, ethically challenged fellow, Mr. Moran really, really doesn't like Jews very much. Basically, he's a premature Walt &Mearsheimer...
9.20.2006 2:47pm
A.S.:
As for whether that schmuck Allen knew the meaning of what he was saying, the idea that the maricón blurted out random syllables that just happened to be a slur in his putain mother's native tongue and that was already in use in white-supremacist circles (see my previous link), well, do you think my fingers have been hitting the keyboard at random here?


I don't think your link says what you think it says.
9.20.2006 3:14pm
sbron:
On LGF, one reader claimed that "macaca" is
also Ladino slang for a pest, or roughly the
equivalent in Yiddish of calling someone a "noodge".
If anyone is familiar with Ladino, maybe they
can comment on this.

I watched the video of Allen, and it seemed to me that
he was thinking "what a pest" in English, and
recalled some slang he had learned from his mother,
in the same way some of us would use "noodge".

The whole thing is rather sad, no matter how "macaca"
was intended. Either Allen felt he had to keep his
mother's background hidden to appeal to Virginia
voters, and thus did not want to explain the origin
of the insult, or he indeed made an out-and-out racist comment. So was he thinking in French or Ladino?
9.20.2006 3:19pm
Jeek:
Allen called the only non-caucasian member of his audience a monkey.

Do you know for a fact there were no other non-caucasians in the audience, or is this just an assumption? Just curious.
9.20.2006 3:23pm
will (mail):
The issue is why did Allen deny that he had jewish ancestry.

She should have simply asked Allen why he was ashamed of being jewish.

Being Jewish is not a liability in Virginia. Look at Eric Cantor. (Even Cantor opponent is Jewish.)

Allen has denied that he had jewish ancestry because it doesnt play into his fake southern good old white boy image.
9.20.2006 3:26pm
Steve:
Allen's explanation was that it was a nickname made up by his staffers, a supposed play on the guy's "Mohawk" haircut.

It's rather silly, and revealing, for people to be groping around weeks after the fact trying to come up with alternate explanations. If Allen thought the word had some meaning, he wouldn't have said it was just a nonsense word some staffers made up. If he thought it actually meant "pest," he would have said something like "as far as I know, it's a playful slang word that means 'pest'."

His actual excuse was silly, but either way, it rises and falls on its own merits. I don't know why people have this obsession with believing that a politician who offers a lame explanation must secretly have an eminently reasonable and non-objectionable explanation that for some reason they choose not to reveal, preferring instead to look like a liar and/or racist.
9.20.2006 3:28pm
A.S.:
Can someone clear something up for me? The word Allen used was "macaca". The word for a monkey is a "macaque", which sounds somewhat similar to "macaca" but is, in fact, different. Is the word "macaca" also a some kind of slur, or are we just inferring that "macaca" is a slur because it sounds like "macaque". I'm sure this has been discussed before - perhaps even on VC - but I hadn't followed it that closely.
9.20.2006 3:30pm
Seamus (mail):

Allen has denied that he had jewish ancestry because it doesnt play into his fake southern good old white boy image.



You obviously aren't very familiar with the character of Bubba on the old TV show, "Frank's Place."

(Or with the historical figure of Judah P. Benjamin, for that matter.)
9.20.2006 3:43pm
Medis:
Jeek,

Sidarth was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, "I think he was doing it because he could, and I was the only person of color there, and it was useful for him in inciting his audience."

A.S.,

On a scientific point, macaques are in fact of the genus Macaca, and the Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus, lives in Tunisia (among other palces).

Anyway, supposedly macaque/macaca/makak/mukakkah/etc. is a relatively common ethnic slur in certain parts of Europe and Africa. From what various people have reported, Europeans would usually understand it to mean a dark-skinned Arab.
9.20.2006 4:09pm
Medis:
Oh, and supposedly American White Supremacists also use the term sometimes for African Americans.
9.20.2006 4:17pm
Mark Field (mail):

He could, of course, but Kerry flat-out isn't Irish.


Fine, but being Jewish would not, by itself, prove your statement. Thus, DMN's explanation for why conservatives raised the issue makes no sense.
9.20.2006 4:28pm
BobN (mail):
Nevermind the familial connection to a dialect in which the word "macaca" is clearly racist.

Nevermind the obvious deflection of a question about a grandfather with an answer about his mother's religion.

Nevermind the Senator's prominence in right-wing Christian movement.

Nevermind the historical discomfort some Virginia voters have with Jewish people.

You guys are missing the BIG news!! Allen is part FRENCH!

Or has that faded as a liability in conservative circles?
9.20.2006 4:39pm
Seamus (mail):

Actually, with Kerry, it wasn't that he was Jewish qua Jewish that conservatives were trying to exploit; it was the fact that he was Jewish meaning not-Irish. He had gone around pretending to be Irish for political advantage in Massachusetts.

That's what the issue was.



He couldn't be both?


Robert Briscoe could be both, but Kerry, without any actual Irish ancestors, couldn't.
9.20.2006 4:45pm
MnZ (mail):
Medis said:
I think the reporter's setup for the question makes it a slightly different situation than the hypothetical you describe. Again, her setup was that people had reported that Allen's maternal grandfather was Jewish, but Allen had said that his mother was not Jewish. In that context, it makes a little more sense to ask Allen to clarify these matters.

Perhaps, but was it an appropriate question for a debate, especially as asked?

will said:
The issue is why did Allen deny that he had jewish ancestry.

Did he actually deny it? Was that before or after he knew about it? Would you accuse him of cultivating a "fake Jewish image" if only made a big deal out of it late in life?
9.20.2006 4:49pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Macaque, macaca, and macaco are three English words all referring to the same type of monkey. (As best as I can tell from dictionary.com, the last of these three is the original, from Portuguese from Bantu.)
9.20.2006 5:05pm
Medis:
MnZ,

I won't defend the question as asked, because it was asked in a really creepy way.

As for whether the topic of the question was appropriate for a debate--sure, why not? Yes, it is a relatively trivial issue, but trivial matters end up being raised in debates, townhall meetings, and so on all the time (who can forget classics like the "Need some wood?" exchange, or "Boxer or briefs?").

Of course, I know that candidates like to say we should stick to the important issues, except of course when the trivial issues hurt their opponents. But every once in a while we real life human beings need to take a short break from foreign policy, marginal tax rates, health savings accounts, and so on. And we like to get a little insight into the biographies of our candidates, including things like family histories.

And, of course, any hint of a candidate trying to hide something is fair game, because even if you don't think it is actually worth hiding, the fact that the candidate does says something. I'm not sure that is what happened here (Allen trying to hide something), but the possibility at least makes the question within the broad scope of politics.

Again, though, the form of the question was terrible. As I noted, Fox simply could have set up the issue and then just asked for a clarification.
9.20.2006 5:21pm
Mark Field (mail):

Robert Briscoe could be both, but Kerry, without any actual Irish ancestors, couldn't.


I think you mean "isn't" rather than "couldn't". Your original explanation still makes no sense.
9.20.2006 5:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
He couldn't be both?
One could be both, although the odds are pretty darn low. He couldn't, because he wasn't. He had as much connection to Ireland as Kim Jong Il does.
9.20.2006 5:48pm
Mark Field (mail):

One could be both, although the odds are pretty darn low. He couldn't, because he wasn't. He had as much connection to Ireland as Kim Jong Il does.


David, your original explanation for why "conservatives" raised the issue re Kerry is just plain wrong. Kerry may not be Irish, but having a Jewish ancestor (or many) is not evidence of that. The two points have no logical connection. But I accept your representation that Kerry is not Korean.
9.20.2006 5:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):

I'm not really invested in defending Allen, particularly after reading that New Republic story on him earlier this year, but let's play devil's advocate:

1. I know that a macaque was a monkey, too -- but he didn't say "macaque"; he said macaca. I certainly didn't know that the latter was slang for the former.

2. The word "monkey" does not necessarily have racist implications; my mother used to call my decidedly non-African brothers and I "monkeys" when we were misbehaving.

3. The odd thing about claiming (as some, but not all, people have) it was a deliberate slur is that it assumes that the audience (a) didn't know the difference between Indians and blacks, but (b) did know that macaca is a French-Tunisian epithet for blacks. Otherwise, wouldn't people have just said, "What the hell is he talking about?" (In fact, not to traffic in stereotyping of my own, but I suspect that the sort of people who would respond positively to a racial slur might not be up on what macaques are, either.)

And on the other subject, I don't think there's anything wrong with inquiring as to whether Allen had Jewish ancestry; I was certainly curious. But that was definitely a bizarre way of asking it. It sounded like she was accusing him of lying about it.
9.20.2006 5:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
David, your original explanation for why "conservatives" raised the issue re Kerry is just plain wrong. Kerry may not be Irish, but having a Jewish ancestor (or many) is not evidence of that. The two points have no logical connection.
Please, Mark, you're nitpicking. While there's no "logical" connection, there's clearly a statistical connection. If he had said he was Jewish, there would have been strong reason (for voters) to doubt he was Irish.

Yes, there exists some vanishingly small possibility that he was both Jewish and Irish. But voters would have suspected otherwise, and as it turns out their suspicions would have have been correct. (Or, perhaps I should say, reporters would have suspected otherwise and dug up the truth.)
9.20.2006 6:04pm
Medis:
David N.,

Of course, Allen could have used a term that he knew was a slur even if his audience did not, although as I noted above, apparently the term "macaque" has been used as a slur by American White Supremacists.

Also, as I understand it, macaque and its variations has been used by various people as a slur for dark-skinned Arabs, not just Africans, so that could be what Allen had in mind when he used the term for Sidarth.
9.20.2006 6:20pm
Medis:
Oh, and I don't really know what exact word Allen was saying, since to my knowledge he hasn't done us the favor of writing it out. I'm also not sure how European and American racists pronounce the word "macaque", so for all I know, they pronounce it like "macaca" (which I again note is the scientific genus of macaques anyway).

But most importantly, maybe even Allen doesn't know how he would write out what he said. Certain slang words get spoken without often being written, and often there is no regularized written form. But to use another racial example, if someone used a term that sounded like "niggah" to refer to a black person, I don't think we would have trouble identifying what they meant.
9.20.2006 6:32pm
Jeek:
supposedly macaque/macaca/makak/mukakkah/etc. is a relatively common ethnic slur in certain parts of Europe and Africa.

I just read something about the Russo-Japanese War that claimed that when the war broke out, the Russians thought they would thrash the Japanese "makaki" (monkeys). Of course the Japanese soon wiped that smirk off the Russians faces. I kind of wondered whether the Russians had somehow acquired the word makaka from the French...
9.20.2006 6:35pm
plunge (mail):
"So was he thinking in French or Ladino?"

Well, given that his campaign has come out with many many different explanations, many of them contradictory, we'll never know. My favorite was the claim that it meant "shithead" (mohawk + caca). Let's give a warm welcome to shithead over there!

Allen is one of the clumsiest and nastiest politicians out there. The staff turnover in his Senate office is one of the highest ever.

I thought this was a pretty funny satire of him and his career:
http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/George_Allen
9.20.2006 6:57pm
Medis:
Jeek,

I think macaques are very widespread (from Africa throughout southern Asia to Japan). And I believe the genus name Macaca dates back to Lacépède, 1799. So by the Russo-Japanese War, the Russians could easily have picked up the term.
9.20.2006 7:00pm
Mark Field (mail):

Please, Mark, you're nitpicking. While there's no "logical" connection, there's clearly a statistical connection.


I'm not nitpicking. I'm pointing out that those who made an issue of this with Kerry were engaged in a not very subtle ethnic attack (assuming voters would have the same distaste for Jews they themselves had). I don't see any point in defending that conduct.
9.20.2006 8:50pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm not nitpicking. I'm pointing out that those who made an issue of this with Kerry were engaged in a not very subtle ethnic attack (assuming voters would have the same distaste for Jews they themselves had). I don't see any point in defending that conduct.
I don't see any point in defending that, either, but I don't see even the slimmest reason to believe that this was, in fact, happening.

There may be some people out there who wouldn't vote for Kerry because he had a Jewish background. Maybe. I don't think any of those people would have voted for Kerry anyway. Nor would they vote for an Irish person. So really, the idea that it was a not-very-subtle attack, or even a subtle one, makes no sense.

I think you're grasping at straws. Mickey Kaus was one of the big criticizers of Kerry on this point. Somehow I don't see him as making a "not very subtle ethnic attack" on Jews.
9.20.2006 8:56pm
plunge (mail):
Interesting update on Allen: apparently his disinterest in why the Nazi's might have persecuted his grandfather extended to asking TNR for a correction for talking about his Jewish heritage, insisting that his family was Christian.

Totally bizarre.
9.20.2006 9:19pm
Mark Field (mail):
David, that's the weakest excuse I've ever heard for making an issue of a candidate's ethnic background. Combine that with the illogic of it, and I don't believe it.
9.20.2006 10:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark, nobody made an issue of Kerry's ethnic background. To the extent this was "an issue" at all -- and it was pretty darn minor, in the campaign -- it was solely an issue of Kerry having lied for years for political gain. There was never even a hint of "Don't vote for Kerry because he has Jewish ancestry."

Your reading of this is bizarre; it's like thinking that the whole "invented the internet" joke in 2000 was a subtle code telling people not to vote for computer scientists.

And there was no "illogic" at all. Nobody ever said, "he's Jewish so he can't be Irish." You're reading an awful lot into some shorthand that I used in a blog comment, as opposed to what anybody said in the campaign.
9.21.2006 5:15am
Harland Hirst (mail):
I have read through every one of these comments and find they seem to fall into the natural world of the three year old: na-a, did to, na-a. Is a slur unknown to your audience still a slur? Sure it is, but it has no weight because it has no rhetorical value.

Politicians don’t succeed by using garbled communication channels.

If the mark doesn't fall for the con where do the Benjamin's go? As little as 28 years ago it would not be possible to have this event, “what did he say?” Any one of an age remembers “Louis-Louis,” her arms and hips, an na na na na… Fun to dance to, voting… not so much. No recordings, no history to dispute. “What did he say?”

The idea floated here that "macaca" is some universal code for WHITE SUPREAMIST LORDS UBER UNDERCLASS is just silly. Leaving Raleigh is not entering Clanstantinople. Do bad people exist? Sure, but these folks think the R's and D's are part of a global Zionist conspiracy where actually voting for one would betray the race.

Take a deep breath and say aloud “Another man’s soul I cannot possess.” And “I will define my friends and opponents by the policies the subscribe to.
9.21.2006 6:03am
Medis:
Harland,

You say: "Is a slur unknown to your audience still a slur? Sure it is, but it has no weight because it has no rhetorical value."

I don't understand this claim. If part of the issue is what sort of person Allen himself might be, and what sorts of things he might believe, then whether or not what he said was effective rhetorically is not the only consideration.

You also say: "I will define my friends and opponents by the policies the subscribe to."

Senators are elected for six years. Over that time, they will face, many, many issues, including many issues we do not yet know about (e.g., when Senator Allen was last elected in 2000, 9/11 and the Iraq War had not yet occurred).

So, when choosing which candidate you want to be your Senator, it is not enough to judge what the candidates have said about the issues of the day. You also have to judge more fundamental aspects of the candidates--their values, intelligence, character, wisdom, experience, and so on--because those are the sorts of things which will determine what they think and do in the future.
9.21.2006 11:06am
John T (mail):
apparently his disinterest in why the Nazi's might have persecuted his grandfather extended to asking TNR for a correction for talking about his Jewish heritage, insisting that his family was Christian.

Well, according to the Washington Post today, Sen. Allen only found out his Jewish heritage last month when he asked his mother as a direct result of the poltical whispering, and she swore him to secrecy, FWIW.

"I said, well, I just didn't want anyone to know," she explained. "I had said, 'Please don't tell your brothers and sister and your wife.' The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior."


Which certainly explains some of the bizarre behavior.
9.21.2006 11:21am
Medis:
John T,

I'm not entirely sure I understand the sequence of events according to Allen's mother, but it appears she did indeed put Allen in a very awkward position in late August, insofar as she apparently confirmed the public reports but nonetheless asked him to keep it secret.
9.21.2006 12:12pm
Mark Field (mail):

Nobody ever said, "he's Jewish so he can't be Irish." You're reading an awful lot into some shorthand that I used in a blog comment, as opposed to what anybody said in the campaign.


David, you're the one who is trying to excuse people who thought it was ok to make public comments about Kerry's ancestry. What's significant is that they had to make a choice of two options:

1. Tell everyone that Kerry is not Irish. Challenge him to identify his Irish ancestors.

2. Tell everyone that Kerry has Jewish ancestors.

They chose option 2. The excuse you provided is illogical, at best. If you want to revise it, we can then decide if what you really meant somehow excuses the behavior.
9.21.2006 12:56pm
Jeek:
You also have to judge more fundamental aspects of the candidates--their values, intelligence, character, wisdom, experience, and so on--because those are the sorts of things which will determine what they think and do in the future.

I seem to recall arguments back in 1998 that these sorts of things "didn't matter as long as he does his job". =)
9.21.2006 1:04pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark, you've imagined some whispering campaign telling people Kerry was Jewish. It was the media who reported it, and there's nothing "illogical" about it in any case, no matter how many times you use the word.

Were people smearing Kevin Youkilis when they said, "He's not Greek... he's Jewish"?
9.21.2006 1:20pm
Medis:
Jeek,

Absolutely. And while I continue to think that the particular character issues involved in that prior case were not disqualifying, I don't think that it was inappropriate for people to inquire into those matters.
9.21.2006 1:25pm
Jeek:
If only there were some sort of organization with the power to determine which so-called Christians were actually Jews masquerading as Christians, then none of the problems described in this thread would ever arise!
9.21.2006 1:40pm
Mark Field (mail):

Were people smearing Kevin Youkilis when they said, "He's not Greek... he's Jewish"?


Being Jewish is not a flaw to most people, so calling someone Jewish doesn't "smear" them except to a (hopefully) small class of antisemites.

As for Youkilis, I doubt it, but it depends on the facts. Again, couldn't he be both?
9.21.2006 1:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Being Jewish is not a flaw to most people, so calling someone Jewish doesn't "smear" them except to a (hopefully) small class of antisemites.
Er, that was my point about Kerry.

As for Youkilis, I doubt it, but it depends on the facts. Again, couldn't he be both?
What do you mean? Could he be both Greek and Jewish? There are a few Jews living in Greece, I'm sure. I know that (as DavidB was talking about with regard to Goldwater) most Jews whose ancestors came from Poland wouldn't call themselves "Polish," but I don't know whether those whose family came from Greece would call themselves Greek. But as it happens, he isn't, and that's just an illustration of my point. People do describe themselves and others this way, without any hidden code intended. It's not "illogical."
9.21.2006 5:31pm
Mark Field (mail):

Er, that was my point about Kerry.


I understood that was your point. I seriously doubt that was the point of those who were trying to tag him during the campaign.


There are a few Jews living in Greece, I'm sure.


In 1943 there were 100,000. That's about the right time frame for his parents, isn't it? The current population is, of course, much smaller (5000 or so). I don't know when his family emigrated.


most Jews whose ancestors came from Poland wouldn't call themselves "Polish,"


Agreed.


People do describe themselves and others this way, without any hidden code intended. It's not "illogical."


Yes, people do that themselves. When others do it for them, there's an agenda. And when others do it for them in the middle of a political campaign, that agenda is not very pleasant.
9.21.2006 7:05pm
Proud to be a liberal :
First, anyone who wants to be president should expect a thorough investigation of one's past, including one's family. If nothing else, it gives reporters something to do and can provide "human interest" stories. Both Kerry and Allen have put themselves in the public spotlight. That some Jews converted to Christianity or kept their Jewishness secret because of fear of persecution is very sad.
It does seem that the most recent story about Allen came from interest in the macaca remark by a Jewish writer of the Forward who was intrigued that Allen's grandfather was imprisoned by the Nazis and his mother was from Tunis.
I am Jewish, but my understanding was that evangelical Christians wanted people to convert to Christianity and thus accepted people who took Jesus as their savior. Given that, why would Christians reject George Allen? And, in any event, why wouldn't religious Christians vote for a Jew?
9.22.2006 2:28am
Harland Hirst (mail):
Medis,

Sen. Allen is at a political rally where he is providing leadership to his base and recruiting additional voters.

Once a political contest nears end game differences in policy positions between two candidates are highlighted.

It seems I agree with you more than you suspect. I got caught in my absolutes. I should have said "Sure it is, but it has no little/some weight because it has no rhetorical value.

It has no value because an unfamiliar phrase tends to block the message and can be considered noise. This noise will break the tempo of the speech, causing the listener to lose the communication channel. The largest crowd I have ever talked with has been about 120 people and when they broke concentration and mentally wandered I felt a bit desperate. Breaking communication where you are trying to persuade is a big rhetorical no-no.

The Senator's use of macaca is at the very least boorish, and probably a genuine insult. I suspect few of his supporters actually agree with the insults at 11 strategies, and so this becomes a second, though different, minus in the aftermath.

The real question it what you so straight forwardly allude is whether or not this event will be considered disqualifying by enough of his base and slow the attraction of new voters. I am not a Virginian and do not possess any special insight to the polls. I think similar situations was Jeb Bush’s off color comments in 2002 Florida race which were upsetting, but did not seem to deter the policy voter. A second though less precise example would be Wally Hickle of Alaska who did not stand for re-election. During a 60 Minutes interview swore enough to have the church ladies tut-tuting and truly damaged his base.

Where I think we may differ is what the event tells us about the man. I don't think it says much. For Sen. Allen let us hope he learns from experience. Excluding some stories of abusive behavior and tales of macaca screamed into the night I doubt a policy voter will vote against her preferences.
9.22.2006 6:00am
Irvin Rosenthal (mail) (www):
George Allen needs some serious therapy to deal with his racism, confederate flag obsessions, violent infliction on his family with multiple beatings, domestic violence against women, his latent hatred for Jews, his latent hatred of himself (his Jewishness), having a hangman lynching noose in his law office used to kill blacks in this country, his abject lies to the press and the world, his cowardliness in the face of being stood up to, and his general dumb self.

What a loser this guy is. He should not even be allowed to get coffee for American leaders, let alone be elected one.
9.27.2006 6:57am