Ringside seat on history....
This year the Virginia Bar Association opened their annual candidates debate to the public for the first time which allowed many Republican supporters to make the drive to The Homestead to support our candidate, Senator George Allen. Many familiar faces were seen and, sure enough, when the candidates were introduced and entered the room, fully three-fourths of the crowd belonged to George Allen.
There were three main highlights in the debate for me. One was when Senator Allen asked what Jim Webb would do about Craney Island ... and there was total silence ... before Webb finally responded that he didn't know what that was. It showed the difference between a candidate who had "come up through the ranks" by serving in public office and learning about Virginia's issues -- on-the-job training, so to speak -- and a candidate who said at the beginning of the debate that he had never run for public office before and it was his first debate.
The second highlight was Webb's comments about Guantanamo Bay. Coming from a military man I found them disturbing because he had bought into the liberal/Democrat spin that we had mistreated prisoners at Guantanamo and needed to set an example for the rest of the world ("They're watching us," he said) ... or risk having our soldiers "mistreated" also. What was glaringly obvious, at least to some of us, was the fact our soldiers had been given no chance to be "mistreated" by the enemy because they had been beheaded and their bodies booby-trapped with explosives, and other atrocities. I expect a die-hard, anti-war, Bush-hating liberal to think like that ... but a former military man?
The third highlight was when Webb was asked which administration/president he most admired ... and his response was Ronald Reagan. I could almost feel the Democrats in the room fall off their chairs and the collective groan as their Democrat candidate talked about why he had admiration for a REPUBLICAN president.
One thing I noticed was the way Webb kept weaving the fact he was a writer into many of his responses ... author of books, articles, journalist ... it reminded me of 2004 when Kerry reminded debate listeners ad nauseum that he had served in Vietnam.
George Allen was typical George Allen ... relaxed and in touch with the room as he welcomed everyone with a hearty "Good Morning!" and received a rousing "Good Morning!" right back from the audience. He was comfortable and in an element he enjoys -- debating issues, government, history -- and it showed. Webb came across as stiff and maybe a little too scripted/coached, someone who had his talking points memorized and ready to be tossed in whenever possible.
I won't recap further as there are now many media and blog reports about the debate but suffice it to say I am still pinching myself at the opportunity for this political junkie to get a major political fix.