Campaign manager: The press put words in Allen's mouth

The "Macaca" moment notwithstanding, Bush will campaign for the Virginia senator today.

Published August 23, 2006 2:07PM (EDT)

"Never in modern times has a statewide officeholder and candidate been so vilified in a desperate attempt to revive a campaign that was fast-sinking. . . ." So sayeth George Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams in a memo to the senator's supporters.

Wadhams refers, of course, to the media coverage of Allen's "Macaca" moment. Putting aside the hyperbole involved -- Trent Lott, Jean Schmidt and Dick Durbin would probably be willing to arm-wrestle Allen for the "most vilified" title -- Wadhams' memo is, as the New Republic notes, a "real classic" in the genre of "conservative damage control."

Between the requisite media-bashing and a gratuitous slam on MoveOn, Wadhams accuses the Democrats of playing "the race card" and charges the press with "literally putting words into Senator Allen's mouth that he did not say." How's that again? S.R. Sidarth's video camera captured Allen calling him "Macaca" and welcoming him to America. Wadhams doesn't seem to dispute that, but he insists that the media made up the story -- "literally put words into Senator Allen's mouth" -- by "speculating, defining and attributing meanings and motives [to Allen] that simply are not true."

Then there's a bit of stay out of our business, son, invective. Wadhams writes: "Let's show the liberal interest groups that by coming to Virginia, they have gotten more than they bargained for and that they need not bother us ever again."

Of course, the Allen campaign doesn't find all outsiders quite so objectionable. George W. Bush is apparently more than welcome to visit Virginia for an Allen fundraiser today. Asked whether Allen's "Macaca" comments made the president think twice about appearing on his behalf, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said no. "Senator Allen apologized," Perino said. "And I think it's in everyone's best interest, in this day and age of politics when everyone is trying to improve the tone and discourse, to accept apologies when they're offered."

Fair enough -- or at least it might be if Allen had actually apologized to Sidarth himself -- but perhaps Perino should share her thoughts on forgiveness with some of her colleagues at the White House. Even after Durbin apologized for remarks he made about the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Karl Rove used his comments as proof that the "motive of liberals" is to put U.S. troops at greater risk of harm.

Update: According to Jim Webb's campaign, Allen finally called Sidarth today to apologize directly to him. Meanwhile, the National Journal reports that Allen's campaign hopes to blunt any damage from future incidents by hiring a "conservative blog maven" to rally support for the senator.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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