George Allen and Dick Wadhams

George Allen is a fascinating candidate, at once a silver spoon rich California playboy pretending to be a good old boy Southerner, and someone who's 'regular guy' schtick is tailor-made for Republican Presidential primary voters.  Ryan Lizza effectively captured Allen's history of racism and sadism in his profile of the candidate earlier this year, and now it's coming out in the controversy over Allen's racist comments concerning an Indian-American volunteer for Jim Webb who was mocked in front of an all-white audience.  George Allen, bigot, is becoming a de facto narrative.  

There's more scandal to follow, of course.  Garance Franke-Ruta has a great article on George Allen's tenure on the board of directors of a company, Xybernaut, that looks basically like a corporate pump-and-dump scheme in the late 1990s.  I swear, the echoes of George W. Bush here and his corporate malfeasance while on the board of Harken Energy are simply stunning.  Allen of course won't comment on his time as a Board member.

The racist incident is now national news, and Allen is seriously reeling because he won't apologize.  What's causing the problem in his campaign is that he has a Karl Rove look-alike named Dick Wadhams running his campaign, and Wadhams only believes in offense when it comes to the press.  Wadhams is the mastermind behind the Daschle loss in 2004, and he has a long history of manipulating the press to further the ends of his gaffe-prone clients.

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, for example, nearly blew his re-election chances in 2000 when he called Arabs "ragheads."* Instead of featuring candidate speeches or press conferences, Wadhams understands that controlling the message starts with making sure you don't hand ammunition to the opposition, so he deluges reporters with written press releases and phones them himself, sometimes as many as five times a day.

Another way to control a campaign is to shape its news coverage, and Wadhams found a new way to do that for the Thune campaign. South Dakota Republicans had long accused the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the state's most influential paper, of being pro-Daschle. When two bloggers, Jason Van Beek and Jon Lauck, began cataloguing alleged acts of bias like lack of criticism of Linda Daschle's lobbying practice, Wadhams hired them as campaign researchers. Wadhams insists he wasn't underwriting the bloggers' online enterprises. But Van Beek and Lauck didn't disclose that the Thune campaign was cutting them checks. And they succeeded in aiding Thune: The assistant managing editor of the Argus Leader admitted that the paper's coverage had been affected by the online criticism, implicitly acknowledging that it was tougher on Daschle in the Thune race than it had been in the past.

I have no idea if Marc Ambinger is correct and Dick Wadhams bullying approach to the press corps has created the antagonism necessary to have this come out.  What's clear is that George Allen is a sleazy, corrupt, and psychologically damaged man who cracks under pressure.  This may sound strange, but the ability of Republicans like Allen and Bush to keep up a mask of genial affability is key to their image of strength and resolve.  The tribal identity of center-right (as opposed to far-right) voters demands that they not see themselves as racist, but merely as 'strong', and so the emergence of real racism, while not affecting the far right knuckledraggers, will have an impact on them.  They won't like that Allen brought this attack on himself through his barbaric behavior, and they won't like that he won't apologize, but sort of will.  That's weak, and one thing that Allen can't be seen as is weak.

Tags: Dick Wadhams, George Allen, Jim Webb, VA-Senate, Virginia (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

We'll see how damaging it is

 I work in Northern Virginia, and my coworkers are almost all Republicans. A couple of Wingnuttae Republicanus specimens, who will probably be MORE inclined to vote for Allen now that he's bared his racism, and a couple of reasonably moderate ones who are frustrated with Bush's fiscal recklessness and aren't thrilled with the religious right.

 The thing is, though, that most "moderate" Republicans still hold a deep-seated dislike for what's described by that spent phrase "political correctness", and I don't see their likes getting TOO offended by Allen's remarks. A racist Republican politician just isn't something all that jarring or remarkable; it's almost expected. My guess is most moderate Republicans will meekly apologize for Allen but still dutifully vote for him.

 I'll see what the buzz is tomorrow...

by Master Jack 2006-08-15 05:26PM | 0 recs
Re: We'll see how damaging it is

I don't know what will happen in Virginia. I hope this exposure will put a serious dent in his chances. And Webb is an unusual opponent.

If this ugly episode makes it impossible for Allen to get the 2008 nomination for President. I'd call that a great outcome.

by irene adler 2006-08-15 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: We'll see how damaging it is

It's not the racism, it's the non-apology apology.  Allen will be seen as knuckling under to liberals who want him to be sensitive.  

by Matt Stoller 2006-08-15 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: We'll see how damaging it is

Even if that is true, I doubt it will cause people to change their minds about voting for Allen. I suppose if this is the openning salvo and Webb had money to continue the attacks before Allen's expected openning salvo of ads after Labor Day, then yes, it would loosen up the other side a bit to be more skeptical. On the other hand, despite my saying this, I did read on some conservative blogs that some people are questioning their support of Allen not just becuase of this but because of his stock in the monrning after pill company. But, the later hardly helps Webb. No more than the former. Unless he can get the money to run ads and can get his message out there to the part of the state that will decide this election: THe southern half. If He can keep Allens numbers down in the southern parts of the state then he has a real shot. I am not sure that the internet is the solution to this. You also face extremely conservative papers like the Richmond times. Then again, if you can get WaPo to truly see this in a different light on a consistent basis that wouldnt matter as much.

by bruh21 2006-08-15 06:28PM | 0 recs
Virginia elected Doug Wilder

Openly expressed racism is not acceptable.

I luuuuuuuuvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv a good blogswarm.

by Alice Marshall 2006-08-15 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Virginia elected Doug Wilder

true that. on both accounts.

Electing Doug Wilder was no small deal for the state that held the first and last capitals of the Confederacy. Many people here might not have the most open-minded views on race, but nobody in VA wants to be called a racist.

Yes this makes him look weak. But the biggest factor here is that people are becoming ashamed of the Republican party, and this is going to push that along in a way no failed foreign policy or national debt ever could.

by msnook 2006-08-15 06:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Virginia elected Doug Wilder

You're almost right: No one in Virginia wants to be openly called a racist.  Exit polling in Wilder's race showed him winning by 2%, whereas he eventually won by a small fraction of 1%.  And this was before Diebold clouded every narrow Republican victory.  The conclusion was that a fair number of voters said they voted for Wilder but didn't.  I remember my neighbor, a very sweet woman, saying that she wasn't sure she could pull the lever for a black man.  (Definitely a comment that spurred a "love the sinner, hate the sin" response from me.)

by deminva 2006-08-16 04:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Virginia elected Doug Wilder

That was a complicated bit of history. As I remember it was because his opponent was against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. I was there during that campaign year doing some volunteer work in my town.

I think the more helpful comparator is Ollie North's run. He made some comment about Old Virginie or some such, and that hurt him.

This being said- those were differ circumstances. Allen is an incumbent so Webb faces intertia. Also, the other problem is that there is a racist element in my section of Virginia that does eat this stuff up.

Finally, the above poster is correct- there are a lot of Americans (of both parties I might add) who think of their not being able to call me, for example, a racial slur other than the n word as being PC. They are perfectly comfortable using the Southern Strategy code words for race. They are perfectly happy with any wiggle room - ie, Hardball tonight they were laughing at this as 'non serious,' to use the anything-but theory of racism. To a lot of Americans, unless there is somoeone calling someone a nigger and burning a cross on the lawn (their movie images of racism) then its not racism. It's those people being 'overly sensitive." It's political correctness. I suppose, and this is speculation, that is the case because it hits too close to home because its not as cut and dry otherwise.

I warned yesterday that with this incident you face the fact that peo can manipulate what I now feel to be  a racist incident to pretend that it is not. Watching the wording coming out of the WaPo, on CNN, on Olberman (who is probably sympathetic to the claims of racism) and the Virginia local papers I am not sure that this will be effective other than as a tool for firing up the Dem base to fight Allen. I donated more money based on this than I was planning to this month. All this being said- I dont know how this situation effects polite racism.

by bruh21 2006-08-15 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: George Allen and Dick Wadhams

Wadhams also worked in Colorado for Senator Wayne Allard's 2002 reelection and gave one of the most acerbic victory speeches I have ever witnessed. While gloating at the defeat of Ted Strickland, his comments were vile and hateful. The man is Karl Rove absent a scintilla of decorum and decency...if you can imagine that!

read more observations here:

http://www.thoughttheater.com

by Daniel DiRito 2006-08-16 07:59AM | 0 recs

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