Barnes and Allen
Saturday, April 22, 2006 :::
Fred Barnes pens a lengthy profile of George Allen in today's Wall Street Journal. It's not exactly a puff piece, as it begins with Barnes putting Allen on the spot:
It's High Noon at the Monocle, a famous Capitol Hill restaurant. George F. Allen is staring at me. The normally loquacious Virginia senator is not saying anything and neither am I. Silence hangs in the air for a few seconds.
The impasse, like so many other things in American politics, was owing to Roe v. Wade. Mr. Allen's position is carefully demarcated: He would like to see the decision "reinterpreted" to allow states to decide the legal status of abortion. Does that mean he would like to see it overturned? He won't say. So I suggest that Mr. Allen's "reinterpretation" would produce precisely the same result as overturning the ruling: States would decide the fate of abortion. I pause for a response. Nothing. I get more direct. "Why won't you say you want Roe reversed?"
Again, Mr. Allen is mum, and eventually I give up.
Abortion is and will continue to be a sticking point for Allen in some quarters. It's useful to see Barnes lead with this point, but it also tells us more about the writer than his subject. Who could have realized that the most effective way to shut down a DC pundit was simply to say nothing?
Barnes also shows more of his skirts in this small passage:
You're fooled by the way he talks, never rushing his words, and by his inelegant presence (he's the only Virginian I know who wears cowboy boots). It's a kind of George W. Bush effect, style overpowering substance. Soon enough, though, substance steps forward.
Fred needs to get further outside the beltway once in a while. I know plenty of Virginians who wear cowboy boots (even my son has a pair).
But what Barnes touches on here is really one of Allen's greatest strengths -- an understated ("inelegant," if you're a NoVan, it seems) manner is actually a powerful weapon. It goads opponents into underestimating your talents while endearing you to people who may just wear cowboy boots (and it doesn't hurt to have a NASCAR sticker on your pickup truck, like Allen does, either).
The rest of the profile covers familiar ground. Allen is putting some distance between himself and the President, and even himself and the Senate. That may provide fodder for either Harris Miller or James Webb. But it may be viewed very differently by the conservative base in Virginia, which tends to look upon senates -- federal and state -- as part of the problem.
And Allen makes no bones about his preference for his days as governor. It may explain why he's casting his eye on the presidency -- where once more he could "...set the agenda and get things done..."
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 4/22/2006