At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.
"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.
"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"
"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.
This, perhaps predictably, sent George Will of the Washington Post into an absolute tizzy.
But Greg Sargent catches Will conveniently leaving out important parts of the account reported in the same newspaper.
Now, the only reason this is getting blown out of proportion is because Webb (or his office) leaked that he was so angered by the exchange that he wanted to "slug" Bush.
Personally, I think letting that information out into the public was a bad move, any way you slice it. There's probably millions of Americans who would like to lob a haymaker at Bush, but millions of Americans are not U.S. senators and, as such, Webb should hold himself to a higher standard and keep that kind of thing in his office and off the front pages of major newspaper.
As to the exchange itself, I just don't get the stance of the "Webb is a ass!" crowd. Could Webb have answered the question in a different manner and conveyed the same point in a less combative way? Sure. But, in essence, a lot of people are basically saying that Webb should have lied to Bush and gone on his way. Webb has been a very vocal critic of the war in Iraq, and this man, a decorated Vietnam vet and former Secretary of the Navy, believes in honor, duty and sacrifice; he's not going to stand in front of a president (this president, especially) and sugar coat his feelings (especially since Webb's son is in theater in the Middle East).
If Webb really wanted to be an ass, he could have simply asked about how the twins were doing down in Argentina.