Thursday, November 30, 2006

Webb Watch III

Will--Webb Offends Bush & the English Language:"That was certainly swift. Washington has a way of quickly acculturating people, especially those who are most susceptible to derangement by the derivative dignity of office. But Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.

Wednesday's Washington Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush,'' refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?'' Webb replied, "I'd like to get them (sic) out of Iraq.'' When the president again asked, "How's your boy?'' Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy.'' Webb told the Post:

"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. (But) leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is.''

Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another. When -- if ever -- Webb grows weary of admiring his new grandeur as a "leader'' who carefully calibrates the "symbolic things'' he does to convey messages, he might consider this: In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves."


dcat said...

This was really such a vital isue that it warranted full treatment?
(I'm also not clear on how Webb "offends the English language." More on this in a minute.)

And then to prove that civility is Webb's problem, Will calls Webb a boor. (And let's keep in mind that Webb's alleged affront was to a president who called a writer for the Times an "asshole" on an open mic.) Cunning to use someone elkse's alleged rudeness as an excuse to call that person a name.

Oh -- and Webb isn't new to this leadership thing, so presenting him as some sort of johnny-come-lately offends readily available facts. As i understand, Webb had a couple of responsibilites in the Reagan administration. There is no "new grandeur as a leader" in this situation. Oh -- and people "decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves"? Beyond the dubious sentence construction ("led by" is passive voice, George; how about "people decline to follow"? Anyway -- you were giving English lessons?) It is rich to make this assertion about Webb in light of the fact that we seem to be dealing with an administration ("I'm the decider," "Mission Accomplished," etc.) a bit on the self-satisfied side.

I don't much like Jim Webb, though compared to Allen he's MLK, but Will seems to be just looking to create something out of thin air. This is as close to a nonstory as we are going to find.


Tom said...

DC: For Will's argument about language, which I don't particularly care for, you might want to read the rest of his column.

dcat said...

Tom --
I saw it. (I saw, for example, his use of the cliche "Earth to Webb." People in glass houses, etc.) Will is really hit or miss lately. I'm sure part of it has to do with how often I agree with him (that's human nature) but my biggest problem with him is simply the fact that he oftentimes writes like, oh, what is the phrase, ahh yes, a "pompous poseur."


Stephen said...

The sentence in question follows a colon.
"...In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves."

The subject of the sentence is "people" and the verb is "decline." What they decline is "to be led by leaders...." Your suggestion "to follow" does not change the construction of the sentence. A way to make the sentence better would be to replace the verb with a verb that means "decline to be led by." As for grammatical rule-breaking, the rule is that you have to know the rules. Then you can break the rules. I am sure George Will knows the rules.

To compare Bush's overheard remark to Webb's actions is silly. Bush was not rude the reporter. He wispered his comment to Dick "Big Time" Cheney. Webb is not a late-night comedian or a blogger. He is a Senator. Senators should have more respect for the presidency, if not the president as an individual.

dcat said...

Steve --
Sorry, but the sentence as I proposed would make perfect sense: "In a Republic, people decline to follow leaders who . . ." If that does not make sense to you, I'm quite sorry. It is a better sentence. The colon has almost nothing to do with this issue because what follows the colon is an independent clause (and is actually is on its own a complete sentence) and so therefore "led by" is a pretty onerous use of passive voice as Will constructs it.

I'm not certain why, on the scale of rudeness, calling someone an asshole within earshot, whether intended or not, is more rude than what should have been seen as a private conversation between the president and Webb. I don't feel that I owe the president any more politeness than I owe a reporter from the NYT and I'm not sure why any of us would. But I'm not an apologist for the president, so I guess I don't think that way.


Stephen said...

Just so I am not reading too much into your comment, you were calling me an apologist for the president, right?