11/01/2006 11:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Book Brawl Shows Allen's Despair

In the final days of the bitterest Senate race in the country, Republican incumbent George Allen went for a Hail Mary pass. He called opponent Jim Webb a novelist.

Well, a trashy novelist. By doing so in the final week, Allen assured the election would go down to the wire almost issue-free, with one candidate suspected of being a racist and the other a sexist.

Allen's move reversed his stated preference three weeks ago, expressed in an unusual two-minute paid television address, for a return to substance. That seemed like a better place for Allen, who had spent the previous weeks on the defense after describing a dark-skinned person with a word that means monkey and dodging accusations by former college football teammates that he routinely harassed black people. Topping it off was his squeamishness about his Jewish heritage.

That's inoperative now, sort of like stay the course. Issues such as Iraq, government spending, and the president don't work well for Allen right now. Better to pound the Democrat Webb for articles written three decades ago arguing against women at the U.S. Naval Academy and in combat.

There had to be more where that came from, so the Allen camp went poring over Webb's best-selling novels in hopes of finding the dirty parts. There were five or so worth quoting. Allen's aides fed them to reporters for weeks on background without success.

Read the whole column here.