What Did Senator Allen Mean?
Source - IAFPE
We reproduce here a series of articles that have appeared in various media after Senator Allen made a comment on a student Sidarth during his election campaign addressing him as 'Macaca'.
Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) is the source for this material.
What Did Mr. Allen Mean?
Thursday, August 17, 2006; Page A24
We would like to thank you for taking the right stand on the gaffe of Sen. George Allen ["George Allen's America," editorial, Aug. 15].
It is quite shocking for a person of Mr. Allen's caliber, who is running for a second Senate term and is a likely candidate for president in 2008, to point a finger at a young lad of 20, bullying our grandson, S.R . Sidarth, and calling him a derogatory and uncalled-for name. Sidarth was only videotaping the event.
In the 1930s Sidarth's great-grandfather accompanied Mohandas Gandhi to London as his secretary at the Round Table Conference on political reform in India. We come from a heritage of nationalists and seekers after truth. Hence these remarks hurt all the more, and we are personally affected by such an attack.
[To link: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/16/AR2006081601557.html]
NEW YORK TIMES
August 16, 2006
A Discouraging Word
If, as many politicians suspect, Senator George Allen's re-election bid in Virginia is a warm-up for his run in the next presidential race, the ever ambitious Republican is demonstrating he has a lot to learn about playing what campaign cynics like to call the race card. Speaking to a largely white crowd in the southern reaches of the state, Mr. Allen got a laugh by suddenly ridiculing a young Democrat of Indian descent who was videotaping the event for opposition research.
"Let's give a welcome to Macaca, here," the senator said, using an odd, derogatory-sounding word that can mean monkey, by one insulting definition. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," Mr. Allen continued, beaming at S. R. Sidarth, a 20-year-old born and bred in Virginia who is a student at the University of Virginia.
At first the Allen campaign firmly defended the remark as deserving no apology. Spinners pathetically sought to convince the real world beyond the campaign fringe that no slur could be perceived, only a joshing allusion to the student's haircut. Macaca = Mohawk? Eventually, Senator Allen had to offer an apology, saying he meant nothing demeaning. "I don't know what it means," he said of "macaca," even though he had repeated the word with great delight. Understandably, the student, for all his Democratic partisanship, took the word and the senator's "welcome to America" line as a bit of xenophobic raw meat for the audience.
In his younger years, Senator Allen flirted with offensive symbols like the Confederate flag. As he looks beyond Virginia, Mr. Allen should get used to the idea that people are noticing his behavior.
[To link: www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/opinion/16Wed3.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fEditorials ]
Allen Calls Webb Aide, Apologizes For Remark
By Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 24, 2006; A01
Virginia Sen. George Allen apologized directly to S.R. Sidarth yesterday, telling the 20-year-old Democratic campaign staffer that he was sorry for offending him with remarks that have generated nationwide criticism for being racially insensitive.
Allen's telephone call to Sidarth was the first direct contact between the two since Allen (R) was caught by Sidarth's video camera calling him a "macaca" and welcoming the Fairfax native to "America and the real world of Virginia."
Sidarth said Allen told him that the apology was "from his heart."
"His main point was he was sorry he offended me," Sidarth, a fourth-year University of Virginia student, said in an interview later. "He realized how much he offended me from the comments I made in the media."
The call followed a series of public mea culpas , including one heard across the country Tuesday on a conservative radio talk show hosted by commentator Sean Hannity.
"I take full responsibility. I'm not offering any excuses because I said it, and no one else said it," a somber-sounding Allen told Hannity's audience of more than 12 million listeners. "It's a mistake. I apologize, and from my heart, I'm very, very sorry for it."
Allen also apologized Tuesday at the Greenspring Village retirement community in Springfield, saying "from the deepest part of my heart, I'm sorry and I will do better."
The term "macaca" refers to a genus of monkey and is considered an ethnic slur in some cultures. After Democratic challenger James Webb's campaign posted Sidarth's video on the Internet, the incident became national news and has left Allen on the defensive. The senator had issued a public apology and had said he was sorry at other recent events. Political observers said Allen appears to be trying to put the controversy behind him with more fervent expressions of regret.
But even as he did so, about 50 Democratic activists protested outside a Fairfax County fundraiser for Allen headlined by President Bush. As Bush arrived in Virginia last night, Democrats waved signs that included phrases such as "Hey, George, macaca is a bad word." About the same number of Allen supporters offered signs saying "We love George. We support you."
As the senator was apologizing, his campaign manager continued to blame Webb, the media and the senator's "leftist" foes for the controversy.
"It's great to have the president in Virginia, raising substantial amounts of money so we can fight off the scurrilous attacks by our opponent and his leftist allies," campaign manager Dick Wadhams said in an interview.
Last weekend, Wadhams sent a memo to GOP supporters in which he accused the media of creating a "feeding frenzy" over the incident and called it a "desperate attempt to revive a campaign that was fast-sinking -- the Webb campaign."
Asked whether that message is consistent with Allen's apologies, Wadhams said, "I think the memo speaks for itself."
Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, said the Allen campaign is pursuing a two-pronged strategy aimed at convincing some voters that Allen is sorry while motivating his base with attacks against liberals and the media.
"They need a better foil," Cook said. "They need to shift this into 'We're the persecuted.' It was a very, very calculated move."
Mark Rozell, a politics professor at George Mason University, said the comments by Wadhams and Allen are "completely inconsistent" but are part of "a well-thought-through strategy to speak to different audiences."
Rozell said Allen's campaign has probably seen polling data that suggest he is losing support in Virginia, where he is fighting for a second term, and nationally, where he might run for president in 2008.
"The fact that the senator has been so profusely apologetic suggests that he and his campaign strategists know that this incident has really hurt him," Rozell said.
Sidarth, who had been assigned by the Webb campaign to follow Allen on a swing through Southwest Virginia, said he asked Allen why it took him so long to apologize personally.
Allen said he had expected to see Sidarth on the campaign trail again and had wanted to apologize in person, Sidarth and Wadhams said.
"I still have some questions about why it took so long, but, yes, he did the right thing," Sidarth said. Asked whether he thought the apology was sincere, Sidarth declined to comment.
The Bush fundraiser was held at the home of former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie. As Bush's motorcade approached, Allen and Webb supporters tried to drown each other out. Allen supporters yelled "We love George" as Webb fans yelled and waved signs, which included phrases such as "Hey George Allen, Welcome to the real Virginia."
Norm Atkins, an Allen supporter from Falls Church, said the senator's "mouth goes faster than his brain. I don't think it was intended to be negative, but it was to someone from the Democratic Party who was, let's face it, making trouble."
Terry Hartnett, a Webb supporter who lives in Burke, said George Washington's house, Mount Vernon, is a mile away from the fundraising site. "This is the real Virginia. If he [Allen] doesn't think this is the real Virginia, why does he live here?"
Allen lives in the Mount Vernon community of Fairfax County, also about a mile from Gillespie's house. Many of the several dozen Allen supporters outside the fundraiser said it is time to forgive and forget. "We make mistakes, we apologize and we move on," said Juanita Balenger of Annandale. "God forgives us for our mistakes. If he can do it, so can the media and all those offended."
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