Family, military prayer policy or criminal investigation?

allen45Read this for a refresher, then read this. A bit shocking, isn't it? Here are the details:

Claude A. Allen, who resigned last month as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, was arrested this week in Montgomery County for allegedly swindling Target and Hecht's stores out of more than $5,000 in a refund scheme, police said.

Allen, 45, of Gaithersburg, has been released on his own recognizance and is awaiting trial on two charges, felony theft scheme and theft over $500, said Lt. Eric Burnett, a police spokesman. Each charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

What to make of it all? One might ask why the Washington Post put Allen's race so far up in the story (sixth paragraph). He's certainly qualified and has the conservative credentials to serve at this level.

The Post followed up Sunday with this piece, the race factor is about as high as one could put it, and it's ironic in several ways:

Claude A. Allen has said his mother warned him that as a black man he risked ruining his life, or at least his career, by becoming a Republican. As it turned out, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Allen rose steadily through the Republican political ranks. From congressional campaign aide, to Senate staffer, state Cabinet secretary, federal appeals court nominee and the upper reaches of the Bush administration -- all by age 45.

But Allen's once-soaring career has taken a bizarre turn with his arrest Thursday on theft charges for allegedly ripping off two department stores in a phony refund scheme.

The arrest of Allen, who suddenly resigned last month as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, startled those in his big-ticket Gaithersburg neighborhood and at the White House who knew him as a soft-spoken and collegial aide who was loyal to his young family and devoted to his church.

"When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment," Bush said yesterday.

cizik2Race is leading this story right now for the Post. You have a top aide in a Republican White House -- who makes $161,000 -- accused of engaging in shady dealings at some local stores for a few grand.

It's a pretty basic Washington scandal, one that seems to drop by every five years or so. But I would contend there is a religion ghost that is not getting much attention at this point.

Only weeks earlier, Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, was using Allen's departure from the White House as an example of how the Bush Administration is not friendly toward evangelicals because "they know evangelicals are obedient to a higher principle."

What to make of this bizarre development?

The general guiding principle must be "innocent until proven guilty," but one must wonder about the true reason Allen left the White House. Some said it was because Allen wasn't satisfied with a White House policy on prayer in the military. Allen contended it was for family reasons.

More details are certainly to come out in support of Allen's claim of innocence -- right now reporters' facts are largely provided by the prosecution -- but it was well within reason to consider that Allen's departure was due to the investigation.

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