Allen, Webb jockey for position
As close election races such as this one go down to the wire, the issues tend to matter less and less, while emotion-laden symbols move to the forefront. When it comes to the Iraq war, nothing is more important than honoring those in our armed forces -- the living and the fallen -- who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. That is why Jim Webb is so frustrated that he is not getting more credit with voters for his past military career, as reported by the Washington Post. For his part, George Allen's prospects have been lifted by the enthusiastic support for him by local Gold Star Mother Rhonda Winfield, who in turn said she was "outraged that Webb would criticize Allen for mentioning him." As a token of her support, Ms. Winfield even gave [Sen. Allen] her fallen Marine son Jason's dog tags. Obviously, it's hard to compete with a deep, heart-felt gesture like that. The main focus of the Post article was Webb's supposed modesty about his military record; so why in the world is there so much emphasis on that "born fighting" slogan?
Even though Allen has been among the most loyal supporters of Bush administration war policy on Capitol Hill, he is paying greater heed to public opinion polls and parting ways ever so slightly with the White House. Since Sen. John Warner endorsed him last week, Allen has begun to voice agreement with his senior colleague that U.S. policy in Iraq must be scrutinized and reevaluated. See the Washington Post. Political expediency, strategic wisdom, or both? I'm usually not impressed by "stay the course" rhetoric, but I do give Allen credit for making the point that executive decisions in wartime should not be second guessed by "Monday morning quarterbacks."
Immigration is a particularly dicey issue, and the two candidates differ in various respects. Allen favors the House approach of sealing the borders first and addressing comprehensive reforms later, but he sides with the White House in calling for a guest (farm) worker program. To me, that sounds like a phony loophole just begging to be abused, but at least Allen made it clear that he opposes public funding that would reward illegal behavior, such as the Herndon day-labor center that caused such controversy last year. Meanwhile, Webb supports a "path to legalization" for illegal immigrants who have been here for a long time, which at first glance sounds like a reasonable, pragmatic position. The problem is that he rationalized that Herndon day-labor center as a way to make up for failed Federal immigration policy. In other words, he absolves the cheaters of any blame for having benefited from government negligence, which only encourages more people to cheat and demand more government benefits. Is that not obvious to everyone?? See the Washington Post. Unfortunately, Sen. Allen's ironic-toned "welcome to Virginia" remark to Webb campaign aide S.R. Sidarth in August undermined his credibility on the immigration issue. Many people automatically equate support for immigration reform with racism or xenophobia, which infuriates me, but it is a widespread attitude that must be acknowledged as a political reality nonetheless. My special concern with that issue, and my insistence on avoiding any hint of anti-immigrant sentiment, is the main reason for my displeasure with him.
It may not be a big surprise, but it's certainly good news for Allen that the Richmond Times Dispatch has endorsed his reelection, listing his [solid record on key issues and his] many qualifications for the job; hat tip to Chad Dotson.
I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing for Allen, but when Saturday Night Live makes a skit about a political race, as it did last week, all bets are off. For purposes of comedy, however, it is hard to lampoon a guy with a plain appearance and unpretentious demeanor such as George Allen. Aside from his boots and cowboy hat, his only standout feature is his somewhat goofy grin , but the SNL actor playing him didn't do that.