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January 11, 2006


The answers to these questions all appear in my original post

I don't believe that's the case. At best, you do argue that, hey, I'm just asking questions. I wanted to pin you down on what you actually think of the issues. The repeated innuendo, I think, is unbecoming.

On the subject of whether I'm claiming Allen is a racist

I know what you claimed. I asked what you believed.

as I wrote, "if the noose 'has nothing to do with lynching,' why was it hung from a tree? The symbolism seems obvious.

I don't know. Perhaps because a gallows wouldn't fit in the office. Perhaps because it was better than hanging it over the Secretary's desk. Who knows? But at the end of the day, do you believe -- really, honestly believe -- that a western motif office decoration implies a personal preference of Allen's for lynching? Do you think he thought of that?

Isn't that a remarkable stretch? And isn't "potentially divisive office decorations" just about the most ridiculous reason to call somebody below standard for the Presidency since, say, "looks silly in a tank"?

The same goes for the Confederate flag. I don't claim that displaying it in his home makes Allen a racist, but it's still troubling in the context of his history on racial issues.

A flag collector in Virginia has a Confederate Flag and that's "troubling"? Only, I think, if you've already inferred racism.

So let me ask this: Is it appropriate to remember the Confederacy as a struggle for "independence and sovereign rights" without even mentioning the great evil it sought to perpetrate?

That's a tough one. On the one hand, I'd much prefer that great evil be kept front and center. On the other hand, there is some legitimate gripe in the South that much of the Country sees our past through the prism of slavery and nothing else. That's a shame and there's a lot of backlash in the South to that perception. The Confederate History Month proclamation -- and subsequent bills -- have emphasized the positive parts of Southern History. That, I think, is a natural reaction to the "all hicks, all slavery, all the time" focus generally given the South.

I highly recommend the book "Confederate In the Attic" by Tony Horwitz, which delves into both sides of this phenomenon -- both the non-Southern attempts to malign the South as nothing but slave-owning racism, and the neo-confederate attempt to paint exactlty the opposite picture.

Virginia has long acknowledged that evil in the past and continues to do so loudly and often. I'm not entirely sure that recognizing the positive aspects of Southern history is a bad thing.

We can't run a democracy based on speculation about the inner life of our leaders.

But that's exactly what you're doing, Brendan. You're pointing to Allen's office decorations and implying a racial motivation.

You're reading this in a crude way. It's probably more likely that Allen is racially insensitive and/or that he strategically exploited the issue of race to win political campaigns in Virginia. Pure racial animus is not the only possible explanation. Again, we don't and can't know the answer. But if what Allen has done is so innocuous, why has he spent the last few years scrambling to clean up his record?

What if he kept a crucifix in a jar of urine in his office? Would you have to prove he hated Christians before witholding your vote, or would the creepy factor be enough?

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