After graciously congratulating the new Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, President George Bush couldn’t resist going petty, by calling her political party the “Democrat” Party, rather than “Democratic.” Then he good-naturedly soldiered through his lackluster State of the Union address, which was eerily unsatisfying, in yet a new way.
Of course, the beleaguered president mentioned the “lessons of 9/11.” Strangely, he completely forgot about the lessons of Hurricane Katrina ... whatever they might have been. Still, Bush did what he could to put a good a face on his administration’s accomplishments, and the lack thereof.
Then came Virginia’s new Democratic senator Jim Webb (depicted above), who spoke in a startlingly authentic and well-informed tone. There was no sign of petulance or being overprepared. He was smooth.
To wind up his remarks Webb said that if Bush doesn’t change his ways and get America out of Iraq, then “...We will be showing him the way.”
Yes, Virginia, Mr. Webb has gone to Washington.
Update No. 1 (same night): Of Jim Webb, Pat Buchanan just said on MSNBC, "The Democratic Party has a real star there."
Update No. 2 (Wed., 1:15 p.m.): Writing about Webb’s response to Bush’s address, in his article, “Va.‘s Webb Offers a Blunt Challenge to Bush,” the Washington Post’s Michael Shear opened with this:
“Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) delivered a forceful nine-minute response to President Bush's State of the Union address last night, promising an aggressive challenge to Bush’s Iraq and economic policies from the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress.
Later in the piece Shear grabbed and framed the quote from Webb’s talk which was at the heart of his winning message in November:
“‘...We need a new direction,’ said Webb, a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. ‘Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy.’”
Update No. 3: For Newsweek online Jonathan Alter writes:
“Something unprecedented happened tonight, beyond the doorkeeper announcing, 'Madame Speaker.' For the first time ever, the response to the State of the Union Message overshadowed the president's big speech. Virginia Sen. James Webb, in office only three weeks, managed to convey a muscular liberalism -- with personal touches -- that left President Bush's ordinary address in the dust. In the past, the Democratic response has been anemic -- remember Washington Gov. Gary Locke? This time it pointed the way to a revival for national Democrats.”
Art by F.T. Rea