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Daily Howler: As we read George Allen's mind, we damage Webb's chance for an upset
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THAT WAS HIS MOTHER! As we read George Allen’s mind, we damage Webb’s chance for an upset: // link // print // previous // next //

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE BULL: Three cheers for Kevin Drum, for calling the pope on his passive aggression! We’ll suggest that you read his whole post, but Kevin says, quite correctly, that the pope’s “reference to Islam near the beginning of the speech was entirely gratuitous and disingenuous, as were Benedict's subsequent crocodile tears over the idea that anyone could have taken offense at his remarks.” While we agree with Kevin, we think he slightly under-explains the matter. From the Post, here is E. J. Dionne’s typically smart-but-overly-cautious summary of what the pope said:
DIONNE (919/06): [T]here is no getting around it: The pope made a big mistake, creating problems for himself, his church and the West. He spoke in the voice of the academic theologian he once was and not as the leader of one of the world's great religions. Being pope is very different from being Professor Joseph Ratzinger.

In the controversial passage, Benedict recalls a dialogue between "the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam."

The emperor—"with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded," the pope noted, according to the Vatican's translation—had this to say: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Note what the pope did and said. He quotes Paleologus making a truly astounding complaint against Islam—saying that everything Muhammad brought was “evil and inhuman.” But before actually quoting Paleologus, Benedict vouches for his judgment, praising him as “erudite.” By the way, what does it mean when he cites this erudite fellow’s “brusqueness?” Here’s what it means: Good old brusque Paleologus! None of this “PC” stuff for him!

Kevin is right. Benedict has been shedding tears about a fairly deliberate, sweeping insult. Here at THE HOWLER, we won’t waste your time noting the fact that this doesn’t justify riots or shootings. But read Benedict, or read David Brooks today, and understand where our world is headed. The west is full of angry white males who have long been spoiling for a good tribal fight. They want to pit “our” tribe against theirs. They’re the people who call talk radio to bitch about all that “political correctness.” They’re the people who lodge deliberate insults, then say that they’ve been misunderstood. And yes, because they’re angry and dumb, they’re going to get the fight they want—and, quite sadly, the rest of us are going to get that fight along with them.

THAT WAS HIS MOTHER: We rarely try to predict elections. (We’ve noticed that those who do predict rarely get things right.) But if we had to make a guess, we’d guess that Peggy Fox’s second question to George Allen this week may have ended Jim Webb’s chance for an upset in Virginia. And yes—Fox’s question reflects the “hippie” instincts we liberals should learn to suppress.

Because some sites have churned a good deal of confused information about this incident, let’s start with a bit of clarification. In today’s Post, we get a transcript of the two questions Fox posed in this part of Monday’s session. Here was Fox’s first question about Allen’s mother—a question which was a bit insinuative for our tastes, but perfectly reasonable:
PEGGY FOX, QUESTION 1 (9/18/06): Senator Allen, you have said several times that you made up the word "macaca" when referring to S.R. Sidarth, the young man of Indian heritage born and raised in Fairfax County who attends your alma mater. But the word is a racial slur in French-influenced African nations, most notably Tunisia. Your mother's Tunisian—are you sure you never heard the word and if you were just making up a name, to call Sidarth, why not just call him John, something that—rather than something that sounds derogatory. Was it because he looked different?
Allen said this as part of his answer: “I had never heard that word before, from my mother or from anyone else.” On the whole, that seems implausible, but that’s his answer. And of course, he could have learned that word many ways. If Allen did know the word “macaca,” it didn’t have to be from his mom.

But Fox had a follow-up question in mind, one which was much more tangential. Here was her second question, the one which produced boos from the crowd and a bit of pique from Allen:
PEGGY FOX, QUESTION 2: May I ask a follow-up? Following the “macaca” episode, the Jewish press published a story on the Internet that explored your possible Jewish ancestry on your mother's side. You've been quoted as saying your mother's not Jewish, but it had been reported 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?
That would be a reasonable question—if you were interviewing Allen for a 500-page biography. But Fox was part of a four-member panel engaged in an hour-long press event. She’d only get to ask a few questions—and this was the question she wanted to ask! The U.S. is in a punishing war with Allen’s support, and his opponent, Jim Webb, is a military expert. So what did Fox want to spend her time on? Exactly! George, when did your 83-year-old mother first decide that she could “pass?”

But then, pseudo-liberals have cost us elections with conduct like this for decades. Predictably enough, liberal web sites swung into action, engaging in the dumbest kinds of mind-reading, the kinds of mind-reading some major sites won’t drop even today. Because uh-oh! In this morning’s Post, this fascinating report by Michael Shear presents the full story from George Allen’s mother—and from Allen himself. Did Allen know, before last month, that his grandfather Felix was Jewish? Like you, we don’t have the slightest idea. But so what? Today, mind-reading, know-it-all “liberals” are rushing to swear that Allen did know—although they can’t possibly know that.

How dumb can our priggish elites really be? Here is part of Shear’s report, in which he quotes a local “expert” who seems determined to show us:
SHEAR (9/21/06): Allen's angry reaction at the Chamber of Commerce debate prompted criticism from Internet bloggers and some Jewish leaders, some of whom accused him of hiding his Jewish ancestry or viewing it as a political problem.

"It's strange that George Allen wasn't more curious about his own heritage and a lot of people are wondering why," said George Mason University politics professor Mark J. Rozell.
A lot of people are wondering why! But is it really “strange” that Allen “wasn't more curious about his own heritage?” Not necessarily, no. As Shear notes, Allen “often refers to his grandfather's incarceration by the Nazis in political speeches”—but he “has always said [his grandfather] was a member of the Free French resistance movement.” If this really is what Allen was told, is it really “strange” that he didn’t doubt it? For the prigs of hippie pseudo-liberalism, yes, it is strange—quite strange indeed. It’s strange because we disapprove of Allen—and that’s why our holier-than-them hippie tribe often has trouble winning elections.

By the way—did our priggish, mind-reading pseudo-liberals raise this objection when John Kerry experienced a remarkably similar episode prior to Campaign 04? Kerry said much the same thing as Allen—he’d never been told that his family had Jewish roots, and he’d never doubted what he’d been told. Did we rise on our haunches then, declaring how “strange” Kerry’s conduct had been? Did we say that Kerry must have known? By the way: Have you researched your grandfather’s roots to make sure that the things you’ve been told are all accurate? And when you answer that simple question, do you marvel at how “strange” you are?

For ourselves, we were raised by an uncommunicative mother (and grandmother); we have no real idea who our maternal grandfather was—have never even seen a picture—although we’ve been told a few basic things about him. Growing up, we were told that he had been an architect; we’d now assume that probably meant that he was a construction laborer. But then, America is full of families where children don’t know the full truth about the people who came before them. It’s also full of average voters who understand this elementary fact—which is (partly) why that audience booed, and why we’d guess this current episode may help save Allen’s bacon.

Here’s a guess about the booing: Average voters don’t like priggish liberals when they start to cast aspersions at 83-year-old mothers. And yes, that’s what some liberal sites do even this morning. We got simple facts wrong on this story all week; we kept posting brainless, mind-reading e-mails; and even today, we won’t show respect for the life an elderly woman may have lived. In short, we just won’t take our big long noses out of the Allens’ business. Many Americans don’t like such traits, and we’ll guess this will make Allen more sympathetic. Too bad—Allen is a horrible candidate who supports a horrible war. But like so many in her fatuous tribe, Fox didn’t want to be bored with tiring, tedious topics like that one. Given the chance to ask just a few questions, she decided to poke her nose into Allen’s family, and the hippie elements in our tribe—the ones who said nothing about Kerry’s episode—couldn’t help rushing to tell the whole world: We are better—far, far better—than a vile man like George Allen. Of course—of course!—George Allen knew. After all, he’s less fine than we are.

We’ll take a guess: As in the 60s, so today, our “hippie” instincts may be turning off voters, humanizing the hapless Allen and costing Webb a chance for an upset. But then, we’re better—much better—than they. Sometimes, a tribe wants to say it.

IF IT FEELS GOOD, MIND-READ IT: This is a case where we get to hear the public react to our “liberal” instincts—where we actually get to hear the voters as they sit and boo Fox’s question. (And no, they didn’t boo her first question—the question which was relevant.) Our reaction? Let’s keep mind-reading Allen and his mom! But then, our hippie elements have done this for decades. And let’s face it—we pretty much always will.