Friday, October 27, 2006

MAUREEN DOWD: ‘Brothels, Sex Kittens, Pedophilia?’

Republicans panicking is not a pretty sight.

Candidates around the country have been race-baiting, gay-baiting, Michael J. Fox-baiting and Hispanic-baiting. But now it has come to this: Republicans are novel-baiting.

Still trying to recover his balance, after slipping on a macaca and admitting he was a Jewish bubba, one criticized for using racist language, displaying a Confederate flag at home and keeping a hangman’s noose at his old law office, Senator George Allen of Virginia unleashed a vicious attack on Jim Webb Thursday night. He called him a fiction writer.

Senator Macacawitz, as he is now known in Washington, sent the cyber- gossip Matt Drudge a press release called “Webb’s Weird World.” It featured racy quotes from his rival’s novels and the contention that they were “very disturbing for a candidate hoping to represent the families of Virginians.” It said Mr. Webb’s novels about the military and war portrayed women as “servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these.”

Excerpts from Webb novels included passages in which a man performs a sexual act on his son; a “naked young stripper” performs a sexual act on a banana, and male guards at a Vietnamese prison camp perform a sexual act on each other.

“There is nothing that’s been in any of my novels that, in my view, hasn’t been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot,” Mr. Webb said on Washington Post radio yesterday.

Mr. Webb, a 60-year-old former Republican and Vietnam vet who was President Reagan’s secretary of the Navy, was already defending himself for a 1979 magazine article called “Women Can’t Fight,” in which he called a Naval Academy dorm a “horny woman’s dream.”

He bridled at the latest attack, snapping, “You ought to read what George Allen’s sister wrote about him if you want to read about attitudes toward females.” Mr. Allen’s younger sister, Jennifer, wrote a memoir in which she described her brother pulling a Michael Jackson and dangling her over a railing at Niagara Falls, and slamming a pool cue against her boyfriend’s head. (She later said the pool-cue story was a joke, calling the book a novelization of the past.)

So the Old Dominion race now comes down to one guy denying he’s a racist and the other denying he’s a sexist, and the supposed sexist attacking the supposed racist as a sexist. Webb’s campaign sent out a press release yesterday noting that Mr. Allen nearly joined a males-only country club in the ’90s, when he was Virginia’s governor, and opposed co-education at the Virginia Military Institute.

Women make up half of all Virginia voters, so it’s a good bet they will determine who wins the race between two candidates who “exude machismo,” as The Washington Post put it: “James Webb, the marine firing his M50 antitank rifles in the jungles of Vietnam, and George Allen, the tobacco-chewing cowboy who as governor once stirred G.O.P. delegates with this line about Democrats: ‘Let’s enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats.’ ”

The Republicans’ usual trick — having Dick Cheney terrify women into thinking that terrorists will kill their children if they vote for girly Democrats — isn’t flying this year, so now the G.O.P. is resorting to more personal, and goofy, attacks.

Senator Allen may be able to hurt Mr. Webb, especially if he prints up all the steamy quotes on fliers and puts them on the windshields of Virginia churchgoers on Sunday.

Gary Hart, who used to write novels with another former senator, William Cohen, once told me that politicians are suspicious of other pols who read novels, much less write them. “They thought I was strange,” he said, “because I was caught reading Tolstoy and Kierkegaard.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fought back yesterday by putting out excerpts from G.O.P. pulp fiction. “Brothels, sex kittens, pedophilia?” they began their sampling of Republican scribblers, including Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Scooter Libby.

The Democrats also turned up a romance novel by Susan Combs, a Republican candidate for Texas comptroller. Ms. Combs wrote “A Perfect Match” about “a freckle-faced brunette,” a cryptologist from the National Security Agency who falls for her “gray-eyed bodyguard” with his “powerful, strong arms” and his erotic pistol-cleaning technique. She desired him to “fill the aching void at her center” where a “deep heaviness throbbed in her belly.”

It’s what the Democrats’ candidate, Jim Webb, would diplomatically call “a horny woman’s dream.”

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