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George Allen, Virginia's Down-home Boychik

Who knew? George Allen--defender of Confederate heritage, heir to Ronald Reagan's sunny optimism, the macaca man himself--is, as the rabbis say, tribal. Virginia's junior senator finally got over his huffy response to a questioner at Monday's debate and coughed up the truth: His mother, a French-Tunisian immigrant, is of Jewish roots, though she was raised Christian.

As the Jewish newspaper The Forward reported, under traditional Jewish law, the faith is carried through the generations by mothers, and so Allen would be considered Jewish. This may seem far-fetched, but the Forward reports that his Jewish roots are apparently in a Sephardic Portuguese family that, like so many other such families in the 15th century, was forced to convert to Christianity and fled the country. The Lumbroso family settled in Italy, where they apprarently reverted to Judaism; one of Allen's forebearers, one Itzhak Lumbroso, was a prominent 18th century rabbi, judge and Talmudic scholar.

Clearly, this is a touchy topic for Allen, who greeted Channel 9 reporter Peggy Fox with utter contempt and derision after she asked him to clarify his mother's background during the debate before the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. Fox was going after a perfectly legitimate piece of information; especially in this time of politicians touting their religious bona fides, and especially after Allen claimed to have never heard of the word "macaca," which he famously hurled at an Indian-American operative from the Jim Webb campaign ("macaca" turns out to have its roots in French, Allen's mother's native tongue.)

But in the moment, Fox seemed to have chosen entirely the wrong kind of question to ask in a debate; this is the sort of profile information that a good reporter gets in an interview. There's simply no call for taking up valuable debate time with questions that are not meant to ferret out policy differences or personal background that tells voters how the candidate would behave in office. If, however, Fox had reason to believe that Allen knew of his Jewish roots and had denied that publicly for political purposes, that would be a fine avenue to pursue in a debate. But nothing in her question, nor in her later defense of that question, indicates that she had any such suspicion or information about Allen.

In any event, she certainly got the senator riled up. His reaction was so bizarrely out of tune with the rest of the debate that listeners almost had to conclude that he was hiding something. Even the National Review found Allen's answer to be downright "weird." He egged on the booing and hissing crowd, and he returned to Fox to challenge her question, even throwing it back to her for a defense of her query.

Less than 24 hours later, his campaign issued a statement confirming all. Now the question is, was it even remotely plausible that George Allen didn't know that the grandfather for whom he is named (Felix Lumbroso, as in George Felix Allen) , was Jewish? Throughout his political career, Allen has spoken about the fact that that grandfather was taken captive by the Nazis during World War II. Allen has always attributed that move to his grandfather's love of freedom and opposition to the Nazi rampage through North Africa.

Immediately, a thousand amateur borscht belt comedians will jump all over Allen's political past to search for evidence of stereotypically Jewish behavior. Does this mean that Allen's legendary capacity to inform constituents of the locations of the cheapest gas stations is just a matter of living up to the stereotype of Jews as bargain-hunters? Sorry, does not compute. The whole Allen shtick--the cowboy boots, the tobacco chewing, the endless football metaphors, the mind-numbing recitation of "Virginia values," the pure loyalty to the president's agenda--doesn't seem very Jewish.

But of course Allen, like Madeline Albright before him, claims that he had no clue as to his Jewish heritage until the Forward story came along. Semi-secret Jewish roots are all the rage in American politics these days: John Kerry, Wes Clark, and now, most unlikely of all, Allen. Clark, raised Baptist, embraced his Jewish roots, proudly telling audiences that he came from five generations of rabbis. Kerry had known for many years that one of his grandfathers had been Jewish, but didn't learn until the Boston Globe told him in 2003 that that grandfather had been named Fritz Kohn before he adopted the name Frederick Kerry to escape violent anti-Semitism in central Europe.

Is any of this anything more than a matter of curiosity, another typical tale of reinvention in a nation of immigrants starting new lives in the New World? Well, that depends on what Allen knew and when he knew it, and whether he at any point decided that pursuing a political career in Virginia might be hindered by public attention to his Jewish roots. At the moment, there's no evidence of any cover-up on Allen's part--except for his hostile and juvenile response when the question was asked at the debate.

If that moment turns out to be the opening by which we learn that Allen has not been aboveboard about his background, then Fox's question will have been no stretch at all, but a valuable window onto this very complicated senator.

By Marc Fisher |  September 20, 2006; 7:04 AM ET
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Comments

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I'm such a huge fan of the racial issue as the Webb campaign is raising it in this campaign. George Allen learned racism at his mother's knee. George Allen knew he was a Jew, but kept it secret because the voters of Virginia are such racists they wouldn't vote for a Jew. When members of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce booed Fox's question, they were booing Jews, not protesting the bizarre inclusion of this question in the debate. Such a classy debate of issues for the people of Virginia to use in deciding who should represent them in the Senate! Thanks, Jim Webb!

And I only wish I could claim this as my own...if Allen's mother is Tunisian, doesn't that make him the African-American candidate in the race?

Posted by: Todd | September 20, 2006 7:56 AM

Love it, Todd. The "only African American candidate in the race" is terrific. If Allen were smart (not), he'd jump on that.

But seriously, it strains credulity to believe that he didn't know the things he claims not to have known. Having a mother who came from Tunisia and a grandfather who was imprisoned by the Nazis is a fairly exotic personal history. Most Americans are intensely interested in their overseas roots and in how they came to be American. Even if his mother was not particularly interested in sharing her history, it hardly seems likely that such facts would not arise in family conversation.

And it seems equally unlikely that he's have made up a word that just happens to be a racial insult used by people of his mother's background.

Sheeesh! All of this contributes to Allen's reputation as a big phony. I hope the Virginia voters toss him out on his kiester.

Posted by: Jen | September 20, 2006 8:19 AM

I sure would like to see this race get on with the issues instead of silly distractions like this. As usual, the WP is trying to make Allen's anscestry and Webb's past comments equal in importance to the GWT, trasportation, the economy, energy alternatives, and illegal immigration. This a Senate election not some sophomoric popularity contest the Post keeps promoting.

Posted by: Issac | September 20, 2006 8:30 AM

Usually I agree with Marc somewhere between 0% and 0% of his opinions, but I give him full marks for hammering Fox for her stupid question. The debate should be about policy, positions, past votes, and who's the right man for the job to represent Virginia. The 'gotcha politics' these days is so revolting, so disgusting.

And the fact that Todd and Jen are left wingers make it not surprising that they'd want to play up race or religion when it's completely irrelevent to the discussion. It seems to me that it's the liberals who are the real racists here, not the Chamber or Virginians (at least, not me, and I live in Virginia). Once race, or to a lesser extent, religion, becomes an issue to help you decide how to vote, you've started down a slope you can never come up from.

Posted by: JD | September 20, 2006 8:34 AM

Isn't Allen being dishonest? The Charlottesville Daily Progress discovered many years ago that Allen was Jewish--and Allen attacked that account as inaccurate. Wouldn't he have asked his relatives at that point? It strains credulity that he wouldn't have.

Posted by: vaveritas | September 20, 2006 9:00 AM

The Post tried its best to bring down Allen with the Maccaca incident (when was the last time a campaign event reated coverage in the Style section). Now the press is piling on to the attacks on Allen's mother. Real class.

The basic thrust of the whole line of attack is that Allen's mother must be a racist because she is French Tunisian and she must have passed this on to her son. An idea put forward by people who have never met Mrs. Allen or have any idea about her views on race or child rearing.

Allen was more than justified in being offended by the question and the implications behind it.

Posted by: Woodbridge Va | September 20, 2006 9:13 AM

I can understand why Allen was very upset about Jewish ancestry question. It totally blows his Confederate flag-waving, yee-hah, yall good-ole-boy carefully crafted persona that sadly resonates still with many voters in Virginny. It's too bad that he sees his diverse heritage as a weakness (at least in some parts of VA) rather than a strength. He'll be re-elected as Senator, but he can kiss 2008 presidential aspirations goodbye.

Posted by: jules | September 20, 2006 9:16 AM

Yeah, I'm pretty sure poor George Allen can look after himself; he's never failed to do so before. It wouldn't surprise me to see a new attack ad where Webb is accused of coordinating Fox's question with the evil MSM overlords. Sheesh.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | September 20, 2006 9:19 AM

"...so Allen would be considered Jewish."

He would? By whom? Is the person, himself, not allowed to have a say in this, or must he, forever, bear the label given to him by others? Sounds an awful lot like the Jewish-labeling of the Nazis in the 1930s. Allen considers himself Christian (as did his mother). Case closed.

Who cares how the cited scholars categorzie people? Confederate racists claimed that 1/64th black blood made a person black. Do you and the WP subscribe to this categorization method in the way you seem to subscribe to the categorization method of the cited scholars.

Let's get this straight. Allen is Christian, 100% Christian. One cannot be 3/4 Christian and 1/4 Jewish.

And ethnically he appears to be 1/4 Jewish (not simply "Jewish") as you claim in the cited text.

Posted by: WJ Hayes | September 20, 2006 9:27 AM

Who cares? It don't matter. Webb's campaign is about helping the middle class and cleaning up the mess in Iraq. Allen's campaign is about fat cat contributions and echoing George Bush and his neocon buddies. Webb will win!

Posted by: z | September 20, 2006 9:34 AM

If, in judaism, the religion of the mother is what determines the religion of the child, how does that make Allen jewish? Was his mother's mother also jewish? If it was his grandfather but not grandmother would his mother still be considered jewish? Jus' wonderin'

Posted by: confused on the rules | September 20, 2006 9:34 AM

I don't see this incident as involving an attack on Allen because of the religion of his ancestors or on his mother. It's a criticism of Allen for failing to say in a straightforward way what the answer is. He's had plenty of opportunities to do so.

I agree completely that Fox's question was out of place. There was no reason to ask it, but there was no reason to be over-the-top angry about it either.

This whole issue presented great opportunities for Allen. He could have openly embraced these facts and said, "Isn't this interesting. It's a whole part of my history I never knew about. My mother has never wanted to talk about family history much, but I hope she'll make an exception so I can learn more about my grandfather and my family's history in Europe and North Africa." End of story.

I don't even think his secrecy on this issue is so much a concern about the views of Virginia voters as it is a reflection of how--I say again--phony he is. He grew up in the affluent suburbs of Chicago and LA. The "good ol' boy" persona he has created is absurd. People can choose what kind of shoes they want to wear, of course, but it's peculiar for a grown man to treat his everyday life as if it's some weird combination of cowboy/Confederate soldier historical re-enactment.

Posted by: Jen | September 20, 2006 9:34 AM

Religion is not the issue here folks. What's important is integrity; there's good evidence Allen has covered-up his personal heritage in the past. Years ago, Allen demanded that The Charlottesville Daily Progress retract their story about his Jewish heritage. It strikes me that anyone not curious and honest about their background is a phony or clueless, or at best not too smart. Allen clearly has not wanted this to come up, and now that it has, another interesting question is: will it help or hurt him? Will people be turned off by his duplicity? Will Jews in the Old Dominion rally to his cause? Or will his largely white Protestant rural base be offended by his new pedigree? Or possibly worse, will the Senator's friends aligned with the Council of Concerned Conservatives (ex-KKK) come out against him? This may be one situation in which anti-semitism helps to defeat a weak hypocritical and racist politician. Very weird.

Posted by: Jimmy | September 20, 2006 9:39 AM

The Jewish Community can call George Allen Jewish if they wish, but it doesn't make him Jewish. We have religious freedom in this country, and the right to choose our religious beliefs. If we go back far enough, all Christians can trace their ancestry to the Jews! Its quite clear in the bible. Senator Allens's is of course more recent, and the question is did he hide something? I know Senator Allen, and have never found him anything other than honest and forthright. Like others before him, he seems surprised and pleased with the new information. It also seems clear that he is a devout Christian regardless of his past ancestry, and conversion seems unlikely. Let's let Senator Allen enjoy his Constitutional rights, and get back to the issue of who voters believe will best represent the Commonwealth in the Senate.

Posted by: Dave | September 20, 2006 9:41 AM

Allen pleased about his Jewish roots? Dubious... on September 18 he equated the reporter's question about his heritage with "aspersions". And the Jewish Daily Forward article about his probable Jewish heritage broke on August 25-- why did it take Allen close to a month to publicly affirm his pride in his lineage?

I think that it is profoundly offensive that a U.S. Senator equates Jewish heritage with "aspersions".

Posted by: ANetliner | September 20, 2006 9:59 AM

Calm Down, Dave. Nobody is going to drag your good buddy, George Allen into a Synagogue against his will. Get a grip.

Posted by: Me | September 20, 2006 10:00 AM

I don't care whether Allen knew of his Jewish heritage -- what I care about is that he accused the reporter of casting "aspersions" when she asked if he had Jewish ancestors. Since when is it casting aspersions to ask if someone has Jewish heritage? He's despicable. I'm surprised more people aren't protesting his blatant anti-Semitism.

Posted by: Susan | September 20, 2006 10:02 AM

On Jimmy's comment on George Allen, above: Why would Jews in Old Dominion "rally to his cause"?

I agree with Susan that Allen's linking Jewish ancestry with "aspersions" is reprehensible and suggests anti-Semitism.

The one thing that I will give Allen a pass on (provisionally) is on whether he knew definitively of his family's heritage. Families are unusual and there may well have been an ongoing effort on the part of Allen's mother and the Allen family to avoid the subject. (Granted, there had to be some mighty serious avoidance following the Charlottesville article some years ago...)

Bottom line, though, Allen's September 18 "aspersions" remark is disgraceful and I can't imagine why Jewish voters in Virginia would support him.

Posted by: ANetliner | September 20, 2006 10:27 AM

WJ Hayes - In Jewish doctrine, if your mother is Jewish, you are ethnically Jewish. To be a practicing Jew, you must obviously practice. He is not Jewish by religion, but Jewish by ethnicity. Since his mother is Jewish, the State of Israel considers him Jewish, but he could not just swing open the door of any Synagogue and cast himself as a Jew by religion.

Religion-wise, he is Christian. There is no doubt about that. This is a question of heritage and ethnicity... and a question of Allen's "Southern" persona (which is what, I think, Fox was trying to delve into).

Posted by: mike w | September 20, 2006 10:34 AM

It's not just what Allen knew, but also whether he has been candid on other issues about his background. Was his mother "raised" Christian? Was George "raised Christian? If you read his sister's book, Fifth Quarter, it's clear that while his mother was raised Christian, she had a deep contempt for organized religion, and relied more on belief in superstitions, e.g., Allen's mother said that priests were "hypocrites." See pages 41 and a few pages beyond. In those same pages, she recalls the family going to church . . . once. Damn. I want to find that branch of Christianity. I had to go every Sunday.

Posted by: Lib | September 20, 2006 10:40 AM

Dave says "The Jewish Community can call George Allen Jewish if they wish." Where does he get that from? The Jewish community - which is not monolithic, Dave - hasn't said a thing. Just like Mel Gibson saying he'd meet with "the Jewish community one on one", the assumptions you make, Dave, are ignorant. Allen is clearly your man, and you belong together.

Posted by: Netboy | September 20, 2006 10:40 AM

It really doesn't matter to me what Allen's religious background is. What I find interesting is his protestation (sic) that one's religion shouldn't be an issue, when so many of the Religious Right types who back him would judge candidates on that very question of their beliefs.

Posted by: bill | September 20, 2006 10:57 AM

Uh, JD and Dave, it's Allen's behavior and remaarks that keeps this the very real campaign issue it is in the first place. The fact that he's not so great on the issues either only adds to it.

Posted by: v | September 20, 2006 10:57 AM

BTW, Dave, your argument about "religious freedom" is the same straw man that Allen used to try to duck what he apparently perceived as a question the honest answer of which could hurt him with some of the more bigoted members of his base. Nice.

Posted by: v | September 20, 2006 11:00 AM

I doubt if Harris Miller is rallying to Allen's cause even after the treatment he got in the primary campaign "cartoon" by the Webb campaign.

If there is any link at all to the reporter who asked that and the Democratic candidate's
advisors, Webb should step down and they can try to field a write in candidate.

Posted by: Paint & Taint | September 20, 2006 11:04 AM

Posted by: Peter | September 20, 2006 11:15 AM

French-Tunisian that settled in italy, huh!!?? Lumbroso... i know an italian name when i see one... i think the guy as mafia ties, to boot!!

Posted by: joey | September 20, 2006 11:33 AM

These revelations about Allen should end once and for all the belief that us Jews are all smart and crafty.

First macaca, and now aspersions. How will Allen complete the trifecta and what group will be the target?

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | September 20, 2006 11:35 AM

then Fox's question will have been no stretch at all, but a valuable window onto this very complicated senator.
***
Complicated??? A sleazebag by any other name is still a sleazebag...

Posted by: Joe | September 20, 2006 11:44 AM

Loudoun, I'm betting that he'll go after the papists next...

Posted by: flunky | September 20, 2006 11:50 AM

Never ceases to amaze me when Christians have issue with Jewish ancestry. Christ himself was a Jew. Christianity has it's foundations in Judaism. Why is this concept so difficult for Christians to understand? Do those Christians who take issue with Judaism not know the Old Testament?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 11:57 AM

"Poor George," to paraphrase the late great Ann Richards, "He can't help it, he was born with a silver horseshoe in his mouth."
I'm just sorry more people weren't awake when he ran against Chuck Robb. Maybe we'd have some decent representation and, at a minimum, someone who wasn't a George Bush rubber stamp. He really messes up when he veres from the Republican talking points.

Posted by: D'Moore | September 20, 2006 11:58 AM

No, Marc, the question is NOT what Allen knew and when he knew it. The question is why he equated the suggestion that he is part Jewish with a reporter 'casting aspersions' against him? Why did he react as though he had been brutally insulted? What's wrong with being a good old confederate flag-waving, noose brandishing Member of the Tribe?

I do have to agree that the timing and manner in which the question was raised doesn't do much credit to campaign journos.

Posted by: HowDAREyou? | September 20, 2006 12:08 PM

Great comment Jimmy!

Senator Allen enthusiastically welcomes discussion of his religious background when he's courting votes from Right Wing Christians. But, suddenly when you ask him about his Jewish heritage he explodes!

Maybe you'd be mad too when you consider the consequences of what might happen when The Council of Concerned Conservatives finds out you're really Jewish and have hid it all this time.

Boy what a pickle, there goes membership in the club, there goes support, there go those KKK votes, and maybe even attack from his former allies when they connect the dots and feel betrayed and used.

Will The Council of Concerned Conservatives stand up for its principles; can the KKK connect the dots? Stay tuned.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 12:12 PM

I wonder why anyone would think that being Jewish is a hindrance to getting elected in Virginia. That attitude seems to be a real slap in the face of Virginia voters.

The only(!) Jewish Republican in the House is Rep. Jay Cantor, while Norman Sisisky served several terms as a popular Democratic congressman (I think there might have been one other as well). And their districts are not exactly teeming with Jews.

Virginia is also still the only state to ever elect a black governor (but it looks like Massachusetts will join it this year) so let's give the voters of Virginia some credit.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | September 20, 2006 12:17 PM

I'm sure he still checks the "White" box on any forms he fills out.

For the mention, I've never seen a Jewish box on forms asking for race or nationality. Which would be interesting if they had a "White" box with sub-boxes where one could check German, Swedish, Russian, French, etc.

Ohhh....it would be interesting (however it is a fact as we all know there is no such thing as white nationality).

Thanks

Posted by: Frankey | September 20, 2006 12:19 PM

Allen should get out of the race. There's a throw the bums out feeling among voters that Allen can't survive in November. The Replublans could appoint someone that has a chance.

Posted by: Dump Allen | September 20, 2006 12:28 PM

My mother was Jewish and I can't imagine thinking that someone who mentioned that would be casting an "aspersion". I'd be proud to discuss my family background.

As the late great Gov. Ann Richards might have said about George Allen - "poor George, he was born with a foot constantly in his mouth." I'd be embarrassed to have this man represent me in the Senate.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 12:33 PM

A poster above mentioned the Council of Concerned Conservatives, but since the group isn't widely known (at least not in any circles I travel in), I thought I'd provide a couple links as a public service.

Here's their Statement of Principles.
http://www.cofcc.org/manifest.htm

Here's a picture of Allen taken with the leaders of the group. The picture was taken in 1996, while he was governor.
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060911/george_allen

According to the article in which the picture appeared, this group is "the successor organization to the segregationist White Citizens Council and among the largest white supremacist groups." The group is still in business. Its annual conference was held in June.

As far as I know, there's no evidence that Allen is a member of this fine group, but I think most politicians would go out of their way to avoid being photographed with any of its members.

Posted by: Jen | September 20, 2006 1:02 PM

So let's see, George Allen throws a slur at an oppponent's staffer "Welcomes him to America" in a partisan audience; he goads an audience into booing a reporter for asking a marginal character question in a debate; and Allen is STILL trying to hold everyone but himself accountable for his own words and actions (e.g. blaming his opponent, Mr. Webb, and the "media").

If there was any question about the REAL George Allen, voters have been able to see it in ample display this election season. Questions of race and ethnicity aside, character DOES count and it's reasonable to expect that a Senator will be held to a higher standard in dealing with his constituents.

Neither the actions of the Webb campaign staffer, nor the reporters question justified Allen's bullying, immature response.

Posted by: Virginia independent | September 20, 2006 1:03 PM

It's pretty simple: Allen is a racist thug. Always has been, always will be.

Posted by: VA watcher | September 20, 2006 1:46 PM

Any real issues to discuss? Outside, of course, of the important questions of is Allen a racist, is Webb a woman hater, is Allen gay, is Webb Jewish, etc.

(rolls eyes)

Posted by: q | September 20, 2006 2:23 PM

Mike W: Yes, I know that Jewish ethnicity is passed through the mother. But it was the FATHER of Allen's mother that was Jewish, her mother beng Christian.

Allen's mother, therefore, was not ethnically Jewish, and she adhered to Christianity.

Therefore, Allen has no connection to Judaism religiously, and genetically he is 1/4 Jewish.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:31 PM

q,

I'm happy you can be so blasse about racism. I suppose if it had been left up to you, there would still be poll taxes, voting tests and other impediments that have historically prevented minorities from voting.

While I agree that the religion question is kind of silly, Allen's failure to aknowledge it and speak about it reveals a great deal about him. That and his voting record of consistently going against the disenfranchised in our country. So yeah, I THINK RACISM IS PRETTY DAMN IMPORTANT IN AN ELECTION!

Though I suppose a better question is why you don't think it is important...

Posted by: Arlington voter | September 20, 2006 2:37 PM

re: "aspersions"

Reading the Post article, it seems the casting aspersions was said because, in a nutshell, he interpretted the line of questioning as implying that Allen's mother was a racist Jew.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:46 PM

Still looks like an all American white guy to me. So whats the big deal?

Posted by: hogboss | September 20, 2006 2:51 PM

Judaism is not a race. Ethnically, George Allen isn't [insert percentage] Jewish. He has a mother who was Jewish, so he can claim, under the right of return, Israeli citizenship, should he migrate to Israel, otherwise, his mother's religion is unimportant.
It's his policies that I can't stand. And the fact that as Governor of Virginia he decimated VDOT of competent people, which wasn't fixed until after Mark Warner became Governor and put competent people in charge of building and maintaining Virginia's raods.

Posted by: NoVA | September 20, 2006 3:20 PM

Are we saying that George Allen's response shows that he thinks his Christian Right and Southern Conservative Republican supporters would have a hard time voting for a Jew for U.S. Senate?
Aren't we also thinking that Mr. Allen publicly humiliated a dark-skined young man with the "macaca" comment to appeal to those same voters?
Isn't it time for the Republican Party to do some serious self-assessment?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:52 PM

Hey Marc,

Are you on the Webb payroll?

If you were at the FCCC debate, or even watched the first 10 minutes of the debate via the podcast, you'd realize that Peggy Fox FIRST asked, in the most insensitive way, if Allen's mother taught him Macaca. Then she probed further by bringing up Allen's grandfather. One poorly worded question was bad enough, but then two in a row? That put many of us, including Allen, over the edge.

Many of us at the event were very disappointed at Peggy Fox. You, however, are a fool for not doing a little more research into the dynamics of the episode. But of course, you do like to spin for Webb, don't you. Jerk.

Posted by: Vienna, VA | September 20, 2006 4:00 PM

Don't yu just love it when conservatives blame the media rather than think for themselves?

The previous poster manages to blame Peggy Fox AND Marc, while still avoiding any direct answer, response, etc. to the issue at hand.

Posted by: Arlington | September 20, 2006 4:12 PM

I'm also from Vienna. 11th District.
After the debate, Tom Davis was interviewed and he said he felt Allen's performance was more "polished". I agree with him if he was referring to Allen's boots.

Nice pic of Allen's and Webb's boots on the front of the NYT yesterday morning. That picture just about says it all.

Posted by: Vintage Lady | September 20, 2006 4:20 PM

Well Mark, this proves "the truth"...is a hard thing for Americans to accept.

It is what it is!!

I was wondering if this group was ever discussing anti-jewish opinions in the prescence of Allen would he excuse himself.

Only in America!!!

Posted by: Frankey | September 20, 2006 5:00 PM

This discussion is yet another example of why religion and government don't mix.

Posted by: o | September 20, 2006 5:07 PM

WJ Hayes, you obviously are not aware of the fact that being Jewish can have ethnic as well as religious meanings. The fact that Sen. Allen claims Christianity as his faith has no bearing on whether or not part of his heritage is Jewish. "Cited scholars" don't "categorize" people in this regard- the fact that one's Jewish blood is passed on through one's mother it is a part of ancient rabbinic law.

Speaking of "Jewish-labeling", how did you reach the conclusion that Sen. Allen looks to be one-quarter Jewish? Which quarter of him looks Jewish to your expertly-trained eyes? If someone was 1/93rd Jewish, would you still be able to tell by looking at him or her?

Finally, in point of fact it is entirely possible for someone to grow up in a home where both Judaism and Christianity are practiced. The Washington, DC metro area has one of the largest concentrations of inter-faith households in the entire nation. You might know that if you ever left the "real world" of Virginia and took a look around to the actual real world where Christians and Jews co-exist quite happily and quite intimately, thank you very much.

Posted by: Doug | September 20, 2006 6:55 PM

Why can't a Jew be a fan of Ronald Reagan's Optimism? Mr. Fischer should learn his history. The oldest Jewish cemetery in America is a cemetery for Jews who fought for the Confederate States of America. Most of the cotton mills in the south were owned by Jewish families. The town Goldsboro, NC was named after a Jewish family who owned several mills.

Posted by: Vienna, VA | September 20, 2006 7:15 PM

The story gets even stranger in todays Post. It seems like George Allen needs some private time and private life to deal with some issues. Perhaps the voters will provide that time for him.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 4:15 AM

Senator Allen will come through this public review of his private life quite strongly. While it goes with the territory of running for office, I am not sure everyone would handle this scrutiny as well. Most of us are fortunate to handle family information like this in private, and not always do it well. It will be great to see all of you that are so interested in the Senator's personal life be able to view it publically for another six years.

Posted by: Dave | September 21, 2006 8:12 AM

As anyone who has seen The Jazz Singer knows, Jews love their mothers, so it's no surprise that George Allen would want to protect his mother even at the cost of ruining his political career. I think he might have reacted to the news of being Jewish better, however, if his family had played "Jew, Not a Jew" at the dinner table:

http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2006/09/george-allen-jew-not-jew.html

Posted by: Jon Swift | September 21, 2006 2:02 PM

To Doug: You need to read my post and my reply to Mike W.

I know full well that Judaism is both religious and ethnic.

If one of his grandparents was ethnically Jewish then he is 1/4 Jewish. If two were Jewish, he is 1/2 Jewish, etc.

My use of the words "appears to be 1/4 Jewish" had nothing to do with his looks but rather from the fact that yesterday's press reports only cited his paternal grandfather as being Jewish...this making George 1/4 Jewish. Jeez--sooooo sensitive!

My objection to the words in the paper "...so Allen would be considered Jewish" had to do with my objection to the paper's blanket acceptance of the "ancient rabbinic law" as the defining source of one's ethnicity. Allen (and any of us) can label himself whatever he wants: Irish, Tunisian, Martian, for all I care.

Just because someone has an Irish mother named O'Brien doesn't mean that some ancient Hibernian organization has the right to say "...so Allen would be considered Irish." The child might only be 1/16 Irish for all we know, but 15/16 Italian, or Tunisian or Jewish, Martian.

Since when is ancient rabbinic law (or the ancient law of any ethnicity) the standard for ethnic labeling in the US (as if we need ANY ethnic labeling anyway)?

Finally, you can grow up in a home where two religions are practiced, and you can understand and honor both religions, but in the end, it would seem that you need to opt for one or the other. Can a person be a Jew and believe in the divinity of Christ, that He died for our sins, and in His resurrection (as Catholics believe)?

Conversely, can a person be a Catholic and beleive that the Messiah hasn't yet come (as Jews believe)?

Religiously, Allen is Presbyterian. He is not Judeo-Presbyterian. And the last time I looked, Presbyterians believe that Christ is the Messiah (something religious Jews do not believe).

And ethnically, Allen is either 1/4 or 1/2 Jewish (depending on how many of his grandparents were Jews).

But as for Fox's question about Allen's "Jewish identity"...why would any American citizen identify himself as Jewish (ethnically) or Irish, or German, or Martian? I would hope he (and all Americans (especially US Senators)) would claim no "identify" except AMERICAN.

And for those Americans who, for reasons unknown, want to cling to the ethnicity of their forebears--forebears who came to America to escape the wretched lands largley oppressing and imprisoning all these ethnic groups, fine I guess they can "identify" themselves by the ethnicities of their grandparents if they want. But, according to Allen's mother, in today's paper, George knew nothing of his Jewish roots 'til August 2006.

So Fox's question: "at which point (your) Jewish identity might have ended?" had no relevancy for two reasons.

And Allen could have encapsulated those reasons by answering as follows:

"One, I IDENTIFY myself as American and not with the ethnicity of any of my forebears, and (2) I learned of my partial Jewish roots mere weeks ago, so even if I had desired to identify with the ethnicities of my long-dead grandfather, that "identification" would only have been a few weeks old....hardly enough time to BEGIN an "identifciation," much less for it to END. So, the no "identity" ended, because it never began. Next question, please."

Posted by: WJ Hayes | September 21, 2006 2:51 PM

Please see the tape on Channel 9. It's very interesting, to say the least.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94U0akNdyeI

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer | September 22, 2006 2:35 AM

Just because George Allen was secretly a Hebrew National weenie doesn't make him any less of a weenie.

Posted by: Hillman | September 22, 2006 11:10 AM

Did Allen's ham-sandwich-and-pork-chop comment suggest that he is embarrassed at having Jewish ancestry? Personally, I think labeling him as anti-Semitic would be too simplistic.

As Slate mentioned recently in an article analyzing the "macaca" controversy, Allen seems to have the same out-of-touch fratboy mentality as GWB, the same inability to appreciate opinions or perspectives that differ from his own. My theory is that Allen, who grew up in California, wanted so hard to be adopted by Virginia that he swallowed the myth that white Southern opposition to civil rights was about upholding state's rights and "white culture." Maybe he deluded himself into believing that most Southern blacks were satisfied with life under Jim Crow and not understanding why "agitators" like Martin Luther King were "stirring things up" and "causing trouble." I conclude that Allen honestly doesn't understand why people would object to his displaying a Confederate flag and a noose.

Likewise, I think Allen truly sees Jews as odd foreign people who wear funny little round hats and have strange rules about food. That's not necessarily anti-Semitism, but more of a general xenophobia. The ham-sandwich-and-pork-chop comment sounded like a pathetic attempt to lighten the mood by emphasizing the supposed "otherness" of Jews.

Also, I don't understand Wonkette's comment about the "prosperous and well-known Jewish Lumbroso family." I had never heard of that family until the Allen controversy surfaced this week. I suspect most Americans, including many Jewish Americans, haven't heard of the Lumbroso family either.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2006 2:52 PM

To everyone casting aspersions on Virginians, #%&$ you! It wouldn't have mattered to anybody in Virginia but a half-dozen Nazi types that Allen's grandparents were Jewish.

To Republicans claiming this has anything to do with religion, #%&$ you! It has nothing to do with religion. Nobody has ever said George Allen is not Christian, and if his parents were half-hearted Christians, nobody cares.

This is exactly why the "aspersions" comment is so troubling. George Allen was calling the suggestion that he is ethnically Jewish an "aspersion".

That is not right wing Christian "if you don't believe in Jesus you are going to hell" stuff. Nobody ever suggested Allen doesn't believe in Jesus.

He is suggesting that being ethnically Jewish is casting "aspersions."

That is Hitler Nazi "Jews have inferior DNA" #^%& !

So Allen believes his supporters are closet Nazis that would think badly of him or his mother or his grandparents for being of the "inferior Jewish race"!!!

As a Virginian, I am really upset that he thinks that conservative, Republican Virginians think that way. As Virginians we have our problems, but, Senator Allen, even the worst of us are not Nazis.

Posted by: WS Fairfax Virginia | September 23, 2006 8:26 PM

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