Former Virginia Sen. George Allen is looking "Macaca" in the face -- the word, that is. That six-letter slur which undid his 2006 re-election campaign probably haunts him to this day. Now he's talking about the "Macaca" slip in his new book that applies lessons from the sports world to Washington politics.
Republicans see Allen's book promotion as a set up to a two-year bid to reclaim his Senate seat, which he lost to Jim Webb.
At a mostly white rally in far southwestern Virginia in August 2006, Allen called a videographer hired by Webb's campaign "Macaca." The worker was an American of Indian decent. That racially charged "nickname" derailed what could have been an easy re-election bid and prospects for the GOP presidential nomination two years later.
In the first and last chapters of his book "What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports," he addressed issues of race and ethnicity, seen as the most indelible liabilites of his career. He wrote, "In the process I gave the young cameraman the unfortunate, made-up nickname of Macaca (or Makaka). I thought of it as a nonsense word. If I had known the nickname could be considered a racial slur, I would not have said it. But that is how it was characterized. The poor judgement was mine. I should never have dragged this young man into the debate when my real target was my opponent. I apologized to him, and take full responsibility for the remark and its aftermath, which should have been handled much better."
The book is also full of sports allegories and anecdotes from his childhood. It includes portions of his conversations, interviews and speeches throughout three decades in Virginia politics. His father is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George H. Allen, and his brother Bruce Allen is the general manager of the Washington Redskins. Allen said in an interview with the Associated Press that he learned, "There are certain things best left in the locker room and the field of play and they're not appropriate for political discourse ... When you're in public service, your mistakes are highlighted. It's one of the lessons I learned, sometimes the hard way."
Allen wrote that growing up the son of an NFL legend, race, ethnicity, origins and religious persuasion did not matter. He wrote he was so "unconscious" of race that he entered adulthood and even public life not fully comprehending the full gravity of the country's struggle for racial equality.
George Mason University political scientist Mark Rozell said Allen is serving as "his own revisionist historian." Rozell said he can't imagine that Allen would write this book and then fade out of the spotlight. He said candidates often try to rehabilitate themselves and position themselves for a future run.
Allen has appeared on conservative talk shows promoting the book, which comes out this week.