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Sen. Allen's Diet of Pork Chops, Ham Sandwiches and Crow

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Even now, after his mother told him the truth, Allen's response to Fox was to pretend that he was deeply offended by the injection of religion into the debate, to accuse the reporter of "making aspersions about" someone's religious beliefs and to state: "My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her. And I've been raised as she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."

At the debate, therefore, knowing that his mother was raised Jewish, Allen said otherwise. Not good.

But very much in character. "George Allen grew up in a football family, where the playing field is always level, and the past doesn't matter," Moline said. "So he is clueless about the symbolism of the Confederate flag and clueless about hanging a noose in his office and clueless about the power of the word 'macaca.' When you have parents who want to close off the past, that's what happens to you."

Maybe in that context, Allen's comment to the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week makes sense. His Jewish heritage is "just an interesting nuance to my background," Allen said, adding: "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Moline says that comment is "a typical dismissal of the past for him." Or maybe Allen is eager to take over William Donald Schaefer's role as the region's premier purveyor of unfiltered political speech. Or perhaps Allen just chose to express his "embrace" of his roots borscht belt-style. Ladies and gentlemen, Shecky Allen.

Somehow, Madeline Albright, John Kerry and Wesley Clark -- who learned details of their Jewish roots in middle age -- got through this chapter without accusing their opponents of anti-Semitism, ripping reporters who inquired about their family histories or cracking ham sandwich jokes.

Allen is a tremendously likable guy. He stands up for his beliefs, even when they are unpopular. But he's in trouble in a race he expected to be a walk in the park. And he's killing himself out there. Georgie, baby, take a shvitz, maybe a vacation. Have you thought about Jerusalem? Bring the video camera. We can make this work.

E-mail:marcfisher@washpost.com


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