Claude Allen – Spin Master

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Lost in all of the reporting about former domestic policy advisor Claude Allen’s trouble with the law is his remarkable political career, which got going with his work as spokesman for Sen. Jesse Helms’ re-election campaign in 1984 and reached its height with his position as the abstinence czar in the Department of Health and Human Services during Bush’s first term. Much more on that later in the day.

But back in 1984, when Allen was still a freshfaced GOPer, he hadn’t quite mastered the art of understatement, code-speak and spin that a right-wing operative needs to do his work. During the campaign in ’84, a reporter from the Greensboro News-Record called to ask him about Helms’ strategy; he replied that Helms’ opponent was vulnerable because of his links “with the queers.” He went on:

We could expound on and undertake a campaign against Jim Hunt’s [Helms’ opponent] connections with the homosexuals, the labor union connection, the radical feminist connection, the socialist connection…. We could go back and do the same thing with the queers.

Now, Allen went up for a judgeship in 2003, and during the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Feingold (D-WI) used the opportunity to ask him about this little indiscretion. Allen’s defense? This may sound familiar – it was all a big misunderstanding. He’d been misquoted:

“I said, ‘I’d been on the campaign for two years and I have seen a lot of very strange, abnormal, out-of-the-ordinary individuals and groups working across the campaign, sir.’

And, in fact, I did use the word queer. I used the word queer, in my mind, I think at the time, in the dictionary, it was described as odd, out of the ordinary, unusual. I did not use the word as a pejorative; I did not use the word to denigrate any individual or any group.

More later on Allen’s political career.