The day before Rosh Hashanah, Senator George Allen of Virginia addressed the “Value Voters Summit 2006,” a gathering of 1,700 Christian-right devotees of Dr. James Dobson designed to rally the Republican base ahead of November’s midterm Congressional elections and preview potential Republican presidential candidates for 2008. Earlier in the week, Allen had said reports of his Jewish lineage were “aspersions” before acknowledging they were true. Immediately after his speech, as he stomped down a hallway of Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel, I approached Allen and asked him how he was planning to celebrate the upcoming Jewish holiday. Allen scowled, his face turning beet red. Pausing for a moment to regain his composure, he blurted, “I’ll be with my family!” He rushed away at a quickened pace.
Further down the hallway, Allen was surrounded by a media gaggle and bombarded with further questions about his Jewish lineage. He responded by mentioning an award he once received from the Greater Washington Jewish Council and said, “As far as the Jewish faith, I suspect I have a lot to learn.” Finally, Allen was plucked out of harm’s way and escorted into a waiting car by his self-described “A-Team” of grim thirtysomething aides. (This “A-Team” did not appear to be wearing the distinctive “lighting-bolt lapel pins” the Washington Post reports its members wore when Allen was governor, displaying a universal symbol of white supremacy inspired by the insignia of the Nazi SS.)
Battling for his political life against his Democratic challenger, former Reagan-era Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb, Allen did his best to endear himself to the “value voters” crowd, entertaining them with the football metaphors that have become staples of his stump speeches. (Allen’s father, George Allen Sr., was the coach of the Washington Redskins.) “Count on me to be an ally, a teammate,” Allen pledged. Then he praised Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, Americans United to Preserve Marriage president Gary Bauer and the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon, as “The Four Horsemen,” a reference to Notre Dame’s legendary 1924 backfield–or perhaps the original quartet from the Book of Revelations.
But as Allen sought to dampen the public controversy over his mishandling of his Jewish heritage, his association with these “Four Horsemen” simply called attention to Dobson’s and Perkins’s problematic utterances. Dobson’s Focus on the Family, for example, published an article in its Citizen magazine last February attacking the parents of federal judge Stephen Reinhardt (whose step-grandfather was a Holocaust survivor) for telling their son “tales of horrific violence” about the Holocaust “that lacked the redemptive power of Christ’s atonement.” The Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly condemned Wildmon for his conspiratorial diatribes against “secular Jews.” And Perkins, for his part, paid $82,500 to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke for his phone-bank list and then spoke at a 2001 fundraiser for the Council of Conservative Citizens, America’s largest white supremacist organization. (When I asked Perkins about his links to Duke and the CCC, he replied tersely, “There are no links.”)