The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Has Senator George F. Allen “jumped the shark” ?

Political career trajectory unclear!

Still climbing or on his way down?

A moment’s lapse of judgment causes damage!

Continuing today was the discussion around the water cooler about Senator George F. Allen and his little “macaca” problem. The headlines in The Richmond Times dispatch this morning read “Allen phones, apologizes to Webb aide”.

It was a slow day and everybody had to chime in with an opinion. Some think it is a non-consequential issue. Some think it is an embarrassment but that it too will pass in time.

But one of the old "gray-beards" in the office suggested a scenario that may not bode so well for the junior Senator from Virginia.

Russ (last name withheld), a normally quiet gentelman in his later 50's, was at UVA a couple years ahead of George F. Allen. He didn’t really know Allen then and wasn’t into the football scene or other circles that Allen may have traveled in.

But Russ was ready to talk. It seems that Russ clearly remembers when young George Allen, just barely out of law school, ran for a seat in the Virginia General Assembly. He did not win that time but "carried the ball home" with a win for a House of Delegates seat in 1981, beginning the meteoric political career of George F. Allen.

Since that time, Russ followed with close interest Allen’s fantastically successful rise from a humble beginning of wealth and privilege to the spectacular political career that included being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, the United States House of Representatives, Governor of Virginia and now the United States Senate. Some political observers now consider Allen as a man with promising prospects to end up in the Oval Office and leader of the free world in 2008.

All of this happened in the short span of only 25 years.

But Russ was quick to point out that Allen’s meteoric raise in politics was not all of his own doing. It was to a good measure due to being in the right place at the right time (the U.S. House of Representatives race in 1991 to fill a vacancy left by ailing Congressman D. French Slaughter, Jr.) and to the mistakes of his political opponents (poor political judgment of candidate for Governor Mary Sue Terry in 1993).

Without the benefit of one U.S. Congressman getting sick (Slaughter) and one Virginia Attorney General (Terry) getting goofy, it is entirely possible that George Felix Allen would be a political nobody today.

Russ recounted how former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry experienced a similarly blessed political career.

Terry started out her political career as a conspicuously successful Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1978, and was elected Virginia’s first woman Attorney General in 1985. She was arguably one of the most popular politicians in Virginia in 1985. Every political challenge she met, she coasted through with resounding victories. Of course during her ascendancy as a political power hitter, she was always running as a Democratic candidate during an era when the Democrats were in control of Virginia politics.

So, when Mary Sue Terry announced that she was running for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, there was little doubt that she would succeed, especially since she was running against a less well known Republican opponent who was considered at that time to be a political “light-weight” --one George Felex Allen.

As expected Terry’s campaign got off to a good start and she enjoyed a comfortable lead in both the polls and the money chase. Things were looking good… real good.

Then something happened… Something bad... real bad.

The golden girl, Mary Sue Terry, started tripping over her own tongue. She didn't sound like a Governor... or at least somebody the voters were comfortable in making Governor.

There was bad advice coming from the DNC down to the Terry camp. There was fumbling by her handlers. There were policy gaffs that revealed that Terry either did not understand Virginia needs too well or that she was not in charge of her own campaign. Whatever the case may have been, the early lead Terry enjoyed vaporized in breath-taking short order and campaign dollars started flowing to political “light-weight" George Allen. The rest is history.

The political ascendance of Mary Sue Terry was in a meteoric trajectory until, through her own little political mis-steps, it came to a sudden apex and began a rapid descent during the months preceding the November 1993 election for Governor of Virginia.

Russ pointed out that every political star has a certain trajectory of ascending to an apex and then going into decline. Some trajectories are longer and some are shorter. Some are higher and some are lower. We never know how a political career will end until it is over.

The question now is obvious: Did Senator George F. Allen hit his political apex on August 11th when he twice called a “foreign looking” but American born Webb campaign worker by the name “macaca” … a type of monkey and also a term that is sometimes used as a racial insult.

Another one of our more culturally enlightened colleagues chirped in: “It sounds like Senator Allen may have jumped the shark.”

Of course none of us mid-30-ish people knew what on earth she was talking about… "jumped the shark" ? What is that supposed to mean?

The explanation was a lot along the lines of what Russ had explained but it had to do with the rise and fall of the old TV favorite “Happy Days.” The popular TV series went on forever until the Fonz “jumped the shark.” That symbolism now applies to any situation where the ascendancy in popularity of a TV show, a celebity, political personality, or whatever, has stopped and the decent has begun.

Recent polls (take your pick) indicate that Senator Allen no doubt did himself some damage. Rasmussen gives a pretty good run down and assessment.

So, for those of you who relate better to the pop-culture than to practical politics the question might be better stated: Did Senator George Allen "jump the shark" on August 11th?

I guess we will know better in November.

Readers... your views please.


  • At 8/25/2006 9:22 AM, Anonymous Maria said…

    Former Senator Chuck Robb's political story was similar to Mary Sue Terry's (but different of course in many particulars). He was Lt. Governor, Governor, Senator. Lots of talk of Presidential potential. And then a few little problems that blew up into big problems. I recall a time, not so long ago, that I would have imagined Chuck Robb as growing old as Senator or perhaps becoming President or Vice President. He seemed unstoppable for a time and destine for ever greater achievements. I suppose he is still around, but no longer the rising political star. In politics, seemingly little things do matter.

  • At 8/25/2006 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Another thing that Senator Allen needs to be thinking about is the growing frustration concerning the Iraq War or what ever it is and the growing "anti-incumbent" sentiments of voters. While the president hasn't been doing so well in polls, those guys and gals up on Capitol Hill have not been doing so hot themselves.

  • At 11/29/2011 4:41 AM, Anonymous images and pictures said…



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