Webb calls the coverage of that [incident] “vastly overblown” but adds: “I think what I said was appropriate.” He also stated, “This was something that emanated from the White House. I did not say anything about this for two weeks. I said nothing publicly at all.”
So why did the White House push the issue? “Probably as an attempt to try to define me between the election and the beginning of the Congress,” Webb replied “And that’s all I am going to say.”
He may be right about the timeline. The date of the reception at the White House where he and Bush had their tiff isn’t given, but a little googling reveals that it probably happened on November 13. The first news reports about the incident, which included reaction from Webb, weren’t published until November 29. A little more than two weeks.
But here’s the wrinkle. From the November 29 issue of 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.
Did the source hear about it from the White House first and then confirm it with Webb? Or did Webb offer the information voluntarily, replete with tough-guy braggadocio about wanting to punch Bush in the face? Ask yourself: why would the White House be pushing this story? By many accounts, including Peggy Noonan’s, Bush came off as the bigger jackass of the two, and the administration gains nothing by spreading it around and alienating a centrist Democrat. Webb, by contrast, earns his wings as a true blue Bush-hater who’s willing to speak fist to power — an image made to order for endearing him to the nutroots, whose support he’ll need if he votes like the maverick he’s expected to be. What would Occam say?