- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Webb ebbing

Ezra Klein of the liberal American Prospect really, really likes Virginia Sen. Jim Webb’s new book. But he also thinks “A Time to Fight” shows Mr. Webb would not be an ideal Democratic vice presidential pick, as is being speculated increasingly.

Mr. Webb is “too good a writer for his book to be an effective political document … The picture that emerges does not suggest a man politically or temperamentally suited to the vice-presidency,” Mr. Klein writes, elaborating that Mr. Webb became a writer and passed up numerous lucrative jobs because he wanted “to protect his autonomy.”

“Regrettably, this outlook is the antithesis of the vice presidency, which often requires mortgaging your personal credibility and sacrificing your independence in order to further the president’s point of view. … [Hubert H.] Humphrey gave his absolute loyalty [to Lyndon B. Johnson] and found himself silenced and sidelined. It is hard to imagine Webb enduring similar treatment, or proving similarly docile in the face of decisions with which he disagreed.

“This would be a less critical question were Webb’s beliefs not both idiosyncratic and strongly held,” Mr. Klein writes, noting conflicts, past and potential, with mainstream and liberal Democrats on China, Bosnia, “the military’s ability to control its own culture” and “his continuing fury toward those who protested the Vietnam War.”

An accommodation with the more conventionally liberal Sen. Barack Obama even could be made, but Mr. Klein says that would be a loss, too: “Webb, an idiosyncratic, free-thinking, independent-minded politician, is being pushed for a position that steamrolls those qualities. Worse, he’s being pushed for the position because people love what an idiosyncratic, free-thinking, independent-minded politician he is. It’s like celebrating a former alcoholic’s sobriety by taking him out for a drink.”

Misunderstood McClellan

“Although today his book is being touted by left-wing reporters and pundits, his initial plans for the project show former White House press secretary Scott McClellan intended to take a much different approach, one that was more sympathetic to President Bush but also quite hard on the ‘liberal elites’ of the Washington press corps and their ‘hostility’ toward the administration,” notes Matthew Sheffield of Newsbusters (www.newsbusters.org).

From reading through Mr. McClellan’s original book proposal, obtained by Politico.com, it is clear that before his editor, Peter Osnos, took the book on a sharp leftward turn, Mr. McClellan wanted to turn the tables on foes in the press gallery, including far-left columnist Helen Thomas and NBC correspondent David Gregory.

“I came to know and respect those who were assigned to the White House beat. They are solid professionals, but rarely scrutinized or put under the microscope. I will take a look at notable personalities in the White House Briefing Room, including David Gregory and Helen Thomas. I anticipate an entire chapter about the former,” Mr. McClellan wrote in his proposal for “What Happened.”

According to Mr. McClellan, America’s elite journalists have a dramatic problem with political diversity, which in turn leads them to skew the political debate in a leftward direction. The media are in a “constant state of denial” when it comes to admitting this.”

History lesson

“Barack Obama insists that the Kennedy-Khrushchev meetings were a success but, he forgets who won.”

Or so says Gateway Pundit (http://gatewaypundit .blogspot.com/) about the likely Democratic presidential candidate’s proposal to meet with dictators and U.S. enemies without preconditions.

“Obama cited John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Vienna Summit with Soviet [P]remier Nikita Khrushchev as a triumph of American diplomacy,” Gateway Pundit writes, going on to cite a Weekly Standard report by Scott Johnson elaborating on what happened in the Austrian capital:

“Once in office, Kennedy more or less discarded his previously expressed conditions for a summit. … The parties reached no agreement on any set agenda or proposals prior to their meeting in Vienna on June 3 and 4. The meetings were therefore confined to the informal exchange of views referred to in Kennedy’s February letter. By all accounts, including Kennedy’s own, the meetings were a disaster. Khrushchev berated, belittled, and bullied Kennedy on subjects ranging from Communist ideology to the balance of power between the Soviet and Western blocs, to Laos, to ‘wars of national liberation,’ to nuclear testing. He threw down the gauntlet on Berlin in particular, all but threatening war.”

“[Thirty-nine] days after the Vienna Meetings the Soviet Union erected the Berlin Wall. Obama must have missed this,” Gateway Pundit concludes.

Double standard?

Paul Mirengoff of the conservative Power Line site (http://www.powerlineblog.com/) smells a double standard.

“[Scott] McClellan´s book is a topic of intense discussion not just at the [Washington] Post but at USA Today and the New York Times. The latter two organs have refused to report on [Douglas] Feith´s book [“War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism”] (the Times turned down three separate stories by star reporter James Risen), and the Post has refused to review it.”

“There can be little question as to which book is more valuable when it comes to understanding why we went to war in Iraq and whether it made sense to do so,” Mr. Mirengoff writes. “Whether [‘What Happened’] amounts to a tell-all’ depends on how much McClellan actually knows, and this is the subject of considerable doubt. Though I haven´t read his book, I do know that it is devoid of footnotes, endnotes, and supporting documentation. Nor, as [co-blogger John Hinderaker] has pointed out, do McClellan´s media appearances suggest that he´s knowledgeable enough to have written a tell-all, at least on this subject.

“[‘War and Decision’] stands in sharp contrast. First, unlike McClellan, Feith was at the center of the policy-making at issue. Second, his book provides detailed accounts of key meetings based on contemporaneous notes. And it includes more than 30 pages of original source material plus almost 90 pages of endnotes. Readers can thus determine for themselves whether the author is providing a reliable account or merely settling scores and/or trying to make a buck

“Yet the [mainstream media] is breathless over McClellan´s book, while it continues studiously to ignore Feith’s,” Mr. Mirengoff writes, saying that this proves “the concept of ‘tell-all’ … is the amount of vitriol directed at (in this case) a president the MSM dislikes.

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