Like George Allen at yesterday's debate, Wesley Kanne Clark, who I strongly supported for President in 2003 and early 2004, has also been aksed about his Jewish heritage. Did Clark react furiously, as George Allen did yesterday, to simply being asked if he had Jewish ancestry? To use the language George Allen's Tunisian grandparents spoke, "au contraire!" In fact, Clark expressed tremendous pride in his Jewish past. From the Baltimore Jewish Times (9/18/03), here's a bit of background:
Raised a Southern Baptist who later converted to Roman Catholicism, Gen. Wesley Clark knew just what to say when he strode into a Brooklyn yeshiva in 1999, ostensibly to discuss his leadership of NATO's victory in Yugoslavia.
"I feel a tremendous amount in common with you," the uniformed four-star general told the stunned roomful of students. "I am the oldest son, of the oldest son, of the oldest son -- at least five generations, and they were all rabbis."
The incident could be a signal of how Clark, who became the 10th contender in the Democratic run for the presidency on Wednesday, relates to the Jews and the issues dear to them.
Apparently Clark, 58, revels in his Jewish roots.
Clark later elaborated on this subject, telling the Jewish Week in New York that his "ancestors were not just Jews, but members of the priestly caste of Kohens."
That's right, Clark "revels in his Jewish roots." And why wouldn't he? This is a proud culture and a proud heritage. As my own Jewish grandmother might say, "so, what's not to like?"
Which raises the question, why is George Felix Allen so ANGRY about this subject (and so many other subjects)? Because that's the real issue here; not the reporter's question, which was at worst a bit out of place, but George Allen's angry, almost violent reaction TO the question.
[UPDATE: Here's the video of Allen's meltdown yesterday. Note how he completely misses the point of the question and goes into a rant on religious freedom. Uh, George, that has NOTHING to do with what Peggy Fox asked you. Duh.]
And, while we're on the subject, why would George Allen, as Dana Milbank writes in today's Washington Post, "[recoil] as if he had been struck" by a simple question about "whether your forebears include Jews?" Why would he say that the reporter's question was "making aspersions about people because of their religious beliefs?" What in the reporter's question did that? I'm Jewish myself, and very sensitive to anti-Semitism, and I heard NOTHING anti-Semitic in there.
Also, getting back to Allen's almost violent reaction to the question, why would George Allen "furiously" attack the female reporter, in front of hundreds of his supporters no less (encouraging them to jeer and boo her), for simply asking him about his heritage? What in that question would prompt George Allen to react in such a way as to leave the female reporter "frightened" and "shocked" that Allen would "get so angry at the suggestion there might be something in [his] background that's Jewish?"
In other words, as much as Allen supporters try to make this all about the oh-so-mean woman reporter and her horrible, crazy question, this isn't about her at all. Peggy Fox isn't running for U.S. Senate. George Allen is. So, whether you liked that question or not (personally, I didn't see it anything to get angry about; it's like asking Jim Webb about his Scots-Irish ancestry or any of us about our ancestors), this is all about George Allen - why he gets so angry so often, why he is so prone to attacking those he sees as weak and/or threatening, etc.
As another famous Jew, Sigmund Freud, might have said in this situation, George Allen appears to have some deep-seated "issues" regarding his Jewish heritage - and regarding many other things as well. In general, Allen has a well-documented nasty/violent streak, as exemplified in the past by his abusive behavior towards his sister (see her book, Fifth Quarter, for how George dragged her upstairs by the hair and held her, terrified, over Niagara Falls).
Aside from Allen's abusive treatment of his sister (as reported by her in her book), there are numerous additional, documented examples of Allen's nasty, snarling side. For instance, there's Allen's infamous "enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats" line about "liberals." There's even an incident in which Allen taunted a man - a Republican, no less - for being a "sissy" because he was wearing a bicycle helmet! Finally, in the most infamous incident of all, Allen just a few weeks ago attacked a young, South Asian American man from Fairfax, Virginia - S.R. Sidarth - in front of an all-white, all-Republican crowd. Like the female reporter at yesterday's debate, Sidarth reported being "shocked" at Allen's behavior, and at being called "macaca," a common racial slur in the French Tunisia of Allen's mother.
So here's the takeaway message out of all this: George Allen has a nasty, sadistic, vicious, violent streak that flares up all-too-frequently. Over and over again, George Allen has shown himself to be a bully towards women, towards minorities, towards men who wear bicycle helmets, and now towards a female reporter who dares ask him about HIS OWN HERITAGE!
Perhaps George Allen could take a lesson from Wesley Clark, a man who is PROUD of his Jewish heritage and not afraid - or ashamed - to talk about it? Or perhaps George Allen should, after he is defeated on November 7, start the long process of self discovery and personal reflection originally invented by Sigmund Freud?
Lowell Feld is Netroots Coordinator for the Jim Webb for US Senate Campaign. The ideas expressed here belong to Lowell Feld alone, and do not represent those of Jim Webb, his advisors, staff, or supporters.
After watching the debate again last night, it's clear Peggy Fox's tone is nasty, clumsy, etc. and the crowd does jump in to boo before Allen's reaction. His outrage may well have been fueled by thinking he had the crowd well behind him. He may, after hearing the applause for Webb after, have lost the crowd in the same moment.
It's not unusual, this following the crowd style of "leadership" - but it just isn't genuine leadership.
What would George Allen have said had the questioner not been booed in the first place? It appears that he was heading towards a measured response until he heard those boos. And would he have repeated macaca had the crowd not applauded previously?
One of my great-grandfathers was a Baptist minister who abandoned his wife and young children to run off with another woman. That's part of my heritage. I'm neither proud nor ashamed. It just is - rather was. I can learn from it in knowing how it affected one of those children her entire life.
That incident yesterday was bizarre and unsettling. As a neophyte Jew I really do turn to my religion to process things like this. I don't much like reading religious quotes in political contexts, so I'll focus on the take away point from my readings that I see as relevant. Our leaders are from ourselves. So we, too, bear some share of responsibility for what happened yesterday. And we're responsible for what happens in our future.
This entire election cycle has focused over and over in the coarsest ways on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and gender. Enough already.
Second, as I point out in another diary, George Allen is opposing Nancy Reagan on this old woman's top priority politically - embryonic stem cell research to cure diseases like Alzheimers, which took her husband's mind and his life.
So, George Allen disses Nancy Reagan and then tries to turn it around on Jim Webb, who actually SERVED in the Reagan Administration and was PRAISED TO THE HILT by Ronald Reagan? What. Ever.
Allen, surrounded by cameras and microphones after the event, hadn’t cooled down. “What do you mean, ’make me so angry’?” he demanded angrily when asked why Fox’s query had made him so angry.
Angry about being angry for being asked about being made angry? Yeah, it's hilarious (Monty Python meets Woody Allen meets Stephen Colbert?) Except, sadly, it's no joke. And that should make all of us a bit, well, angry. Ha.
Anger can be a useful emotion when it spurs us to take positive action to change things. If Allen was angry about social injustice, I'd be glad. But that's not what he gets angry about.
It looks like George Allen-- a bit like George Bush-- gets angry mainly about questions that he feels would undermine his personal image.
While we're on the subject, here are a couple more books George Allen might want to read: 1) "The Red Badge of Courage," which discusses something Allen apparently doesn't have (courage); and 2) "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (it tolls for THEE, George!).
Any other reading suggestions for George Allen?
Compared to Allen, who probably doesn't read too many books, Webb showed himself to be a more fully rounded individual. Writing acclaimed books, either fiction or non-fiction, is not an easy task and Jim is clearly proud of that accomplishment. As he should be.
It's pathetic that the Allen campaign chooses to mock Webb about being a good writer. And then chooses to ignore the non-fictional aspects which account for a large proportion of his work.
Perhaps more bullying? I suppose Team Allen thinks that people who write have soft teeth. Or maybe it's deceptive politics - trying to make people believe all Jim does is write fiction. Probably both. Pathetic.
Allen likely has true anger issues. He doesn't like to be challenged in a way that could be damaging. In this case, the mere implication that he has Jewish blood would not play well with some of his followers. So he's angry about a potential damaging statement and can't control it. And that genuine, albeit unnecessary in most people's eyes, anger came through loud and clear in the post debate interviews.
I'd also bet that some of that anger is acting. The crowd shows some emotion (I wonder if only the Allen supporters booed) and Allen realizes that he has the green light to put on a show. The crowd is emotional and emotional crowds look great on TV - so Allen plays to that and makes a scene. Look everyone, the crowds love me, they're screaming that I've been unjustly attacked, and now I've got to show emotion as well, I've got to counter attack to push her back (and change the subject while were at it).
And all of it, whether genuine anger or fake, is undeniably part of Allen's bully mentality. If he has a chance to bully someone, either to belittle that person or embiggen himself, Allen will take it. He's a mean spirited bully and that has come through time and time again. His original "nice guy" TV ads have already started to give way to the ugly, angry bully messages and that will only intensify.
This isn't something we want, or need, in a U.S. Senator.
Was it because they were anti-Jewish and Allen was being hostile towards Ms. Fox for asking a question about Allen's potention (an now most likely) Jewish heritage? Were they simply more right-wing white supremacists?
Was Allen scoring brownie points to show his discriminiation one more time, this time against Jews, all in an attempt to hide his past?
It seems Allen was trying to hide his religion the way GWB tried to hide his prior arrest record. He never admitted to it until documented evidence was presented to prove it.
Why is a religion a family secret for Allen? Oh, yeah, he's a racist and white supremacist (C of CC), and if they knew he was Jewish, it would expose his hostility against races and religions once again. Oh, the lies Allen weaves. So pathological.....
However, there was a large contingent of Northern Virginia Elected officials and their staffs and they had a bunch of professional Dems there too.... plus Webb is drawing a lot of support from the other side on the basic issues, but not personal attacks either way. Thus, as you could hear there really was a diverse assertive audience that was not shy to respond to show how they really felt.
Felix Macacawitz [John Podhoretz]
I really don't want to be on Jewish Patrol here in the Corner, but does anybody agree with me that George Allen's response yesterday to a reporter asking him whether his grandfather Felix had been born Jewish was just...weird? Through body language and tone, Allen acted as though the question were absolutely beyond the bounds of all rational discourse. First, let me grant that the reporter in question, Peggy Fox from Washington's Channel 9, did ask the question in a bizarrely hostile manner — which was the understandable cause of booing from the crowd — and that it's beyond ludicrous to ask a question about a grandparent's faith in the middle of a substantive debate. It doesn't matter a whit whether Allen's grandfather was or was not Jewish. Still, Allen said angrily, "I hope you're not bringing my mother into this" before lecturing Fox on how America gave people the right to religious freedom and that Thomas Jefferson believed in religious freedom and so on. It's not like Fox asked whether Allen's grandfather had been a member of the Nazi party, or had owned slaves, or been in prison, or something. What's more, Allen himself had made reference to his grandfather's imprisonment during World War II. Anyway, seems to me that what might appear at first to be one of those gotcha moments delivered by a candidate to a hostile reporter is, on second glance, just off somehow.
Now that Allen has been exposed as having Jewish blood will he denounce the CofCC views of Jews. Or better yet will the CofCC apply their views of Jews to George Allen?
ALLEN AND THE JEWISH QUESTION:
Bob Gibson, a longtime columnist for the Charlottesville Daily Progress, relays the following anecdote, which seems to clear things up:
It's funny, but the only time that George Allen ever wanted a correction from me in 27 years of covering his races was when I wrote about his mother's Jewish family origins. He insisted, through a press secretary, that his mother was raised a Christian.
Here's how the article begins:
Senator George Allen has released a statement confirming his mother’s Jewish lineage, a day after refusing to answer a question on the topic during a debate.
“I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian. And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed,” Allen said in the statement.
The full article is here.
George Allen is not only a racist.
Turns out, he's an anti-semite too.
She goes on to quote from the WP, and the last paragraph is when it hits me the enormity of what happened that day:
At a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday between Republican Allen and Democrat Webb, WUSA-TV's Peggy Fox asked Allen, the tobacco-chewing, cowboy-boot-wearing son of a pro football coach, if his Tunisian-born mother has Jewish blood.
"It has been reported," said Fox, that "your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"
Allen recoiled as if he had been struck. His supporters in the audience booed and hissed. "To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don't think is relevant," Allen said, furiously. "Why is that relevant -- my religion, Jim's religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?"
"Honesty, that's all," questioner Fox answered, looking a bit frightened.
"Oh, that's just all? That's just all," the senator mocked, pressing his attack. He directed Fox to "ask questions about issues that really matter to people here in Virginia" and refrain from "making aspersions."
Look up the word aspersion -- it means to malign -- which means "to speak evil of". So George Allen thinks being called part Jewish is evil? That is beyond BAD. Anyone who thinks that being Jewish is evil, is, in fact, evil themselves. As we dig deeper and deeper the picture we are seeing of George Allen is frightening indeed.
Remember, aspersion is the new "macaca". George Allen thinks being called Jewish is an aspersion.
ALLEN SAYS HE EMBRACES HIS JEWISH ANCESTRY BY MICHAEL SHEAR
Allen is such DOUBLE SPEAK.
Religion does mean a lot to this Senator. He has thrown it in our faces over the years, and is doing it again with the Marriage Amendment too.
Wes Clark had it right, embrace your past. Jim Webb had it right, be proud of your past. George Allen had it wrong AGAIN.
Delayed response = weakness. Allen doesn't get it. Be honest to the people of Virginia. We are watching your every vocal step. And you want to be President? NO WAY!! You just lost another group of voters!!
This is the type of news Allen does not need. When will he learn?
I remember reading a statement he made about campaigns and comparing them with football. You have to say something to stir things up. Well, he has, only it's within his own campaign that the double speak is coming and the storm/DEFENSE is happening.
This is the type of press he DOES NOT NEED. But you reap what you sow. He only has himself to blame, yet again.