That’s My Senator!

I was more than a little surprised when Jim Webb defeated incumbent George Allen in the recent Virginia Senate election. I voted for him happily, but didn’t rate his chances very high. My confidence in him has only soared in light of recent events. Here’s George Will:

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.”

My kind of guy! Will is less impressed:

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.

I’m getting weepy. Try to picture the situation: There’s poor President Bush, gamely putting aside all the mean things Webb said about him during the campaign to express some totally sincere concern for the well-being of Webb’s son, a son whose well-being is in jeopardy for reasons having nothing to do with his feckless and ill-conceived foreign policy. And, almost inconceivably, Webb seems unimpressed by this magnanimous gesture. Life can be so cruel.

Nora Ephron has a far more intelligent take on the situation:

This is truly Washington, in case you wonder what Washington truly is. Washington is a place where politics is just something you do all day. You lie, you send kids to war, you give them inadequate equipment, they’re wounded and permanently maimed, they die, whatever. Then night falls, and you actually think you get to pretend that none of it matters. “How’s your boy?” That, according to George Will, is a civil and caring question, one parent to another? It seems to me that it’s exactly the sort of guy talk that passes for conversation in Bushworld, just one-up from the frat-boy banter that is usually so seductive to Bush’s guests. George Bush once said to someone I know, “How old is that seersucker suit anyway?” and my friend (who should know better) went for it lock stock and barrel.

So finally someone said to George Bush, Don’t think that what you stand for is beside the point. Don’t think that because you’re President you’re entitled to my good opinion. Don’t think that asking about my boy means that I believe for even one second that you care. If you did, you’d be doing something about bringing the troops home.

George Will thinks this is bad manners.

I don’t.

I think it’s too bad it doesn’t happen more often.

Well said.


  1. #1 Devil
    December 4, 2006

    When the president asked the second time, he boorishly prefaced it with “That’s not what I asked you.”

    Webb’s son just had a few friends killed in a very recent attack, and I can understand if Webb’s not ready to make nice with Bush. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

    I’m glad I voted for Webb too.

  2. #2 pough
    December 4, 2006

    Ah yes, a caring question from one dad to another. Uh-huh. Nevermind that the dad asking the question sent the other dad’s son to a hellhole war for no good reason while his own flibbertigibbets primp and preen back home, safe and secure. That’s just details.

  3. #3 ERIC JUVE
    December 4, 2006

    I thought Webb maight have said “My son is fighting in Iraq, how are your daughters doing ?”

  4. #4 SLC
    December 4, 2006

    Will is just writing a make up column. During the campaign, he trashed Allen as a stumblebum so now, as a good conservative Republican’t, he feels the need to trash Webb.

  5. #5 The Ridger
    December 4, 2006

    Will is so out of touch and irrelevant it’s almost funny. Talk about insufferably full of oneself… I didn’t vote for Webb, but then I don’t live in Virginia.

  6. #6 ZacharySmith
    December 4, 2006

    Maybe the presidency will get some respect when the president starts respecting the little niceties of life. You know, things like…the CONSTITUTION!

  7. #7 Joe
    December 4, 2006

    Great post, and I like his sentiments! However, Bush is a highly vindictive person with feelings of entitlement (according to one of his former professors). Webb may have reduced his legislative effectiveness for the next two years. On the other hand, he’ll just be getting his sea-legs in that time, anyway.

  8. #8 Timcol
    December 12, 2006

    It’s worth remembering that the person who has disgraced the office of the President the most is none other than the person who currently holds this office. Bush has done untold incalcuable damage to both this country and the world. As a President he has totally failed the American people and even now refuses to listen to what is so patently obvious to all. If a CEO of a company had behaved like this he would have got the boot long ago. He deserves no respect, allegiance or any form of social nicities. We still respect the position of the President but acknowledge that the current incumbent is not fit to serve.

    It’s a shame that the U.S. constitution does not have an “incompetence” clause that can be invoked to rid us of this person.

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