A lame ethnic joke made by a Cuccinelli supporter at a campaign rally could be the Virginia attorney general's "macaca" moment. At least that's the concern-trolling pablum that former George H.W. Bush opposition research counsel Lloyd Green published on Wednesday at The Daily Beast.
Daily Beast editors, doubtless no fans of the conservative Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate, prominently teased the story on the front page with a graphic showing a goofy photo of Cuccinelli along with the caption, "Last Supper Flap. The New Macaca?" [see large screen capture below the page break]
The story itself was headlined "‘Last Supper’ Flap Dredges Up Ken Cuccinelli’s Demons," and opened with Green melodramatically insisting that:
Once again, wordplay and ethnicity wounded an office-seeking Virginia Republican. On Tuesday John Whitbeck, Virginia’s 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chair, made the news as he warmed up a Constitution Day rally at which Ken Cuccinelli was the featured speaker by telling a joke that ran counter to the spirit of Vatican II, to say the least, and again brought into focus the Virginia GOP’s dual problems with modernity and electability.
Green explained how:
Whitbeck got the crowd going by reciting a tale about how the head of the Jewish religion presented the pope with a bill for the Last Supper. Apparently, there’s nothing like the tropes of deicide and frugality to get voters to the polls. Or not.
Within hours, the Twitterverse lit up like an ecumenical Christmas tree, the Virginia Democratic Party circulated a video of Whitbeck’s attempt at a few yuks, and the Cuccinelli campaign sought to put some distance between Whitbeck and its candidate, who wasn’t yet on the stage.
Virginians had seen this movie before. Sort of.
Back in 2006, then–U.S. senator George Allen (R-VA) hurled the North African pejorative “macaca” at his opponent’s video tracker, S.R. Sidarth, an Indian-American. Allen went on to lose his reelection bid by less than 1 percent to Jim Webb (D-VA), Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy, an Annapolis graduate, and a Vietnam combat veteran. Politics, like football, is a game of inches, where a single turnover can cost you the game.
Ironically, the California-born and -raised, Confederate-flag-pin-wearing Allen was given a lesson of his own in etymology, religion, and geography. It turned out that Allen’s mother, Etty, was a Tunisian-born Jew and former French citizen, and that “macaca” was Portuguese for monkey.
Curiously enough, even the Washington Post -- the paper which incessantly flogged the "macaca moment" in the 2006 Virginia Senate race -- found little newsworthy about the offending joke. Editors shuffled the story to page 3 of the Metro section for Wednesday's paper.
Staff writer Fredrick Kunkle filed the story in question, headlined "Rally turns into mixed bag for Cuccinelli," -- headlined "Cuccinelli rallies with radio talk show host in Northern Virginia" on the WashingtonPost.com website -- but made clear Cuccinelli was "not yet on stage" when the joke was made and that "his campaign later distanced him from the remarks."
That's a far cry from then-Sen. George Allen uttering the word "macaca," which was, of course, blown completely out of proportion by the Washington Post. What's more, although the talk show host's religion was not mentioned explicitly, it's thoroughly laughable that Mark Levin, an observant Jew who joined Cuccinelli "at a Constitution Day rally in Sterling" would campaign with Cuccinelli if he thought the candidate were an anti-Semite.
"Alas for Cuccinelli... his brush with modernity now appears to be short-lived. For the next 24 hours, the candidate will likely be left to clean up a mess that was not of his own making—for once," Green sniffed before concluding a few paragraphs later:
It would do the New Jersey–born Cuccinelli well to remember that Virginia is very much part of the 21st century.
This isn't the first time establishment Republican Green has taken to digital pages of The Daily Beast to slam Cuccinelli. Back in July the Bushie carped that:
If the Republicans lose control of the Virginia statehouse [in the November election], blame it on the modernity gap. The question isn’t whether the Republicans are reconciled to the 21st century, but whether they have come to grips with the last 50 years.