This is getting just plain weird. In the last 24 hours the Allen campaign has descended from off-message-frenzy and damage control to deep inside Bizzaro Land.
Item: The Allen campaign unveiled a tough commercial regarding Webb’s comments opposing the admission of women at the Naval Academy — in 1979. Indeed, there’s not much doubt in my mind that Webb was something of a sexist pig back then. His record as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, however, suggests a changed man.
Item: In an effort to blunt all the awful stories about Sen. Allen’s racist past by playing “you’re another,” the Allen campaign dug up a guy who has the sort of story you wouldn’t believe while drunk:
Allen campaign officials to direct a reporter to Dan Cragg, a former acquaintance of Webb’s, who said Webb used the word while describing his own behavior during his freshman year at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Webb later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Cragg, 67, who lives in Fairfax County, said on Wednesday that Webb described taking drives through the black neighborhood of Watts, where he and members of his ROTC unit used racial epithets and pointed fake guns at blacks to scare them.
“They would hop into their cars, and would go down to Watts with these buddies of his,” Cragg said Webb told him. “They would take the rifles down there. They would call then [epithets], point the rifles at them, pull the triggers and then drive off laughing. One night, some guys caught them and beat . . . them. And that was the end of that.”
Cragg said Webb told him the Watts story during a 1983 interview for a Vietnam veterans magazine. Cragg, who described himself as a Republican who would vote for Allen, did not include the story in his article. He provided a transcript of the interview, but the transcript does not contain the ROTC story. He said he still remembers the exchange vividly more than 20 years later.
But wait! It gets better — the guy says has a tape of the whole interview — except that part. Truly a Rose Marie Woods for our times.
Note that Cragg says that he contacted the Allen camp before going public; they either encouraged him or didn’t try to stop him. This sort of garbage is the action of a desperate flailing campaign. Webb’s response (via a spokesperson), quoted in the Washington Post, is priceless: “In 1963, you couldn’t go to Watts and do that kind of thing. You’d get killed. So of course I didn’t do it. I would never do that. I would never want to do that.”
Item: And if that wasn’t strange enough, four — four! — independent sources (not part of the Webb campaign) have come forward to say … I can’t believe I’m typing this … George Allen likes to spit on women’s feet. I’ve got to wonder if this is relevant to his fitness to hold public office. It tends to show he’s odd; mean, even. And perhaps in these days of personality politics those who live by the nice guy image can fairly die by it.
You do have to wonder if we couldn’t somehow raise the tone just a little bit here.