How Will the GOP Handle the Claude Allen Case?

How will recent allegations of shoplifting by President Bush's former top domestic policy advisor Claude Allen be handled by authorities? Commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Los Angeles-based author and political analyst, offers his insights.


I'm Farai Chideya; next time on NEWS AND NOTES: today more and more American families are applying for emergency food stamps. What's behind the rising numbers of Americans on the brink of poverty? That's next time on NEWS AND NOTES from NPR News.


Claude Allen, a former top advisor to President Bush, resigned his post last month before allegations of shoplifting from a Target store reached the public spotlight. Commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson thinks that regardless of his guilt or innocence, Allen will go unpunished by federal authorities. Hutchinson says it's not for the sake of the former White House employee, but for the sake of the Republican Party.


In 1982, President Bush's former top Policy Domestic Advisor Claude Allen embarrassed the GOP with his slurs against gays and feminists and two decades later during the Senate Conformation Hearing he didn't back away from them. He oddly claimed the dictionary defined them as odd or unusual and he saw no reason to retract his slur. And now there's the allegation that he is a two-bit thief.

Conservatives desperately need blacks such as Allen to maintain the public illusion that black conservatives have real clout and a popular following in black communities. Their great value is that they promote the myth that a big segment of blacks support political conservative principles. In the last presidential election, Bush, Republican National Committee Head Ken Melman and Strategist Karl Rove spent millions on outreach efforts to attract African-American voters. Melman has since barnstormed the country with conservative blacks in tow to primp the GOP's message to black groups. Allen and a handful of other blacks have relentlessly pumped Bush's policies on TV and radio talk shows, in Op Ed columns and in debates with civil rights leaders and liberal democrats.

The young, black, conservative political activists such as Allen spin, prime and defend administration policies on Affirmative Action, welfare, laissez faire capitalism and anti-government regulations with the best of white conservatives. Bush's controversial Federal Court Appeals nominee, black California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, once brashly claimed that she was one of the few conservatives left in America. Allen did not make the same bold and brash claim as Brown, but he is every bit the conservative idealogue as Brown.

None of their efforts touting GOP policies have helped much. Bush still got only a marginal bump up overall in the black vote in 2004 and with his Katrina bumbling, his poll ratings are stuck even deeper in the tank with blacks. Still, Republicans have done everything possible to ease the way up the political ladder for their bevy of black conservatives.

Allen's career is a textbook example of that. He was barely out of the University of North Carolina when he became the spokesman for Senator Jesse Helms' reelection campaign in 1982. He moved from there to work for Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he then bagged a prize clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Next he was appointed council for Virginia's Attorney General, then he became Virginia's Deputy Attorney General and later Secretary of Health and Human Services. When his nomination for appeals court judge didn't pan out, Bush made him his top domestic policy advisor.

In years past, scandal-plagued black Republican boosters and appointees pretty much skated away with little more than a spate of bad publicity and a hand slap. Allen may not be as lucky. He may eventually be prosecuted, but as long as Republicans find men like him useful in their drive to make the party appear to be an authentic voice in black America, they'll do whatever they can to keep them as far out of legal harm's way as possible.

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