George Will Takes on Jim Webb -- Only After the Election
George Will turned heads yesterday with a brutal column on Senator-Elect Jim Webb, scouring him for being rude to President Bush at a reception, and then -- in a critique sure to outrage Webb, the literary lion in his own mind -- assaults Webb's hyperbolic use of English, as in saying the rich are "infinitely" richer than the poor. Will proclaimed Webb is a "subtraction" from civility. But perhaps Will should have used a disclaimer: before the election, Will aided this "subtraction" by scouring Sen. George Allen (he "makes no secret of finding life as a senator tedious") in a Post column seven days before the election. As with the Weekly Standard and their George Allen-bashing cover this fall, when you help make the “Macaca majority,” then you should look in the mirror before despairing over the man you helped usher in.
It's debatable that Webb's prickly party routine is somehow a graver assault on the civic-mindedness of the Republic than his (and the Washington Post's) sleazy personal campaign against Allen from August to November. Will's outrage seems awfully situational coming after the election, as if he's exhaling after kissing the ring of his Post bosses on a race in which they very much had a favorite. He wasn’t anti-Allen at all in 2005 as he favorably assessed his presidential suitability.
I have been a fan of Will's thoughts and prose for a long while, and have a pile of his column collections in my little library. Whether you think it's good or bad, Will is not a party man or a "movement" man. He keeps his distance from, well, "entangling alliances," if we want to quote Founding Fathers. Except, its seems, for his Post family. The column saying the Mark Foley scandal is the cherry on the "Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries" is rather unforgettable, even if his beginning, shellacking the religious right with Sinclair Lewis's "Elmer Gantry," is incredibly tedious. There's also the column hailing Bob Woodward's book as "Katrina between covers." Does anyone hear what one columnist once famously described as the "arf" of a tinny lapdog?