Washington Post Gunning for George Allen

The Washington Post continues its long series of articles slamming Virginia Republican George Allen. The front page of today’s Metro section (B1) continue a hit piece by White House correspondent Mike Allen (presumably, no relation) who began his reporting career covering his namesake’s 1993 campaign for governor. Entitled, “A Tale of Two Pols,” it draws the parallel both Allen and his supporters have cultivated:

Indeed, the uncanny echoes of George W. Bush’s career have fueled the hopes of Allen backers that he would be Bush’s presidential heir. But as Bush’s popularity has slumped, Allen’s 2008 outlook has dimmed. Worse, last week’s bizarre Allen insult of a rival’s young campaign aide has revived old questions about his sensitivity, temper and smarts. Some high-level Republicans warn that if he’s not careful, he may wind up branded as Bush without the brains.

That’s a good line, although his Slate counterpart John Dickerson already ran with this theme last Tuesday. Dickerson implies and Allen outright suggests that the good senator’s image as good ol’ country boy is a bit contrived. Even though I like him and think the “macaca” incident has been way overblown, I tend to agree, as I noted in a recent TCS piece.

Still, that’s hardly a crime. Politicians have since time immemorial tried to portray themselves as one with the people. Most Americans seem to want to be governed by a guy they’d like to have a beer with. People, especially those from rural areas, have an innate distrust–if not contempt–for those who come across as too “slick.” Most politicians therefore do their best to present themselves as just plain folk, going out in rolled up shirtsleeves, making sure their suits aren’t too stylish, peppering their speeches with some down home talk, and otherwise masking the upper crust background from which most of them arose.

Republicans, especially from the South, have probably done this more than Democrats in recent years. That’s not surprising, since their “base” is the rural voter. Further, the Democrats have a natural advantage because of their post-New Deal image as “the party of the working man.” Still, Democrats play the game too, albeit not always successfully. Recall Al Gore, who was reared in a posh D.C. home, pretending he grew up pickin’ tobbacy on a little farm down in Tennessee. Or John Kerry doing photo ops in hunting gear that virtually still had the Neiman Marcus price tags dangling from them.

For whatever reason, though, WaPo has gone after Allen relentlessly this week, giving prominent placement to editorials disguised as news reporting. Facts not in evidence as passed off as gospel, as in “bizarre Allen insult of a rival’s young campaign aide.” Watching the video, it’s rather clear he was joking around with a kid sent by his opponent to film him. “Macaca, or whatever his name is,” is bizarre, to be sure, but whether it was an “insult” is very much open to interpretation. Still, there have been over two dozen stories in the Post dissecting the incident–including four in today’s edition! In addition to the B1 piece this morning, we have:

One gathers the Post is more offended by the insinuation that inside-the-Beltway elites aren’t part of “real America” than about the “racist overtones” of the Macaca incident. Perhaps Allen’s remarks hit a wee bit close to home?

UPDATE: PostWatch, while agreeing with my general point, thinks I’m guilding the lily by including stories that didn’t appear in the print edition.

Washington Post Website screen capture Fair enough. Indeed, I put the (online chat) and (blog entry) and (AP wire story) indicators on there for precisely that reason–they’re not quite the equivalent of a front page story in the print edition. Still, it’s not inconceivable that an AP story is on the front page of the website–that’s pretty typical, actually–or at least the front of the Politics or Metro sections. There’s not really any way to document that ex post, though.

If one takes a look at the site (as-I’m-writing view screencapped and thumbnailed at right) one sees several online chats, blog posts, and AP wire feeds prominently linked. Indeed, two blog chats are featured at the very top of the content portion of the page, above even the links to the A1 above the fold stories. These things are probably more likely to be read than a story of page D3 of the print edition.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, 2008 Election, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    James, ya think perhaps the WaPo will endorse Webb? But seriously, this is also a local issue of interest to many subscribers. Are you going to start complaining about all the Marion Barry articles everytime he gets into the media spotlight?

  2. James Joyner says:

    DCL: No, but it does seem that the Post is becoming an adjunct to the Webb campaign, which is not a newspaper’s role. Running 27 pieces–granting, several of them blog entries/discussion forums–in one week, starting with a video supplied by the Webb campaign, is a bit much.

  3. Mark says:

    What the Washington Post is doing is probably only going to be used to motivate Allen supporters. This story is, what, a week old or so now, and the Post is still giving it the coverage usually only reserved to ongoing wars. In fact, my guess is there has been more coverage of this incident this past week than the Iraq war itself.

    I was not here for it, but from what I have read the Post virtually campaigned for Chuck Robb as well when Allen beat him in the Senate race six years ago.

    I think the Post is suffering from Allen Derangement Syndrome – heh.

  4. Anderson says:

    The Post is, remember, a local as well as a national paper. And one needn’t struggle to imagine Virginians working on the paper and being creeped out by a redneckier-than-thou Californian.

    At least Hillary’s transformation from Arkansas denizen to New Yorker flattered the NY voters with the appearance (I use that word advisedly) of upward progress. (NYCers, at least, assume that everyone else would rather live there if they could.)

    No one from Virginia is likely to regard an ex-Californian in a similar light.

  5. Anderson says:

    Oh, and don’t forget Ryan Lizza et al. at The New Republic, who are as anti-Allen as they are pro-Lieberman. Lizza’s latest:

    I’m guessing that right now George Allen is wishing he never appeared as a Confederate officer in the 2003 Civil War movie Gods and Generals in which he sings, “Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, hurrah!” (Allen’s closeups are at 00:12 and 1:18.)

    Who knows, Allen may run that in a commercial ….

  6. JPT says:

    “Perhaps Allen’s remarks (concerning the world “Inside the Beltway”) hit a wee bit close to home?”

    Here’s a less conspiratorially rhetorical question:

    “Perhaps it is front page news when a Senator with a history of racial insensitivity is caught on tape uttering a racial slur in a largely white audience at a non-white camera man?”

    I don’t think the Post had any love for former Navy Secretary Jim Webb–or at least they didn’t before this. The coverage of the race before this consisted largely of page 2 and page 3 Metro stories.

    If rumors are true, it probably didn’t help that Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, essentially told a beat writer to go “f-word off” in response to this story. Wadhams has a history of whining about “media bias” from influential big town papers–as evidenced by his previous senate campaigns in Colorado and South Dakota. In this race, he has also attacked a respected political analyst–Larry Sabato; told a respected pollster John Zogby that his WSJ/Zogby polls were long-since discredited; and now is whinning about a media bias in the Post–unfortunately EVERY major paper in Virginia has run a story about this. EVERY major paper has run either a house editorial or op-ed condemning George Allen’s remarks (including the Roanoke Times, RTD, Virginia Pilot, and Daily Press).

    GOP supporters are foolish to dismiss this story or the racists overtones of Allen’s remarks. 67 percent of Virginians who have seen this tape claim that Allen’s comments are inappropriate.


    In this day in age a sitting Senator doesn’t call one of his constiuents the equivalent of N-word and question the constituent’s citizenship (when the constituent is full naturalized) without getting hammered.

  7. B. Minich, PI says:

    I heard that same thing – that the campaign manager of Allen’s campaign got the post mad at them, basically shunning them when they called about the “macaca” incident.

    Thus, they might be angry at the campaign itself, and went overboard because of that. I’ve heard they have done that before with politicians, and that Allen really needed to keep the Post off of his back, so to speak – at least keep them from actively targeting him.

    Of course, this is all speculation.

  8. JPT says:

    Additional papers covering this story–Lynchburg News and Advance, Charlottesville Daily Progress.

    I haven’t been able to confirm whether the Daily News Record in Harrisonburg, or the Daily News Leader in Staunton have covered this. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they ran an amended version of one of the two stories written by the extremely leftist Associated Press.

    In reference to the Allen’ campaign manager rumors–the attack–if it happened–is a stupid, unprofessional move. Blaming the media is also a cop out. A leader takes responsibility for his actions. When faced with a similar incident in 2001 Senator Byrd made a quick, profuse, unconditional apology. Senator Byrd also did not direct his comments at a 20 year old campaign volunteer and constituent.

    Also note that Andrew Young, when faced with a similar set of circumstances recently, resigned from his post. Andrew Young’s comments–as inappropriate as they were–were not directed at an individual in a partisan crowd.

    Hilary and Biden’s racist remarks were inappropriate as well. In Biden’s case I have no doubt that it will sink his long-shot presidential candidacy. Hilary’s comments were dumb and probably could linger–although Clinton doesn’t have anything close to George Allen’s history.

  9. m.watkins says:

    I can’t wait for the wapo’s c*ck sucking farewell piece on retirng senator, paul sarbanes.

    Front page style section with a large notice of the piece below the fold on the front page is my bet.

  10. ATS says:

    If you are arguing that the POST doesn’t champion George Allen you are doubtless right.
    But the reason eluded you. It isn’t so much political as personal. They simply don’t like him. In the most elemental way, and I don’t either.
    All talk of frat-boy swagger you’ve heard about George W. Bush goes double for George Allen. He looms over you when he talks to you. He smiles in a way that suggest he thinks he could kick your ass. He carries himself like one of villains in “Revenge of the Nerds.”
    Were this guy to become President, following upon GWB, there would be no port in the storm for US foreign policy. His personality alone would persuade the entire world that we are flipping them the bird.

  11. revolted pwned says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  12. mark says:

    check out the editorial history of “Macaca” on wikipedia. The word seemed to have never existed until Allen uttered it.

  13. DC Loser says:

    Mark, you mean this entry in Wikipedia?

    Macaca (also written as macaque) is a dismissive epithet used by Francophone colonials in Africa for native populations of North and Subsaharan Africans.[1] It is derived from the name of the genus comprised of the macaque primates.