Smutgate: Webb Gets Burned By Bizarro Book Passages

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 27, 2006 9:32 AM

Frankly, this is a really fitting October Surprise for this race.

John Hawkins was all over this story in September, and I didn't link it because I was weary of the whole Allen/Webb dirty saga. But now Drudge went and bannered it, and I can't imagine how bad the Webb camp is squirming right now.

When I first read the passages, I tried to cut Webb a break, since it's fiction, and they may have been relevant to the story. But, man, these passages are weird. Remember what I said in my first HamNation about the perfect October Surprise giving voters and unspecified, icky feeling? Meet that feeling.

Lost Soldiers: “A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.”
Bantam Books, NY, 1st Edition, 2001, (hard cover), page 333.
Quote is from para. 10,.Chap. 34.

Pedophilia and incest! I'm still not sure it's relevant to Webb's demeanor or qualifications. I think there are other reasons to avoid voting for him besides dodgy fiction passages, but Hawkins had this to say:

It goes without saying that any Republican who wrote this sort of thing and ran for office would be absolutely ripped into a thousand pieces by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the MSM isn't even showing the people of Virginia these passages so that they can make up their own minds about how relevant they are. It's just typical media bias. 

He's right, of course. If Allen was on the receiving end of 168 stories about "macaca," Webb should certainly take some hits for this.

The Allen campaign makes a larger point about Webb's attitudes toward women:

Webb’s novels disturbingly and consistently – indeed, almost uniformly – portray women as servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these. In novel after novel, Webb assigns his female characters base, negative characteristics. In thousands of pages of fiction penned by Webb, there are few if any strong, admirable women or positive female role models.

Why does Jim Webb refuse to portray women in a respectful, positive light, whether in his non-fiction concerning their role in the military, or in his provocative novels?

Their approach ties in with this ad, which is harsh, but pretty funny:

I still think the unspecified icky feeling is the winner, here, not the women angle. Actually, if you check my October Surprise guidelines, this is a really good one:

1. Close enough to the election to affect it? (10 days out in a toss-up? Not bad.)
2. Unspecified icky feeling inspired in voters? (Check, check and check.)
3. Compliant media? (I'm not betting on this one.)
4. Simple enough to explain on a bar napkin? (I'm not gonna draw the picture, but yeah, it can be done.)

Three outta four ain't bad.

Update: Some reactions...

Michelle Malkin: "I don't think, however, that the Allen campaign--couldn't they leave this to surrogates?--should be trafficking in this late October muck. It is beneath them and there's plenty else about Webb that is damning."

Frankly, I'm surprised the Allen campaign went there. The only reason I think they did is because some of the passages tie into their anti-women meme pretty well. They had a hook for it.

Dan Riehl thinks Webb's attitudes on women are gonna sink him, regardless of the fiction writing, and notes that the Washington Post front-paged some of those issues today.

Sister Toldjah says it's the media bias that matters in this race, and Wizbang! analyzes it.

Update: Webb responds to the smut dust-up on Washington Post radio. I'm sympathetic to the argument that he was trying to illustrate cultural practices in a work of fiction, and apparently that's what the pedophilia passage above was about.

Webb says he wouldn't put anything in a novel that he wasn't fine with claiming, but then he also tells the radio host that he thinks he shouldn't read the passages on the air.

Overall, sounded like a decent response to me, though he shouldn't have blamed it all on Karl Rove at the end, there. That makes him sound like a loon, and when you're explaining this kind of thing, you don't want to sound like a loon.

Update: Hey, even Keith Olbermann thinks this kind of thing is fair game.

Update: Instapundit has a good round-up on this issue.