I used considerably stronger language than “cad,” “boor,” or “jerk” in describing Webb and his conduct when I viewed the news report on TV. Let’s just say that my anatomical references, spoken at a decibel level that made my dogs cower, certainly fell outside the pale of the speech my Southern mama would endorse. If Webb was attempting to avoid the President as he declares, the surest way to do it was not to go to the White House where the man lives! Since he chose to show up, common decency requires that he behave in a manner something better than a gutter snipe. Surely, it was an innocuous inquiry from the President, actually a very kind one from a man whose courtesy has surely been tested a great deal more than Webb’s. And I wonder if there will be any Secret Service investigation of Fightin’ Jim’s assertion that he was ready to “slug” the President, as has been reported?
I suspect Virginia voters are suffering from some serious buyer’s remorse about now. George Allen, whatever his flaws (and I think the bulk were media creations), is probably looking really good about right now. In the meantime, Webb, Kerry, Charles Rangel, and the contemptible John Murtha are probably the best advertisements the Republicans have going for themselves right now. While as a partisan I am not particularly unhappy, as an American I cringe. Is a politician of Webb’s ilk what we have descended to? Six years will be a long time to endure his antics. Granted, the Republic will survive, surely … but I am not sure about my blood pressure.
— Warren Mowry
First it was George Will, with his schoolmarmish attack on Jim Webb’s encounter with President Bush and excruciating deconstruction of Webb’s use of two words (“literally” and “infinitely”) in his Wall Street Journal article. Then it was R. Emmett Tyrrell, with his breathless recounting of a meal in a “classy eatery” with Webb circa 1983. Now we have Mr. Bowman weighing in and attacking Webb for making a “public fuss about his military record” and using it to “intimidate others”, claiming that Mr. Webb attacked Mr. Allen for “cowardice.”
Mr. Bowman writes about honor. Tell me, Mr. Bowman, is it honorable, when recounting a story of someone’s alleged boorishness, to leave out a critical piece of information about the encounter in order to enhance the allegation? When President Bush tracked down Webb, who was avoiding him, and asked “how’s your boy?” Mr. Webb is reported to have replied “I’d like them home, Mr. President,” to which Bush replied “I didn’t ask you that. I asked how’s your boy,” to which Mr. Webb replied “that’s between me and my boy, Mr. President”, and walked away. In his column Mr. Will left out the churlish “I didn’t ask you that” and claimed that Mr. Bush had politely inquired twice about the “boy” and was rebuffed. What element of honor requires that Mr. Webb discuss a family member with the President? What element of honor allows a host to demand that a guest answer a personal question when the guest does not wish to do so? In what way was Mr. Bush being “caring” when he persisted in asking an unwelcome personal question? And where was Mr. Will’s unctuous concern when Vice President Cheney responded to a Democratic senator’s offer of a handshake with “Go f**k yourself”?
Then we have Mr. Tyrrell with his breathless account of a dinner with Webb some twenty-four years ago. He describes it as “gruesome,” prattles on about how he kept trying to “reassure” Webb that dinner was on him, and that Webb still wouldn’t warm up to him in spite of his boundless charm. Well it couldn’t be that Webb simply found him a bore and didn’t enjoy being at dinner with him, could it? How offensive and patronizing to say that Webb, a bestselling author and former Navy Secretary, was uncommunicative because he was “fearful” of paying for dinner at Tyrrell’s “classy eatery.”
Last we have Mr. Bowman himself, who talks about manners but does not see how profoundly Bush trespassed upon them by insisting that Webb answer a personal question. And honor? Honor does not require obsequiousness or that one forfeit ones right to privacy. Honor demands only that when asserting oneself one does not yell, act petulant, dramatize, or demean. Webb’s first response to Bush was an attempt to deflect the personal question with a general reply, spoken quietly and with the honorific. When Bush rudely persisted in demanding an answer, Webb replied firmly, but not offensively, and with the honorific. If you wish to talk about honor, Mr. Bowman, tell us how honorable it was for Mr. Bush twice to attempt to discuss Webb’s son with him, knowing that Webb holds him responsible for the war, knowing that Webb’s son is in a combat zone, and probably fully aware that Webb’s son had recently fought in a battle in which three of his platoon members were killed.
During the campaign Webb rarely spoke of his son, and then only to say it was his son who asked him to wear his combat boots. Webb was the despair of his campaign managers who wanted to focus on his military service. Of his nine commercials only one, the Gipper commercial, speaks much at all of his military service, and then only to illustrate his character. Mr. Bowman accuses Webb of attacking Allen for “cowardice.” He did no such thing. Allen, taking excerpts from Webb’s fine (according to Mr. Tyrrell) historical novels, attacked Mr. Webb’s character and imputed perversion to him. This caused Webb to lash out that he was fighting in a war when Allen was playing around on a dude ranch. It was one of the rare times Webb talked about his military service and about Mr. Allen’s lack thereof. Even Mr. Will thought Allen was going too far.
All these three articles did was illustrate the enormous divide between elitists like Bowman, Will, and Tyrrell, and the rest of the country.
— Carla F. Ward
Congratulations to Mr. Bowman for his hypocritical rant about Senator Webb’s courage to express the sentiments of most Americans about the war in Iraq to Mr. Bush’s face, something that no Republican sycophants have had the gumption to do. Bowman’s pretensions are hypocritical because he is of the same crowd of conservative pundits who cheered Dick Cheney’s “straight talking” after his vulgar insult to Senator Leahy on the floor of the Senate last summer. The extent that Mr. Bowman seeks to stand as the guardian of civility in politics is laughable. It is well know by most mainstream voters, like myself, that it is the vitriolic hate and distortion that streams constantly from the Limbaughs and Savages of the right that is the true source of the decline of civility in our national discourse. I suggest Mr. Bowman get off his high horse and smell around his own side of the aisle as there is plenty there that stinks.
— Paul Griffin
I would call it “piling on”: the esteemed editor of this publication, one of its noted contributors, along with the additional musings of a nationally known columnist, have all decided that the recent victor in the Virginia senatorial race, Jim Webb, is, among other things, a cad, a jerk, not a (Southern) gentleman, inclined toward personal violence and intimidation, and, most serious of all, a modern day Benedict Arnold. Fancy that! One wonders what’s left: serial murderer?
Let me clarify my position from the outset: I have neither a personal loyalty to senator-elect Webb, nor did I cast my ballot in his behalf on Election Day, but the Tyrrell/Bowman/Will jeremiad is just plain silly.
RET’s account of his dining experience with Webb, albeit humorous, appears to be a major factor in his evaluation of the senator to be. But how many who question Webb’s ability to handle properly his fork and knife (he is, after all, a graduate of the Naval Academy), or his excessive pugnacity, have ever met the man? Allow me to raise my hand.
While I served as press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Norway during the mid-80s, Webb, the then Assistant Secretary for Reserve and Manpower, visited. At that time, the U.S. and British Marines, along with other NATO forces, held joint military exercises in Norway above the Arctic Circle, for there was a threat to “the northern flank” of NATO due to the presence of Soviet submarine bases in the Kola Peninsula. I was assigned the serve as Webb’s embassy “control,” mainly, I might add, due to the fact that I had read his three (at the time) published novels.
During the luncheon held in the ambassador’s residence, Webb spoke of the Soviet naval threat with precision and knowledge; his responses to all questions were carefully thought out and measured; in short he was in his element. If memory serves, he did not drool or talk with his mouth full of food either. But what followed I retain, twenty years after, as an indelibly etched memory: I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with him, and Webb, always a gentleman, allowed your scribe to question him, among other things, about his article, “Why Women Can’t Fight,” the plight of the military academies, as well as the state of the Cold War. He was nothing short of impressive, and quite comfortable in his own skin.
What I believe is missing in these three accounts of Webb’s lese-majeste is the disgust that has welled up in sizeable portions of the U.S. population toward both parties. There is a floating animus among (former) Republican voters who claim that they have been betrayed by their party, and if that means electing someone else from the other party, well, so be it. I, for one, will keep an eye on the new senator-elect, to see how long he will eschew the Washington cocktail circuit. And, yes, Webb should consider his manners the next time he sees the president. For truth be told, it was the vote against the president that got Webb elected, and one should always be thankful — and civil — to folks who, even unintentionally, are helpful to your cause.
Finally, I cannot help but think that Webb, flawed as this triumvirate thinks he may be, is someone to watch. When is the last time that an underdog Democrat won a Senate race against an incumbent Republican in a putatively GOP stronghold? The Democrats know they cannot win the presidency in ’08 without splitting “the solid Republican South,” and I don’t think that thought has been lost in Clinton’s campaign headquarters.
— Vincent Chiarello
First Mr. Bowman, Bush should have said ‘”how is your son,” not your boy…There are no “boys” in Iraq. There are men.
Second, why don’t you comment on as to why Bush called to congratulate Harry Reid, but snubbed Mitch McConnell?
The boor is Bush who insulted both men.
— Mark Hodges
It occurred to me that your article on James Webb’s “authenticity” of his feelings and lack of civility reminded me of the Clinton and Frank interviews with Chris Wallace. As you recall, Wallace asked questions to both men as any reasonable interviewer might, yet their reactions were on Clinton’s part, over the top and Franks’ an affront on the premise of his interviewers line of questioning. Clinton as President, demanded softball questions or one would lose the privileges of access to the President a la Brit Hume being “fired” for stepping out of line and Barney Frank attacking Wallace for asking something different than the setup to the program.
It would appear that the “offended” have a right to be rude. They do not. Civility has been hijacked by the left since they began trotting out “victims” or the “offended” as attack dogs against those who choose to remain civil. Cindy Sheehan could not be attacked or properly addressed since she had “victim” status, Max Cleland, Michael J. Fox, the Jersey girls all share the same status. Webb, Clinton, Franks and those to come, will ensure the future of rudeness on display for all to see. The lack of response by the civil will be seen as weakness and thus, allow for the frequency and the timbre of rudeness to swell to incredible heights down the road.
Civility and humility go hand in hand, rudeness and egotism as well. When the humble/civil lose an argument (real or perceived), an election, or any other non-physical confrontation, they back off, regroup and choose to fight another day. The rude and egotistical affront, attack and abuse those who encroach their personal space, their reasoning or their motives.
I suggest that the civil have a responsibility to “smack down” the aggressors each time, so that, they might learn that their bark is exactly what it appears, empty, self-centered, shameless and most of all, uncivilized. It is truly the bite of the dog that one would wish to avoid, but the bark is empty until challenged and when challenged, vanity, self-interest, ego, etc. are shown to be what they are: self serving and in poor taste. One might lose an argument for the moment by giving back what one receives in an uncivil attack, but like Brit Hume, there is a much brighter future around the corner and most often, has the last laugh.
Enjoyed the article and look forward to more.
— Bill Elsasser
St. Louis, Missouri
Finally! Someone recognized Richards rant for what it probably was, not necessarily one from a racist, but someone looking for a weapon he knew would hurt as much as he was hurting. it really amazed me that in all the discussion of this incident this obvious explanation never came up.
Thank you, Mr. Bowman.
—Michael S. Ryan
My mother is an 8th-generation Virginian, so I found Mr. Tyrrell’s analysis fascinating. It sounds as if America has finally found her very own George Galloway, albeit, as a Yank, minus the charm.
— Forest Crocker
“A rebarbative blowhard.” Whew. “Serving or tending to irritate or repel” married to “an exceptionally boastful and talkative person” is one edgy combo. To that, adding “cad”? Well, the sum of all those semantical parts ought to generate a few harrumphs from certain quarters and lots of invective from others.
That said, Mr. Webb apparently doesn’t understand about respecting the office of the president, even if he doesn’t like its current titleholder. Nor does it appear he has the savvy to understand when someone actually might be genuinely interested in the well-being of his son.
The churlish fellow might consider dismounting his high horse and leaving his shoulder chip at home — and I’m not faulting him for his love and concern for his son, even anger about his son’s predicament, but, let’s face it: His son is volunteer, a Marine, and both son and father knew what that might mean — and admit that really how the senator-elect’s son is doing is really between his son and the Lord.
But, then, that would be politically incorrect and certainly un-Democratic to admit, wouldn’t it?
— C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia
As a former Marine officer and Vietnam veteran, I found Senator-elect James Webb’s imitation of Cindy Sheehan as disgraceful as it was self-important.
I just wish Dubya had called Webb’s bluff with: “Your son’s a Marine — right? Does HE! want to come home because if he does, I’ll pick up that phone right now.”
— John Connolly
Kudos to Jim Webb for refusing to kowtow to King George!
— Nick Werle