George Will on Webb

George Will’s column today is filled with harsh criticism for Democratic Senator Jim Webb:

That was certainly swift. Washington has a way of quickly acculturating people, especially those who are most susceptible to derangement by the derivative dignity of office. But Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.

Wednesday’s Washington Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb “tried to avoid President Bush,'’ refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, “How’s your boy?'’ Webb replied, “I’d like to get them (sic) out of Iraq.'’ When the president again asked, “How’s your boy?'’ Webb replied, “That’s between me and my boy.'’ Webb told the Post:

“I’m not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I’m certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. (But) leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is.'’

Webb 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 — one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another. When — if ever — Webb grows weary of admiring his new grandeur as a “leader'’ who carefully calibrates the “symbolic things'’ he does to convey messages, he might consider this: In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves.

Webb seems bent on bucking the system. It would be nice to see him take some of that anti-establishment energy and steer it towards some productive uses. He could start by teaming up with Senators like Barack Obama and Tom Coburn to push more legislation like the Coburn/Obama Transparency in Government bill. That would be a much more productive use of his time than just being a pill.

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