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September 19, 2006

George Allen, self-hating Jew

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reports on the latest bizarre twist in the Virginia senate race, George Allen's public meltdown when asked about his Jewish heritage:

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."

Aspersions? Since when is Jewish heritage an aspersion?

The senator was raised as a Christian and self-identifies as Presbyterian. However, according to Milbank's article, Allen's mother Etty comes from a Sephardic Jewish family. If both Etty's parents were born Jewish, then Allen is Jewish in the eyes of rabbinic law. Allen's grandfather belonged to a prominent Jewish family and was imprisoned by the Nazis for being a resistance fighter.

Allen is awfully touchy about his mother's ethnicity. He has previously denied that his mother is Jewish, but now he acknowledges his mother's Jewish heritage.

Why the defensiveness? It's as if he thinks being Jewish is a very bad thing.

Of course, Allen wouldn't be the first Christian politician in America to have Jewish forbearers. Can you imagine John Kerry or Madeline Albright screaming at a reporter who asked questions about their Jewish heritage?

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Comments

Wonder how Jon Stewart will deal with this? Somebody will have to let me know.

Adam Sandler should send Sen. Allen a copy of his masterpiece about Hanukkah.

http://www.asandler.com/lyrics/hanukah.shtml

And a harmonica!

Damn you, RickD! I was going to mention Adam Sandler's song until I read the comments. Somehow you time-travelled into the future AND read my mind. Geez, you're like some kind of superhero. What the hell are you doing wasting your time writing comments on blogs when there are crimes to fight, like preventing George Allen from being re-elected Chancellor, I mean, Senator!? (Hitler was probably one-quarter Jewish, and look how well he turned out. To be fair, Harrison Ford is half Jewish, and he did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.)

I hope Allen loses but I watched the debate and his reaction was completely appropriate.

The question was either a) an backhanded attempt to appeal to bigots who might not support Allen if he is somehow "jewish" or b) an implied argument that if one is "jewish" then you must think a certain way. Either way it was tastless and offensive and Allen was right to call the questioner on it.

I was disappointed that Webb didn't chime in and say that the question was inappropriate.

Tde, Allen lied about his mother's Jewishness in the past. However, he mentioned on the campaign trail that his maternal grandfather was imprisoned by the Nazis as a resistance fighter. His mother's family name is identifiably Jewish. Something didn't seem to add up.

So, it was a perfectly fair question. The fact that someone bothers to lie or conceal their Jewish heritage says a lot about them. Allen has also made his attitudes about race an ethnicity into a campaign issue. He's already been caught using a racial slur on video. He fetishizes the Confederacy, etc.

Allen also accused Fox, the reporter who asked the question, of "casting aspersions" on him for asking about his heritage. What does that say about his attitude towards his Jewishness? Or towards Jews? Or towards his base, whom he might not trust to vote for a man with "Jewish blood"?

What you said, LB. If the "aspersions" thing wasn't bad enough, the "blood" line was worse. Next thing you know we will have "race mixing." Oy. A very polite oy.

Awww, cmon, the questioner started by noting that the "jewish press" had said this or that. That should be the first tip-off that the questioner is treading on thin ice.

As for the "casting aspersians" thing - Allen went on to talk about being raised a Christian. I have no idea if that is true. But don't you see how implying that he was lying about his "jewish heritage" or whatever the questioner said, would be pretty insulting if, in fact, he was raised as a Christian?

And, I have no doubt that some of Allen's supporters would not want to vote for someone who was "jewish". And that is part of the reason that makes the question so distasteful. The questioner knew that and was playing to such hatred in her question.

It is sort of like attacking a white racist by saying "But didn't you once date a black woman?" You might score some points re hypocrisy, but the price of doing so is that you have engaged in at least a tacit agreement with the concept that different races shouldn't date.

If Allen was, in fact, raised as a Christian it is truly bizarre that you talk about his "attitude towards his Jewishness." (And yes, I understand that if his mother was, in fact Jewish, he is too according to Jewish tradition.) If I were to discover tomorrow that I was, in fact, Canadian by birth instead of American would I have an "attitude towards my Canadian heritage" if I said that I was raised and American and have always thought of myslef as American"?

And, I have no doubt that some of Allen's supporters would not want to vote for someone who was "jewish". And that is part of the reason that makes the question so distasteful. The questioner knew that and was playing to such hatred in her question.

How is this the questioner's problem? This seems more like Allen's problem. He has a history of affiliation with some of the nasty racist elements in our population, and asking him about his own heritage is fair game. It's also interesting to understand how he can hang with the CCC while knowing his own heritage.

It is sort of like attacking a white racist by saying "But didn't you once date a black woman?" You might score some points re hypocrisy, but the price of doing so is that you have engaged in at least a tacit agreement with the concept that different races shouldn't date.

That is simply incoherent. There is no tacit agreement that a bigot is right when you point out that they're being hypocritical. In fact, it's clear that you don't agree with them *because* you're pointing out their hypocrisy. *Failing* to do so would in fact be admitting that they're right.

What you're proposing is unadulterated bullshit, identical the attacks on John Edwards were, when he was gauche enought to note that Dick Cheney, capitalizing on a wave of fag-bashing, had a gay daughter, whom Cheney (to the extent he is capable) apparently loves. It's a clever trick, but it's pure bullshit.

John, Hitler wasn't one-quarter Jewish. It's an unlikely possibility that his father, an illegitimate child, was in fact born to a Jewish father rather than to the person who was officially his father.

The Senator should be proud if he has Jewish ancestry, and should have said so. But for a question such as this to be asked at a debate for God's sake is simply disgusting. This "blood" question is race-baiting on the part of the reporter.
--

paperwight

Believe that you meant John Kerry who made the gratuitous remark about Cheney's daughter.

Where does it say "blood" except in Milbank's reporting? The question as reported does not use that word.

Alon, I'm not really sure one way or another about Hitler's alleged Jewish ancestry, but I know a number of historians consider it plausible if not proveable. I should have used the term "possibly" instead of "probably", so I stand corrected. However, my whole comment was fairly tongue-in-cheek, so take it in that spirit. Don't be such a coldly logical, green-blooded Mr. Spock Jew; be a whimsical Pauly Shore-a Jew.

On second thought, I always found Pauly Shore annoying, so stick with the Spock. Use your Vulcan superpowers to defeat George Allen too. (I advise against a mind-meld, unless you wish to tempt fate by gazing into a black hole.)

paperwight

I took it from there. It's a "blood" question anyway no matter how you look at it. I think that the reporter who asked it is despicable.

I just love Virginia politics. We're so civilized as we have our "issues....."

It would explain a great deal about Allen, who always seems like he's trying so very hard to be a "normul Amurikan." Like Bush, he isn't one, he's a cartoon.

I took it from there. It's a "blood" question anyway no matter how you look at it. I think that the reporter who asked it is despicable.

As I said, in the context where Allen has a long history of aligning himself with people who aren't very friendly to non-Christians, it's a perfectly acceptable question. I wonder if you're as willing to condemn as despicable Schwarzenegger's unsolicited statement about "black blood" and "latino blood"? No context there, no reason for the statement -- just came right out with it.

Probably not, but then, you've never done anything but spew RNC-approved talking points, so I don't really take you seriously.

paperwight

Sorry I don't toe the line enough to suit your taste. I don't toe the GOP line either as many right wing bloggers, just as prejudiced and narrow minded as you from the other side will attest.

As to you're little "whataboutry" Ahnold remark, the steroids Governor is a Republican only in the Mike Bloomberg sense of the word anyway. I like the guy, but these remarks are pretty stupid I will admit.

At least they sound from your statement that they were unplanned. This race-baiting journalist's question was hardly spontaneous. They were meant to divide, to play to Southern stereotypes. Maybe Peggy thought that the KKK would lynch Allen on the spot! Because we know that the KKK is just running rampant in Virginia!

This is the first time I heard Ahnold's remarks. When this story came out, I was swimming in the Med off the coast of France, outside of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes. How nice it was. This was my version of Nixon to China, reestablishing ties with the French.

Remember it was Kerry who made the gay-baiting remark. You are dismissed. Bon soir.


BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!!!

Ahem.

Sorry. I mean, the question is, arguably, jew baiting, but Allen's freak out response is precious. Let's get real, folks: whoever the Republian's boy is in the 2008 presidential race, he's going to need the religious right's support--and they ain't voting Jewish. The same pandering that Dems routinely do when they reveal that they have Jewish ancestry--the better to win votes in precious swing states like FL--has the opposite effect on the other side of the aisle.

Allen's just lucky that Fox was content to stick with this and not ask him why he, as one of the most outspoken homophobes in the Senate, employs such a vast number of gay men.

I just don't get the whole "oh, boo-hoo, the question was unfair" line.

Allen talks a lot about how important his religion is to him. Allen has also referred repeatedly to the importance of heritage to him. However, Allen's camp has either ignored or denied articles indicating that part of his own religious heritage is Jewish. Isn't that strange?

But, fuck it. Fine. Whatever. We'll just accept for the sake of argument that it's only OK to talk about religion whenever the GOP says that it's OK to talk about religion. I still don't see how the question was unfair.

All Allen had to say was something like "I don't see how that question is relevant here. I am a Christian and my mother is a Christian. I'm not aware of whether anyone in my mother's family was Jewish, but I would be happy to have a connection to that tradition and heritage too."

All could have nailed this question. But he was too stupid and bigoted to do it. That's not the fault of the person who asked a pretty simple and innocuous question for any non-bigot -- "Hey, is your mom Jewish?"

This blurb from The Forward, one of this country's leading Jewish newspapers, that I nicked from Pandagon via Pam Spaulding reports that Allen has been pretty determined to avoid discussing his mother's Jewish heritage in the past. That, plus Sean's point--that Allen does love wanking on and on about how important his (Christian) religion is to him--has led to me changing my verdict on Fox's question from "potential jew baiting" to "fair play":

Though [Allen’s mother] Etty Allen seems not to have dwelled on it during her years in the spotlight as a coach’s wife, she comes from the august Sephardic Jewish Lumbroso family. Her father, who was the main importer of wines and liquors in Tunis — including the Cinzano brand — was known in France, where he lived after World War II, as part of the family, according to French Jewish sources. If both of Etty’s parents were born Jewish — which, given her age and background, is likely — Senator Allen would be considered Jewish in the eyes of traditional rabbinic law, which traces Judaism through the mother.

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.

Allen’s sister wrote about their family life, but there is no acknowledgment of their heritage in the memoir. The Forward also notes that Allen’s campaign spokesman, Bill Bozin, was contacted and didn’t return any of the detailed messages left requesting whether the senator was aware of his mother’s Jewish roots.

Isn't it about time that people looked at the candidates who are running in this race, and most of the other races around the country, and ask "Is this really the best that America has to offer?"

How in hell did we sink so low, to have this level of discourse and this lack of intellect leading us?

When I was growing up, kids were pushed to study hard and excel scholastically, and we might grow up to become President of the U.S. one day. The 2000 Presidential campaign lowered the bar on the intellectual capacity necessary for high office. After the 2000 election, it was obvious that anybody could become President, if you had enough money behind you, and could create enough of a ruckous to steal the election.

Jim Webb is only better than George Allen by comparison. To have either of these men rising to the level of Senator is a scandal.

And the best thing about this is we get to look forward to another non-apology apology!

"I'm sorry that people took offense at...yada yada yada...."

It is sort of like attacking a white racist by saying "But didn't you once date a black woman?" You might score some points re hypocrisy, but the price of doing so is that you have engaged in at least a tacit agreement with the concept that different races shouldn't date.

Huh? I don't agree with that at all.
Exposing hypocrisy = agreeing with hypocrisy.
Rigggggghhhhhhht.

Remember it was Kerry who made the gay-baiting remark.

Okay, first off, pointing out that Mary Cheney is a lesbian isn't "gay-baiting," any more than pointing out that Lynne Cheney is straight is "straight-baiting."

Second, Phantom, you're wrong about the chronology. Here is a link to the text of the Edwards-Cheney debate, which came before the third Bush-Kerry debate:

IFILL: The next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President.

I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks.

Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?

CHENEY: Gwen, you're right, four years ago in this debate, the subject came up. And I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business.

That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships.

Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference.

In effect, what's happened is that in recent months, especially in Massachusetts, but also in California, but in Massachusetts we had the Massachusetts Supreme Court direct the state of -- the legislature of Massachusetts to modify their constitution to allow gay marriage.

And the fact is that the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned.

Now, he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president.

IFILL: Senator Edwards, 90 seconds.

EDWARDS: [...] Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.

And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.

I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships.

But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country.

No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage.

This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong.

A few minutes later, Cheney says:

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

As you can see, the vice-president didn't object to Edwards's words in any way or consider it "gay-baiting" to mention the fact that he has an openly gay daughter when asked a question about gay marriage.

But when the topic came up again in the third Kerry-Bush debate, the right wing decided that they might be able to distract everyone from Bush's poor performance in the three debates by bringing on the faux kabuki-outrage. So they promoted the idea that it was now somehow out of bounds for John Kerry to say almost exactly the same thing John Edwards had said just the week before -- comments that Cheney did not object to at the time, but thanked him for.

DJA

Well reasoned point.

I still do not believe that dragging families into debates is kosher...there can be an inherent cruelty in it, I remember Bernard Shaw's comment to Dukakis along the lines " Well if your wife were raped tomorrow morning, would you still oppose the death penalty"? Political families are abused enough by being in the same household as someone hyperambitioius enough to go into politics.

And the Cheney daughter herself had a real problem with Kerry's using her as a talking point.

But yes, you're correct in what you say. I stand corrected.

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