A front row seat on history....
I asked four questions yesterday morning before the Webb-Allen debate and now, after sitting in and observing, I have the answers plus more. The questions I asked were:
1) Will Jim Webb allow George Allen to respond to questions without speaking over him as he did repeatedly on Meet The Press?
Number of times Webb spoke over George Allen during debate: 4
Number of times Senator Allen spoke over Webb: 0
2) Will Jim Webb give us some idea of what he has in mind as far as handling the Iraq War besides the pat response of "we shouldn't be there," "we need to get out," etc.?
Short answer, no.
But when asked by George Stephanapoulos if he would vote for cutting appropriations for the war, Webb said no.
3) Will the moderator (and I still have questions about George Stephanapoulos modering the debate -- couldn't they find someone a little more bipartisan?) pull some information out from Webb about Virginia issues?
I was pleasantly surprised at George Stephanapoulos' handling of the debate. Although he opened by expressing interest in this race because it was now a "barn burner," he was even-handed and didn't let his partisan politics show.
4) Will the moderator bring out and perhaps ask a question or two about the accomplishments of GOVERNOR George Allen?
Shortly into the debate, a bizaar question was asked by reporter Peggy Fox that brought boos from the crowd and calls of, "What's that got to do with anything?" Look at the video here of this part of the debate.
There were 800 people in attendance. Sold out.
Opening and closing statements: Senator Allen was positive with his achievements and desire to continue in leadership. Webb was negative, saying we needed solutions (but conveniently leaving out any ideas about how to go about obtaining those solutions), and offering nothing tangible to hang on to.
On at least three occasions Webb said he "echoed" George Allen's sentiments - he had nothing to offer on his own. He then offered negatives....
1) America's foreign policy is in complete disarray due to Iraq.
2) We have three Americas.
3) Called it "Karl Rove" politics and professed dismay at the negative campaigning. He must have had a deaf ear to the "macaca" incident that was hounded on continuously in the lib/lefty blogs and media.
4) Everytime Webb was asked if he would vote for whatever bill that had been proposed by whichever senator/congressman, he conveniently said yes.
5) On the stem cell issue Webb is for embryotic stem cell research and commented that this was even Nancy Reagan's project.
Webb appeared to entirely miss the point that NOW he was being respectful of Nancy Reagan but NOT when she asked him to withhold the footage in his TV ads showing Webb with President Ronald Reagan ... those same ads that he began airing on Monday, 9/11, when every other campaign held their ads in respect of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 ... something the mainstream media has also let slide instead of holding the Webb campaign, and Jim Webb himself, accountable.
6) Said terrorists (I believe he used the word "insurgents" but they are terrorists) are blowing up oil pipe lines in Iraq and want Americans out. (Well, duh!)
7) When asked about the scathing article Webb wrote against including women in the military including the "horny" reference, he never apologized for saying it. He apologized for the tone of the article but said to look at the tone of the times.
Senator Allen responded there were women who were affected who still talk about Webb's words, not his tone.
8) Because the subject of women in the military came up, and Webb was asked to be accountable for what he wrote, he snarled, "This must be my 'macaca' payback. Keep trying, George."
9) When George Allen was asked about transportation needs he explained his belief in a private-public partnership with private investment to help. Switch to Webb ... and again he said he agreed with Allen but offered no real solutions of his own.
The closing statements were interesting. Senator Allen went first and used his three minutes to thank everyone for being there and told of what he had helped accomplish while in office to help with everything from transportation in the congested NOVA area to education. He ended by asking that the voters allow him to continue to represent them.
Jim Webb's closing statement went negative ... there are problems out there ... issues to be resolved ... the war is wrong ... Senator Allen is wrong ... everything seemed to be wrong and we needed to find solutions ... but he didn't offer the solutions! He said he wanted national defense to be properly focused on again. Well ... hello! I believe that's what the President is doing. Sorry; my opinion there....
I attended the debate with Rhonda Winfield, the Marine mom whose 19-year-old son, Jason Redifer, was killed in Iraq on January 31, 2005. She is a staunch supporter of George Allen.
After the debate she approached Jim Webb and, after waiting for 10 minutes or so, finally got his attention as he was pulling away from the venue. She asked him, "What is your plan for Iraq so my son did not die in vain?"
Webb's response: "I think we've done the job. My son's in Iraq right now." And he went on to elaborate on his service in Vietnam and his worse nightmare was to have that happen again ... and then he finally said, "God bless your son," and hugged her. It struck me that his immediate response was not to express his sorrow at her loss but, rather, that it came later in the conversation. While talking about it on our drive back to the Valley, Rhonda called it a "photo op" hug and said he was the first Marine she had ever encountered who did not feel like a brother Marine.
More on this to come....
"I think we've done the job. My son's in Iraq right now."
What does that mean? If it is supposed to be a positive statement it should make headline news as he has never had a good word to say about the war that I've been able to find.
"I think we've done the job." We who? The naysayers and backstabbers and armchair generals? PUH-LEEZE.
End of rant.
You are an awesome reporter. Thank you for the first-hand insight.
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