WASHINGTON—Jim Webb, the Vietnam vet and Reagan’s former Secretary of the Navy, who is tied in the key Virginia Senate race, is arguing for a negotiated settlement in Iraq. George Allen, his Republican competitor, echoes Bush on the subject. Webb seems to think a settlement might be arranged by Jim Baker, secretary of state to Bush senior. He spoke Sunday night at a meeting of Arab Americans organized by the Arab American Institute, at Tyson’s Corner in northern Virginia.
In other words, the Democratic candidate is basically siding with elements of the elder Bush’s political entourage in an effort to extricate Junior from the mess he got himself into. So, in one sense, the Virginia Senate race pits old man Bush against his eldest son: Republican against Republican, with Allen, the conservative GOP favorite for the 2008 presidential nomination, looking more and more like the son’s puppet.
Baker is a long time Texas intimate of the Bush family. He currently is working through an Iraq Study Group to see what can be done to sort out the mess. Baker is supported by the President, but pretty clearly represents the political inclinations and diplomatic stance of the senior Bush. At the end of the Persian Gulf war, the former President and his advisors had little appetite for marching into Baghdad and overthrowing Saddam. In fact, they gave tacit approval to Saddam’s vicious attacks on the Shia in the south. And, of course, before that, when Bush senior was vice president under Reagan the GOP hierarchy had backed Saddam in his bloody war with Iran—a war in which Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld as a special liaison to work out a supportive relationship with Saddam. Needless to say, it would be most embarrassing if the details of the Bush backing for Saddam and Rumsfeld’s role were to be aired in Saddam’s trial.
In his speech to the Arab American Institute and the Arab American Council, Webb denounced stereotyping of the Arab culture. His military career behind him, Webb now describes himself as a journalist and novelist. He has a son serving in Iraq with the Marines. “I was an early warning voice a while before we went into Iraq that strategically, this was a terrible error,” Webb said last night. “I have been saying for more than two years something very similar to what Secretary Jim Baker finally said last weekend, that we must push for a diplomatic solution.” He said he would support proposals made by the Iraq Study Group if elected.
Webb sidesteps the Palestinian question, “In my view we must have a recognition of the right of Israel to exist but we also must deal fairly with the issues around it,” he said. “I will work to do both.”
Allen had been invited to speak at the meeting, but he didn’t show up. Joy Khalil Juwienat was disappointed Allen had not come. She is a long time Republican voter who had supported Bush in both campaigns. She has decided to vote against Allen because of Iraq. “I want this administration out of office as quick as it can possibly happen and I want to vote out anyone that supports [President Bush on Iraq],” said Juwienat. “And this includes Allen who didn’t even bother to send a surrogate let alone show up himself.”
A Washington Post poll Sunday has Allen and Webb tied in the crucial Virginia senate race, with Allen running behind the Democrat in the populous suburbs outside Washington. But Allen is popular across the state. He is well known and in general well liked. His Macaca remark doesn’t appear to have made much difference with the voters. Oddly, when it comes to women, who usually support Democrats in Virginia, Allen’s approval rating is two points higher than Webb’s.