I am beginning to feel sympathy for George Allen.

1. Last month when the "macaca" scandal broke, I asserted (in this post) that the incident demonstrated poor judgment and a lack of discipline. In fact, the unfortunate exchange illustrated that he was unsuited for the enormous demands of the presidency (and the exhausting campaign to be president). In essence, I called him out on one strike.

2. Then last week, in what can only be described as a bizarre exchange, a local reporter asked him if he was Jewish. He fumbled and fumed and denied the assertion. Later we learned that his mother is Jewish, and his grandfather, for whom Allen gained his middle name (Felix), survived the holocaust. To further confuse matters, in his answer to the original question, Allen alluded to his grandfather's "incarceration by Nazis," even as he claimed ignorance of his Jewish heritage. Then he later admitted that he knew of his Jewishness on the night of the debate--but had only recently learned of his lineage (presumably still in the process of digesting the revelation).

If there can be a lighter side to this excruciating series of misadventures, the whole story reminds me of the gag line from the old Steve Martin movie, the Jerk, (referring to Martin's character): "He was the son of poor black sharecroppers who never dreamed he was adopted."

Since the disclosure, the Senator has gone on to make a few lame jokes about ham sandwiches and Hebrew National hot dogs. No harm; no foul. Odd and disquieting but not damning.

3. But enter now, the piece de resistance, an accusation of racial violence. The astonishing charge accompanies a new string of allegations that Allen employed racial epithets in earlier times, which purport to confirm a racial insensitivity that has long been rumored.

An aside: we would have called these long-running shadowy imputations a "whispering campaign," if Allen were a more media-protected public official.

The charges: Allen used racial epithets back in the 1970s, and possibly even as late as the early 1980s, claim several ex-friends and acquaintances. Among the witnesses for the prosecution is celebrity Political Science professor and TV pundit, Larry Sabato, who admits not knowing Allen very well, but says he "knows that Allen used the n-word" (Washington Post story here).

Much more extraordinary, one witness (an old teammate) alleges that Allen, back in 1974, after a successful hunting trip, stuffed a decapitated deer's head into the mailbox of a random African American family (Washington Post story here).

Allen categorically denies all the charges. Could they be true?

The deer-head story seems a bit farfetched. As some have pointed out, that is the kind of rampage story that would have made the rounds on a football team, and there is no evidence that anyone else on the team ever heard an account of that before this week.

As for the racial epithet accusations, they are much more credible but certainly not conclusive. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post asserts that these stories have power because they resonate with what people in the know really believe about Allen. Added to Allen's history of reverence for the Confederacy, playing a Confederate officer in a movie (Gods and Generals) and opposition to the MLK holiday in Virginia, these new charges weave together a story that some have been drafting in their heads for years.

Yet, there is a sense of "piling on" here. Personal foul. Unsportsmanlike conduct. How much is too much? For ten years, Allen has represented the voters of Virginia in its two highest offices. He has a voluminous public record. Chasing down racial epithets from 1974 may be important, but what of his four years as governor and his six years as senator? Those histories strike me as better indicators of his ability to represent the state of Virginia and what the next six years of his tenure might look like. What about his stand on the issues of the day? What about Iraq?

As I have said, Allen is not presidential timber. But what of Virginia and 2006?

Americans have a keen (if sometimes quirky) sense of propriety and justice. I think the people of Virginia have seen just about enough of this national media feeding frenzy. I look for Allen's fortunes to bottom out very soon and begin a slow but steady uptick through Election Day. My prediction: Allen beats Webb in November.

One caveat: if the deer-head story proves to be True (with a capital T), Allen is justifiably finished in this country.