What is it about those former members of the Reagan administration and George W. Bush? The rudest of the rude has been Reagan's assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Now E.J. Dionne thinks that former Reagan Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb has become a Reagan Democrat. Not because of ideology but because of the way he talks, a real "straight talk express".
Like him or not, Ronald ("Tear Down This Wall") Reagan spoke in a clean, clear prose that almost always left listeners with a sense that he stood for something.Webb did something too many Democrats have been afraid to do, toss the speech carefully crafted by political consultants and say exactly what he meant which is exactly what a majority of Americans know to be true.
It may thus be no accident that Jim Webb, Virginia's new Democratic senator, was once a Reaganite.
In his reply to President Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Webb defined the two central moral issues that animate most of the Democratic Party's rank and file: the mess in Iraq and the fact that the fruits of a growing economy are not being shared by all Americans.
Then Webb did something rather astonishing: He didn't fudge on his language or try to take the hard edge off his impatience with the status quo.
There was no mush from Webb. On the contrary, he tried only to make his two points, on Iraq and inequality, and he showed what he was upset about.And on Iraq more "straight talk".
Many Democrats tremble that they will be accused by some right-wing Web site or presidential spokesman of waging class warfare. Webb made clear that there is a class war going on and that the wrong side is winning it.
"When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did," Webb said. "Today, it's nearly 400 times."
Yes, that's a standard sort of line from your standard progressive speech. But then came this arresting sentence: "In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day."
On Iraq, Webb did not mince his words about Bush's responsibility. "The president took us into this war recklessly," he declared.Jim Webb is exactly what the Democratic Party needs, someone who will ignore the consultants, ignore the DLC and come right out and say what a majority of Americans feel.
Instead of qualifying this strong statement, Webb backed it up: "He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the Army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command. . . . " The list more than supported Webb's next thought, that "we are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed."
Jim Webb has already taken down one Republican hopeful. The Republicans should be watching Jim Webb with a great deal of fear.