In mid-August, Virginia Sen. George Allen used the word "Macaca" to describe an Indian-American staffer for his Democrat opponent who’d been filming his campaign appearances. Little did he realize that this would cost him his Senate seat and any hopes for the presidency in 2008.
Local liberal elites long have believed The Washington Times to be an oafishly right-wing rag, while viewing The Washington Post as the dictionary definition of detachment and straightforward reporting. The 2006 campaign proves this to be nonsense. When it came to Allen, the Post completely lost its bearings, treating him with left-wing aggression and loathing, as if he ripped out the fingernails of small children every night as a giggly hobby. Today, Allen’s political scalp hangs on their newsroom wall.
Now, the Post would have us believe it had nothing to do with his defeat. With a shockingly false faux-objective voice, the Post printed a headline on Nov. 10 declaring it was a "stunning breakdown," as if it was uninvolved. Reporter Michael Shear declared that Allen’s jovial farewells were odd, since "the relentlessly cheery politician who was an up-and-comer in the national GOP spent most of the fall during his campaign against challenger James Webb in a defensive crouch, trying to deflect accusations that, down deep, he is a bully or a racist."
What Shear failed to mention was that it was a defensive crouch against relentless bullying by the Post. They beat him up, stole his lunch money and now are pretending they were little angels who had nothing to do with the assault.
The Post quoted local academic Robert Holsworth declaring that the power of "macaca" shows how dramatically politics can change in 24 hours. But nothing happened in 24 hours. The Post invested weeks building up Allen’s negatives, pounding away day after day from August to November, front page after front page, editorial after editorial, story after story hinting heavily that Allen had a long, dark history of hating dark-skinned people, blacks, Indians, whatever; fearing his Jewish heritage; bullying his classmates — you name it, he did it.
You think I exaggerate? How’s this for exaggeration: By Election Day, 112 Post news stories and editorials had used the word "macaca." But that wasn’t enough. Then came the truly shaky allegations that Allen used the "N-word" during his college days in the 1970s. Still, that wasn’t enough. Stories that young Allen stuffed deer heads into the mailboxes of black folks for laughs were deemed as newsworthy history and not merely as hearsay. Reporters like Shear acknowledged that the accusers were Democratic partisans, but that didn’t stop them from spreading them around. Rumors were king — and the "defensive crouch" was established.
Allen was questioned for every allegedly racist bone in his body (including wearing a Confederate flag pin when he was a high school kid — horrors!). He was even pounded in the Post news columns for stealing another kid’s bike in high school and not returning it until the next day — double horrors!
Then Allen gave an interview and complained about the treatment of "his people," the Scotch-Irish rednecks: "Towel-heads and rednecks became the easy villains in so many movies out there." Towel-heads? Clearly this was another Macaca moment, more evidence of Allen’s racist proclivities.
But wait a moment. It wasn’t Allen. The man who made those comments was his opponent, Jim Webb. So how did our objective, fair-minded Washington Post react? Reporter Libby Copeland quickly related that Webb called later to lament: "I used the words that are used to stereotype them. … I’m really upset if this is going to end up being the guppy that eats the whale here." And that was that. The Post’s treatment of Jim Webb was so favorable you wondered how the reporters could finish their articles on time after all the fainting spells of awe.
The most transparently ridiculous Webb-lackey story the Post published in the entire Virginia race came on Oct. 19, with the headline, "Webb Is Reluctant to Advertise Duty: Veteran Blasts Allen’s Public Comments." In a display of utter shamelessness, reporters Michael Shear and Tim Craig reported, "Webb said it is improper to use military service in an overtly political way." Webb complained that Allen was touting some medals given to him by the mother of a fallen soldier: "I don’t think it’s right to use someone’s service directly for a political reason."
This was ridiculous, and the height of hypocrisy, and the Post knew it. Webb’s TV ads relentlessly mentioned his service in Vietnam and his son’s service in Iraq.
Webb constantly touted his military service on the campaign trail. It was John Kerry on steroids — and the Post dutifully covered it.
In the end, the Post so co-managed the Webb campaign that we ought to consider identifying Sen. Webb not as "D-Va.," but perhaps as "D-Washington Post."