The Blog Squad

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pickles and Ice Cream for the Commonwealth?

Look, it was inevitable.

The minute Jim Webb picked up that picture of his father and talked about how he slept with it in his bed as a young boy another political star was hung in the sky right over Virginia. The groundwork, of course, had already been laid, starting with Webb’s dramatic late-into-the-night-and-next-day victory over former Sen. George Allen, which gave the Democrats control of the Senate. Then came the (in)famous -- depending on how you look at it -- exchange with President Bush at the White House. And then the word, right before Webb delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address, that he had ripped up (I doubt literally, but who knows?) the speech prepared for him by the party and had written it himself. He is a novelist, after all.

So all the planets were aligned for Jim Webb that night. What took place was fascinating, I thought. Last year, I gave Tim Kaine some good marks for his Democratic response (though I did liken his repeated mantra of “We can do better” and his hurried cadence to an infomercial host). But what Webb did the other night seemed like something entirely new. He didn’t even pretend he was going to take the president on point-by-point on his State of the Union address. Instead, he went bigger, just taking the president on in general. The Washington Post called it “forceful” and “blistering.” Maybe even more shockingly, his speech didn't sound as if it were written by committee.

The Times-Dispatch quoted Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institute as saying it was possibly the best rebuttal ever given to a State of the Union address. The paper also noted that the syndicated columnist Mark Shields said, “A star is born.”

And now the blogosphere is percolating with -- no surprise here -- mentions of Webb as a possible presidential candidate.

“If giving a dynamite speech before a national audience can make Barack Obama a presidential contender, then there's no reason it can't do the same for Jim Webb,” wrote Al Eisele in The Huffington Post in a piece entitled "Jim Webb for President. Why Not?"

“Indeed, the freshly-minted freshman Democratic senator from Virginia could claim to be as well-qualified to run for president as his fellow freshman from Illinois, who came out of nowhere in recent weeks to become Hillary Clinton's principal challenger.”

And this from Jeff Cohen, also on Huffington: “Webb offered a populist, anti-corporate stand on economics and a blunt attack on Bush for 'recklessly' dragging our country into the Iraq war -- a sharply-worded address that must have startled millions of TV viewers accustomed to Democrat vacillation.” This, under the headline: "Jim Webb Offers the Democratic Response to Hillary and Obama."

Hmm. Is the Mother of Presidents having some weird cravings again?


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