A Webb of Insults

|

Nick Gillespie and Radley Balko already covered the SOTU, but a day later this put-down of James Webb by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson is still making the rounds.

Senator Webb made liberal use of cliches: the middle class is "the backbone" of the country, which is losing its "place at the table." I am not even sure there is a literary term for a mixed metaphor that crosses two cliches. And Senator Webb's logic was as incoherent as his language (the two are often related). No "precipitous withdrawal"–but retreat "in short order." Fight the war on terror vigorously–except where the terrorists have chosen to fight it. It is, perhaps, a good thing that James Webb earned a job as senator. As a speechwriter he would starve.

That's not much of an insult, is it? Senators hire speechwriters; speechwriters, generally, don't hire senators. It's a bit like saying "It's a good thing he earned a job as a CEO. As a call center manager, he would starve."

For a more damning take on last night, note Tony Perkins' grumbling response to Bush's speech.

Advertisement

NEXT: Bruce Bartlett on Ron Paul

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Retreating in short order need not be precipitous. And fighting the war on terror vigorously is likely to involve choosing one’s own battlefields, rather than fighting where the enemy has chosen to fight.

    It’s a good thing Gerson is a speechwriter. As a general, he’d starve.

  2. If Webb were doomed be just a speechwriter, he’d probably commit suicide.

  3. webb rocks. even if i don’t agree with him on everything. voted for him.

  4. Fight the war on terror vigorously–except where the terrorists have chosen to fight it.

    Yeah, isn’t it basic military doctrine to fight on ground of your own choosing rather than of your enemy’s choosing? WTF?

    In any case, he is doubly wrong. The terrorists didn’t choose to fight in Iraq, we did. And we chose poorly.

  5. Come on Dave, it’s politics. These guys get paid to insult each other. And it certainly isn’t a one way street.

  6. In our post-modern times, mixed metaphors are the only ones that make a mark that doesn’t skip. It’s a such a yawn to stab a person in the back with a mere knife. Stabbing him or her in the back with kindness carries a bit of sting of the sort one gets from chewing qat, which some people can do while walking.

  7. Well he talk about the middle class an awful lot:

    smackdown results: “middle class”

    🙂

  8. I have to say: in all my time in politics, speechwriters are perhaps the least talented people with the biggest egos that I’ve ever encountered. It’s an extremely plumb job, always a great nepohire, because it lets you do things like avoid having to talk any (ugh) voters, raise money, make phone calls, etc. If this guy is going to condemn Webb for breaking the rules of “Speechwriting 101 that I took at junior-upstairs medical college” I don’t think I’m going to worry too much about it.

  9. This excerpt from Gerson’s MSNBC/Newseek article, “Exceeding Expectations”, praising Bush’s SOTU address, provides some context for interpreting the Webb-bashing:

    On foreign policy, the president combined subtle analysis…

    Jim – Did you even watch the same speech as the rest of us? I think that you might need to hold some higher expectations. Take off your Red State-colored glasses for just a minute and look around. The whole world isn’t a Fox News audience. Webb’s piece wasn’t flawless but I think that it speaks to the people who have become disillusioned with the path this administration has taken and proposes for the next two years. And that’s a target-rich environment these days.

  10. I like people that do their own lifting instead of hiring someone else to speak or write for them. Who cares if he flubbed something? It would help if more Senators wrote their own speeches instead of hacks for hire like Gerson.

    I like Webb, personally, from what I know about his backgound and from what I see. he doesn’t yet appear to have been turned into a toadying sniveling bastard by the process, and I hope he stays that way.

  11. Jim Webb at last a man who stands for what he believes. I’m sure all the idiots will be attacking him. He is a breath of freash air and he has the balls to say what he thinks.

  12. I’m with Timothy, but was I the only one who found Webb’s voice to be incredibly irritating? I mean, I may have been baked (how else could I deal with the words coming out of our presidents mouth?), but I could not stop giggling at Webb for the first 2 minutes of his speech.

  13. And [his] logic was as incoherent as his language (the two are often related).

    Wow. Not an argument I’d expect to hear coming from a Bush partisan. If Gerson’s right about this, you’d think he would hesitate to remind people that it’s true.

  14. Rarely is an entire speech memorable anyway. The last two sentences of that speech were great, and memorable.

    Believe it or not, from listening to “regular” people around my office, I think Webb just set himself up to be chosen as Vice President on the ticket. Va has a Dem Governor, so Webb’s replacement wouldn’t cause a shift in the Senate. Not to mention, the Dems would carry Va (or at least have a legitimate chance) with him on the ticket, regardless of who the nominee is.

  15. Jim Webb’s speech is being applauded as the best rebuttal ever given to a State of the Union speech by everyone who isn’t actually being paid to say otherwise. It’s being hailed as the only time in history that the party out of power has won SOTU night.

  16. “Senators hire speechwriters; speechwriters, generally, don’t hire senators.”

    Really? I thought Senators were indeed hired by speechwriters, firemen, waiters and stay at home Moms. You know, the people who’s taxes pay their wages?

  17. I wish someone would give us a good definition of “the terrorists” before using the term.

  18. Think about how much better this blog will be once Webb gets the VP nod and Weigel leaves to serve as his communications director.

  19. “Really? I thought Senators were indeed hired by speechwriters, firemen, waiters and stay at home Moms. You know, the people who’s taxes pay their wages?”

    Tim Worstal,

    This is the most awkward faux-populist rhetoric I’ve ever read. Lumping political speechwriters with the hard workin’, tax payin’ average Joes / Jos was hilarious.

  20. It’s a good thing I married well. As a gigolo I would starve.

  21. I believe jb won the thread with the first post.

    I think it’s suspicious for a professional speechwriter to work so hard to reverse the universal approval given to speech written by an amateur. He might be feeling a bit threatened. After all, if mere senators can write their own speeches, who would need speechwriters at all?

    In any case, I wouldn’t put my resume that I wrote speeches for George Bush. A prospective employer might exhume them to judge your competence and get pissed off about being lied into a losing war and running up a gigantic deficit and throw your worthless ass out the window instead of giving you a job.

    Better to claim you spent 2001-2008 at the Betty Ford Clinic.

  22. That’s not much of an insult, is it? Senators hire speechwriters; speechwriters, generally, don’t hire senators. It’s a bit like saying “It’s a good thing he earned a job as a CEO. As a call center manager, he would starve.”

    Ehn, sure it is, if the CEO’s suddenly taken to running the call center. Or, as I more often see, if some company lets their ad guy slap together the corporate web site in MS Word. It’s a perfectly fair sort of criticism; whether or not it’s valid depends on the details.

  23. “Jim Webb’s speech is being applauded as the best rebuttal ever given to a State of the Union speech by everyone who isn’t actually being paid to say otherwise. It’s being hailed as the only time in history that the party out of power has won SOTU night.”

    Isn’t that a bit like applauding Mike Tyson for winning a fight with a paraplegic?

  24. Isn’t that a bit like applauding Mike Tyson for winning a fight with a paraplegic?

    Have you seen Tyson fight lately?

  25. Webb’s voice was weird at first, then I got used to it and found it something else: authentic and un-phony. I grew to like it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.