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November 21, 2006

Now That Will be an Interesting Auto-Biography

Billmon has a fascinating piece up on Jim Webb's political turnabout over the last 25 years.  He says that Webb was a "died-in-the-wool reactionary".  To wit, he was a "vociferous spokesperson for the movement to scrap the design for the Vietnam War Memorial"; he refused to shake John Kerry's hand because of his role in publicizing U.S. war crimes in Vietnam; and, as Reagan's Navy Secretary, he was a "fanatical advocate of a 500-600-ship Navy, a defense contracting boondggle so egregious even the Reagan administration eventually abandoned it".   In the anti-Vietnam War memorial protests, he worked with the men who would go on to run the Swift boat campaign against Kerry in the 2004 election.

I hadn't caught that pattern in the cursory research on Webb I'd done before and after the election. 

Billmon is awed at the change.  Here's what he says:

I assumed he would end up pulling a seven-figure salary as a defense lobbyist and spend the rest of his days helping shovel pork down various congressional gullets and tending the shrine of St. Ronnie.

But instead, nearly two decades later, Webb's now the newly elected Senator from my native state (a stronghold of the Confederacy and the national "right-to-work" movement) who's lined up shoulder to shoulder with Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi and is writing op eds for the Wall Street Journal explicitly calling for what the Republican chattering classes sneeringly condemn as "class warfare".

Billmon goes on to talk about the sense of vertigo he gets when Jim Webb sounds like Abby Hoffman and Joe Lieberman, who was worked for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960's, is now behaving like John Mitchell, Nixon's Attorney General.

But if Jim Webb and I are now on the roughly same side on the big issues of the day -- the war, globalization, corporate power, economic fairness, social justice -- it tells you something has fundamentally changed in American politics. It may not be a realignment (a political system this polluted and decrepit may not be capable of such a thing) but when Senators from Virginia start talking like Walter Reuther, it sure the hell isn't business as usual.

I just picked up a domain name for Webb in Washington State in case he chooses to run for President in 2008.  After I shook my head clear of what I read on Billmon, I now think that possibility would be even more interesting.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 21, 2006 at 10:35 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink


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