Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The case for (and against) . . . George Allen

This is the second installment in the weeklong examination of White House aspirants. Yesterday, yours truly examined Rudolph Giuliani. Today, the candidate under the microscope is Senator George Allen of Virginia (full disclosure - he's one of my two Senators).

George Allen's political career began in the Virginia General Assembly (1982-1991). He then won a special election to Congress, only to have the Democrats in the state legislature draw his district out of existence. He then ran for Governor in 1993, scoring a major upset against Democratic Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (he started the campaign 30 points down, and finished it more than 15 points ahead). His term as Governor was uneventful from a foreign policy point of view. His tenure as a U.S. Senator (elected in 2000, up for re-election again) was, as one would expect, very different.

Allen didn't begin well; as a candidate for Senate in 2000, he supported free trade with Communist China (On the Issues). His record on Taiwan is where he first made his mark: he is the co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Taiwan Caucus (Taiwan Online, fifth item), and has been a strong supporter of Taiwan on the international scene.

On the trade issue itself, he has also improved. Among those likely candidates for President, he is he only Senator to support a currency-corrective tariff against Communist China (U.S. Senate vote to kill the tariff - a Nay vote is a vote in favor of the tariff). John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Bill Frist, and even Sam Brownback voted to give the Communists a free ride on their deliberately undervalued currency. Allen stands alone.

That said, Allen's original support for PNTR is an obvious problem. The issue has deep symbolism for the anti-Communist community (yours truly included). While Allen has done much to build trust with anti-Communists, he will need to explain this vote. It should be noted that his currency vote greatly minimized this weakness, but does not eliminate it.

Allen's other weaknesses are not tied to this issue. He has somehow acquired a reputation as a Bush clone, which greatly surprises those of us who have been his constituents for years, but there are 50 states in America, not one. All the same, Allen was also considered a lightweight in 1993; he proceeded to gain 45 points in 7 months (better than a point a week).

In fact, Allen's political resume is far more extensive than Hillary Clinton's, or Rudy Giuliani's for that matter. In time, that will be revealed in a presidential campaign. Will lead to victory? Allen himself is famous for using sports phrases as metaphors, so I will follow suit with a quote from ESPN's Kenny Mayne: "Games aren't played on paper; they're played inside TV sets."

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