Sunday, January 21, 2007

State of the Union smackdown

Vietnam War students and everyone else who likes drama should at least watch the rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The Democrats are putting up their new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, over a lot of seasoned veterans and announced Presidential candidates. As you might imagine, there's a history here.

First, Jim Webb and President Bush had a little set-to in the White House at a party in December. Jim Webb has a son serving in the Marines in Iraq, and Bush asked him, "how's your boy doing?" Webb didn't answer directly--he told the President in no uncertain terms that his son and the others ought to be coming home. Bush retorted that this wasn't the question he had asked, he had just asked after Webb's boy. Both parties tried to make hay out of the incident, the Dems pointing to the President's nastiness and the Repubs to Webb's penchant for confrontation and rudeness. So it's going to be interesting who gets the last word, or laugh, or punch, on Tuesday. If I'm not mistaken, Webb was a boxer at the Naval Academy.

Webb has a most interesting background. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who routinely excoriated those who did not serve, like President Clinton, and the most prominent dissenters, like Jane Fonda. He once famously said he would not cross the street to watch Fonda slit her throat. He also opposed the design of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, couching his opposition in nasty, very personal terms. He vehemently condemned the idea of women in combat, ruffling a lot of feathers in DC, where they had already decided to admit women to the service academies. BUT, he wrote probably the finest work of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War--Fields of Fire--and he opposed the Iraq war largely based on what he perceives as political and military bungling in the Vietnam War. In other words, he learned from his experiences and drew some different conclusions. There's another source of tension between him and President Bush--the decorated Vietnam veteran vs. the weekend warrior, the student of war vs. the stubborn stayer-of-course.

I'm going to be perched in front of the TV, maybe with popcorn in hand even, waiting to see the Tuesday night smackdown. I'm betting Webb "brings it on" to the viewers and the court of public opinion.


german said...

does sound interesting. i had no idea webb had such a large body of work in the matter. i remember one year when they let gary locke give the rebuttal.i wonder how they decide who does get their 15 min of fame. did tip o'neal ever get to give a rebuttal to the gippers state of the union addy?

moville said...

I bet the Tipper DID rebut the Gipper. We'd have to consult one of the old Congressional hands for that, but I'm sure that's an encounter that did take place, if only in some watering hole or the White House after hours. Those two were actual friends. On the other hand, I'm not sure they did televised rebuttals back then...that might be a strictly 90s phenomenon. I doubt they did anything like that when people like "Mr.Sam" Rayburn and LBJ controlled the legislative branch. They didn't go in for undignified media like television, just for behind-the-scenes arm-twisting and blackmail...

jodmeister said...

I never watched a SOTU address until last year. I was appalled (sp?) at all the applause the divider, er ah, I mean decider received. Seems like he was getting applause after every other sentence. Then today on Dan Froomkin's column on the Washington website, he stated on his column titled From Hero to Goat, "But as a defensive measure, White House speechwriters are said to have crafted a speech that avoids the traditional laundry list of proposals and applause lines that would almost surely have fallen flat -- or even led to boos and groans -- given Bush's new circumstances."

Yeah, tomorrow's SOTU address should be interesting. The two items I care most about are healthcare and education. I can't wait to hear what brilliant pieces of legislation he tries to sell!