Monday, December 04, 2006

"Webb's witty reply"

Today's Waynesboro News Virginian has an editorial about Jim Webb's recent widely-discussed boorish behavior at the White House. All I can say is, "Wow!" The News Virginian gets it. No apologies ... just the cold, hard facts.

Webb's witty reply
One reason we did not endorse Jim Webb in this fall’s Senate campaign was his lack of experience, especially compared with the incumbent’s long history of legislative accomplishments.

We hesitate to say, “We told you so,” but …

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, our Senator-elect demonstrated that he has a lot to learn about the ways of Washington.

According to an account in The Washington Post, which Webb confirms, Webb first bypassed the reception line that is customary at these events so he wouldn’t have to shake hands with President Bush. Then he declined an opportunity to have his photo taken with the President.

Finally, Bush approached Webb and offered congratulations on his victory in last month’s election.

Then Bush asked what is a very normal question: “How’s your boy?”

Webb’s son is a Marine serving in Iraq. Webb made a point of wearing his son’s combat boots while on the campaign trail. He raised them in the air in a victorious salute after winning the election.

Bush’s question is one that anyone might ask of a parent, especially the parent of someone serving overseas in the military.

Webb, however, tried to turn what should have been a polite cocktail-hour conversation into a political debate.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” he said. The emphasis on “them” is ours, because it’s notable that Webb couldn’t even say, “I’d like to get him out of Iraq.”

Bush pressed by following up, “That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?”

Webb’s cold reply: “That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President.”

Jim Webb may not like George Bush. He may not agree with Bush’s policies. But that’s no excuse for rudeness. Webb is one of 100 Senators. He will need lots of help in Washington - including help from the White House - to accomplish anything.

Webb will be in the Senate for six years. For every debate or vote on Iraq policy, he will deal with hundreds of other issues - many of much more importance to everyday Virginians. And when he handles those issues, as our representative, rudeness will get him nowhere.

Webb needs to learn quickly that being a successful politician requires building relationships and knowing when to pick your battles.

We wonder why Webb bothered attending the reception, if he had no interest in even shaking the President’s hand.

And when approached by Bush, Webb could have simply replied, “Thanks for asking, Mr. President. He’s fine.” An adroit politician then could have turned the conversation into a more detailed discussion of Iraq: “He says the situation over there is very unstable” or “We really miss him and are looking forward to the day when he can come home.”

But Webb is not adroit - at least not in that situation. Perhaps that is why our senior Senator, John Warner - a true statesman and Virginia gentleman - took one look at Jim Webb and decided he may need to stick around for another six years to be sure Virginia is adequately represented in the Senate.

Read the editorial here.

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