George Allen's "macaca" two-step

Was S.R. Sidarth really "making trouble"?

Published August 24, 2006 12:57PM (EDT)

As George Mason University professor Mark Rozell tells the Washington Post, the George Allen campaign is now pursuing a "completely inconsistent" but "well-thought-through strategy to speak to different audiences" about the senator's "macaca" moment.

On the one hand, Allen has apologized repeatedly, both in public and, finally, in private to S.R. Sidarth himself. "I take full responsibility. I'm not offering any excuses because I said it, and no one else said it," Allen told Sean Hannity earlier this week.

On the other hand, Allen's campaign manager is telling Republicans that the media, not Allen, should be apologizing. "It is very clear that the news media created what they call a 'feeding frenzy' ... by literally putting words into Senator Allen's mouth that he did not say," Dick Wadhams wrote in a memo to Allen supporters.

With the second half of the strategy, Charlie Cook tells the Post, the Allen campaign is trying to shift the incident into the "We're the persecuted" frame. "It was a very, very calculated move."

Like using a racially charged term to describe someone with dark skin during a Southern campaign event stuffed with white folks? Like warning "liberal interest groups" not to "bother" the good people of Virginia?

It's too soon to tell whether the apology half of the equation is going to work -- Sidarth doesn't sound too impressed himself -- but themes of persecution and race usually play well in the GOP. An Allen supporter named Norm Atkins tells the Post that while the senator's mouth may have moved faster than his brain, the "macaca" moment shouldn't be held against him. "I don't think it was intended to be negative," Atkins says. "But it was to someone from the Democratic Party who was, let's face it, making trouble."

By Tim Grieve

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

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2006 Elections War Room