No less a liberal than Newsweek's Jonathan Alter gushed over Webb's SOTU rebuttal, writing, "Virginia Sen. James Webb … managed to convey a muscular liberalism -- with personal touches -- that left President Bush's ordinary address in the dust."
It matters not to Alter that Webb is advocating our near-immediate withdrawal from Iraq (how muscular will Osama bin Laden find that?). What counts is that Webb's dad was a vet, he's a vet, and his son's currently serving in Iraq. And like a good liberal, Alter invoked the chickenhawk mantra, saying that unlike Bush and Cheney, Webb served in Vietnam.
Oh, yes, and "unlike fellow veteran John Kerry, he has a military bearing and nonelitist tone that is appealing." By "military bearing," Alter means that Webb doesn't look like a perfectly coiffed "wussie," but a tough military guy, whose appearance also trumps his dovish policies.
Another liberal columnist, the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, was similarly ecstatic about Webb's speech and the apparent toughness he displayed. Dionne wrote, "Webb's performance was a salutary sign that Democrats might just be getting over the battered party syndrome that has left so many of them terrified of saying exactly what is on their minds."
Sorry, E.J., but to call a party that has been mercilessly bludgeoning President Bush for six years running "battered," is like, well, calling liberals "muscular." Democrats can't have it both ways. Either they're going to join us in the war on terror, or they aren't. Either they're going to put teeth in their antiwar Senate resolutions, or they're not. It's one thing to shadowbox and talk tough. It's another to get in the ring and start swinging.
Democrats must know deep down that their candidates' combat credentials and tough demeanor -- not to mention personal nastiness -- are not going to serve as substitutes for offering policies promoting the national interest, for which they can be held to account. Even the irascible, ex-Republican Jim Webb is not the Democrats' foreign policy panacea.