Webb of Venom

President Bush’s State of the Union Address was no barnburner. The president was serious and thoughtful, and his speech offered little in the way of rhetorical fireworks.

But if President Bush’s speech was unexciting, Sen. Jim Webb’s, D-Virginia, purported rebuttal was disastrous. Webb decisively demonstrated why Democrats cannot be given charge of America’s foreign policy.

President Bush acknowledged that American involvement in Iraq has not gone as planned; that the sectarian violence currently wracking Iraq was hardly our goal. Nonetheless, Bush provided a realistic perspective: "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle."

Sen. Webb’s response, by contrast, sounded like that of a divorced woman complaining about her ex-husband’s penchant for leaving up the toilet seat. Webb spent a full 400 words, or well over 25 percent of his speech, whining about the genesis of the war in Iraq. "This country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years," Webb stated. "Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world."

Webb went on to indict President Bush for taking "us into this war recklessly" and, by extension, losing "opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism" and spilling "the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve." "We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable — and predicted — disarray that has followed," Webb charged.

This is political chicanery at its most scurrilous. Webb rewrites history for his own purposes here. Democrats voted in favor of action in Iraq with open eyes, just as Republicans did.

The invasion of Iraq has been correctly characterized as the longest telegraphed punch in the history of warfare. It was openly debated for months, and that followed a decade of debate about what to do with Saddam Hussein. There was no reckless "rush to war." Nor was the war in Iraq a lost opportunity to defeat international terrorism. Al Qaeda is particularly active in Iraq, viewing Iraq as a central front in its war against Western civilization.

But Webb’s most disreputable attack was his implication that President Bush cared less about the blood of our military men and women than Webb. Webb went out of his way to champion his military service, his father’s military service, his brother’s military service and his son’s military service, all of which was perfectly normal and commendable. Then Webb crossed the line: "We owed [the national leaders] our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it."

"Concern for our welfare." This is obscene. The idea that President Bush wrote off the lives of military men and women on a whim is an egregious slur. It is a direct slap at Bush’s honor and a vile attempt to drag Bush’s character through the mud.

But this is what today’s liberals call "muscular liberalism." Commentators on the left raved about Webb’s speech. Though Webb called for a "new direction" in Iraq, he offered not a single practical word about how to tackle the situation on the ground. Calling for "regionally based diplomacy" will not solve much in a region including the likes of Syria and Iran — and it is certainly not "muscular."

What, then, makes Webb a "muscular liberal"? His absolute loathing for President Bush. Democrats believe that it takes more courage to obstruct President Bush and Republicans than to fight Islamism. Webb offered nothing but vitriol, and Democrats lapped it up.

President Bush is not a perfect president or a perfect man. But he is a man, not a child. On a night when President Bush spoke maturely about serious issues, Webb graphically illustrated that Democrats are simply angry adolescents not to be trusted with national security.