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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Taming Of The Upstart

by digby

Jesus H Christ. I'm watching some "Democratic strategist" named Rich Masters agree with Joe Scarborough that Jim Webb had made a rookie mistake by failing to kiss George W. Bush's ass when the jerk got snippy with him. Scarborough and whichever GOPbot they have on there agrees that it really reflects badly on the democratic party as a whole and Webb should apologise.

When these Democrats go on TV and fail to correct the record they turn these ridiculous manufactured flaps into news stories for the benefit of of the kewl kidz and the Republicans alike. I don't know what it will take to get them to stop doing it. They are making Jim Webb into one of the "crazy" guys like they made Gore and they made Dean. Don't they get that whenever a Democrats stands up to a republicans the establishment turns around and says they are nuts. Why are they helping them?

But there is more to this story than meets the eye. George Will got the vapors and called for the smelling salts this morning over Webb's allegedly boorish behavior, which is what's fueling the story today. But Will completely misrepresented what was said. George W. Bush acted like a prick, not Webb.

Here's Greg Sargent:

Will writes:

Wednesday's 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."

Will says the episode demonstrates Webb's "calculated rudeness toward another human being" -- i.e., the President -- who "asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another."

But do you notice something missing from Will's recounting of the episode?

Here's how the Washingon Post actually reported on the episode the day before Will's column:

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

See what happened? Will omitted the pissy retort from the President that provoked Webb. Will cut out the line from the President where he said: "That's not what I asked you." In Will's recounting, that instead became a sign of Bush's parental solicitiousness: "The president again asked `How's your boy?'"

Will's change completely alters the tenor of the conversation from one in which Bush was rude first to Webb, which is what the Post's original account suggested, to one in which Webb was inexplicably rude to the President, which is how Will wanted to represent what happened.

It's virtually impossible to see how that could have been the result of mere incompetence on Will's part. Rather, it's very clear that Will cut the line because it was an inconvenient impediment to his journalistic goal, which was to portray Webb as a "boor" who was rude to the Commander in Chief, and to show that this new upstart is a threat to Washington's alleged code of "civility and clear speaking" (his words). On that score, also note that in the original version, Webb said "Mr. President" twice -- and neither appeared in Will's version.

George Will is a liar, pure and simple. But, for some reason (I have my suspicions) certain Democrats are also blaming Webb. The flap really got started with some unnamed Democratic staffer idiot who said yesterday "I think Webb is going to be a total pain. He's going to do things his own way." (I wonder if his initials are Marshall Wittman?) That was what got the storyline rolling.

But it wasn't seen as a Webb gaffe originally. Yesterday, CNN had characterized the exchange entirely differently:

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jim Webb became a Democrat and ran for the Senate for one big reason, Iraq.

JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATOR-ELECT: I was an early voice warning against the implications of invading and occupying Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: Webb has special credibility on Iraq. He was a military officer who served in Vietnam, a former secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, and he has a son serving in Iraq.


SCHNEIDER: He wore his son's old combat boots during the campaign.

WEBB: I have tremendous admiration for my son and for everyone else who is serving there that they need to be led properly.

SCHNEIDER: Webb took on President Bush directly.

WEBB: But the keyword is leadership, which has been a scarce commodity among this administration and its followers.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush saw Webb at a White House reception for new members of Congress this month. Webb had this exchange with the president which he confirmed to "The Washington Post."

How's your boy, Bush asked? I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President, Webb replied. That's not what I asked you, Bush said. How's your boy? That's between me and my boy, Mr. President, Webb said.

The White House incident is costing a lot of tut-tutting in Washington. A Democratic Senate staffer told "The Post", I think Webb is going to be a total pain. He's going to do things his own way -- shock, horror. Webb reassures his colleagues...

WEBB: I've spent four years as a committee counsel in the Congress. I know how the process works.

SCHNEIDER: Webb's confrontation is a striking contrast to the pictures of Democrats meeting with President Bush and pledging cooperation and bipartisanship. It's also not the way things usually get done in Washington, but it is what a lot of people voted for.


SCHNEIDER: Webb did not run as a typical politician. And it doesn't look like he's about to change now that he's gotten elected -- Wolf.

I can't help but wonder why Democratic spokespeople are out there today portraying this as a "mistake" when Schneider had seen it as a sign of Democratic spine just yesterday afternoon. Unless they are literally taking their marching orders from the lying George Will, this seems to me to be a public spanking from the establishment of both parties.

The fact is that George W. Bush acted like an ass when a US marine, war hero, father and US Senator said that he'd like to see his son brought home from Iraq. We've all seen how he acts when he gets snippy. In fact, it's legendary. Here's one of my favorites:

The American people must understand when I said that we need to be patient, that I meant it. And we're going to be there for a while. I don't know the exact moment when we leave, David, but it's not until the mission is complete. The world must know that this administration will not blink in the face of danger and will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do. The world will learn that when the United States is harmed, we will follow through. The world will see that when we put a coalition together that says "Join us," I mean it. And when I ask others to participate, I mean it.

Here's another one:

A lesson for correspondents covering Mr. Bush: When abroad, stick to English in the president's presence.

Offenders might otherwise find themselves in the situation David Gregory, an NBC News White House correspondent, who appeared to raise Mr. Bush's ire Sunday afternoon at Élysée Palace when he asked a rather in-your-face question to a tired president, then broke into French to seek Mr. Chirac's opinion.

Perhaps Mr. Bush thought the French question was directed at him, or perhaps he thought Mr. Gregory was showing off. Whatever the case, Mr. Bush, his voice dripping with sarcasm, said "Very good, the guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental." (Mr. Gregory offered to go on in French, but that only made things worse.)

"I'm impressed ?que bueno," said Mr. Bush, using the Spanish phrase for "how wonderful." He added: "Now I'm literate in two languages."

Or this:

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States.

Webb replied to him in a serious fashion and Bush snapped at him. It's what he does. He doesn't like being challenged and he rarely is. Look what he said about Karl Rove on the day after the election: "I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was." Sure it was a joke, but it was a nasty thing to say --- especially to his longtime political partner --- whom he calls "turdblossom."

The man is a rude prick. Webb doesn't seem inclined to put up with rude pricks, even when they are president of the United States. And somebody in the Democratic party apparently doesn't like that. Now why is that?

Update: One of the Webb-sites writes that he has heard the exchange was even worse than reported. Webb's kid came under heavy fire a couple of weeks ago and three of his comrades died. Bush is said to have approached him with a snotty tone, like "nice boy you have there --- be a shame if anything happened to him" sort of thing. I have no way of knowing if this is true. But it is, at least, believable. Bush has a very nasty sense of humor and there's no doubt he could say something in that tone with crude intent. This is the guy who mocked Karla Faye Tucker begging for her life. He doesn't have a lot of limits.

Update II: This is Rich Masters. Now I get it.