George Will’s Webb-bashing column is getting all the attention this morning for its dowdification of Webb’s exchange with Bush. Skip it; it’s dull and unfair. Instead, read R. Emmett Tyrrell’s frequently funny takedown of Webb in AmSpec. Unfair, perhaps, but vivaciously so:
In Webb the [Democrats] gained yet another very unpleasant person as a conspicuous member of the party hierarchy. He will not be easily obscured. Webb now takes his place with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr. Howard Dean, Al Gore, Jean-Francois Kerry, and so many other Democratic notables as a rebarbative blowhard with whom you would not want to share a gondola. Nor would a civilized American want to have any of these churlish cads to dinner or even as neighbors down the block. Just the other day one of Senator Clinton’s neighbors turned up with a gunshot wound. I would not be surprised if it were self-inflicted…
As it happens I did dine with Webb, sometime after his brief stint at the Department of the Navy. He is a pretty good novelist and in print at the time had expressed some ideas of which I approved, particularly his scruples against women in combat, though other of his references to women strike me as coarse. At any rate, I invited him to dinner for what turned out to be a gruesome evening. Webb is one of those people of whom it is said he is uncomfortable in his skin. At first I thought his discomfort might come from the fear he was going to have to pay his way. It was a classy eatery. I reassured him that he was my guest. I went on to make clear I considered him a fine writer. Nothing I said reassured him, not even my insistence that he have dessert. I left baffled. Most of the military men I have known are gents. Many writers are cads, but I thought a writer who had also served high up in the Reagan Administration might be civilized. After that dinner I never made the mistake of inviting him anywhere again.
He’s going to be “a vast source of amusement” in the Senate, says Tyrrell. I want him to look Harry Reid in the eye at the first meeting and say, “Look, pizza-face – Jim Webb doesn’t take orders from anyone.”