By: E&P Staff
Columnist George Will has accused U.S. Sen.-Elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) of bad manners, which led to a strong blog response on the Huffington Post by writer Nora Ephron.
According to press reports, President Bush asked Webb at a reception for new Congresspeople how his son — currently serving in Iraq — is doing. Webb replied that he hoped U.S. troops would be home soon. Bush said that wasn’t what he asked, and again queried Webb about how his son was. Webb said that that was between him and his son.
Will, in a piece syndicated yesterday by the Washington Post Writers Group, called Webb a “boor” and added: “Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb’s more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being — one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.”
The columnist continued: “Based on Webb’s behavior before being sworn in, one shudders to think what he will be like after that. He already has become what Washington did not need another of, a subtraction from the city’s civility and clear speaking.”
Ephron, the author and filmmaker, responded: “Washington is a place where politics is just something you do all day. You lie, you send kids to war, you give them inadequate equipment, they’re wounded and permanently maimed, they die, whatever. Then night falls, and you actually think you get to pretend that none of it matters. ‘How’s your boy?’ That, according to George Will, is a civil and caring question, one parent to another? It seems to me that it’s exactly the sort of guy talk that passes for conversation in Bushworld, just one-up from the frat-boy banter that is usually so seductive to Bush’s guests. …
“So finally someone said to George Bush, Don’t think that what you stand for is beside the point. Don’t think that because you’re President you’re entitled to my good opinion. Don’t think that asking about my boy means that I believe for even one second that you care. If you did, you’d be doing something about bringing the troops home. George Will thinks this is bad manners. I don’t. I think it’s too bad it doesn’t happen more often.”
Meanwhile, across the ideological divide, Peggy Noonan weighed in Friday at the Wall Street Journal:
“Mr. Webb did not want to pose with the president and so didn’t join the picture line. Fair enough, everyone feels silly on a picture line. Mr. Bush approached him later and asked after his son, a Marine. Mr. Webb said he’d like his son back from Iraq. Mr. Bush then, according to the Washington Post, said: ‘That’s not what I asked you. How’s your son?’ Mr. Webb replied that’s between him and his son.
“On reading the exchange I thought it had the sound of the rattling little aggressions of our day, but not on Mr. Webb’s side. Imagine Lincoln saying, in such circumstances, ‘That’s not what I asked you.’ Or JFK. Or Gerald Ford! ‘That’s not what I asked you’ is a sentence straight from cable TV, from which many Americans are acquiring an attitude toward public and even private presentation.”