George Allen's "Macaca," "a Jolting Suggestion of Bigotry"
Political reporter-turned-restaurant critic Frank Bruni returns to (anti-Republican) politics for his brief Week in Review rundown of the year in words, "A Buzzsaw of Buzzwords."
"That's the magic of buzzwords, and their power as well. They're deceptively tiny portals into big feelings and experiences, or at least into gripping developments and moments that cried out for semantic keepsakes. 'Decider' was written so frequently and spoken so widely not merely because President Bush had invented a noun where none existed before.
"That noun was funny, no question, but it was also worrisome. It summoned all the questions ever asked about the firmness of his hand at the helm, all the apprehensions ever felt about where the ship was sailing.
"'Macaca' emerged as more than just an unfamiliar ethnic slur, uttered by Senator George Allen of Virginia about a man of Indian descent. It became the shorthand for an extraordinary fall from political grace, for the astonishing arc by which a predicted presidential contender became a vanquished candidate for re-election to Congress. It became something else, too: a jolting suggestion of bigotry in civic leaders who claim to rise above it. There was a truckload of baggage in those three ugly syllables."