Jim Webb

There’s plenty of cognitive dissonance to go around toward everyone with the new Senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. 

Steeped in military culture, he spit upon John Kerry and goes forth with a macho swagger.

He was the prototypical Angry Vietnam Vet, convinced that the hippies and the campus radicals had stabbed him and his band of brothers in the back while they were fighting in jungle, then spit on them when they returned home.

He was, in other words, a died-in-the-wool reactionary — the thinking man’s Ollie North. Webb once famously refused to shake John Kerry’s hand because of Kerry’s role in publicizing alleged U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. Some of his fellow anti-memorial activists later went on to run the Swift boat campaign against Kerry in the 2004 election.

If you’d told me twenty years ago that John Kerry would eventually run for president, I would have expected Webb to be in there Swiftboating with the best of them.

The same military culture that had him railing against Kerry has him as a foe against Bush.  Understand, I don’t fully understand where the demarcations of a fruitless war in Iraq and a fruitless war in Vietnam are, but I guess Webb does. 

Webb makes the same case in arguing against the Iraq war. George W. Bush “has no feel for military culture,” Webb says. Instead the president is surrounded by “theorists who have never been on a battlefield, who have never put a uniform on, and who are looking at this thing in a totally different way from people who have had to worry about their troops.” Webb seldom misses a chance to point out the military record, or lack of it, of Dick Cheney. If Cheney and the theorists had some military experience, he says, they would never have tried “putting a Judeo-Christian military system in the cradle of Muslim culture.” This is Webb’s second ingenious bit of jujitsu: By his logic, the war in Iraq isn’t an assertion of American power, but another disastrous symptom of a country gone soft, the feckless gesture of a superpower brought low by wusses.

Understand, if this is a political jujitsu, it is a jujitsu that is endemic to basically all of Bush’s political enemies.  You can look at war protest signs and see the references to the bulk of neoconservatives’ lack of military experience while marching us off to war.  “Chicken-hawk” … wussy who struts.

Webb’s trick is to adapt this history of white folk to the categories of contemporary multiculturalism. He turns liberalism’s assumptions of ethnic grievance and victimization to the service of people who, in more conventional accounts, have themselves been seen as the victimizers. Webb rails against “the wielders of cultural power such as Hollywood, academia, and major media [who] chip away at the core principles that have defined the traditions and history of [Scots-Irish] people.” And now his people are fighting back. “In a society obsessed with multicultural jealousies, those who cannot articulate their ethnic origins are doomed to a form of social and political isolation. My culture needs to rediscover itself, and in doing so to regain its power to shape the direction of America.” Using diversity dogma to put the white man back on top–it is a marvelous inversion.

It also underlies the economic populism that allows Webb to slide edgewise into the mainstream of today’s Democratic party.  He says he was moved to run for the Senate when he saw “the breakdown in our society along economic lines.” He has come to rescue his people–the poor whites who (along with poor blacks) have been the chief victims of globalized turbocapitalism. In every speech he cites the same statistics: “Ten percent of Fortune 500 companies pay zero corporate income taxes,” he says. “When I was 24, the average CEO earned 20 times what the average wage-earner did. Today my son is 24, and the average CEO earns 200 times what the average wage-earner does.” He is vaguer on the subject of how to fix this unhappy state of affairs. He supports a higher minimum wage and an end to “corporate tax breaks which cost American jobs.” At the same time, though, he says he supports a cut in the capital gains tax, in case a redneck wants to sell his stocks.

An interesting, and not entirely new dynamic.  I think we can trace the root of the problem to Andrew Jackson, who consolidated the very same poor “Scotch-Irish” behind him in the battle to knock out the Indians and keep slavery.  But understand, when in previous ages “The People” had the silent, in parantheses “(white)” before it, our Weekly Standard writer feels compelled to have the same parantheses for “(along with poor blacks)”.  Thus flails the ethnic divisions impeding the Class War that Jim Webb apparently wants to fight.

As for “allows Webb to slide edgewise into the mainstream of the Democratic Party”, I have noted that the elected 2006 officials just moved the Democratic Party to the left on economic issues.  Perhaps this is more true now than it was as of the writing of this essay.

Steeped in military culture, he spit upon John Kerry and goes forth with a macho swagger.  Steeped in a sort of redneck culture, he comes forth with a Wall Street Journal editorial that places him somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party at large, as the Wall Street Journal editorial suggests.

2 Responses to “Jim Webb”



  2. Justin Says:

    If anyone doesn’t know what Mike Manning is talking about, from The Hill:

    At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

    Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

    “I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

    Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.

    No threats, he kept his flitting desire to himself until after the meeting. It’s just a terse exchange. Maybe we can return to the days of the Dual and settle it there.

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