Wednesday, September 27, 2006

George Allen meet John Huey Ketchum

I have to admit that I am starting to feel a bit sorry for George Allen. This bizarre controversy over whether the Virginia senator ever used the word "nigger" doesn't say much for the state of self-government or of the priorities of the media. I assume that he is guilty, but that on its own is of little significance. I support the reelection of Robert Byrd, who was in the KKK years ago and even used the "n-word" on TV a few years back; so I can't very well denounce Allen for having used racial slurs.

But as usual, the problem isn't the crime -- but the coverup. Allen could have simply admitted guilt and plagiarized Jesse Jackson's "God isn't finished with me yet" apology made after his infamous "Hymietown" gaffe in 1984.

Somebody should get Allen a copy of Bill Kauffman's sadly out of print novel, Every Man a King (hey, BK, get a copy to Picador, and get a new edition out!). In that book, a rising rightwing pundit named John Huey Ketchum has his career yanked out from under him when he opines that "you can lead a nigger to workfare, but you can't . . ." on CBS's Face the Nation and is reduced to scrubbing factory toilets in his hometown of Batavia, New York. After his fall from grace, John Huey finds happiness in housing-project obscurity and white-trash love with a woman willing to overlook his sin if she can figure out what it is:

"It was a mistake, I think," he said haltingly. "I had a newspaper column in quite a few papers around the country. I wasn't famous, but I was on the right track. Then I got invited to go on Face the Nation, the boring talk show about politics that's on Sunday mornings."

She betrayed no recognition of this anti-Sabbath institution.

"Anyways, I was on the show, debating this black guy about welfare. He was doin' this boring recital of bullshit facts and arguments, and I was doin' mine. He'd say blahblahblah. I'd counter with blahblahblah. . . .It was the usual Washington bullshit. Until all of a sudden somethin' came over me. Like a demon or succubus or some evil goddamn sprit invaded my body, and before I knew it I said the word 'nigger' on national TV."

He waited for a gasp, a shocked "John Huey, you didn't" Wanda said nothing. He went on . . .

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