Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Allen defense: He's poop, not a monkey

From the man who would be president, it just gets better.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Virginia senator and GOP White House hopeful George Allen has been trying to defend himself after singling out a Democratic worker in the audience, and twice calling the young Indian-American "macaca," which is (a) a synonym for monkey, and/or (b) a common European racial slur. Allen followed this up by telling the guy, "Welcome to America," not knowing that he was a native Virginian. I said yesterday that Allen was basically blaming the press (surprise!) for his predicament.

But now we have a new defense, and this is not a parody:
Allen wasn't trying to call him a monkey or to racially slur him at all; rather, the senator was only trying to say that S. R. Sidarth was the equivalent of the doggy doo that you scrape off your shoe.

From the respected National Journal Hotline: "According to two Republicans who heard the word used, macaca was a mash-up of mohawk, referring to Sidarth's distinctive hair, and caca, Spanish slang for excrement." According to this explanation, members of Allen's entourage coined this nickname for Sidarth, who has been tracking Allen's speeches on behalf of Democratic opponent James Webb, and Allen picked it up. Therefore, it wasn't a racial putdown at all; as one Republican close to the campaign explained to the Hotline, Allen was trying to tell his overwhelmingly white audience that the dark-skinned man in their midst was really just "a s--thead."

Gaffes like this can dog a candidate; columnist Margaret Carlson takes the broader perspective here. After all, even if we accept the contention that Allen aides made up a word that coincidentally is a real synonym for a rhesus monkey...this still leaves us with Allen's best defense: That what he really meant to say was, "Welcome to America, s--thead!"