- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Virginia Democrats say they are not concerned that their party nominee who is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen openly admires the leadership of Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

The Democrats said although they might not share James H. Webb Jr.’s opinion, his unbridled regard of Mr. Reagan’s leadership skills is an example of why voters wanted Mr. Webb to challenge Mr. Allen. Mr. Webb, a Republican turned Democrat, served as Navy secretary under Mr. Reagan.

They said top Virginia Democrats, including Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner, have praised Mr. Webb for being an independent thinker.

“Jim Webb worked for Ronald Reagan as secretary of the Navy,” said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Mr. Kaine. “It’s logical that he would have admiration for a president he worked for. There is something kind of refreshing about that, not being so scripted and handled that you’re comfortable enough in your own skin with your own mind — as opposed to marching lockstep in a partisan agenda dictated by others.

“All that being said, I may want to send him a biography of Harry Truman,” Mr. Hall added.

When asked at a debate on Saturday which presidential administration was a “model for good leadership,” Mr. Webb pointed to Mr. Reagan’s as the antithesis of that of the Bush administration.

“Ronald Reagan was a leader. Ronald Reagan knew how to set basic principles out and get good people around him, and get things done. He was not someone who would have tolerated, in my view, the sort of slash-and-burn politicking that’s been going on the last six years,” Mr. Webb replied.

While Mr. Reagan used his management skills and diplomacy to end the Cold War, the Bush administration and its supporters, like Mr. Allen, showed poor judgment in rushing into the Iraq war in a ill-advised attempt to defeat terrorism, Mr. Webb said.

“Ronald Reagan didn’t bring down the Soviet Union by invading Czechoslovakia,” he said.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Bath County Democrat, said Mr. Webb is not a typical Democrat.

“Jim Webb’s not a politician,” Mr. Deeds said. “He calls them like he sees them. One of his most appealing features is that he is not your typical Democrat.”

If some “yellow dog Democrats” cringe, they need to get over it, Mr. Deeds said.

“Frankly to win an election in Virginia, you need more than Democratic votes. With politics, [Mr. Webb] is more of a policy guy, an intellectual, rather than a politician,” he said. “That’s a very thoughtful approach to politics, and I don’t think that he abandons Democratic principles at all when he says he admires Reagan’s leadership.”

Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, said he respects Mr. Webb for expressing his views.

“If he respects Ronald Reagan, I respect him for it,” said Mr. Moran, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “As long as Jim Webb espouses the policies Democrats support, which he has, then Democrats are 100 percent behind him.”

Harris N. Miller, a longtime party activist whom Mr. Webb defeated in the June 13 Democratic primary, said Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, professed the same views before the primary.

“I think Jim Webb was very clear about that during the primary, and the Democratic primary voters chose him notwithstanding those statements,” Mr. Miller said. “So I don’t think people should make too much of that.”

Mr. Allen’s campaign manager Dick Wadhams said Mr. Webb’s praise of Mr. Reagan “makes no sense whatsoever.”

“Only somebody who has been immersed in fiction for as long as James Webb could use the language of [former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee] George McGovern, and [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Howard Dean and equate that to Ronald Reagan,” he said, referring to Mr. Webb’s best-selling books he has authored.

Mr. Webb also has said that he admires Democratic presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Truman and Andrew Jackson.

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