Virginia Senator James Webb announced yesterday that he does not intend to run for reelection in 2012.
James Webb ought to have been exactly the kind of candidate anyone of my political views would be eager to support, an Appalachian redneck who attended the Naval Academy and then served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, a war hero deservedly awarded the Nation’s second highest medal for valor, a former Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration, an intellectual who published several decent novels. What was not to like?
Webb announced his political ambitions in a history book he published in 2004 celebrating his native culture and ancestry, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.
Reading it, followed by his 2008 A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, I was persuaded that Jim Webb’s intention was to enter national politics as a second Andrew Jackson, that he was convinced that he had a role as a populist conservative champion of the values of rural working class America, that he intended to take on the liberal urban national elites on behalf of the same ordinary Americans among whom lay his own personal roots.
It seemed strange, then, that Webb proceeded to announce his intention to run as a democrat, challenging a conservative Republican incumbent, who was, at the time, one of the leading and most desirable conservative presidential prospects. It was not what anybody would call helpful to the conservative cause.
The next thing we knew, Webb went into attack mode, using an attempt by his opponent to mock the conniving presence of a Webb campaign agent filming him at one of his rallies to accuse George Allen of racism. Allen had referred to the opposition tracker of Indian extraction using a nonsense word, and Webb’s establishment media allies concocted an extravagantly implausible analysis of the word as an antique Moroccan slur applied to Negroes, imported into the Allen family’s customary parlance in Southern California by a mother of Shephardic Jewish ancestry.
This underhanded use of obviously false accusations of racism was pretty disgusting, particularly coming someone who would normally be expected to have good cause to fear being on the receiving end of similar accusations from the left.
James Webb proceeded to run for the Senate successfully, as an anti-war candidate no less, simultaneously waving around his Marine Corps son’s combat boots and insulting George W. Bush in public on the basis of his alleged grand indignation over the president’s sending his son into combat.
For a while, I entertained the hypothesis that all this villainy was perhaps merely the ruthless means by which Jim Webb meant to fight and claw his way into high office, and that once he had acquired a usable platform out would emerge the second incarnation of Old Hickory to turn the tables on the establishment and shake things up in Washington. They do train young men to be hard-nosed at Annapolis. The Marine Corps’s fighting techniques do not emphasize fair play for the enemy. Maybe Webb as just being a ruthless SOB for ultimately patriotic reasons. It seemed to me that a populist conservative democrat presidential contender would be a real game changer in national politics and the two party system as we know it could possibly never be the same. Maybe Webb would redeem himself in the end by challenging the current democrat party’s elite leftism and restoring the party of Jefferson and Jackson to its Southern libertarian and working class roots.
But then we saw James Webb the Senator. All the stuff in those books about “fighting” had nothing to do with Webb’s senatorial behavior. As Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid steered the ship of state hard left and opened wide the deficit sea valves, Senator James Henry Webb, Jr. representative of the Commonwealth of Virginia and of the Scots Irish culture of America faithfuly voted the left-wing party line every single time. Yes, Webb voted for the Porkulus. Yes, Webb voted for Obamacare. It seemed to me a pity that the democrats didn’t see their way clear to introduce a ban on handguns or a hunt ban, so we could watch good old Jim Webb vote with the democrat party on those, too.
In Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More, upon learning that his protege Richard Rich has been appointed Attorney General for Wales as a reward for betraying him by misquoting their private conversations, remarks, Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales? One might say much the same thing of Mr. Webb, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for one lousy six-year term in the Senate?