Allen's Gaffes Show a Thin Skin, Mean Spirit

09/21/2006 11:27 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Character does count, if we are lucky enough to get a glimpse of it in a modern campaign designed to keep it under wraps. As much as paid advertising obscures who a candidate really is, actual campaigning -- visits to diners, pancake breakfasts and the debates themselves -- unveils it.

It's never so much a gaffe itself that hobbles a candidate but his reaction, and whether it taps into other things we know about him. It is Allen's lingering love for all things Confederate, including its flag, a noose he kept in his office, and his vote against a Martin Luther King holiday, that gave the "macaca'' comment its resonance.

In back-to-back episodes, Allen has revealed two things about himself. First, under pressure he's petulant and thin- skinned. If he retains any presidential aspirations --- and it's hard to find a Republican who hasn't crossed him off the list -- that will count against him. The second is an attitude toward race and ethnicity that ought to count against him in Virginia, even though those same Republicans say it won't.

It underestimates Virginians to think a majority are comfortable with Allen's unsettling reactions under pressure.

Read the whole column here.