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October 30, 2006

The Partial George Allen




The longer I am in Spain, the more puritanical America seems to look.  I'm sure that impression is exaggerated, however, by all the dirt flying back and forth in the House and Senate campaigns.

The scuzziest example I've seen so far involves last week's attack by Virginia Senator "Macaca" Allen on his opponent, author/screen writer, lawyer, Vietnam Vet and former Naval Secretary Jim Webb.

With his back to the wall in a race that was supposed to be easy, Allen (who keeps looking meaner and phonier by the week) launched a raunchy character strike by publicizing sex scenes out of some of Webb's published fiction.  (Although American politics was never much good at distinguishing fiction from reality, Allen seems to strive for the complete erasure.)

Given the material was too crude for the commercial airwaves, the campaign used the web to bootstrap the trash into the media sphere.  One blast from Drudge, and voila!  Bring on the MSM!  (If you don't mind stooping, I've drudged up Matt's original "news" flash.)

While shaking off the slime, the obvious question is, was the attack effective?  The typical approach to the answer has to do with voter opinion.  Another way to view it, though, is in terms of the campaign narrative, in which the impression of Allen, like concrete, was about to harden into a fixed and not-so-winning picture.

If you haven't seen it yet, TIME has recently added to the on-line political photo community with its White House Photo Blog.  (Why they call it a "blog" instead of a plain old photo gallery, don't ask me.)  And just who would you imagine would become their most lucrative early subject?  (Hint: When was the last time you saw the Virginia state flag?)

If abstract, I found the portrait of Allen and his wife, Susan, representative of both the Senator's, and the Republican's potential demise. (The image above, taken on October 20th, captures the couple standing behind George Bush while the President addresses an Allen fundraiser.)

It's not just that heads and legs have been cut off (which is what this election portends for the GOP majority, as well as many of the party's big dogs).  It conjures a wax museum-ready prototype of the Washington Republican power couple back in its turn-of-the-(21st) century hey day.

When your political portrait elicits associations to taxidermy in the "stretch run" of your campaign, and your inferiority complex is as big as Allen's, it makes sense you would attempt to erase reality — with a hammer.  The difference between the TIME offering and the juxtaposition proffered by the Drudge page editor is the difference between art and kitsch.  In its primitive way, though, I found the Drudge job just as compelled.  And it does change the subject.  (As a quick aside, I'm also wondering when Drudge is going to have the decency to actually credit a news photo.)

Anyway, there is bludgeoning George enhanced by Old Glory directing a macho blow (with its own sexual connotations, by the way) in the direction of an "obviously" shamed Mr. Webb.  (In his own fiction/reality merger, Drudge does a creative job of imagining two photos as one. What adds more glue in his post is the combined headline/caption, which begins:  "ALLEN'S REVENGE"

In Drudge's visual narrative, not only is the candidate-pornographer hanging his head, but the creator of "underage sex scenes" is also caught in the glare.  Enhancing the "guilt," the photo captures a Webb sticker about to hit Jim in the butt (or stab him from behind), reading: "We Don't Have An ATTITUDE, We Are Just That GOOD."  (And for good measure, if you didn't catch it, the Allen photo also looks down on the Webb photo for being taller.)

With still a week to go before judgement day, I don't think for a minute Allen can't go lower.  After all, we're talking about a guy with everything to lose who is already missing his head and feet.

(image 1: Christopher Morris VII/TIME.  October 20, 2006.  image 2/3: unattributed.  October 26, 2006.

  • Darryl Pearce

    For the life of me, why is this Drudge character such a fire-brand, hotspur? Unless…, it’s God’s way of teaching me the meaning of those words.

  • Doctor Jay

    Because he makes more money that way?

  • margaret

    I’ve never visited the Drudge site, and never will, and wonder why his trash talk is so enabled by Liberals’ reactions to it. The same goes for Limbaugh. The best thing to do is to ignore these sleezebags, not amplify their horrible messages with the reverberation of the web. That’s what they want, and that’s what the MSM wants: reverberation, ie., creating a story where one doesn’t exist in reality.

  • Kansas Kowboy

    No the USA doesn’t appear to me more puritanical than other countries, it is more puritanical. We can thank the Puritans and the other religous fundies from Britan and Europe for that. Though in almost 400 years the Puritans might think that the USA has “gone to the devil”, it is actually those puritanical idealogies and the nature of human behavior that are always at odds. This is most apparent in our current political leadership. Where they all are church going God fearing creatures on the outside, but child molesting, porno writting, orgy attending incognito swingers behind closed doors.

  • momly

    Webb looks like he’s praying.

  • marysz

    In the top photo, the stars and stripes behind the couple look like a cartoon. The Allens are a couple of political caricatures. I’m surprised Allen’s wife isn’t wearing one of those goofy bright red Republican-woman “power” suits (maybe it’s because she isn’t the candidate). Notice how submissive their posture is when they’re around their boss Bush. In the lower photograph, Bush must be off-stage because Allen is back to his usual bullying self. Webb does look like he’s praying–so I bet his image was taken out of context.

  • Cactus

    I agree with momly, Webb is praying. So what we have is one man silently, with folded hands, either praying or witnessing another’s prayer. No wonder the freaky fundies didn’t recognize the position. And we have another man blustering at someone with his fist in the air, a belligerent and futile gesture of a man with twisted soul.
    Another thing to remember is that Webb used to be a republican and has extensive military experience. He admits one of his favorite presidents was Reagan (under whom he served). While his novels have been widely praised (one has been on the reading list of a military academy) and made into movies, they were written by a republican. I mention this because it appears that many prominent republicans have written ‘novels’ with extremely sexy scenes, some even blatantly gross porn. To wit: O’Reilly, “Scooter” Libby, Buckley (but it’s boring), as well as second lady Cheney. Call me crazy, but I just have the sneaky feeling that all those “suddenly democrats” will revert to republicans once they are elected. Frog and the crocodile and all that.
    KansasKowboy, it’s the Victorians, not the Puritans, that we have to blame. The Victorians were the ones with proper behavior in the parlor but porn pictures in the men’s clubs and bars. Madonna/whore, dontcha know. Our right-wing “scandalous shock” at expressions of sexuality belies a hidden fascination with all the dirty bits hidden in the dark.
    Sorry if I got too off topic.

  • jt from BC

    Cactus, if you visit The Drudge Link under these these two photos is the headline;
    then the salacious, juicy, or whatever you want to label the extracted lines from Webb’s novels with bombastic commentary from Drudge follows.
    Webb in this context is intentionally setup to look bowed, unable to face up to what he is charged with, while Allen in his football mode with clenched fist cheers having scored in the final play of the game looking triumphant and directly at Webb.

  • donna

    Allen’s got no right to condemn anyone about anything…

  • ummabdulla

    You just have to wonder about a system that puts George W. Bush in the position of President, not once but twice, and that is populated by clowns like George Allen. It might make some difference if Democrats are in charge instead of Republicans, but really, the whole system is a joke.

  • KansasKowboy

    Simply to clarify my point you are correct Cactus, it is not the Puritans fault. My point is that we started with a Puritan ethic which is all fine and good. But that is at conflict with our natural behaviors regarding sex. I never thought about it but I suppose this did culminate in the Victorian era. All I am saying is that it has progressed in a negative way even further at this time period. The leaders of our nation’s moral faith and way of interperting christianity has become as warped as the way in which they try to deal with their sexuality. I am begining to think that the bruise that Bush received was not from an encounter with a pretzel but maybe an incounter with a “newsperson” who is on record of evening visitations to the Whitehouse. Back on topic I noticed Ms. Allen’s blue dress. They are a “Re-white-and-blue-couple” with her blue dress, his red tie and white shirt. The black business suit is a most otherwise Mr. Allen’s suit would be blue. And does her black belt indicate that she has had advanced lessons in karate? Or perhaps jujitsu? The green cuff on Ms Allens dress is a mystery to me. If I could see that the cuff on her left sleeve was red then I would know that she is a wrestling referee. If it was purple then I would know it is to represent the Holy Father. So with green I am guessing it is to represent the true Republican Christian God, Money.

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