On the Scene With Jim Webb

David Weigel reports on the Jim Webb victory rally, where he ran into me and TAC editor in chief Scott McConnell. Webb isn’t much of a public speaker, unfortunately, but what was worse than his delivery was the emphasis of his remarks. Atrios relates the bit that has me worried:

There were a lot of misperceptions about why I got into this race. I was watching on election night some of the analysts and one of the frequent things that was being said about this campaign was that I came to the Democratic party purely on issues regarding the Iraq war.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I think I and a lot of people like me had aligned themselves with the Republican party on national security issues but were always concerned about issues of economic fairness and social justice.

That was followed by a commitment from the senator-elect to push for a minimum-wage hike as soon as he’s sworn in. Webb’s economic populism — or simply liberalism — was well known before his election. What was disappointing, though, was to hear him downplay the importance of his anti-war credentials to his candidacy (and victory). I much prefer the foreign-policy Jim Webb to the domestic Jim Webb and hope the latter doesn’t overshadow the former. We’ll see.


24 thoughts on “On the Scene With Jim Webb

  1. Marty November 10, 2006 / 12:01 pm

    This is why I do not understand TAC’s “alliance” with liberals like Cindy Sheehan and Libertarians(sorry Dan). Sure, we all agree on the war, after, that not much else. This is why PJB was right in his support for Bush/ At least with him we have two good judges on the Supreme Court.

    So, here we go, open borders, minimum wage hike, more taxes, liberal judges, socialized medicine. Well at least we’ll be out of Iraq in in a few(many) years with the liberals.

    There are radicals that do want to attack us and although I am against the War in Iraq I don’t trust this liberals to protect me and my family on the national level from enmies.

    Protection can and should be local as a recent TAC pointed out but we still need a national defense that is strong and willing.

  2. Seth November 10, 2006 / 1:38 pm

    “Webb’s economic populism — or simply liberalism…”

    No, you had it right the first time. Wealth redistribution is to liberalism as Bush is to conservatism. I understand the difficulty, though – so much of today’s politics is based on populism rather than principle.

  3. John Lowell November 10, 2006 / 2:43 pm


    It seems to me that hope springs eternal whether its the liberal anti-war contingent flush with imbecile enthusiasms about the new Congress and the possibility of its dismembering the dictatorship and ending the war or conservatives more apt to congregate at such places as this one wishing to find the company of the like-minded souls at least somewhere. While these hopes are human enough, certainly, they are hardly likely of fulfillment. But its God Himself that builds into us the desire to reach out beyond our individuality if for no other reason than to constitute ourselves as persons. I’ve found it helpful, therefore, to temper such urges with the simple truth that no human ideology, conservatism included, can offer such promise and to attach the desire to a more suitable object. Its in such things that we learn the meaning of suffering I’m afraid. 🙂

    John Lowell

  4. Matthew November 10, 2006 / 2:52 pm

    It’s not a surprise at all Dan. The analysts and now even Bush admit the GOP lost because of Iraq – but all the Dems are talking about now are minimum wage hikes, the environment, going after Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, and a comprehensive immigration plan (which is what W wants after all).

    I wonder what effect will the Dems have on the war in Iraq, if any at all.

  5. Michael J. Keegan November 10, 2006 / 9:43 pm

    I saw Webb’s rally appearance. I also saw Pat Buchanan’s analysis of Webb and his books earlier that day on MSNBC.

    Given Webb’s appearance, I think those who cherish a bit of his documented reactionary spirit may well be disappointed in Senator Webb as oppose to author Webb. His loyalty seems more inclined toward Chuck Schumer — for propelling him into this new job — that to any notion of localism etc.

    Living in N. Virginia, I also find it amazing how folks are downplaying the Iraq issue as Allen’s true achilles heel and making too much of his use and then mishandling of the apparent racio-ethnic slur…I concede it didn’t help him, but it also didn’t trump the reason he lost 10K votes — b/c of Iraq.

    I think we’ll soon long for the days of Jim Webb, the writer…

  6. James Wilson November 11, 2006 / 4:42 am

    Many conservatives and libertarians concluded that divided government was the least-bad option to keep government growth under control and protect what’s left of our freedom. I’d accept the risk of a minimum wage hike if the warrantless spying bill is canned and the Democrats raise hell over signing statements.

  7. Marty November 11, 2006 / 3:37 pm

    I understand why some conservatives and many libertarians are happy with the divided goverment. Stop Bush. I can’t agree more. But to show up at a rally for a liberal big government spender, why?

    The War in Iraq is a big issue but what about abortion? Immigration? stem cells? taxes?

    So, no I am not as giddy as Scott and Dan were. I will be giddy when we elect a house and senate full of Tom Tancredos and Ron Pauls. I am sad that conservatives did not listen to Pat Buchanan and sad the neo-conservatives have taken over the Republican party. I will never be happy that a liberal wins.

    This is the reason why paleo-cons and libertarians will remain a small group with no influence. They praise Cindy Sheehan,work for the election of Webb and then make fun some country singers and southern boys for their patriotism. Many are and were like myself , uncomfortable with the war, but still have anger and want action taken against those that flew planes into the towers and killed friends and family.

    So, it seems the War is the only issue. If you are against the war but for killing babies in the woomb, hey let’s vote for this guy, but if you are for the War no matter what else, watch out.

    As I watched peace activists on the left ,hit and spit on Bush supporters during the RNC I could not help but be saddened that I am on the same side as them, on this issue. Not happy, sad.

    Today I will fly my American Flag in honor of all the maen and women that have fought for these country. I am proud of them. I want them home and pray for peace.

  8. Jeff November 11, 2006 / 4:05 pm

    The biggest thing Webb and all the Democrats had going for them in 2008 is that they weren’t Republicans. Bush, Hastert, and Frist deserve the credit for Democratic control of Congress. There’s no need to credit the Democrats or to have illusions about what they’re going to do now that they have a measure of power. But at least it’s a change.

    As for whether abortion trumps war, having Bush in office for six years has not saved the life of a single unborn child. The partial-birth abortion ban was struck down immediately by federal judges as Bush’s aides knew it would be, RU-486 is still legal, the morning-after pill has been approved, pro-choice Republicans fill the cabinet, Bush saved Arlen Specter’s neck, and Bush is conveniently out of town every year on January 22. That’s not to mention the recklessness with which Bush has killed innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t consider this a “pro-life” record.

  9. Marty November 11, 2006 / 8:29 pm


    I don’t consider the Republicans pro-life either. Yet , as a Catholic I believe that abortion is always wrong and and evil. War is a prudential judgement and so even though I may disagree with some office holder on the war I could still vote for him. I can not support a cnadidate that supports abortion. I am a conservative not a Republican. I did not vote for either president Bush. I am not upset the Bush’s policies lost on Tuesday. I am upset that conservatives and libertarians could not gain enough support to get our own candiddate in office.

    Instead of writing editorals hoping that Webb could be our next president ,maybe we conservatives and libertarins should support our own candidates.

    I voted, on Tuesday, for candidates on the NYS Conservative Party ticket, Libertarian Ticket and even one on the Green party ticket because Bill Kauffman said she was a localists and anti-war(Iraq). I did not support Bush and I did not vote for a Liberal. In a way I may have helped Dems but the intent was to support conservatives.

  10. Daniel McCarthy November 11, 2006 / 10:20 pm

    Marty’s raised a lot of good points in this thread. I’ll respond to a few of them in scattershot fashion: first, although I’m skeptical that the federal government will do at all well protecting Americans from threats foreign or domestic no matter who is in charge of it — the biggest “defense” budget in the world, by several mutliples, didn’t stop a dozen civilians with box-cutters from kill several thousand people, and there’s no reason to think that it could have — I hardly see Jim Webb, a Marine combat veteran, as less able to protect America than George Allen, whose masculinity derives entirely from his father’s football-coaching career. Similarly, I don’t think veteran John Murtha is going to be more of a pushover on such questions, should he become Majority Leader, than John Boehner was. It would be interesting to see, by the way, whether by now there are more Democrats with a military and / or combat background in Congress than Republicans. I don’t take that for granted, but it occurs to me that it might well be the case.

    Not that such a background necessarily means that those people are better at protecting America, but they can hardly do worse than Allen and the GOP have done — that is, attacking a country that posed no threat and getting several thousand American soldiers killed in the process, while ruining America’s good name abroad. Until they launch a similarly cockamamie war against Iran or Syria or North Korea, I’m willing to say categorically that the Democrats are better on defense.

    I don’t agree, by the way, that terrorism is war. It’s crime, carried out by cirminals, not soldiers.

    I’m also not sure why Marty writes, “Many are and were like myself , uncomfortable with the war, but still have anger and want action taken against those that flew planes into the towers and killed friends and family.” No Iraqi flew a plane into the World Trade Center. So how is war against Iraq a justifiable action to take in response to 9/11? Even the Saudis who did fly planes into the World Trade Center were aligned with a movement that wants to topple the House of Saud, so war with Saudi Arabia would hardly have been more sensible.

    It seems to me the bigger problem with the Democrats is not that they’re not hawkish enough, but that they’re too hawkish: they supported the Iraq War just as Republicans did. But thankfully, guys like Webb might give the Democrats a bit more backbone to oppose such adventures in the future. As I think I’d mentioned, one of the things that makes me glad Webb won is that he’s a different kind of Democrat, not a Clintonite — he’s pro-gun and, if not actually anti-war in a braod sense, he’s at least got his head screwed on better than any Clinton Democrat or Bush Republican.

    Casey in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is pro-life and pro-gun. He may or may not prove to be wobbly; we’ll see. But I’d like more Democrats like that. Give the Republicans some competition for the 2nd amendment and pro-life vote. If that vote is in play, the party’s will have to get serious about delivering something. (Which, where the 2nd amendment is concerned, is more a matter of neutering the gun-control caucus in the Democrats; it’s one issue on which the GOP has been, relatively to the mess they’ve made on just about everything else, pretty good.)

    Marty’s right when he says that conservatives and libertarians should be supporting their own candidates rather than settling for a lesser evil. On the other hand, while Marty voted an honorably in this last election (maybe the only honorable way that could have voted in New York), I dont’t see any use in close races in voting for no-hope third-party candidates when there is any difference at all between the major-party candidates. (In Virginia this year, in any case, there was no libertarian or third-party conservative in the Senate race.)

    Finally about war, abortion, and voting: it won’t fly to say that war is a prudential matter and therefore politicians who make the wrong decicion are not so bad, for the same reasons that you wouldn’t say that an abortion-supporting politician is ok if he sincerely believes that a fetus is not a human life. Sincere belief or not, wrong is wrong. That there is a prudential element invovled in war-making does not mean that any unjust war can be excused by saying that it was simply a prudential error. This war was unjust from the get-go: there is no preventive war in Catholic Just War theory, as Cardinal Ratzinger had said.

  11. Marty November 12, 2006 / 1:49 am


    Thanks. I don’t think we are that far off. Remember I don’t support the war in Iraq. But in order to treat terrorism as a crime we have to be able to go into countries and arrest the terrorist. If that country is hostile, we need to use force. Which I guess would be war.

    Yes in NY we do have a few alternatives and also have the ability to write in candidates. So, many times I do have a choice. Casey is not a bad Dem to have in office or vote for.

    I guess my biggest problem I have is how happy we are that Nancy Pelsoi is running the show. I will be happy when Ron Paul is speaker.

    As far as prudential judgements go, it says in the CCC 2309 the the evaluation of just war is left those repsonsible for the common good. Now once again I think Bush and otehrs were wrong ,but that is a far cry from abortion which is never left to the judgement of any elected official it is always wrong.

    Plus some libertarians dismissthe Church and her teaching when it comes to the “science” of economics becaue the CHurch is out of her field but with war and the security of the nation they agree with the Holy Father.

    I am glad I am with B16 on the War and the role of the state in economics.

    Thanks Dan for taking the time to reply. I do really enjoy the work you are doing.

  12. John Lowell November 12, 2006 / 5:33 am


    Not to intrude, but I cringe these days whenever I read or hear a reference to term, “prudential judgement”. It has become a code word for the obfuscation of the brownshirts at First Things and at a number of likeminded Catholic blogs holding themselves out as “orthodox”, oddly.

    You may not know that Dan wrote an interesting piece several months ago titled Bush or Benedict in which many of the questions respecting just war that you are raising here are addressed. Its really quite good. Specifically, it addresses some of the over emphasis current in Reich’s Church circles on the idea of prudential judgement. I’m guessing, but the distinction you raise respecting what one might consider non-negotiable – one’s view of life questions, for example – and what one might regard as somewhat less binding – one’s view of the aggression in Iraq – owes at least something to recent attempts by some in those precincts, Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak and Company most notably, to provide an apologetic for pre-emptive war, a remarkable enough undertaking for a priest and a theologian in which to find themselves when St. Therese of Liseaux is held out by many these days as a model for one’s spirituality. The Holy Father has been quite clear on the question of pre-emptive war, going so far as to suggest that the CCC should be revised so as to bar any confusion whatsoever respecting the justness of such a conception. One is well advised to take the smokescreen provided by Neuhaus and friends at First Things with genuine reserve. Concerned as you are with life questions, would you be surprized to learn that Neuhaus couldn’t quite manage opposition to the Bush stem cell compromise in 2001, that despite vocal opposition from the USCCB and the Vatican? I was, and horrified when I thought of the influence he exerts. When the Pope speaks on the morality and justice of war, I think I’d rather hasten to set aside any private views I might have regarding the specifics in question. That Neuhaus didn’t was absolutely reprehensible. He has much for which to answer considering the outcome we’re witnessing today in Iraq.

    John Lowell

  13. Marty November 12, 2006 / 2:03 pm

    John, Thanks. Yes I have read Dan’s TAC article. I agree and I try to follow the prudential judgements of the Church and Popes as my conscience allows. What I wonder is why B16’s prudential juedgement about the war should be followed but not his economic policies? B16 said the CCC should be changed but CCC 2309 is very clear .

    The Church for 2,000 years has allowed for the Death Penalty and that seems to have been changed with the inclusion of JPII’s Prudential Judgement .So I guess B16 could change the just war theory.

    IF we were to change the CCC, we as Catholics and the POpe should be careful, to look back on our history and examine if a pope in some crusade or other conflict lead a preemptive war, because that would mean some past pope committed mortal sin. ( which I guess is why its not changed yet)

    CCC 2313 states genocide id a mortal sin and evil. Yet in Joshua 11 God commands Joshua to kill everybody inclding children.

    I, once again, agree with you on this war but I just think we should be careful about adding prudential judegements to the CCC .

    I am also not a Neo-Conservative. Not an anarchist either. The Tory part I like.

  14. John Lowell November 12, 2006 / 5:46 pm


    Lest we fall into a kind of catechetical positivism – always a risk in discussions in which some are apt to treat the CCC as inspired – I think its important to see it as it is intended to be seen: As simply a compendium or a summary of Catholic teaching. The purpose of JPII was not so much to change the teaching on capital puninshment as to apply it in the circumstances of the present day. His was more a clarification than a alteration. The comments made by Benedict XVI respecting pre-emptive war and the need for it to seen as in no way just were, I feel confident, the product of the distortions of the genuine article then being offered by the Reich’s Church crowd, Neuhaus, Novak, et al. Here were self-identified “orthodox” spokesman with known political loyalties and prominent in ways others could not be, offering what appeared to be an authoritative take on the question. The meaning of Benedict XVI’s corrective could not have been any more clear. Again. his was not an effort to provide an alteration of the teaching but rather to clarify it in light of present challenges. That notwithstanding, it did little to still the warmongering at First Things and on the so-called “orthodox” blogs. Even today, authors of blogs that identify themselves as fans of the Pope have consistently refused to accept this corrective and have in subtle ways even made attempts of late to construct an apologetic for torture. Catholics need to tread quite carefully in such environs, naturally.

    Its a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

    Yours In The Holy Trinity,

    John Lowell

  15. Marty November 12, 2006 / 5:51 pm

    Dan, John , Jeff

    I was thinking today about why I feel I need to defend some neo-cons and the war and I guess it is because many paleo-cons and paleo-libertarians are pacifists. Against the Iraq War and even against the War in Afghanistan. Hey we deserved the attacks suck it up and move on types.

    What attack on Christendom prompted the Crusades? Indulgences were given for fighting in War. God commanded war! Yet, many of the anti war conservatives seem like they are pacifists.

    So, while against this war I am not against all wars. Were any on the anti-war right fo rthe invasion of Afghanistan?

  16. Marty November 12, 2006 / 6:54 pm

    John ,

    Yes it has been a pleasure to “meet” you as well. I apreciate you and the others taking the time to respond. The talent on this thread is way above my pay grade, so I thank you all for stooping down and letting me rant a bit and point me in the right direction.


  17. John Lowell November 12, 2006 / 8:49 pm


    Here’s one Catholic that didn’t oppose the Afganistan response. In that case the government of a foreign state was shielding persons whose connection with the events in New York was beyond question. Our objectives were limited and the defeat of the Taliban was secondary to their realization. The whole thing had the character of a police action, at least it did until it was clear that it had failed. Iraq presented an entirely different picture. There was absolutely no connection in that case to the 9/11 tragedy. Our invasion was an aggression purely and simply.

    Respecting pacifism, I think a very strong argument can be made that in the present day no war can be conducted that might be considered just. The Pope has hinted as much and that should mean more to Catholics than their political loyalties. But there is a distinction to be made between that view of things and the out-and-out advocacy of non-violence. The Pope is not a pacifist and although I might be wrong in saying so, I believe JPII even offered-up this very self-description at one point.

    The Pope has a Christological view of the world and appropriately so. His attitudes owe nothing to the kind of perspective offered by Neuhaus, Novak and Company which are themselves entirely dependent upon a long discredited two-tiered view of the relation of nature and grace taken over from John Courtney Murray. With Benedict XVI, one might expect to encounter a view of the world more consonant with that derived from the theologies of his friends, Henri du Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Here we have a profound perception of the form of Christ the Son in all things, not a sphere independent of Him seeking an end of its own.

    And by the way, I’m sure no one here considers themselves as having stooped in any way to answer your excellent questions. Rather it is a privilege to have the opportunity to bring what little one might have in the way of answers to them.

    Very best regards.

    John Lowell

  18. Marty November 12, 2006 / 9:27 pm


    Once again thanks for the answer. I am a cop and not an academic or writer. So, I do learn a great deal from blogs like this and posts from people like your self. Maybe someday I will put my interest in conservative thought and Catholic apologetics to good use.

    Marty Browne

  19. James Kabala November 13, 2006 / 3:45 am

    Although I don’t agree with everything Marty has said and nowadays consider myself much more paleo than neo, I have found the tendency of paleoconservatives to not just hope for a Democratic victory as the best way out of a bad situation, but to actively endorse people like Webb (who campaigned with Michael J. Fox in the waning days of his campaign), or to dismiss a complex person like Rick Santorum as a “Bushbot,” to be disquieting. Pat Buchanan’s endorsement of Bush in 2004 was controversial; I think Scott McConnell’s endorsement of Kerry (as opposed to endorsing Peroutka or not voting, as other contributors did) should have been equally so.

  20. John Lowell November 13, 2006 / 7:56 am


    In no way to defend McConnell’s endorsement of Kerry or to support Buchanan’s of Bush – to have supported the Constitutional Party candidate seemed to me something almost akin to an endorsement of John Rushdooney and I’m not quite prepared to stone the nearest homosexual. A Catholic, I abstained despite lots of very annoying pressure from the voter’s guide of Catholic Answers and the public statements of Archbishop Chaput to vote and in one particular way, of course. I was told that the Catechism Of The Catholic Church absolutely required me to vote, which it does not. It simply encourages excercizing the right to vote which is something much more broad and certainly contemplates abstention as a negative exercize. I came away with a clear conscience and a lot about which to righteously gripe post election. 🙂

    John Lowell

  21. Matthew November 13, 2006 / 3:42 pm

    This has been a great discussion – but I am certainly opposed to the usage of the Crusades as a pejorative. The First Crusade was meant to rescue the Byzantines from Muslim invasion – more Korea than Iraq, if a modern comparison must be made.

  22. Jeff November 13, 2006 / 8:00 pm

    Marty – Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. I’m guessing that few paleocons are pacifists. Maybe Joseph Sobran. I am a pacifist myself. I’m not Catholic so I’ve never believed in “just war” from that point of view. I was pretty hawkish in the mid ’70s but after becoming a Christian I moved away from military glorification the more I read the New Testament. Unlike devout Calvinists, I’m a Protestant who doesn’t look to the Old Testament for a lot of guidance. I’m indebted more to the Anabaptist-Quaker-Dispensational schools. I try to take the New Testament literally even when that leads my thought into conflict with pop culture, church tradition, or The American Way. I’m not claiming personal infallibility, but that’s where my pacifism comes from. Even apart from the words of Jesus (and Paul, Peter, James, and John), I would still be skeptical of worldly warfare because I know how base and dishonest political leaders tend to be. I don’t find the justifications for war believable or compelling from a political science point of view. Having said all that, I try to avoid smugness and self-righteous in my support for nonviolence. I don’t look down on those who “serve our country” in uniform even though I doubt the value of the service itself. It goes to motivation. There’s a lot more heroism and honor among those who fight than among those who send them off to fight. I’ve been privileged to know many military vets, including George “Bud” Day (USAF), Ed “Eagle Man” McGaa (USMC), and my grandfather who served with the USN in World War II.

  23. Jeff November 13, 2006 / 8:16 pm

    By the way, I agree with Dan that the 9/11 terrorists were criminals, not soldiers. That’s why I opposed the war in Afghanistan. The terrorists who plotted the attack should have been pursued, arrested, tried, and punished. Not summarily executed, along with many innocent Afghanis. Carpet bombing of a country was neither wise nor just, in my opinion.

    I certainly don’t believe “we deserved the attacks.” There’s a difference between understanding why we–or at least our rulers–are hated and approving of the resulting terrorist attacks. That’s not Blame-America-First; it’s a rational understanding of the role played by U.S. foreign policy in needlessly stirring up a hornet’s nest. I love my country but I don’t love the leaders of my country. Most anti-war conservatives have supported the war in Afghanistan, I think.

    By the way, Marty, thank you for your public service as a police officer. It may sound corny, but I can tell from your writing that you’re a conscientious cop and that’s an admirable thing.

  24. Marty November 14, 2006 / 1:12 am

    Once again, thanks for all your comments I have learned a lot. I did have to work today, so missed most of the newer posts. Have to pay the bills.

    Jeff, Thanks for the kinds words. I try to do my best at work a s “christian” cop and here ,I was not posting to argue but to learn through some questions and comments. I hope this will continue in future posts.

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