WashPost Hypes 'Folk Hero' Jim Webb's Bush-Bashing Dem Response

The Washington Post’s coverage of their favorite new Senator, Virginia’s Jim Webb, whom Post writers describe as a "self-styled warrior-poet," was predictably folk-hero favorable after his typically prickly and pompous Democratic attack after the State of the Union address (although the Post account did avoid the word "Macaca.") Post reporter Michael D. Shear, a crucial part of Team Webb in taking down Sen. George Allen, shyly noted Webb became a "a folk hero among liberals and Democratic bloggers" for telling President Bush to shove off at a White House reception for new members of Congress. (Apparently, he had long been a folk hero to Shear, Tim Craig, and the editors of the Post.)

The headline characterized Webb’s speech as a "Blunt Challenge to Bush." Post editors also liked the words "aggressive" and "forceful," and a "blunt" manner that won voters’ hearts. There was no notion anywhere in the story that as Bush honored "Madame Speaker" and offered his olive branch (and the wallets of taxpayers) to the Democrats, that Webb responded to bipartisan overtures by slapping Bush around. Webb and a praising Harry Reid were the only sources in the story. Shear began:  

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) delivered a forceful nine-minute response to President Bush's State of the Union address last night, promising an aggressive challenge to Bush's Iraq and economic policies from the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress.

Speaking live from a historic Capitol Hill meeting room, Webb displayed the same blunt manner that won over Virginia voters in November and later generated headlines after a face-to-face exchange with Bush at the White House.

After noting Webb’s words about Bush going to war "recklessly" and then "mismanaging" the whole thing, Shear couldn’t help but underline once again, as they constantly did during the campaign, Webb’s shameless milking of his military background, which is so shameless that he even drew a supportive Post story last fall slamming George Allen for exploiting someone’s military background for political gain. Shear elaborated:  

Webb held up a picture of his father as a young Air Force captain. As a small boy, he said, he took the picture to bed with him to remind him of his father's sacrifice. Now, Webb's son is serving in Iraq as a Marine infantryman.

"We need a new direction," said Webb, a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. "Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy."

Democrats owe their newfound control of the Senate to Webb's slim and improbable victory over former Virginia senator George Allen. Webb -- who served as secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan -- also embodies his party's central message: a determination to oppose the Iraq war while supporting the troops who are there.

Improbable? Perhaps it was last summer, but the Post spent months suggested it was increasingly plausible with every Allen controversy they manufactured, whether it could be substantiated or not. They’re still finding no controversy or oddity in Webb’s Jimmy Carter-esque proposal to take cakes to the Ayatollahs and negotiate peace with the terrorist funders. (Or the whole pose as the Peacenik in Combat Boots.) Then came Webb the folk hero:

Webb has become a folk hero among liberals and Democratic bloggers for brusquely telling Bush at a White House event that questions from the president about Webb's son are "between me and my boy."

So after just three weeks as a U.S. senator, Webb became the choice of the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives to carry their blunt warning about Bush's new war strategy.

"He represents to me what the new America is all about," said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) as he faced about 40 reporters with Webb and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). "Someone who understands what it means to go to war, what it means to have peace, what it means to work on a bipartisan basis. I think he's the perfect person to answer the president."

As Craig laid out Webb’s strange claim that the middle class was presently "losing its place at the table," he touted Webb’s fairy tale victory again:  

For Webb, the speech capped a remarkable year that began with an underfunded, largely dismissed campaign to unseat a leading presidential hopeful. For most of the year, his campaign was ignored by pundits and criticized by suspicious Democrats.

But his bid for office caught on as Allen's was rocked by gaffes and scandal. After his 9,000-vote victory, Webb thrust his son's combat boots over his head, the first time Webb had had them off his feet in public since the Senate campaign began.

If Allen was "rocked by gaffes and scandal," just who was doing the rocking? The Post, of course. As for the notion that Webb was "largely dismissed" and "ignored by pundits," that's just not right at all, and Shear knows better. He covered the campaign week in and week out. Many pundits and Democrats and bloggers enthusiastically started "Draft Webb" campaigns and pushed him to a primary victory over the more conventional liberal Democrat (with no corny combat boots) named Harris Miller. While some Democrats were edgy about Webb's pompous personality and coldness on the campaign trail (and the Post would note that), the national party also clearly wanted Webb to win badly and funneled millions into the Webb campaign so it could pin this "warrior-poet" face on the Democrat donkey.  

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis