Covering split GOP values voters

mark foleyThe reporting of ABC News’ Brian Ross has done to conservative Christians what the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal failed to do. He has divided them, and the rest of the mainstream media is having a joyous time covering the aftermath.

Since journalists revealed that the House leadership could have potentially ignored at best and covered up at worst the sexual wrongdoing of Rep. Mark Foley, R.-Fla., conservatives everywhere are either calling for heads to roll or arguing that scandal is the fault of hypocritical liberals, a Florida newspaper that knew about Foley’s behavior but didn’t do anything, the mainstream media, homosexuals and Democratic political opportunists.

The party of family values, morality, justice and protecting innocent children failed for years to oust a sexual predator in its midst. Elected Republican leaders believe that values voters will not be thrilled to support politicians who allowed this to happen.

Check out The New York Times on Wednesday morning:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Backed by measured words of support from President Bush, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert opened an intense drive on Tuesday to hold on to his post, but behind the scenes senior Republicans weighed whether he could survive the scandal surrounding former Representative Mark Foley.

Among the options being considered by senior Republicans is for Mr. Hastert to announce that he will stay on as speaker through this year but not seek re-election to the post assuming Republicans retain control of the House, said people on and off Capitol Hill who were involved in the discussions. They said the advantage of such a step would be to postpone a disruptive leadership fight until after Election Day.

Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen compiled a great selection of articles chronicling the various positions held by conservative leaders, from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins to James Dobson of Focus on the Family. The consensus among these leaders is that, yes, the scandal is reprehensible, but vote GOP in November anyway because the Democrats are much worse. That’s the kind of encouragement voters need this fall.

SilhouetteThe Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank highlights The Washington Times’ editorial calls for Hastert’s resignation and then details Hastert’s recovery plan:

Four months ago, Hastert was feted as the longest-serving Republican speaker, earning tributes from all segments of the party. “He’s done a great job, and he’s been a great partner to me and a great mentor to me,” [Majority Leader John] Boehner said then.

And now, he’s a great fall guy, too. “The clerk of the House, who runs the page program, the Page Board — all report to the speaker,” Boehner declared yesterday.

It was time for Hastert to take action to put down the mutiny. So he called Rush Limbaugh. And Sean Hannity. And Hugh Hewitt. And Lars Larson. And Roger Hedgecock. Even Neal Boortz, who said Hastert should find a “better excuse” for his inaction on Foley. “We’re going to do them all,” said Hastert aide Ron Bonjean.

Then there’s this Post Style section ruling that details Foley’s history as a closeted gay Congressman. What’s clear is that Foley’s misdeeds and the reaction of the House leadership have split the leaders of the GOP, but it has yet to be proven that this will affect the values voters in next month’s election.

If the House or Senate flips parties, can the media legitimately pin the result on Foley and the leadership’s failure to oust him earlier? Polling data and the events between now and Nov. 7 will help determine that story line, but the media have made one thing clear: conservatives are divided over how to guard their image as the party that stands for values.

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Is a Mormon the top candidate for the religious right?

mitt romneyLet’s get the ball rolling on picking the religious right’s candidate for the 2008 presidential campaign. The Economist, a no-slouch publication when it comes to American politics, has anointed Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on the basis that both Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and George Allen, R-Va., have taken themselves out of contention. Frist is out for poor Senate leadership and Allen for, well, you know.

It’s an interesting hypothesis, and it will be interesting whether the Romney for President campaign gains momentum on the religious right. My guess is that we are going to have to wait till after Nov. 7, which seems like an eternity right now.

The big hiccup in Romney’s path is of course his Mormon faith, which was delightfully depicted by The Economist in a cartoon that I won’t reproduce on this blog because I don’t need the magazine’s art editor breathing down my neck. The Economist does not demur from highlighting the difficulties Romney will face in receiving acceptance among conservative evangelicals, but presents a compelling case for why it is possible:

Yet Mr Romney is a devoted Mormon — a former bishop, no less — at a time when religion is playing a growing role in American politics. Opinion polls suggest that anti-Mormon feeling is one of the most enduring religious prejudices in America. An LATimes/Bloomberg poll in June found that 37% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate; other polls put the figure at 17%.

Anti-Mormon feeling is particularly strong among Bible-believing Christians, a vital part of the Republican base. Many evangelicals regard Mormonism as nothing more than a cult: and a cult, moreover, that is based not only on a false theology but also on a willingness to tamper with the inerrant word of God that is the Bible.

mitt romney2Oh the joys political reporters will encounter in covering a Romney candidacy. First of all, as Doug pointed out in an e-mail to me, being a bishop in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not quite like being a bishop in, say, the Church of England. One should not expect to see any photos of a President Romney in the Oval Office dressed like the CofE’s Bishop of London. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is a former Mormon bishop and he has also run for president.

What The Economist did get right is the bigger picture — the evangelical right is flexible and far from monolithic. While some are still upset over President Reagan’s divorce and, how should I put it, unusual theological views, a huge majority were OK with it. Even George W. Bush was not the religious right’s ideal choice. Britons may fuss over Cherie Blair’s Catholicism, but Americans are less inclined to think of their political leaders as also being religious leaders. Those in the religious right care more about issues when it comes to their politicians.

The potential harshness that religious conservatives could show to a Romney candidacy should not be underestimated, though. Doctrinally, some mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians consider the group a cult. But for whom will this matter when it comes to issues like abortion and same-sex marriage? What will Pat Robertson and James Dobson say? What will mainline Protestant denominations say?

Will Romney be up-front about these issues? Will he publicly affirm all of the beliefs of Mormonism? Or will he downplay them and hope nobody notices?

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Voter guides and IRS basics

elect jesusThe crescendo leading up to this November’s election is starting to seem like that of a presidential election year. From a purely political standpoint, it’s about as fun a midterm election season as I’ve ever witnessed. Scandals are abounding. Bob Woodward has a new book out. And politicians are scrambling to snatch those 30 million or so regular churchgoers who did not vote in 2004.

This leads to stories about voter guides and everyone’s favorite government agency, the Internal Revenue Service. Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times brought her impressive reporting skills to the story and reached a not-so-startling conclusion:

Their efforts at times push legal limits on church involvement in partisan campaigns. That is by design. With control of Congress at stake Nov. 7, those guiding the movement say they owe it to God and to their own moral principles to do everything they can to keep social conservatives in power.

Preachers “ought to put their toe right on the line,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that supports conservative Christian causes.

Simon thoroughly documents how activists are pushing those legal limits. (Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen pointed out on an earlier thread that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is encouraging his followers to vote Republican.) Simon finds the Rev. Rick Scarborough, of that big place known as Texas, saying that “We urge [pastors] to avoid legal entanglement, but there are times in a pastor’s life when he needs to take a biblical stand. … Our higher calling is to Christ.”

Previous articles made little of the actual result of an IRS church investigation. But with anything regulatory, the government must engage in a lot of education. Simon makes that point clear in her article in a way I had not seen lately. She also follows my favorite maxim — show, don’t tell — regarding those tricky voter guides:

The voter pamphlets are supposed to be neutral, but often present issues through a distinctly partisan lens. A guide distributed by a conservative group in Minnesota in 2004 laid out the candidates’ views on aborting “unborn babies.” One produced this year by the liberal evangelical group Sojourners describes immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops as the only way to bring peace to Iraq.

Contrast that with a report from Alan Cooperman of The Washington Post on the supposedly big announcement (it was an A6 story on Friday, a heavy news day if I recall correctly) that the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good would “distribute at least 1 million voter guides before the Nov. 7 elections, emphasizing church teachings on war, poverty and social justice as well as on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.” Cooperman tells us all about the issues (and provides handy links here and here to the actual voter guides), but fails to lay out the positions. Simon did this and showed how blatantly partisan these guides are from both sides of the aisle.

Now I am just as aware as anyone else that a good news story needs a good news hook, so Cooperman was certainly justified using the release of the Common Good guides, but compare it to Simon’s thorough 1,500-word survey of the highly relevant issue. Are Post editors preventing Cooperman from having the space and play he needs to do something similar? (By the way, Simon mentions Cooperman’s story in one paragraph near the end of her article.)

clintonBasic ground-laying content, giving the article depth and balance, is missing from Cooperman’s story. Check out Simon’s short summary of the matter:

The law restricting political activity of churches and charities dates to 1954, when then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson pushed it through in a pique of anger over a nonprofit’s effort to derail his reelection. Tax-exempt organizations, including churches, may not participate or intervene in political campaigns on behalf of any candidate. Intervention is broadly defined as “any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidate for public office,” according to the Internal Revenue Service.

That sounds straightforward. In practice, though, there are many ways around the restriction, as the faithful recognize.

“If the pastor is doing the right job, the people will automatically vote for the right person,” said Gale Wollenberg, who belongs to a conservative evangelical church in Topeka, Kan.

So before you “rat out a church” for being too political, read Simon’s article and remember the decades-old roots of voter guides.

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What is newsroom diversity?

media bias alertEarlier this week, NPR’s David Folkenflik broke a story about New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse’s leftist political speech at Harvard Law School. In the comment thread from my original post, reader Charlie wrote:

I’m sorry, but I would MUCH rather have a reporter who wears their biases openly than one who hides them — or worse, one who has no opinions.

I agree that there is a great deal to be said for reporters being transparent in their views. But the issue isn’t simply Greenhouse and her political views. The goal of objectivity in journalism refers to the methodology of the newsroom, not the empty minds of the various reporters and editors involved in getting stories to print.

Newspapers run into problems because even if they strive for objectivity, they suffer a stunning lack of diversity in their newsrooms when covering divisive issues. It’s not news that reporters share similar views on a wide swath of social and economic issues. I have never been a Greenhouse fan, a sentiment which I’m certain causes her to cry over her many journalism awards. But any complaints I’ve had about her writing have been marginal or based in my fear that I can’t trust her because of her activism.

But what if Greenhouse were part of a team that comprised a variety of viewpoints and knowledge bases? How would the coverage differ if a reporter who was morally conservative worked with her?

Well, near as I can tell, there’s absolutely no danger of newsrooms seeking more diversity in which biases they bring into their newsroom. Very few could bring themselves to comment on the story. Even Daniel Okrent, the former ombudsman at the Times, clarified his earlier remark that he was amazed by her speech. In an interview with Newsweek, he said he was thrilled by her outspoken speech.

Do you think it’s a farce to pretend that media bias doesn’t exist?
Obviously it exists in individuals, and it exists in institutions, but it does not exist in all individuals, and it does not exist in all institutions. It’s like anything else in the world, there are those who do it right and those who do it wrong.

What does this mean for journalists who may not want to suppress their political views outside the office?
Well, that’s the thing about it that’s so interesting and amazing and exciting. Maybe this opens up the conversation that journalists can and should [participate].

In my view, this is not about whether reporters can march in rallies or display bumper stickers or donate to candidates. To me, this is about the fact that if they did, there would be very few reporters marching in pro-life rallies.

A decade ago, the Los Angeles Times analyzed media coverage of abortion and found that bias infiltrated reports of the divisive issue. A few years ago, Times editor John Carroll wrote a memo to the staff telling them to work harder to get their abortion biases out of the newspaper.

That happens despite reporters’ best intentions. Could the attempts to write fairly about abortion and other divisive issues be hampered by the stunning and shocking lack of intellectual diversity in America’s newsrooms?

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RU 4 freedom of T-shirt speech?

villagestreetwear2Earlier this week, The Washington Post had one of those slice-of-life news features that took an everyday topic from real life and framed it in a way that put it on page one.

The hot question of the day: Why are all of those girls wearing such slutty T-shirts to school? What’s that all about, other than some kind of post-feminist libertarian mall-values revenge plot?

I mean, the shirts are getting so bad that the liberal establishment is nervous. Reporter Ian Shapira had lots of details and a solid set of summary paragraphs:

They’re blatantly sexual, occasionally clever and often loaded with double meanings, forcing school administrators and other students to read provocations stripped across the chest, such as “yes, but not with u!,” “Your Boyfriend Is a Good Kisser” and “two boys for every girl.” Such T-shirts also are emblematic of the kind of sleazy-chic culture some teenagers now inhabit, in which status can be defined by images of sexual promiscuity that previous generations might have considered unhip.

The T-shirts, which school officials say are racier than ever, are posing dress-code dilemmas on Washington area campuses. School systems typically ban clothing that expresses vulgarity, obscenity or lewdness or that promotes cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or weapons. …

But sexually suggestive T-shirts often fall into a gray area that requires officials to evaluate one shirt at a time.

villagestreetwearObviously, there are other issues swirling in the background, including several that did not get into this report.

For example, is banning a racy shirt the same thing as promoting a conservative stand on sexual morality? That’s bad news, in an era in which courts tend to say that any promotion of conservative values on sex is the same thing as promoting conservative religious doctrines.

What about issues of race and class? Can school administrators strike back against the hip-hop bling culture — in either its ghetto or suburban forms — without being accused of discrimination?

And, as Shapira’s story does note, some school leaders think the clothing issue should be handled by parents. But how many modern students have highly involved parents? What if young women set out to ignore or deceive their parents?

What do these shirts mean anyway? The Post notes:

The T-shirts highlight a paradox about this generation: Even as more teenagers absorb ubiquitous sexual messages, federal data show that they report having less sex than their predecessors. Although a recent National Center for Health Statistics survey found that more than half of all teenagers engage in oral sex, teen pregnancy rates have plummeted since the early 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of high school students who reported having sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2005.

“It’s a puzzling picture,” said Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in the District. “When someone sees a girl or boy in provocative clothing, they make a lot of assumptions about what’s going on, which may or may not be true — which really is the point, isn’t it?”

americanlifeleague 1916 4162386Like I said, this was a solid story and — noting how it has zoomed around cyberspace — I hope the Post will continue to monitor this subject at the intersection of family life, education, pop culture, morality and who knows what all.

But I have to admit that I wished the story had included one other topic, perhaps in a sidebar. Do schools in and around the Beltway have policies that affect other kinds of T-shirts and the subjects printed on them? What about religion? What about politics? What about, well, social issues that tend to divide young people and adults?

For example, if hot T-shirts are hard to ban, is it actually easier to ban anti-hot T-shirts?

This story has made some headlines in the past in the Washington area, in part because of demonstrations led by the Rock for Life network. Not that long ago, The Washington Times covered this, including this summary:

Rock for Life’s shirts feature blunt messages for young people: “Abortion Is Mean” or “Abortion Is Homicide” on the front, and the group’s motto on the back: “You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation.” Those messages have repeatedly put pro-life youth in conflict with school officials. In November 2002, a student wearing an “Abortion Is Homicide” shirt to Abington Junior High School in Abington, Pa., was told by the principal that his shirt was “inappropriate for display at school and equated the message on the shirt with a swastika,” say Rock for Life officials.

In the Cleveland suburb of Chardon, Ohio, a student wearing the group’s “Abortion Is Homicide” shirt was also told by his principal not to wear the shirt at Chardon High School because a girl had complained it was obscene.

Free speech is messy, but it beats all the alternatives. Or should public schools, at this point, turn to uniforms?

Stay tuned. I hope the dress-code story stays hot.

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Newsweek misses church ladies, again

A  Gardner   Newsweek   11 24 1952The new issue of Newsweek is out, which means that I, once again, have waited a bit too long to make a comment on the previous issue. I think I’ll do it anyway, since it appears that the magazine is going to do the same cover story every year about this time.

The topic, once again, was women and leadership (visit Newsweek‘s site to see the current illustrations), and here is the way the package was described in one of the main headlines and second decks:

Leading the Way

These women are poised to be the next generation of leaders in their fields — whether it’s sports, business, finance, politics or the arts. In their own words, they tell how they got where they are and where they hope to go next.

All of this was very similar to last year’s cover on the same basic subject, the one with St. Oprah on it, under the headline “How Women Lead.” Click here if you want to flash back to what this blog had to say about that one. It would be good if you did that, since I really need to write the same post all over again.

Last year, I was amazed that Newsweek could produce a massive neo-People package about American women in leadership roles and almost totally ignore the gigantic role that women play in pews and now pulpits in organized religion. Yes, the magazine’s leaders missed the church ladies. They even missed the proudly feminist elements of the liberal mainline Protestant world, which meant that they sure as heck missed the huge role that women play in conservative religious groups. Take the pro-life movement, for example.

Well, this year’s cover was different.

This year, Newsweek — as best I can tell — completely ignored the role that women play in religious life.

It’s amazing. I didn’t think it could be done. The cover package contains all the usual topics, such as “Twenty Top Women on Leadership,” “Women Leaders: Lessons We Have Learned,” “Moms Mean Business,” “Science and the Gender Gap” and “Women Leaders: 10 Power Tips.” You’d think there would be room for faith in there somewhere.

Last year, some of the women featured talked about the role of faith in their lives, at least a little bit. This year, I couldn’t even find a few secondary references. Did I miss something?

So I’ll end this somewhat cynical tirade with a flashback to a 2005 Wall Street Journal piece by Christine Rosen that stated the obvious:

This fall, the entering class of rabbinical students at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative institution, is 34% female. At Hebrew Union College, a Reform seminary, women are nearly half the student body. At many Protestant seminaries, women pastoral students now outnumber men, and between 1983 and 2000 the number of women who identified themselves as clergy tripled. It seems that Catholic scholar Leon Podles’s prediction of a few years ago, that “the Protestant clergy will be a characteristically female occupation, like nursing, within a generation,” may soon prove true.

Pulpits aren’t the only places that women dominate. According to a recent survey, the typical U.S. congregation is 61% female. Women are also the force behind most lay organizations and volunteer activities and make up the majority of church employees.

And I will say once again what I said then. This trend is linked to at least three of the biggest stories out there on the religion beat. You’d have to be blind not to see the links. And those stories? The declining number of men in mainline pews. The general statistical decline of the liberal mainline and the groups that feature the largest numbers of women in ordained leadership roles. The rise of the new evangelicals and other conservative forms of faith, with strong — but less obvious — leadership roles for women. A new question: Have the evangelicals leveled off in growth, especially among men?

These stories are still out there. Does anyone at Newsweek know that?

Wait a minute! In the Newsweek illustration of Martina Navratilova, is she wearing a cross? There’s the religion element of the cover story. I missed that, at first. Go to the website and check it out.

UPDATE: Newsweek instructed us to take down the illustrations, even though I tried to attribute them as part of our coverage of the package. I did the best I could to find a fitting substitute.

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Why not hire O.J. as the crime reporter?

simonand garfunkelIf you had a reporter who was an abortion-rights activist, spoke publicly against religious conservatives and George Bush, and wept openly at a recent Simon and Garfunkel concert, what beat would you assign her?

Certainly not music — and certainly not the Supreme Court, right?

Think again. The New York Times has no problem at all with keeping Linda Greenhouse in just that plum beat.

Ever since she marched in a 1989 abortion-rights rally, readers who don’t share her political opinions have questioned Greenhouse’s coverage of politically divisive court rulings.

NPR’s awesomely named David Folkenflik had a fascinating story on All Things Considered that raises new issues arising from a June speech Greenhouse gave at Harvard:

Greenhouse went on to charge that since then, the U.S. government had “turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha and other places around the world — [such as] the U.S. Congress.”

She also observed a “sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism. To say that these last few years have been dispiriting is an understatement.”

A few weeks after that speech, the Supreme Court knocked down some of the government’s assertion of executive powers involving detainees at Guantanamo. And the court will soon hear arguments in an abortion case.

I think it’s interesting that this speech was given in June to 800 people and the first most anyone has heard about it is months later. Greenhouse’s political biases aren’t exactly hidden, but it is also surprising that she’s this open about her leftist views.

I noted problems Greenhouse had in covering a January abortion ruling, but her personal biases aren’t necessarily reflected in her coverage.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a reporter with similarly extreme conservative views having such a plum position at the Times or winning a Pulitzer.

Folkenflik’s piece had a few other great nuggets:

Sandy Rowe, editor of the Oregonian and a past chairwoman of the executive committee of the Pulitzer Prize board. Rowe praises Greenhouse’s work — but questions her judgment.

“If she or any other reporter stakes out a strong position on an issue that is still evolving both in society and before the courts, yes, I think that is problematic,” Rowe says.

Greenhouse tells NPR, “I said what I said in a public place. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Again, can anyone imagine where the chips would fall for a New York Times Supreme Court reporter who equated abortion to murder?

Jack Nelson, former Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, blanches at hearing of Greenhouse’s remarks, but agrees with her tough critique of the White House.

“If I was the Washington bureau chief and she was my Supreme Court reporter, I might have to answer to the editors in L.A. for that,” Nelson says. “But I would do my best to support her.”

Asked if he would defend Greenhouse had she said something he disagreed with, however, Nelson laughed — and said he would take issue if she had backed Bush policy.

What is Jack Nelson thinking? He would support reporters who expressed one bias but not another? People who’ve read surveys of reporters personal political views aren’t necessarily surprised by such statements, but shouldn’t these people be keeping these things secret?

Anyway, great story idea. It will be interesting to see if Times editors take any action here.

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Who outed George Allen?

george allen2The apparent destruction of the presidential ambitions of Sen. George Allen, R-Va., has been interesting to watch. The story goes several layers deep, and I’ll do my best to probe the more interesting, religion-oriented ones in this post. Feel free to post your thoughts on how religion was played in the hundreds of articles written on the politician who has been dubbed the darling of the religious right and a clone of President Bush.

The candidate one would think would benefit the most from Allen’s implosion is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but that remains to be seen. Check out what The Revealer wrote Monday on the issue:

The liberal blogs, Salon, and now the mainstream media (AP) have been making hay out of Allen’s bigotry, but the media that matters in this case won’t be public. It’ll be email. It’ll be telephone calls. It’ll be the quiet, behind-the-scenes conferencing by Christian Right powerbrokers who are about to pull the rug out from Allen.

Nailing down who pulled, or will pull, the rug out from Allen’s presidential hopes is tricky, but one thing is for sure, it was not the mainstream media. As best I can tell, The New Republic (as tmatt likes to say, that right-wing rag to which we link a lot) started it all with a couple of Ryan Lizza articles on April 27 and May 15 that addressed Allen’s “race problem.” Here we found out that Allen had a long association with the Confederate flag, among other sketchy things.

Then Allen famously uttered “macaca” (video) and all hell broke lose on his campaign, including renewed speculation that he could be Jewish. That ended up being true, but Allen didn’t appreciate it very much, as revealed in this snarky Washington Post piece by the religious right’s favorite columnist (sarcasm on), Dana Milbank:

At a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday between Republican Allen and Democrat [Jim] Webb, WUSA-TV’s Peggy Fox asked Allen, the tobacco-chewing, cowboy-boot-wearing son of a pro football coach, if his Tunisian-born mother has Jewish blood.

“It has been reported,” said Fox, that “your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?”

Allen recoiled as if he had been struck. His supporters in the audience booed and hissed. “To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don’t think is relevant,” Allen said, furiously. “Why is that relevant — my religion, Jim’s religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?”

“Honesty, that’s all,” questioner Fox answered, looking a bit frightened.

“Oh, that’s just all? That’s just all,” the senator mocked, pressing his attack. He directed Fox to “ask questions about issues that really matter to people here in Virginia” and refrain from “making aspersions.”

“Let’s move on,” proposed the moderator, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Yes, let’s — but not before we figure out what that was all about. Turns out the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, reported that the senator’s mother, Etty, “comes from the august Sephardic Jewish Lumbroso family” and continued: “If both of Etty’s parents were born Jewish — which, given her age and background, is likely — Senator Allen would be considered Jewish in the eyes of traditional rabbinic law, which traces Judaism through the mother.”

george allenSo as the Post and others play catch-up on the story that Allen is not a very good person and is sensitive about his heritage, one has to wonder what instigated it all. Was it just an unfortunate falling of the cards that instigated Salon investigations and subsequent catch-up stories (followed of course by the Associated Press and the Post) into whether Allen used the N word while playing football at the University of Virginia? The mainstream media have been all over the “live” events, such as the video and Allen’s reaction to the Jewish question, but they’ve done little hard reporting, which has been reserved to less mainstream left-of-center publications.

Is this a liberal attempt to oust a senator with hopes of regaining a Senate Majority? A smart Democrat would save this material for 2008 in order to throw the GOP presidential nomination process into chaos. Who is attempting to out what appears to be at worst a closet, or at best a former, racist and possible bully, before he became the religious right’s standard-bearer?

Ryan Lizza’s articles in The New Republic didn’t happen in a vacuum. I doubt he woke up one morning and thought, “I need to investigate Sen. Allen’s racial attitudes.” I also doubt that Michael Scherer of Salon thought, “I will call all of Sen. Allen’s teammates from his time as the quarterback of the University of Virginia to find out if he said some racist things back in the day.”

And to cap it all off, the issues raised in the book by Allen’s sister, Jennifer, in her book Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter, have been around for six years (surviving Allen’s first election) and no one seemed to notice until now. So what gives?

Who is out to trash a potential leading candidate of the religious right?

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