Recent remarks by Virginia Senator George Allen may not have broken any bones but they surely bruised the tender sensibilities of some liberal operatives and their media counterparts. His videotaped comments to S.R. Sidarth, an Indian-American college student working for his Senate opponent’s campaign, and the reaction to them just might be an opening volley in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Conventional wisdom has it that Allen’s oral use of the word “macaca” — the preferred spelling of which has lead to all sorts of nefarious definitions — adds up to one conclusion: racism. Typical was a Washington Post piece by Eugene Robinson which claimed that Allen “instinctively or subconsciously believed that drawing a line between his white audience and the darker, foreign-looking Sidarth was at that moment good politics.”p>But this racism-as-a-political-tool theorem seems to operate in only one direction; to the right. It does not include, for example, Delaware senator Joseph Biden’s singular way of campaigning for the Indian vote in New Hampshire last month which was also caught on tape and aired on C-SPAN: br> /p>
In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian-Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.br> But Hillary Clinton apparently was joking when, after quoting Mahatma Gandhi at a fundraiser in Missouri, she cracked unwisely, “He ran a gas station down in St. Louis.” Mrs. Clinton did apologize and although her comments were given press coverage, most of the headlines trumpeted only the apology and failed to scold her for the original joke itself. Not so when Republicans do the gaffing. p>And Allen did commit a blunder, no doubt. But the reason is more likely political than racial. Were he and his staff having a little fun at Mr. Sidarth’s expense? Probably. The modern practice of having an opponent shadowed out on the hustings — one which Allen’s team also employs — is bound to lead to such scenarios. Gone are the days when a candidate could relax and rub elbows with the party faithful unencumbered by vexing video eyes. But were there racial overtones? Here are his remarks in their entirety : br>
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