Bob McDonnell's "Macaca" Moment - And How He Can Get Past It

2006; Senator George Allen is running for re-election against former Republican Jim Webb. Despite the polls everywhere showing that the GOP was going to have a very unhappy Election Night in a few weeks, Allen was comfortably ahead and already planning his next six years in Washington DC representing the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Then he (as he says), derisively referring to a video stalker working for the Webb campaign’s mohawk style haircut, uttered one fateful three-syllable word; “macaca” – which supposedly was a racial slur in Morocco or French Tunisia sometime in the 1940s and ’50s.

Whatever the case, over the next few weeks until Election Day, on the basis of “macaca” George Allen found himself having to face charges on the front pages of Virginia’s newspapers, often leveled by anonymous “sources” or supposedly “neutral” witnesses that upon deeper investigation were revealed to be highly partisan actors that he was an unrepentant white supremacist who once stuffed a severed deer’s head in a black family’s mailbox and nicknamed college football teammates after KKK Grand Wizards.

Leading the charge was the Washington Post – the editorial board and reporting staff of which put out over a 100 articles and editorials, more than a dozen on the front page, in about half as many days on “macaca” – all very obviously deliberately calculated to plant the perception in the minds of the Virginia electorate that George Allen was a racist bigot just in time for the General Election – which Allen lost to Jim Webb by less than 1%.

The Washington Post had successfully swung an election to favor its chosen candidate … and three years later, it’s trying to repeat the same feat – this time in the upcoming Virginia Governor’s race.

Republican Bob McDonnell is comfortably ahead of Democrat Creigh Deeds in the race to be the next Governor of Virginia. And the Washington Post, very clearly co-ordinating with the Deeds Campaign and the Virginia Democratic Party apparatus has assigned considerable resources and a significant amount of precious paper real estate into repeating the coup it performed against George Allen to swing the election in favor of Creigh Deeds. However, instead of anything McDonnell has said, the Post’s bloody shirt is a Masters thesis that he wrote while at Regent University in 1989.

WaPo “Staff Writer” Amy Gardner fired the first shot and set the narrative in the very first sentence of her article;

At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master’s thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as “detrimental” to the family.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it … at least, not politically correct. Why, Robert McDonnell obviously believes that women should never work outside the home, right?

Er … no.

Patterico co-blogger Amphipolis found it suspicious that only the one word “detrimental” was being quoted to back up what Gardner was obviously trying to convey to her readers. So he decided to take a look at the 93 page thesis paper for himself, something the Washington Post’s writers and editors would certainly know that less than 1% of their readers would bother to do … and of course, he discovered that “… aside from the issue of whether it is even appropriate to imply that a 20-year old college thesis represents his current beliefs, McDonnell is clearly being deliberately misrepresented here.

Here is the full passage [H/T: Amphipolis] where the words “detrimental”, “working women” and “feminists” – emphasis mine.

Republican concerns for fiscal austerity are easily impaled by an additional $1.3 billion a year in expenses. Surely the leadership recognizes that existing federal child-care programs already cost more that $6.9 billion in 1988. Further expenditures would be used to subsidize a dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching a status-quo of non-parental primary nurture of children.

Personally I would have used the word “care” instead of “nurture” but the point remains the same. Any fair reading of the passage would immediately recognize the argument that McDonnell is making is that government child care programs could end up enabling the establishment of an environment where the primary care-givers of children would not be their parents. Reading the full passage and the rest of the thesis, it is very obvious that Gardner and her editors made the decision to strip out the actual context in which the words in question were used by McDonnell with a clear eye towards influencing the election that is coming up in two months time.

Either way, having found manufactured a “macaca” moment for McDonnell, the next step, already in progress, is saturation coverage of the issue. Day in and day out, co-ordinating and communicating with Democratic operatives, in a bid to drive down McDonnell’s support just in time before the voters go to the polls. So far, according to Jim Geraghty over at the Campaign Spot, the Washington Post’s coverage of the thesis “scandal” is “up to two front-page stories, three inside stories, two columns, one house editorial and one cartoon” in the past week.

Now, so far, notwithstanding the joyful comments of liberals celebrating the “macaca” issue that would take down McDonnell, it doesn’t look like it’s working; the most recent polls (Rasmussen) show that McDonnell continues to maintain a solid 9-point lead over Deeds even after the WaPo’s wall-to-wall coverage of the thesis and despite the apparent decision by the Deeds Campaign and the entirety of the Virginia Democratic Party establishment to ride the “pressing” issue of McDonnell’s 20 year old dissertation to victory.

However, this is just one week – and from reading the WaPo’s headlines, articles, columns and the house editorial all pushing the McDonnell as theocratic sexist troglodyte meme, the newspaper is obviously in it for the long haul – if the Washington Post had halted its “macaca” campaign against George Allen after just one week, he’d be the current senior Senator from Virginia.

The issue therefore, that the McDonnell campaign has to address is that of one of the nation’s two most influential newspapers using all its resources to cast him as a clear and present danger to the rights and livelihoods of Virginia’s entire female population on a daily basis (very conveniently) right around the time voters are fully paying attention. The influence of the Post, its ability to set the agenda and the liberal orientation of most Beltway journalists, means that practically every newspaper in Virginia, the other nationals, TV stations and the wire services, based entirely on the deliberate misrepresentation of McDonnell’s views by a dishonest partisan journalist working for a dishonest partisan newspaper, are going to be covering the race as a matter of whether or not Virginia is going to elect a Governor who wants to keep women barefoot, pregnant and chained to the stove – just like in 2006, where the Senate race was recast as whether or not Virginians would vote to send a Klansman to represent their state in the United States Senate.

If McDonnell allows this to happen, the next two months are going to be harrowing grinds as the Washington Post and the rest of liberal Virginia Fourth Estate goes to the mat to drive down his polling numbers. Like I commented a while back, the Republican candidate’s number one enemy is a partisan liberal Press Corps that has successfully sold itself to the American people as being non-partisan, objective, disinterested chroniclers of facts. As I wrote in January in Bob McDonnell’s own RedState diary about his campaign;

[2] The VA media is as liberal as they come. Do not, under any circumstances take positive mention today as any form of indication of how they’ll treat you tomorrow. They will oppose you, they will come after your family and friends and they will blow any gaffes of yours wildly out proportion to help the Democratic candidate. Have a media response team ready to wargame the coverage of events as they happen and keep your campaign one step ahead of the curve.
Hold regular press conferences to inform the public and to forcefully correct the record when distorted. Face every problem or so-called controversy head-on. Record every interaction with the Press and every interview and upload as soon as possible.

Fool me once, shame on you …

The question now is, what is McDonnell and his campaign going to do about this?

A wise man is said to be the man who learns from his mistakes – the wiser man is the guy who doesn’t just learn from his own mistakes, he learns from the mistakes of others. The McDonnell campaign (and the Republican Party of Virginia) should therefore turn a critical eye toward the Allen 2006 campaign’s reaction as “macaca” grew from a stray innocuous comment into a conflagration that ended up with George Allen mounting the podium to give the concession speech – and head off any chances of history repeating itself.

The first mistake Allen made was attempting to ignore it even as the Washington Post ran front page after feature story after column after editorial advancing the Klansman meme on the strength of “macaca”, publishing and giving credibility to every single bit of innuendo and unverifiable story to lend it weight – the journalistic equivalent of inflicting the “death of a thousand cuts.” The second was that when he finally addressed the issue he allowed himself to be put on the defensive. The third was assuming that he was dealing with good-faith actors and therefore that that it would (rightly) blow over once he addressed it. The fourth was his mealy-mouthed 60-second advertisement begging calling for a “return to the real issues” when that didn’t pan out, without openly calling out the parties that had made it the be-all end-all of the campaign.

My opinion at the time, was that Allen should have started October and seized control of the narrative with a brutal prime-time speech calling out his critics. I even wrote a speech that I thought he could give to that effect. Alas, it was not to be.

So here’s my advice to the McDonnell Campaign; do not ignore the issue. This does not mean the Campaign should allow itself to be distracted away from rolling out its policies on education, energy, transportation, etc. but it should be cognizant of the fact that it won’t get the chance to implement those policies if it allows itself to be bled to death by allowing mendacious attacks on the character of the candidate to go unchallenged on the pages of the nation’s most influential paper. Second, get off the defensive – McConnell was very clearly deliberately misrepresented by the Washington Post’s politically motivated cherry-picking of his words to drive down his support in the polls. Third, openly acknowledge the fact that the news editors and reporters covering Virginia politics for the Washington Post are not good faith actors and act based on that fact. Fourth, publicly call them out on what they’re doing, denounce them in no certain terms and demand that they stop and return to the issues that truly matter to Virginians, not their own petty partisan concerns.

Republicans need to realize that the only way past a ginned-up and hyped-up “controversy” or “scandal” without being mortally wounded is by going through it – by publicly confronting the people pushing it and their enablers in the Press Corps (in this case, they are one and the same). In the age of YouTube and blogs, the aphorism that one should avoid annoying someone “who buys ink by the barrel …” no longer applies. In this case the Washington Post has shown that it is out to destroy Bob McDonnell – there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by enabling the WaPo to keep up the pretense that their all-Thesis-all-the-time coverage is anything other than a partisan political operation.

To illustrate; Geraghty notes that on Tuesday (Sept 01) Bob McDonnell held a Press Conference at a High School to unveil his plan to increase the percentage of Virginia’s education dollars that go to the classroom to 65% – leading to a jump of up to $480 million going into classroom items and instruction instead of bureaucracy and administration. All except for one question by the reporters was about “The Thesis.” The Washington Post’s front page article, obstensibly about the education plan is titled; “Thesis Controversy Builds as Robert F. McDonnell (R) Tries to Move On” and devoted only 37 words to the proposal … the rest focused on “The Thesis.” WaPo blogger Anita Kumar’s title on her blog about the same plan? “McDonnell Unveils Proposal, Avoids Thesis Talk”.

Who would know, from reading the headlines, that just the day before, McDonnell conducted a 90 minute conference call answering questions on “The Thesis” from journalists, among whom were journalists from the Washington Post itself? To me, this answers any question about whether or not the WaPo’s editors and reporters are acting in good faith firmly in the negative. Get this; right now, the Creigh Deeds campaign has put out more Press Releases on “The Thesis” than all of Deeds’ issue positions combined. And to show that this is a coordinated political assassination being undertaken by the Post on behalf of the Deed’s campaign, the Post has done more articles on “The Thesis” than on all of Deeds’ issue positions combined. And do note that Deeds won the Democratic nomination thanks the WaPo’s heavy endorsement and torpedoing of his opponents in the Primaries.

This is nothing more than a political assassination, and the people of Virginia need to have it made clear as loudly and as clearly as possible.

Now, if I were an advisor to the McDonnell campaign, I would advise the candidate, at the earliest opportunity, to have one of his spokeswomen schedule a Press Conference in Northern Virginia, with his wife and daughters, his female campaign staffers, women he has served and worked with in the military, in private business and in public office and a smattering of his higher profile female supporters, (e.g. Sheila Johnson – co-founder of BET and a fixture in VA Democratic politics who chaired Tim Kaine’s inauguration committee) at the podium.

Then, the spokeswoman should take aim and open fire with both barrels. In my ideal world;

  • First of all, she should point out forcefully that McDonnell is being very blatantly misrepresented as Amphipolis pointed out. Second, she should openly call out the Washington Post as deliberately working to swing an election towards its favored candidate by trying to gin up fear amongst Virginia’s female voters that McDonnell is a threat to their careers and livelihoods. She should point out the fact that the Deeds Campaign has put out more press releases and the Washington Post has run more articles on this non-issue than they have on Creigh Deeds proposed plans for Virginia if he were to be elected Governor. She should point out that Deeds has put forward no plans for transportation, energy and jobs for Virginia, and an education plan that is nothing more than a warmed up version of the status quo – and suggest that that is why the Deeds Campaign and the Washington Post would prefer to focus a 100% of their attention on a non-issue like a 20 year old college thesis – which they misrepresented in the first to gin up this so-called “controversy.”
  • Next, she should highlight the women standing with her on the podium as real life answers to the ridiculous clearly politically-motivated questions of whether or not Bob McDonnell as Governor would pose a threat to the working women of Virginia. Point out that not only is his wife a woman who has a career outside the home, all three of his daughters are working women and two of them holds Masters’ degrees (one of them in Computer Science). She should also point out that the majority of his Campaign staff happen to be women whom he hired because they were the best for the job he hired them to do. Next she should point out that he has done the same, hired and worked with the best person for the job, regardless of gender, in military life and in private and public life.
  • Next (and this would be great political theater), she should ask any of the reporters present to raise their hands if they believe that if elected, Bob McDonnell would rescind the right of women in Virginia to vote? Do any of them believe that he’ll try to get legislation passed to make educating girls illegal? What about legislation to get all working women in Virginia fired from their jobs and forced to stay at home – is there anyone present who honestly believes that this is what Bob McDonnell has planned to get done as the next Governor of Virginia? If no one raises their hand – (trust me) no one will – she should then wonder why this non-issue has become the most important issue in this race for the Virginia press – especially the Washington Post, instead of the issues which concern Virginians, the economy, education, transportation, energy and jobs, all of which McDonnell has rolled out plans and policies for, while Creigh Deeds is desperately focusing all his attention on a 20 year old thesis – which was misrepresented in the first place? No wonder, after a full week(s) of non-stop coverage of this non-issue to help him catch up, he’s still well behind in the polls – Virginians have seen that he has nothing to offer.
  • And finally, the spokeswoman should turn her attention to the Washington Post and ask a few questions such as;[1] Given that it has not been standard practice at the Washington Post to go searching through the college essays of candidates – especially considering that no such effort was expended to seek out either Barack Obama or John McCain’s college theses last year – who put Amy Gardner up to looking for Bob McDonnell’s Regent University Masters’ Thesis? Has she (or any other ) made any effort to seek out Creigh Deeds’ college writings as well?
  • [2] Considering the deliberate misrepresentation of what McDonnell wrote, how much input did the Deeds campaign or any of its operatives have in the writing of Amy Gardner’s article? Have there been any discussions with members of the Deeds campaign or Virginia Democrat Party officials and Washington Post editorial staff regarding the coverage of the so-called “Thesis” controversy? Are there any understandings regarding access that have been reached between the Washington Post and a future Creigh Deeds administration in Richmond?
  • [3] etc.
  • She should then end it with saying that this issue is over and done with. McDonnell has addressed it extensively via his conference call and in every interaction with the Press ever since. He would answer no more questions on the topic because it is now obviously a partisan distraction designed to influence Virginia’s voters with a false impression of him and swing the election over to Creigh Deeds. Furthermore, while respecting their rights to publish whatever they want, true or false, objective or partisan, until the Washington Post discloses what role the Deeds’ campaign or Virginia Democratic Party played in the decision to misrepresent Bob McDonnell and make the resulting controversy front and center of the campaign, the campaign would no longer take any questions from their reporters.

And oh yeah … the McDonnell should have the entire thing on YouTube within the hour.

And I think that would be game, set and match. And who knows? Perhaps it would herald a reconsideration of the relationship between the GOP and the partisan liberal Press.