Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Boys will be boys
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Absent what TV football announcers call “incontrovertible video evidence” of what took place between President Bush and Sen.-elect James Webb, D-Va., during their recent dust-up, it’s hard to know quite what to think. As reported by The Washington Post, the president asked Webb at a White House reception about his son, a Marine serving in Iraq. Webb, who’d bitterly criticized Bush’s war policies during his campaign, refused to make nice. “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,”
he said. “That’s not what I asked you,” Bush replied. “How’s your boy?” “ That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb answered. A decorated Vietnam veteran and bestselling novelist, Webb says he was tempted to take a punch at Bush, thereby endearing himself to those who see the president as an insolent punk. Less amused was the Post’s persnickety columnist, George Will.

“Webb,” he wrote, “certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb’s more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being... [who ] asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.”

Never mind, too, Bush’s haughty demand that Webb answer him like a servant or a royal subject, which Will evidently thought reflected badly on the president because he discreetly omitted it from his account. Others have noted that the very proper Mr. Will previously failed to object when Deadeye Dick Cheney told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to go bleep himself on the Senate floor.

Even so, it’s possible to suspect that both Bush and Webb acted like jerks. Surrounded by the figurative equivalent of the Secret Service all his life, Bush clearly failed to absorb one key lesson of adolescent experience: If you’re not careful who you run your mouth to, you can get your butt kicked. I know a former Yale football jock who claims he introduced the future president to this principle in a frat house bar
long ago, but I’ve got no idea if it really happened, or if Bush was sober enough to remember.

Provoking a hothead like Webb would be a bad idea under ordinary circumstances. From long observation, I’m pretty sure how Bill Clinton would have handled the incident. He’d have smiled, patted the senator-elect on the shoulder and allowed as how he looked forward to working with him on the Iraq problem come January. Webb might have fumed, but impotently.

Does that make Clinton a sissy? No, it makes him an adult, one who understands that pointless confrontations can have unintended consequences.

That said, it strikes me as past time that reality testing returned to Washington, and if it takes a little Webb-style boorishness, then, to paraphrase Bush himself, bring it on.

The nation’s capital is chock-full of etiquette experts, many of whom mistook George W. Bush for a tough guy and treated invading Iraq like a Boy Scout jamboree. It’s the Washington disease: fantasies of omnipotence indulged by persons who themselves put nothing at risk, and who never have, people who confuse talking with doing.

To them, a guy like Webb’s a barbarian, albeit a barbarian with real political skills. Campaigning in his son’s combat boots while simultaneously earning credit from pundits for not trading on the young man’s service was definitely cute.

Nor does a combat record necessarily confer wisdom. Consider Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam veteran currently courting right-wing Republican voters by proposing to increase combat troops in Iraq—troops who happen not to exist in service of an undefined cause that’s already lost.

Looking back, it’s amazing to contemplate the sheer unreality of the political discussion leading up to America’s first “pre-emptive” war. The Post’s Walter Pincus, whose excellent reporting casting doubt upon Iraq’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction got buried on Page A 23 back then, recently wrote an interesting piece looking at what some of the 126 House Democrats who voted against Bush’s war were saying at the time.

Some were amazingly prescient. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, wrote that he had “no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq’s forces and remove Saddam [Hussein]. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.”

Skelton warned that Iraq’s history of dictatorship and nasty ethnic tensions might cause a U.S.-imposed regime to “be rejected by the Iraqi people, leading to civil unrest and even anarchy.”

None of these misgivings, Pincus noted, was reported in The Washington Post. The White House ignored them. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews lionized Bush as “our young warrior king.” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman discerned in him “a model of unblinking, eyes-on-the-prize decisiveness,” even hinting that Bush’s clothing made him regal. “He’s a boomer product of the ’60s,” the pundit gushed, “but doesn’t mind ermine robes.” They’re not talking that way now.


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