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The inconsistency of James Webb
Posted by: McQ on Friday, February 09, 2007

This is just classic. Chris Wallace, interviewing James Webb on Fox News Sunday, asks Webb how he reconciles a previous statement with his actions today.

It is an amazing non-answer:
WALLACE: Okay. You, as you point out, fought in Vietnam where you won the Navy Cross. And back in 1985, you had this to say. Let's put it up on the screen.

"If I had one lesson that stands out in my mind, it is that you cannot fight a war and debate it at the same time." Senator, why not? What's the problem, especially for our troops, when we're trying to fight a war and debating it at the same time here at home?

WEBB: Well, the difficulty that we have right now — there are so many people trying to make a direct parallel between Vietnam and Iraq, on both sides of the issue, by the way.

You have the people who are opposed to the Iraq war saying this is just another Vietnam. You have the people who supported the Vietnam war, many of them — I supported the Vietnam war. I still support what we attempted to do in Vietnam — trying to draw direct parallels, and there are no direct parallels.
All I can gather from this is he seems to be saying that if he supports a war then his original statement holds true. I guess then, given his claim to the right to debate Iraq while at war, you must assume that if he doesn't support the war, then he doesn't agree with his own statement. Wallace tries again:
WALLACE: Let me ask you directly my question.

WEBB: Right, I'm getting to your question. But I need to be able to, you know, put my experiences on the table so that people can understand what I'm saying here.

The way that this war has been defined is a 20-year war. In fact, I got mail at the beginning of this war when I was opposing it, before we went in, basically saying you need to sit down and shut up because you're being disloyal to a president.

But when do you start talking? Twenty years from now? And particularly in a situation now where the — all the conditions that are being predicted if we withdraw from Iraq — and basically, by the way, they're saying precipitous withdrawal, and no one is saying that — are the conditions that those of us like myself were predicting would occur if we went in and are on the ground.

Empowering Iran? That's one of the reasons I said we shouldn't go in. Being less able to fight the war against international terror — we were saying that. Focus on international terror, don't focus on this. Loss of American prestige around the world — we had the world with us before we went in. Economic disadvantages — we're going to put, what, $800 billion more into this war if we keep going?
Ah, I see, so because he wasn't a Senator at the time and because he didn't get to debate the AUMF then it makes perfect sense - since he opposed the war going in - that debate is open for him at any time. And that is the case even if he once believed you can't debate and fight a war at the same time. Right?

And did putting his "experience on the table" so people could "understand" what he's saying achieve it's purpose? Seems to me it was more of a mechanism for buying time than anything.

Oh, and anyone, who defined Iraq, initially, as a 20 year war?

Moving on:
WALLACE: But Senator, if I may go back to my question...

WEBB: We have to be able to discuss this.

WALLACE: I understand, but if I may go back to my question of the dangers of debating and fighting at the same time, which you said was the lesson you took from Vietnam. Some people say that's exactly what's going on right now.

The Democrats, including yourself, voted unanimously a few days ago to confirm General Petraeus to lead all U.S. forces in Iraq...

WEBB: Right, right.

WALLACE: ... at the same time that they want to pass a resolution that would oppose the plan that he helped write for the troops he says are necessary to win.

WEBB: Well, you see, that's not an inconsistency. And I voted for General Petraeus. And I don't agree with the whole national — lack of national strategy that — this administration has not had a strategy. They continue to focus on the military side rather than diplomatic side.

WALLACE: But you don't see...

WEBB: Please, let me...

WALLACE: But if I might just — you don't see the inconsistency...

WEBB: I'm trying to answer your question, because there is not an inconsistency.

WALLACE: Why not?

WEBB: When the administration puts forward a general officer to fill a billet that exists, I will take a look at his qualifications and see whether I believe he is qualified to be a commander. That doesn't mean that I have to back a political strategy that impels him into motion.

It's the same question in reverse...
You've got to be kidding me. That's just pathetic ... and, you note, he's no closer to answering the question that Wallace put to him, namely if one of the lessons you took from Vietnam was the danger of debating and fighting at the same time, why don't you feel that way now?

So far nada in the answer department. And, unfortunately, Wallace let's him wander off on a tangent:
WALLACE: But what his military strategy that he is the author of?

WEBB: He has written some military viewpoints. I met with General Petraeus. I've talked with him about this. He has promised me he's going to give us continual feedback on what he's doing.

The reverse of that, by the way, in terms of the difficulty of being a military officer, is what we've just had to do with General Casey. He's up now to be chief of staff of the Army. There are many people, and particularly the people who support the administration's political policy, who are trying to hold General Casey as the scapegoat for the fact the Iraq war isn't working.

And as I said in the confirmation hearings when he was up, these people represent the anomaly of high-level military service. On the one hand, if you speak up too loud, you get fired in this administration. There's a string of people.

And if you speak too softly, when things go bad you get blamed instead of the administration and the civilians who put this policy into place.
So I guess, given his avoidance of the question, that Webb in fact doesn't believe what he said years ago and just wishes it would go away.

All in all a phenomenal non-answer and a classic case of the shift from principle to politics. An amazing but unfortunately common metamorphasis.

I have to believe that at least in this instance and despite his protest to the contrary, he does believe it is perfectly fine to be intellectually inconsistent about "debating and fighting a war" if he doesn't support a war. But he just won't admit it because he knows that in reality Wallace is right, it's an inconsistent position. So he did the politico shuffle.

Hey, give him credit, for what it's worth ... he's certainly learning fast how to be a politician, that's for sure.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
"[National Review founder] Bill Buckley said if we hadn’t gotten out
of Vietnam, we wouldn’t have won the Cold War. If we don’t get out of
Iraq, we’ll have a tough time winning the war on terror. ... al-Qaeda
would love for us to stay."


http://www.cnsnews.com/news/viewstory.asp?Page=/Nation/archive/200701/NAT20070129c.html

 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
And give Chris Wallace credit for having the stones to ask the question. I may have under-estimated him, given his father’s history.



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
As usual Cindy, completely irrelevant to the point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
As a Virginian, all I can say is that Senator Big Head grows more embarrassing every day. What a tool.
 
Written By: Fred
URL: http://www.fredochsenhirt.com
"[National Review founder] Bill Buckley said if we hadn’t gotten out
of Vietnam, we wouldn’t have won the Cold War. If we don’t get out of
Iraq, we’ll have a tough time winning the war on terror. ... al-Qaeda
would love for us to stay."
Slight difference though cindy....in Vietnam, we weren’t fighting the Soviets (directly) but their proxies.

In Iraq, there is good evidence that we are fighting AQ directly. In addition, being in Iraq keeps us closer to the center of the coming action vis a vis Iran.

As usual, it’s NOT about Vietnam no matter how much you want it to be
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I think in your second block quote Wallace ends up asking a different question, or at least uses as an example that is not on point, and Webb ends up addressing that question/example, rather than the original one. But yes, he otherwise dodges the question.

I still don’t get this aversion in politicians to say that they’ve come to change their views, or that their original view was wrong. In webb’s case it would be easy, hell, he said it over 20 years ago and he was wrong then.

 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
I still don’t get this aversion in politicians to say that they’ve come to change their views ...
They don’t have an aversion ... just ask any Democrat (minus Lieberman) who voted for the Iraq war what their view is now.

They’ll tell you.

So no, I don’t agree that he was wrong then ... I think instead he feels he was right then and can’t quite bring himself to admit it given his current "view".

Thus the mega-dodge.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think instead he feels he was right then and can’t quite bring himself to admit it given his current "view".
Well, in this I think you might be correct. I’ll have to disagree with you on whether he was wrong then, clearly we can fight a war and debate it at the same time, and win.
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
He could have easily answere this question. I mean, it’s pathetic that he so obviously dodges the question. This what he says; ’The Vietnam War was a war to protect a people from communism and dictatorship. We could have won that war if we had been allowed to take the gloves up, give up the bombing halts, and pursue the NVA into North Vietnam. What the debate at the time was impose restriction on the military’s actions such that we couldn’t win the war. The Vietnam war was a winnable and just war, but the political debate prevented us from winning the war.

In Iraq, it was a dumb war to begin with obviously cooked intelligence. It was very similar to the Balkans with lots of different groups with hundreds of years of enmity held together by a dictator. First, we went in on dishonest terms. And then mismanagement turned it into chaos. And it is simply not winnable. So here the political debate is to get us out of a war we cannot win. If you can’t win the war then some voice needs to rise to get us out.

In Vietnam we had a winnable and just war so shut up and let the troops win. In Iraq we had a dishonest war that we cannot win. We need political debate to get us out of there or we will be there forever. If I had had a crystal ball back in 1985 and I could have seen the morass that Iraq has become, I would have changed my comments to say; ’you cannot have a political debate while in the middle of a just and winnable war.’

Do I have a political future? I was dead-set against the initial invasion of Iraq. But now I prescribe to Powell’s belief that ’you break it you own it.’ But I would support the surge. But if things are no better 8 months from now we need to pull out.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
I would have changed my comments to say; ’you cannot have a political debate while in the middle of a just and winnable war.
Which, of course, is why we lost WWII.
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
But I would support the surge. But if things are no better 8 months from now we need to pull out.
That’s pretty much my present position as well.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Wallace took the whole thing out of context and he had to go back twenty years to find where Webb had possibly misspoke. Webb scares the hell out of you guys, doesn’t he?. What is it with you your chickenhawk instincts to tear down any man who has some military experience. Webb’s the best thing that’s happened to the Senate in 30 years. Too bad you ran him off from your party. I would have voted for him no matter what party he was in. Pray he don’t run for President—no GOP’s can touch him. Change has come and more is coming. Don’t you just love Democracy?

 
Written By: Nick Stump
URL: http://
Wallace took the whole thing out of context and he had to go back twenty years to find where Webb had possibly misspoke.
Well then why didn’t your man correct him and correct the context? I mean, that shouldn’t have been very hard to do, should it?
Webb scares the hell out of you guys, doesn’t he?.
Why should someone who handles a straight forward question this badly scare anyone?
What is it with you your chickenhawk instincts to tear down any man who has some military experience.
Oh, I don’t know, perhaps the fact that I spent 28 years in the military as an infantryman. But that’s just a guess.
Too bad you ran him off from your party.
He was a libertarian? Huh.
Don’t you just love Democracy?
Actually no. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.

Speaking of sheep ... have a nice day.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Hmm...a comment in this thread:
But I would support the surge. But if things are no better 8 months from now we need to pull out.
McQ’s response:
That’s pretty much my present position as well.
McQ from a previous post today (or yesterday):
This despite almost universal agreement that pulling out of Iraq now would be a catastrophe.
Do you think we can really accomplish so much in 8 months so as to avoid catastrophe? What if you think 8 months from now that pulling out will be a catastrophe, will you nevertheless support pulling out?

Just asking.
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
This despite almost universal agreement that pulling out of Iraq now would be a catastrophe.
I also said the withdrawal should be a "phased withdrawal" not an immediate or total one. Phasing could last for over a year or two, possibly longer.

Many of those who are talking about withdrawal are talking about a total and immediate withdrawal and it is that which most agree would be catastrophic.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
You spent 28 years as an infantryman? Frankly, I’m surprised you don’t know better. When did libertarians start nation building? I do agree with a phased withdrawal. I don’t want to see no more helicopters taking going off the embassy roof. Been there—done that.
 
Written By: Nick Stump
URL: http://
Ugh, I’ll have to say, getting out of a war is not like leaving a motel room. It’s gonna take some time. We should have known this when we got in the deal. I’ve lost two friends in this war. Not a lot—I lost a bunch of true brothers in Vietnam, but when you consider how few people in this country even know someone serving in Iraq it’s a lot. I’m giving McQ some grief on Jim Webb and what all, but we need to get out of there a lot more carefully than we went in. Otherwise, we may sustain some big number casualties. War is not like the movies. It’s a lot more messy. It’s a logistical nightmare—lot’s of stuff to deal with. When we leave, and we will leave, or a least go over the horizon. That’s good enough for me for the time being.
 
Written By: Nick Stump
URL: http://
You spent 28 years as an infantryman? Frankly, I’m surprised you don’t know better.
What, that he dodged the question? Sorry Nick ... he dodged the question.
When did libertarians start nation building?
When they realized that isolationism isn’t really an option.
I do agree with a phased withdrawal. I don’t want to see no more helicopters taking going off the embassy roof. Been there—done that.
Me too ... however I want to give them this one last chance and perhaps we can avoid it altogether. If not, start phasing them out of there.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t want to see no more helicopters taking going off the embassy roof. Been there—done that.
That happened after we had left Viet Nam.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Mark, it might have happened after you left Vietnam, but I had good friends who worked who couldn’t get all their people out. Do I think we could have won in Vietnam? Yes, I do. Do I think we can win in Iraq. No, I don’t. Show me where the Hanoi is in Iraq, and I’ll agree with this war. I think we’re in a hell of mess no matter where we turn. I’ll give us all the time we need to get out right, but this is a mess and it’s not Jim Webb’s fault. Jim Webb doesn’t have to prove anything to a sop like Chris Wallace. This was a non-news item, as it should have been. Chris Wallace is the People’s Court of news. Let’s get real here. You guys probably ought to find a softer target than Webb. Oh, one more thing McQ, I’m no sheep. You might want to get that straight. Semper Fi, Brother.

 
Written By: Nick Stump
URL: http://
Those of you that were in the military during and after Tailhook; I have a question for you. I joined in 1990. I had always admired Webb for resigning as SecNav in protest to cutting the fleet, for Fields of Fire, and for his portrayal in Nightingail Song. I mentioned this to a coworker who had been in back during Tailhook. He said Webb made the officers do like a 4 hour sexual harrassment class, and the enlisted had to do like 3 days of sexual harrassment training. Ever since then he has hated Webb with a passion. No enlisted were at Tailhook so why do they hav to do 6 times the sexual harrassment training? Why do they have to do any at all since they weren’t involved?

I think I would have hated Webb after that also. Between that and the Senkaku Island, I had to withhold my vote from that election. The Senkaku question was one of the dumbest things I have ever heard, and the smug look on Webb’s face when Allen didn’t know what it was forced my hand.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
Oh, one more thing McQ, I’m no sheep. You might want to get that straight.
Well then next time Nick, do a little homework before you come in with guns a blazin’.

Fair enough?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Which, of course, is why we lost WWII.
Ugh, I have no idea what that means. But then again, neither do you.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
"But I need to be able to, you know, put my experiences on the table..."

Is that his version of "Reporting for duty"?

*************************
"like 3 days of sexual harrassment training."

Would that be 3 eight hour days, or a class or two each day for three days?

My guess as to at least part of this discrepancy is that officers are, as a group, generally older, better educated, and already held to a higher standard than enlisted personnel. They are also presumably better trained in all the various rules and regulations governing the conduct of military personnel. It shouldn’t take a lot of time to remind officers that "conduct unbecoming an officer" includes sexual harassment in all its forms, although I have known one or two who might need more time.

" Why do they have to do any at all since they weren’t involved?"

I hope you do not think that Tailhook was the only incident of sexual harassment in the military, or that enlisted personnel have never been involved in it, either as perpetrators or victims.


 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Timactual,
Would that be 3 eight hour days, or a class or two each day for three days?
Full work days; 4 hours versus 3 x 8 hour days equals 6 times.
My guess as to at least part of this discrepancy is that officers are, as a group, generally older, better educated, and already held to a higher standard than enlisted personnel. They are also presumably better trained in all the various rules and regulations governing the conduct of military personnel. It shouldn’t take a lot of time to remind officers that "conduct unbecoming an officer" includes sexual harassment in all its forms, although I have known one or two who might need more time.
The mandated training came as a direct result of, and as a direct response to, Tailhook. Why are enlisted recieving 6 times the training as the officers when only officers were involved in Tailhook?

I hope you do not think that Tailhook was the only incident of sexual harassment in the military, or that enlisted personnel have never been involved in it, either as perpetrators or victims.
So enlisted are 6 times as likely to partake in sexual harassment as officers, because the latter are "generally older, better educated, and already held to a higher standard than enlisted personnel. They are also presumably better trained in all the various rules and regulations governing the conduct of military personnel"


You either never served or are an officer.

1. Tailhook happens.
2. Only officers present at Tailhook.
3. Mandated sexual harassment training as a result of Tailhook (By Webb).
4. Enlisted did not participate in Tailhook.
5. Enlisted forced to endure 6 times the sexual harassment training as officers.

You think that is right?
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
"You think that is right?’

To make that judgement I would need more than third-hand hearsay. That is why I use such words as "My guess", "presumably", etc. I think you, too, should rely on something more substantial than the story of a coworker. Frankly, even if true, I wonder about someone who develops a hatred for Webb based on having three days of boring classes inflicted on them. It seems pretty trivial to me. If those were the only unenjoyable classes inflicted on your coworker, he was very unusual.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
First, my coworker is a fellow Marines who I is one of the most respected Marines in his field, so it’s a but more than hearsay.

Second, you responded to what the facts as I stated them. Your ’my guess’ and ’presumably’ had nothing to do with what I had said had happened, they had to do with the fact that officers are better trained, more professional, and more mature than enlisted. And that is poppycock. Mature? Marginally just because the enlisted start younger. Professional? Not in the USMC. Better trained? Nope, which is why job specific experts are enlisted or warrent officers; ie; Master Gunnery Sgts and Marine Gunners.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
" better trained, more professional, and more mature than enlisted."

And one more thing. They are probably also better at reading and comprehending written English.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
This isn’t a masters thesis it is a msg board, and one w/o an edit function. First, to avoid the issue you portray the enlisted as a bunch of illiterate miscreants. Then to avoid it again you point out grammatical errors on an uneditable msg board. I almost posted a subsequent msg apologizing for my errors, but figured it was understandable.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
P.S. I will promise to do a better job reviewing my text prior to posting as long as you answer my original question.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://
"Then to avoid it again you point out grammatical errors on an uneditable msg board."

No, I specifically said "reading and comprehending". Thank you for proving me correct, in your case anyway. As to that particular remark, it was a perhaps too subtle jab at you, not enlisted personnel in general. Sometimes my attempts at humour are a little overreaching.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I see no ’subtle jab’. You are clearly back pedaling as you continually refuse to answer the salient question. You also clearly feel that officers are smarter, more mature, and more professional than enlisted. But that is point two. You still haven’t addressed the discrepency in the punishments (sexual harrassment training). That’s point one. I’m waiting.
 
Written By: civdiv
URL: http://

 
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