Turns out Virginia Sen. George Allen did have a Jewish grandfather. Good for him. But why is it important? The senator has made it so. He gave an angry non-answer to a debate question about his ancestry on Monday, and lashed out at the questioner, Peggy Fox of WUSA (a sister Gannett property) for attempting to label him and cast aspersions (his word) on his religion.
In Allen's defense, Fox's question in tone sounded quasi-accusatory and many in the suburban Fairfax County audience booed her. Some bloggers, like The Eclectic Chapbook are even calling for the reporter's head.
But Allen's Jewish grandfather has been a subject of online debate for some time, and Fox was merely addressing the debate in her question. A day after further blog-battering, Allen issued a statement confirming that he had learned that his paternal grandfather, Felix, was Jewish.
This would all be a big nothing if not for a couple of things. One, it was Allen's own, earlier use of identity politics that put him on the defensive when he called an Indian-American campaign aide for his rival, Jim Webb, "macaca," a slur in some cultures. Allen has repeatedly apologized since and says he did not know the word was a slur. Second, Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, is complaining that paid bloggers are keeping the anti-Allen stories alive.
Big irony here: Wadhams is a pioneer in the use of paid bloggers to shred others' reputations. He ran the campaign of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in 2004, which had two bloggers on the payroll who attacked the credibility of the state's largest newspaper -- the Sioux Falls Argus Leader (another Gannett property) -- and the state's pre-eminent political reporter, David Kranz. Kranz is one of the best and most conscientious reporters I have known in 30 years in the business. Both bloggers ended up working for Thune after the election, on the taxpayers' dime.
Wadhams did not return a call yesterday.
Posted By CHUCK RAASCH, GNS POLITICAL WRITER on September 20. 2006 10:15AM
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Chuck Raasch is political editor for Gannett News Service. His column, Newpolitics, appears here and on USA TODAY.com. A native of South Dakota and a graduate of South Dakota State University, Raasch has covered political campaigns since 1978, including Tom Daschle's first race for Congress and George McGovern's last race for the Senate. He has covered presidential campaigns since 1988.
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