In football, there are penalties for piling on and unsportsmanlike conduct. In politics, you can get away with almost anything.
Democrats are playing a very dirty game - the political equivalent of a crack back block - in their attempt to smear Sen. George Allen, (R-Va.) and elect his Democratic opponent, James Webb. The latest is a charge by an acquaintance and a former college football teammate at the University of Virginia that Allen used the "n word" and other racial slurs in the early 1970s. Allen adamantly denies it, but these days the charge alone is enough to sully one's reputation and create doubt in some minds.
Allen's chief accusers are R. Kendall Shelton, a radiologist in North Carolina, who says he used to be a Democrat but is now an Independent, and Christopher C. Taylor, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama. Shelton says Allen's alleged racial slurs make him unfit for public office. That's funny. Before these allegations, Allen was fit enough to serve as governor of Virginia and as a United States senator. And it is more than coincidental that this sliming is taking place just six weeks before an election.
Unlike the "macaca" incident a few weeks ago, which he allowed to fester and did not apologize for until the political damage was done, Allen wasted no time responding to this latest charge. Among those rushing to his defense was another former teammate, Rob Berce, a wide receiver who graduated in 1976. Berce told The Washington Post, "I have never heard him use that word" (the n word). He just seemed to be a pretty upfront, good guy."
The head football coach at Wake Forest University, Jim Grobe, told the Post he is "shocked" by the allegations. "I never heard George say anything like that," he said. Even Allen's first wife, Anne Waddell, denied Taylor's story that Allen used the n-word during a visit to their house. "I can say with absolute certainty that (Taylor's) recollection that George said anything at all that could be considered racially insensitive is completely false. He would never utter such a word." You can't do much better than to have an ex-wife as a character witness.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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