The neighborhood of what was all too briefly my Old Dominion home is blanketed with Webb and Allen posters, but was still late getting to the season's dumbest election story: penisinthemouthgate In case you missed it, Sen. George Allen has unleashed a library-clearing broadside against challenger James Webb, the decorated Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary whose military novels contain such racy passages as a reference to a woman who pees standing up ("Didn't lose a drop, either. Not a drop"), a stripper who can cut a banana "in four equal sections by the muscles of her vagina," and this bit that has captured the hearts and minds of all Americans:
"A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy's penis in his mouth."
"Most Virginians and Americans would find passages such as those below shocking," Allen says, raising the question of what most Virginians would find above shocking. Allen's Great Books crusade has already been good for hundreds of breathless news stories and has already generated the inevitable unintended hilarity: Lynne Cheney's battle to suppress her own steaming-hot-lesbo novel Sisters. Even Hit & Run commenter "ex-subscriber" has got his or her panties in a knot about Webb's purple prose. Maybe I'm jaded, but the perverse stuff seems like standard issue sailor talk (wake me up when a stripper can peel and cut a banana with her pussy muscles), and the descriptive parts sound pretty much like the ham-handed "toward dawn, he took her again" passages you usually find in books like this. Maybe Webb's a misogynist, but based on these passages I'd say if anything he shows a healthy respect for the power and versatility of female plumbing.
What to make of it all? Reason's own Radley Balko points the way on his blog, noting that the boy's-penis passage (which even in Allen's invidious out-of-context quote reads like the piece of oddball local color it obviously is) actually draws attention to something Allen should probably be downplaying-that Webb actually served in Vietnam. I am not a James Webb supporter (the only thing I'm hoping for the Democrats to deliver in two weeks is divided government), but he's the closest thing to a renaissance man American politics offers at the moment: a decorated veteran, a high-level government official in various capacities, a highly praised novelist (the only one I've read is Fields of Fire, which I liked a lot), a popular historian with a prominent book about the Scots-Irish to his credit, and so on.
Against this, Allen is arguing, as Jeff Taylor noted a while back, that he should be re-elected because he's a moron. Based on the positive reaction this desperate attack on Webb is getting, it looks like that argument may be good enough. That's more disturbing than anything in James Webb's novels.