In today’s Washington Post columnist George Will lectures Virginia’s newest Senator for his boorishness. His evidence? Wednesday’s Post report that at a recent 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 photograph taken with the man Webb had often criticized on the campaign trail.
When Bush asked Webb, whose son is serving in iraq, “How’s your boy?” Webb replied, “I’d like to get them out of Iraq.” When the President again asked “How’s your boy?” Webb replied, “That’s between me and my boy.”
Now Webb had a reason for what he did. As he 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.”
Will considers the incident on the White House reception line and concludes that Webb is a “boor” and has shown a “patent disrespect for the presidency.”
I’d argue that Webb–as Senator Chuck Schumer put it the other day (perhaps failing to understand the irony of his statement)–is “not a typical politician. He really has deep convictions.”
And conviction and courage and, yes, a maverick Senator who’s willing to upend the false civility of inside-the-beltway rituals are what’s needed in these times.
President Bush’s war of choice has put Webb’s son’s in harm’s way. Why shouldn’t Webb refuse to shake that man’s hand–or seek to be used in a photo-op?
In his column/lecture, Will says the new Senator “might consider this: In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves.” Seems to me that applies to the current occupant of the White House–not the new Senator from the good state of Virginia.