The rock and roll response to Radley Balko's post about Sen.-elect James Webb and his minor tiff with the president gave some sense of the hackles that incident was raising. Sure enough, today comes George Will, a man whose mien could have made him a top-notch politeness guru if that 14th birthday copy of Reflections on the French Revolution had been replaced by Emily Post's Etiquette.
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.
It's astounding, the genuflection that even a conservative like Will (who's been extremely critical of elements in the Roveified GOP) will still show to Bush. Radley nailed the humility of what Webb did, in turning down a chance to have himself photographed with the POTUS (although why would he, when he's got plenty of pics of himself with a successful president?). But, probably for fear of slip-sliding into the old "chickenhawk" argument, no one has been able to point out the morally embarrassing thing about Bush's meeting with Webb.
Two fathers are meeting. One dad is an ex-military man whose son is serving in a conflict that's lasted 3 years. The other dad is a military man who actually outranks dad #1 and is leading the army in said conflict. But his kids aren't serving, and probably never will. The dad with the kid who's fighting, right now, says that he wants to conflict to be over. The dad who's commanding the army snaps back at him "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?"
Really, who comes off as the loser in this meeting? We went from "George Bush is a regular guy you can have a beer with" to "I'm George Bush, bitch!" in pretty short order.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent points out something I missed—Will dishonestly edited Bush's part of the exchange to make him sound less pissy.