Whispers about Sen. George Allen.

Having grown up in Charlottesville, I’ve heard a lot about Sen. George Allen over the years. We go to the same barber. We lived on the same street. We share some friends and acquaintances. So I hear a lot about him anecdotally. People share stories about how they knew him when, back at UVa or the first time he ran for office. Generally they’re tales of something particularly outlandish or funny that he said or did. The tone of these descriptions is overwhelmingly positive.

Or, at least, they were. The more that time passes and the more bald that Allen’s ambitions become, the sourer that these recollections seem to become. The very people who laughingly looked back on the man have, in the past few months, turned dark when the topic turns to Allen.

What I hear, more than anything else, is this: When George Allen’s past comes out, he’s finished. I’ve then had repeated to me stories about George Allen’s days at UVa that’d make your hair curl. The stories uniformly describe Allen as a frat-boy drunk, a L.A. boy portraying a southerner like a cross-dresser portrays a woman, a racist bully with no interests beyond his own. Are the stories for real? I don’t know—that’s why I don’t repeat them here.

I’m puzzled by the reversal in the perception of and portrayal of George Allen by those who knew him those decades ago. Perhaps they’ve perceived him as a relatively harmless jerk as congressman and senator, but they can’t stand the idea of him as president? Or maybe it’s how people self-aggrandize, by belittling somebody that’s above them? But if that’s so, why start doing so now? I don’t claim to understand what’s going on, but I find it interesting.

It’s none too surprising that some of the stories have started coming out, courtesy of Ryan Lizza and The New Republic. Allen’s own sister, in her biography, describes how he broke her brother’s collarbone, threw the same brother through a plate-glass window, dragged her up the stairs by her hair, held her by her feet over Niagara Falls, and hoped to become a dentist because he liked the idea of being paid to make people suffer. (I’m reminded of the roman à clef written by Del. Dave Albo’s wickedly funny brother, Mike Albo, “Hornito: My Life Lie,” and his depiction of Del. Albo as a teenager. But that’s the topic of another blog entry.)

I’m not particularly interested in whether or not the specific stories of Sen. Allen’s escapades are true, but the portrait that emerges from these stories seems to confirm the impression of Allen as a sociopathic jerk. Lizza’s article may or may not represent the tip of the iceberg of Allen’s past impropriety, but it’s surely just the beginning of attacks on that impropriety.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

32 replies on “Whispers about Sen. George Allen.”

  1. I’ve heard similar stories about Allen from a while back, and most are not pleasant. It will be interesting how far his history may come back and haunt him.

  2. I’ve watched Allen exactly as long as Waldo has, and he’s only had one, single political ideology and, frankly, moral philosophy:

    George Allen deserves a better job, and you should be damned happy you can help him get it!

    So, I’m quite certain that, if Allen found, at one time or another, that letting “it” out of his pants would move him some beneficial distance toward that better job, “it” would be loosed upon the world without the slightest regret. Until he got caught.

    Who knows? Perhaps some of the stories address such a madcap loosening. With some politicians, a sad sexual episode taints an otherwise serious and sound legislative or executive career. With others, sexual promiscuity would at least explain what the hell he’s been spending his his time on–other than running for higher office–for the last five years.

    And Allen begot the Gilmore governorship, perhaps the lowest point in the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial service since Massive Resistance, when following the party line down to disaster was considered very avant-garde among those in the GOP leadership.

  3. ill take a horney guy over a racist any day. Fact is, all guys are horney, some can just control it better than others. There’s nothing understandable about being a racist.

  4. Well, I have a theory about the sour turn these recollections are taking: The country’s going to hell in a handbasket and people are getting a painful object lesson in what happens when you put a self-centered lightweight in charge.

    In Allen’s heyday the national economy was in good shape, external threats seemed smaller, natural disasters were handled competently and compassionately… A frat-boy “leader” was an affordable indulgence (even a real kick for his base — white guys missing the good old days when women and black people knew their place).

    But anyone who’s ever heard him speak for five minutes knows he’s as dumb as a bag of rocks. It’s clear he didn’t get where he is through talent and hard work, but by being a cheerful empty suit for a party machine. That party’s corruption is being shown more clearly every week.

    Lately, in that context, those stories people have heard about Allen put him in a different light. They certainly don’t cut against the image that Bush and the sleazy DeLay/Cunningham network have begun to imprint on the party: out for themselves, irresponsible, not particularly competent…

    As people think vaguely about what they want in a president, or even a senator, he increasingly doesn’t fit that bill. And they’re letting themselves face what those stories should always have told them about his character.

  5. My former principal played football with George Allen at UVA. My principal is an honorable, decent har working educator. He is one of the only principal’s I taught under who I would go to the mat for. The only comment I ever heard this man utter aboit George Allen was ” He would do ANYTHING to win.” He said this with a very sour expression on his face.

    Will anyone report on Jim Webb’s visit to Roanoke yesterday? Our Ward and Precinct organizer said he was great! Anyone?

  6. Funny — I grew up in C’ville, too. Knew (and continue to know) lots of people who knew (and continue to know) Allen. Didn’t live on his street, but not far (Reas Ford Rd). I babysat Tyler when she was an infant, went to a couple Bastille Day parties at the log cabin. As I recall, conservatives and apolitical folks had a very high opinion of Allen; liberals hated (feared) him.

    He was mocked by smug liberals for being a frat boy, a Californian, dumb as a stump (amazing how somebody so dumb can graduate from one of the country’s finest law schools), arrogant, etc., etc.

    Not much has changed. Conservatives and apolitical people, by and large, have a high opinion of Allen. Liberals still hate (fear) him. He’s still called dumb by people who claim to have met him, though for some reason I only hear this charge from liberals… strange.

    But here’s the best one — “What I hear, more than anything else, is this: When George Allen’s past comes out, he’s finished.” That one literally made me laugh out loud. Libs have been saying this since George ran for Congress. What a bummer when he turned out to be squeaky clean. But that didn’t stop the slander machine. They repeated it when it became evident that he would trounce Mary Sue. And they really pulled out all the stops to trash George’s character when he took on the unbeatable Chuck Robb. But still — nothing in his closet.
    It must really suck to keep throwing mud at somebody you hate (fear), only to have none of it stick. Oh well, we can still just Make Shit Up, right?

  7. I heard whispers about Allen a long time ago – during his run against Kay Slaughter, before he had aspired to much of any kind of office, when he was just a member of the House of Delegates.

    I think I.Publius is probably right: if there was much fire behind the smoke, it would have come out by now. I doubt very much that he’s “squeaky clean”, but after what the GOP tried to do to Clinton, the public has stepped back a little bit from destroying people for old, personal transgressions. I think that does still very much depend on whether they are truly just personal transgressions. I have heard that the details behind the end of his first marriage are rather ugly, but I have no idea how credible any of that is. I do not think he’s as dumb as he comes across, but he certainly does not seem to devote his mental energies to any substantive policy matters – he seems to restrict it to self-advancement.

    I also think Nell’s got the overall story right: these charges certainly won’t destroy him with the Party faithful – they love the guy who rants about “Mr. Peepers” and sees life as a football game – but the larger country has had enough of a macho football frat boy presidency.

  8. “if there was much fire behind the smoke, it would have come out by now”

    Well in regards to the confederate flag he was so proud of (despite being born and raised in California) I think the reason that didnt come out in the 80s and even 90s was because of the VERY successful Southern Strategy. Democrats would seem even more anti South if they started accusing Allen of being a racist. Not only that, I doubt very much in the “law and order” state of Virginia that it would have mattered very much if he was. During the 80s a good amount of whites were coming off of a decade where they watched their children bused to create diversity, several bills of civil rights legislation passed, and sadly a streak of race riots. The racial resentment was fueled by people like Nixon who wanted to restore “law and order” and did not want to appoint judges like Warren (aka judges who decided on the side of Civil Rights). When Allen was runing in the 80s the Southern Strategy seemed to have reached its peak in the South. Reagan had successfully won after denouncing “welfare queens” and announcing his candidacy in Philadelphia, Miss, a town known for the brutal murder of civil rights activist. Virginia, despite popular belief today, is part of the South. Those same tactics that resonated wtih voters in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, etc. were having the same effect right here. So here’s the scenario a Democrat brings up Allen’s confederate flag and how he isnt from the South and the logical explanation for carrying the flag (besides racism) doesn’t stick. Allen was from the West so why would he tout a heritage he has no connection to? His father is from the Midwest and I’m pretty sure his mother’s origins lie outside the South. The average Virginia voter, fuming with rage over busing, civil rights legislation being “shoved down their throat”, and race riots would not take the time to carefully analyze the situation. All they would see is a Democrat attacking someone for wearing a conderate flag, yet more proof, in their minds, that Democrats were becoming anti South and against their “way of life.”

    Today things are a lot different in Virginia. The population concentration has shifted to a more moderate and increasingly liberal region. As older Virginia voters continue to be dilluted by northerners, midwesterners, and other moderates the rational for having a confederate flag becomes an issue. These voters, while sometimes racially resentful, are very moderate and would have a hard time casting a vote for someone that may be a racist. If the Democrats use this right Allen’s support in the socially moderate suburbs of Northern Virginia (Prince William, Loudon, Fairfax) may drop, even drastically. Combine this with a Democratic year and the overall demographic shift of the area. I think you can see now how the “perfect storm” makes now the time to release this information. To put it plainly, it simply just wouldnt have had an effect back then.

    On to principle and off of politics. Anyone who thinks that George Allen was carrying a confederate flag around in California because he didnt like authority is nieve. Anyone who thinks George Allen hung a conderate flag on his wall because liked the way it looked is nieve. Anyone who thinks the noose Allen kept in his office was because he was for law and order is nieve. Anyone who after hearing about this is suprised or denies to hear that George Allen probably said the word nigger several times while he was on the football team is probably nieve. Anyone who combines all of these components with his policies, rhetoric, support in the black community and still wants to say that the man is just proud of the South and had an “interesting” time in high school is either just plain full of it or completely out of touch with reality. Everyone is tip toeing around it but I will say it straight out: Goerge Allen is more than likely a racist. People like that rarely change. If he was one in the 90s or 80s or even high school, I would have a hard time believing that he isnt one today.

  9. I think it’s interesting that Clinton was able to get as high as governor without much of his past coming out. There were whispers of infidelity, but that was it. But when he ran for president, suddenly it all came out.

    I have to wonder if the same could apply to Sen. Allen.

  10. UVA08 – you cover a lot of ground – I will simply touch on my response to the overall thrust of your comments:

    – you overstate the southern strategy relevancy in the 70s and 80s. I lived in C’ville and was “bussed” in the early 70s – I am a Venable alumnus, and remember well the Lane ‘riots’ that ultimately led to the creation of CHS. At the end of my street, where the autism school now exists, was the segregation academy – known as “RE Lee” school. My point is this: by the mid-70s through the end of the 80s, the racists & segregationists had been driven underground.

    – The ‘Christian’ (SBC, really)-GOP-redneck axis didn’t gel until the late 80s, when the Moral Majority and Christian coalition flexed their muscle with Pat Robertson’s candidacy. George Allen, in those days, was a ‘mailine’ GOP ‘moderate’ – interested almost exclusively in an anti-tax, anti-regulatory stance. This was his principle contrast with Kay Slaughter, an environmental lawyer. The Christo-ban element (which is really just a rallying symbol for the old social-reactionary racist south) hadn’t gained much currency with anyone. I spent a couple of summers (lived and worked) in the early/mid 80s up in Front Royal, where they held “Fishnet” – a kind of woodstock for holy rollers – and even then, in a place like Front Royal, the reception by the locals for that brand of pentacostal evangelism and fundamentalist theology was lukewarm.

    – The period when Allen was running for the statehouse in the early 80s as a Republican were still part of the era when Republicans were the reformer outsiders – the Democrats were in charge and were the vestiges of the Byrd machine, which was still very much the white good old boy period here. Full blown re-alignment of state politics on this cultural level didn’t really take place until Doug Wilder’s election. I remember when Chuck Robb was first stumping around the state, and running very much as a marine and traditional, conservative Virginian.

    – Finally, you have to remember that in 70-74, Gov. Holton, the Republican who finally broke the Byrd machine, was a desgregation reformer. That is precisely the time period when Nixon’s Southern Strategy was really being implemented.

    My point is this: the polarization you describe has certainly always been there, but VA has trailed behind the national trends you cite. All politics is local, and the realignment in VA – the social-reactionary alliance with the GOP – took place a bit later than you cite. There was a backlash – in the early-mid 90s – against affirmative action here, and it allowed the segregationists to be themselves in polite company again.

    Now, in southside politics (basically south and west of Amherst), probably never ‘reformed’ as much, except perhaps in Roanoke (being an urban center) as they did here. I do not believe the segregationists were ever driven as far underground as they were here and to the north and east of us.

    I don’t think these charges against Allen, if they are substantive, have come out because he was so successful at the southern strategy – he’s been adept at moving in that direction – but because as Waldo points out, the stakes just weren’t that high, and Allen was reasonably popular (perhaps through no merit of his own).

    I dunno, just my personal, anecdotal view.

  11. A final note: for a good indicator of the beginning of the southern strategy shift – look at Mills Godwin’s career – first a Democrat in the mid-late 60s, and then a Rebpulican in the Mid-70s.

  12. I think everyone here has a little piece of the truth. The stakes are higher, and there are simple demographic shifts.

    These probably being the most important.

    The local VA (or any state for that matter), the local press doesn’t really have the impetuous to carry on with a story like this (for many reasons, some of them because of proximity). These are heavy things, hard to have to deal with someone regularly if you are accusing them of these things.

    Of course now Allen has raised his profile by being everywhere on TV, and hinting that he is running for president; the national media starts to pay attention.

    As for I.Publius, I can tell you one thing, you are hallucinating.

    Robb didn’t pull out anywhere near all the stops to smear Allen. What I hear is the campaign staff had a folder a foot thick, and Robb wouldn’t let them use it!

    He simply didn’t want to win.

  13. Publius is absolutely right. Of course, calling Republicans “dumb” is the standard Dem line against Republican Presidents and/or candidates; it’s a function of Liberal arrogance (“Gee, they’re not Dems, so they MUST be dumb”). In two years, they’re going to leaven it with an all-out assault on a Southern Republican as “racist,” probably because the monolithic Black vote is finally breaking down, as Black Americans recognize that real economic opportunity and recognition for the “content of their character” comes from Conservatives, not paternalistic Dems.

    And yet, those “stupid” Republicans — Eisenhower; Reagan; Bush; Bush — just keep waxing Democrat tails at the polls, and no Dem has received a popular majority since 1964.

  14. I concur with Jon – Robb didn’t want to win. Heck, he shouldn’t have won the election before – but thanks to Ollie North, quite possibly the only candidate who could get Chuck Robb re-elected (credit for that statement goes to my father in law).

    Allen’s dark past is not even necessary for him to lose this time around – we only have to look at his track record as a U.S. Senator and Governor; on that alone the man should lose and lose big time.

  15. Waldo, I can’t believe you cited Ryan Lizza’s NR article…the one that started off “no one in Virginia wears Cowboy boots!” Lizza and the NR CLEARLY know what they are talking about! HAHA. As for the “wispers” that’s a bunch of bull. I’m with Publius on this one, you folks are paranoid. And…Publius, I take it you know Mr. Byrd and Mr. Leake well huh? :) perhaps even the Turners…

  16. And yet, those “stupid” Republicans — Eisenhower; Reagan; Bush; Bush

    I find it interesting that Richard Nixon is missing from this list. Is the omission an acknowledgement that Nixon was a “smart” Republican?

    I don’t say this to be facetious. I was no fan of Nixon, but I never questionned his intellect.

    As we know, the qualities of a good leader are many and brainpower is but one.

  17. Waldo, I can’t believe you cited Ryan Lizza’s NR article…the one that started off “no one in Virginia wears Cowboy boots!”

    Indeed, I often wear cowboy boots. But I fail to see how that renders Sen. Allen’s sister a fabulist.

  18. I didn’t say anything about Sen. Allen’s sister. Dunno her…wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her. Not sure what Allen’s sister has to do with Lizza writing silly intros.

  19. I didn’t say anything about Sen. Allen’s sister. Dunno her…wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her. Not sure what Allen’s sister has to do with Lizza writing silly intros.

    You wrote:

    I can’t believe you cited Ryan Lizza’s NR article…the one that started off “no one in Virginia wears Cowboy boots!” Lizza and the NR CLEARLY know what they are talking about! HAHA

    You (through sarcasm) said that the article cannot be relied on. But the meat of the article comes from Sen. Allen’s sister’s memoir. So if you don’t believe that the accusations against Allen in the article are reliable, then you’re saying that Allen’s sister is a liar. My point, again, is that that the author’s belief that Sen. Allen is the only guy in the state to wear cowboy boots has nothing to do with the veracity of his sister’s claims.

  20. Waldo, with all due respect to you as our host, I choose my words quite carefully. 48.38% of the popular vote — concededly the most votes in 2000 — is a “plurality,” not a “popular majority.”

    And, of course, the popular majority might well have gone the other way, had the media not blown the call on Florida, or simply declared it “too close to call,” which it clearly was at the time.

  21. 48.38% of the popular vote — concededly the most votes in 2000 — is a “plurality,” not a “popular majority.”

    I’m not sure what message we’re supposed to come away with knowing that Gore fell a percent and change away from a majority, but got the most votes. If anything magic happens at 50.0001% of the popular vote, I have to admit that I don’t know what it is. The Democratic message was clearly more popular with voters than the Republican message in 2000.

  22. James Young,

    “calling Republicans “dumb” is the standard Dem line against Republican Presidents and/or candidates; it’s a function of Liberal arrogance”.

    “Eisenhower; Reagan; Bush; Bush” (does the contemporary Republican party really want to claim Eisenhower, you know his son endorsed Kerry, and said his father would be disgusted with you guys).

    Also, obviously with JR’s opinion numbers what they are, there a lot more people than self-identified liberals who think less of Bush’s capabilities than you do.

    But even by your own standard he must be doing something wrong? Right? How would you defend him if popularity measured by a polls is an indicator of intelligence?

    But you are right, we also thought Kilgore was “dumb”, and look he’s Governor now!

    hmmmm, an Allen crony bites the dust . . . a trend anyone?

  23. Webb can and will win on the issues, just like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner did. 9 times out of 10 it’s substance that determines who wins an election, especially in a state as decorous as Virginia. It’s not that character doesn’t matter to voters (it does, and if it comes down to it I think Webb wins on that too), it’s just that they normally have more immediate, important concerns, especially in a year like 2006, with the public so sour on the President and the comically corrupt Republican congress.

    That being said, if Allen wants to turn Scott Howell and Dick Wadhams into Bob Shrums of Virginia politics and try and negative attack his way to victory, I imagine it will work as well in 2006 as it did for his protege in 2005. But until that happens, I hope the race stays positive. Webb is showing his character by doing what he can to keep it so.

    But if we’re going to correctly conflate 2005 and 2006, I think VA bloggers, especially conservative ones, are making the mistake of seeing Lizza’s article through the lense of 2006. It shouldn’t be, as Webb and Miller figure into it hardly at all. Allen’s not a Virginia figure anymore, he’s pretty conspicuously trying to transition into a national politican. He’s running for president. And the laws change when you do that. But going by Allen’s fumbling (har har) response to Lizza’s questions about the graffiti incident, we can deduce that all the time Allen’s spent outside the Old Dominion still hasn’t prepared him for the mild scrutiny of a boutique Beltway-moderate publication.

    I don’t think any of this is going to matter, because I think Jim Webb is going to win. But Allen’s party-linebackers should be concerned that he can’t even get a simple story like that straight.

  24. Waldo, I haven’t read his sister’s book, Dunno if what she said is true or not, because I don’t know what it is she said. All I know is that Lizza’s opening sentence tossed the rest of the article down the toilet. (I’m coming at this strictly from the Cowboy Boot Lobby :) Boot patrons unite! ok…not a huge deal, but it was a dumb thing to write.

  25. It is amazing how often posters to this blog engage in wishful thinking to a point that they make pronouncements that make little, if any sense.

    “Webb can and will win on the issues” against Allen is a classic example. First, if I was a betting man I would place money on Miller winning the primary. One, he has the personal financial fortune to finance an effective primary campaign. Webb hates to raise money, and given the fact that he will probably need to raise several million to defeat George Allen, even if he wins the primary its doubtful he’ll be able to be competitive in the money race. His aversion to “dial for dollars” will probably doom him against Miller.

    Two, Webb has past quotes and writings that Miller can use quite effectively in the primary. From stating that women can’t fight in combat to defending the Tailhook subculture, there is a plethora that Miller can use to absolutely gut Webb’s chances with Democrat women voters.

    Three, Miller has most, if not all, the support of the Black Caucus, which is crucial to have in order to motivate voters in a primary where you’ll see maybe a 5 to 6% turnout. Webb does not have a natural base in the Democratic Party; neither with African-Americans, pro-choice feminists, gay rights activists, environmentalists, anti-sprawl advocates, etc. Miller has been working this scene of Democrat activists for a very long time.

    Webb’s only base are blog posters who think that because he was Navy Secretary under Reagan and a veteran that he’s the “dream” candidate; despite the fact that he is horribly under financed, has made past comments about women in the military that will hurt him within his own base, and is for all intensive purposes, a political neophyte. Mark Warner was party chairman, chaired Wilder’s campaign for governor in 1989 and had been part of the party apparatus long enough to know the players. Webb has none of these Warner qualities, yet we expect him to beat a popular ex-Governor and one of the most effective campaigners in recent Virginia history?

    Three, wishfull thinking and revisionist history won’t discount that Allen had an amazingly successful Governorship. From parole abolition, to truth in sentencing, to welfare reform, to a strong economy, by all accounts he left the Governor’s Mansion after presiding over 4 signicant years of government reform. Allen’s political future will largely rise or fall on his ability to communicate to national voters his record as governor, much more than his record in the Senate.

    Fourth, the “Allen is dumb as a stump” is wishful thinking to the point of ignorance. One, Allen has a keen mind and has an excellent ability to discuss a variety of policy issues in a wide setting. Two, Allen has razor sharp political instincts that will serve him well against Miller OR Webb in the general.

    People need to stop engaging in the wishful “Allen has a smoking gun in his closet that will doom” him talk that has been around since he first ran for Congress. Past rumors and stories are often just that; rumors and stories that have little basis in truth

  26. PoliticalOpinion – let me offer my opinion on some of your comments:

    – Webb as a “dream candidate” – he may not have the backroom support that Harris Miller has, but he can convincingly argue that he’s capable of winning, and he’s generating a lot of excitement. People may very well send him money based on that. Democrats are motivated to win – and the liberal wing of the Democratic party will support Webb if he gets the nomination. You underestimate the anti-GOP vote. The far-left may not like him for past statements, but if he recants they will accept him – most certainly the lesser of two evils from their perspective. You make a mistake thinking these are single issue voters – or rather, that the single issue is something other than an anti-GOP vote.

    – Allen’s “amazingly successful governorship” – whew! Talk about wishful thinking! Allen was fortunate to govern in a period of financial expansion. The law-and-order issues you cite – basically lock ’em up and throw away the key policies – are only now coming home to roost. The costs of these policies are now really settling in on us – the crushing costs of incarceration for non-violent offenders in particular.

    – Allen can’t take credit for the economy as governor – he was a free rider on a national trend – unless he’s willing to take similar responsibility for our current economy – one that’s good for the GOP elite in VA (his true base) – as a member of the GOP leadership. I think the folks in Danville and Martinsville, the heart of his ‘good old boy’ country, would disagree that the economy is doing well.

    – Allen’s “government reform” left us with the miserable VDOT situation that Gilmore worsened. It took a Democrat to clean up his mess.

    I don’t think Allen is in trouble, but he is vulnerable. To think otherwise is wishful thinking.

  27. hey “UVA08” –
    I can tell you’re taking Sander’s class on racial politics. Me too. Good luck on the final!

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