Thursday, November 30, 2006

The New Senator From Virginia is a Real Jerk

Not only is Virginia's new Jr. Senator a socialist and the author of some questionable materials, but apparently he is also an incredibly pompous jerk.

November 30, 2006
Webb Offends Bush & the English Language
By George Will
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WASHINGTON -- That was certainly swift. Washington has a way of quickly acculturating people, especially those who are most susceptible to derangement by the derivative dignity of office. But Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.

Wednesday's Washington Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush,'' refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?'' Webb replied, "I'd like to get them (sic) out of Iraq.'' When the president again asked, "How's your boy?'' Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy.'' Webb told the Post:

"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. (But) leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is.''

Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another. When -- if ever -- Webb grows weary of admiring his new grandeur as a "leader'' who carefully calibrates the "symbolic things'' he does to convey messages, he might consider this: In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves.

Even before Webb's studied truculence in response to the president's hospitality, Webb was going out of his way to make waves. A week after the election, he published a column in The Wall Street Journal that began this way:

"The most important -- and unfortunately the least debated -- issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country.''


In his novels and his political commentary, Webb has been a writer of genuine distinction, using language with care and precision. But just days after winning an election, he was turning out slapdash prose that would be rejected by a reasonably demanding high school teacher.

Never mind Webb's careless and absurd assertion that the nation's incessantly discussed wealth gap is "the least debated'' issue in American politics.

And never mind his use of the word "literally,'' although even with private schools and a large share of the nation's wealth, the "top tier'' -- whatever cohort he intends to denote by that phrase; he is suddenly too inflamed by social injustice to tarry over the task of defining his terms -- does not "literally'' live in another country.

And never mind the cavalier historical judgments -- although is he sure that America is less egalitarian today than it was, say, 50 years ago, when only about 7 percent of American adults had college degrees? (Twenty-eight percent do today.) Or 80 years ago, when more than 80 percent of American adults did not have high school diplomas (85 percent have them today), and only about 46 percent owned their own homes, compared with 69 percent today?

But notice, in the second sentence of Webb's column, the word "infinitely.'' Earth to Webb: Words have meanings that not even senators can alter. And he has been elected to be a senator, not Humpty Dumpty in "Through the Looking Glass.'' (When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.) America's national economic statistics are excellent; Webb could actually tell us how
much richer the "top tier'' has become, relative to other cohorts, over a particular span. But that would require him to actually say who he is talking about, and that takes time and effort, and senators -- Webb is a natural -- often are too busy for accuracy.

Based on Webb's behavior before being sworn in, one shudders to think what he will be like after that. He already has become what Washington did not need another of, a subtraction from the city's civility and clear speaking.

Apparently, he is also an all-around unpleasant character, as we see in this article by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., posted on CNN's site.

WASHINGTON (CREATORS) -- When Ronald Reagan's former secretary of the Navy, James Webb, eked out victory against the Republican Sen. George Allen in Virginia, what did the Democrats gain? To be sure they gained control of the Senate. That has been widely noted. Less widely noted is the fact that they gained something infinitely more subtle, but delightfully more amusing as will become apparent in the months ahead. In Webb they gained yet another very unpleasant person as a conspicuous member of the party hierarchy. He will not be easily obscured. Webb now takes his place with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr. Howard Dean, Al Gore, Jean-Francois Kerry and so many other Democratic notables as a rebarbative blowhard with whom you would not want to share a gondola. Nor would a civilized American want to have any of these churlish cads to dinner or even as neighbors down the block. Just the other day one of Sen. Clinton's neighbors turned up with a gunshot wound. I would not be surprised if it were self-inflicted.

All of the above are demonstrably unpleasant individuals, known for their public temper tantrums, their rudeness to staff, their slipperiness with the truth and their occasional bizarre outbursts. The Republicans have a few such stinkers, for instance Newt Gingrich, but not nearly as many. It almost seems that to be a Democratic notable one has to be ill-tempered and, as I say, unpleasant.

Think back to Dean's historic scream and frequent public demonstrations of bile. Think of Clinton's and Gore's mendacious moments and lapses into self-absorption when public matters were at issue, for instance 9/11. Think of how often all of them have played the role of the bad sport after a failed election or, in Hillary's case, a visit to a grand jury.

Recall, if you will, Sen. Kerry's recent catastrophic joke on the campaign trail. To many Americans he seemed to be saying that our solders serving in Iraq are dolts. Call me naive, but personally I accepted his explanation that he merely botched a joke meant to imply that President George W. Bush is a dolt -- Bush, who, incidentally, graduated from Yale with a higher grade point than this intellectual mediocrity. Nonetheless, it was in Kerry's defense of his botched joke that he revealed his unpleasant essence. He snarled that, "I apologize to no one." In his hastily called press conference he went on to pout, "I'm not going to stand for it." And he went on in his bullying diatribe to thunder, "I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans ... Enough is enough. We're not going to stand for it." For what? For perceived mistreatment from "these Republican hacks who've never worn the uniform of our country ... " blah, blah, blah.

As I say, Kerry is an unpleasant fellow in a party increasingly led by unpleasant fellows and fellowesses. Consider incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who blustered to Time magazine not long ago, "Anybody who's ever dealt with me knows not to mess with me." Again, is this someone you would care to dine with or even pass in a hallway?

As it happens I did dine with Webb, sometime after his brief stint at the Department of the Navy. He is a pretty good novelist and in print at the time had expressed some ideas of which I approved, particularly his scruples against women in combat, though other of his references to women strike me as coarse. At any rate, I invited him to dinner for what turned out to be a gruesome evening. Webb is one of those people of whom it is said he is uncomfortable in his skin. At first I thought his discomfort might come from the fear he was going to have to pay his way. It was a classy eatery. I reassured him that he was my guest. I went on to make clear I considered him a fine writer. Nothing I said reassured him, not even my insistence that he have dessert. I left baffled. Most of the military men I have known are gents. Many writers are cads, but I thought a writer who had also served high up in the Reagan administration might be civilized. After that dinner I never made the mistake of inviting him anywhere again.

His campaign was a prolonged demonstration of his caddishness. He who had called President Bill Clinton's administration the most corrupt in modern history invited Clinton to campaign with him. He actually exploited his own son's present service in Iraq for political advancement. While campaigning he paraded around in his son's combat boots! There were others in the 2006 election with sons in Iraq. One is a leading opponent of the war. None put a son in such an embarrassing and potentially dangerous position. Once elected, Webb took his boorishness to the White House.

Invited there with other freshmen members of Congress, Webb refused to stand in the presidential receiving line. He would not have his picture taken with the president. "How's your boy?" the Washington Post reports the president asking him later during the reception. Webb replied that he would like to get the troops home, a point appropriate for the campaign trail but not at a White House social event. "That's not what I asked," the president persisted, "How's your boy?" "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," the unpleasant Webb replied, and he cut his host. This the Post portrayed as part of Webb's "unpolished style." "I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall," he told a reporter. Well, then a gentleman does not accept the president's invitation to the White House and no one told him he would have to display the picture anywhere.

According to The Hill, Webb even told a source for the paper that "he was so angered by this (encounter) that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief." Webb claims that one of his heroes is President Andrew Jackson. I too admire Old Hickory, but I at least recognize the rough ways of the early 19th century are not to be reprised in the 21st century. What next, will the junior senator from Virginia begin challenging those who arouse him to a duel? What century does Webb think he is living in? Believe me Sen. Webb is going to be a vast source of amusement, and he will fit in nicely with the unpleasant pols whose political base is the Angry Left.

I have said it before and I shall be saying it again, often politics is not a rational act. Increasingly, especially in the Democratic Party, it encourages behavior that is abnormal: politicians windsurfing to assure their constituencies that they are just like them or ranting to show how genuinely human they are. These pols play on the fantasies of mildly delusional voters. In the case of the unpleasant Webb, the delusions are a bit over the top. It makes me wonder why his stay at the Department of the Navy was so brief. Did the Reaganites shove him out? Did one of them make the mistake of taking him to dinner? Or did they catch him acting up at a White House reception that has gone unreported? Some reporters should have looked into this.

Webb's predecessor was most certainly a flawed candidate, but he was an excellent Governor and a good Senator as well. He payed for Maccaca and the war in Iraq with his political career.

I expect that it won't be long however until we see "Don't Blame Me I voted for Allen" bumper stickers all over the Old Dominion.

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1 comment:

American Daughter said...

In Virginia, you can use your driver's license, which has a picture ID, to vote.

In Virginia, we have huge numbers of illegal aliens who pay smugglers $2000 per person to sneak them up here from South America. Almost all of them get driver's licenses, which are issued based on a residential address, and do not require proof of citizenship. You will recall that the Al Qaeda terrorists who piloted planes into the twin towers had Virginia driver's licenses.

Webb won by a very narrow margin. Draw your own conclusions. We call him "potty mouth."