Depending on our point of view, the Senator-elect from Virginia is either a hero or a boor.
Recently there was an exchange between President Bush and Senator-elect Webb at a White House Dinner. As reported by the Washington Post:
At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.
“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.
“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”
“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House
Some, like our friends over at NLS., think the President was trying to push buttons. Their logic is that Bush had to have known that Webb’s son had been under fire, and that Webb was right to respond as he did.
Others, like columnist George Will, think the Senator-elect has by his early conduct shown himself to be “insufferably full of himself” when the president asked about Jimmy Webb, who
Based on what I have read, I think they may both have behaved badly.
I will say that President Bush is on record as seeming very keen on using words and language to put people in their place. His widespread use of nicknames is evidence of this. Nicknames work best when the ability to bestow nicknames flows both ways-otherwise it is merely shows on person has authority over another. Refering to someone’s child as “boy” or “girl” may work well over the backyard fence but not as well over the partisan divide. I like to think that had the President said “son” or “Jimmy” instead of “boy”, the reaction would have been different.
Then again, it may not. I would also like to think that people representing Virginia in Washington can disagree without being disagreeable, and that they can show themselves to be able to conduct themselves with dignity and rise above petty and childish tactics and taunts…you know, act like adults.
So far, the jury is out on James Webb.
I do not think this reply speaks well of Senator-elect Webb. It speaks of someone with a prickly disposition who is ready to take affront at the drop of a hat-and that is not a characteristic typical of someone who will function well in the collegial atmosphere of the US Senate. It is one thing to have a strong set of beliefs…it is another to lack civility.