Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No, He Won't Be Swift Boated

The Richmond Democrat ran this open letter from Jim Webb's campaign, answering the very nasty charge that the Harris Miller campaign made recently. Miller has been trying to tar Webb with the racism charge because of quotes taken out of context from Webb's book, Born Fighting.
Webb was simply trying to describe the mindset of some of the Scots-Irish who settled the South - among them my husband's ancsestors. There is no denying the history of slavery or racism in the South. However, it's unfair to accuse modern descendants of the Scots-Irish settlers of racism today. Nobody in my husband's family is racist. You can take that to the bank. And neither is Jim Webb.

Anyway, Webb set the record straight with this open letter. I know he wants his to be a positive campaign, but he's wise to answer any negative remarks thrown his way.

Remember when Tim Kaine was hit with a very nasty ad about his stand on the death penalty, the most effective thing he did was stand up, look the camera in the eye (and it had the effect of looking the viewer in the eye) and tell the truth. And that's what James Webb is doing now.

Setting the record straight, giving a strong response and telling the truth is how the good guys win.


thegools said...

Jim webb is a class act.

Conaway Haskins said...

Actually, these anti-affirmative action statements don't come just from his book. They're all over his website, and well, that gives plenty of context. I'm not attacking Webb, but this stuff has been public record for over a decade now. Webb has never run away from what he said. The only surprise is that it took Miller & Co this long to figure out how to spin it to their advantage.

-- Conaway

Info_Tech_Guy said...

Let's identify what we're talking about when we say "affirmative action". Webb has criticised open-ended programs that categorise people simply on the basis of race. (This appears again and again in his book "Born Fighting" which I've just read and will re-read in the coming days.) Webb has pointed out more recently that Americans are becoming stratified on the basis of class as middle class jobs disappear and greater wealth is concentrated among the wealthiest Americans. My understanding is that Webb believes that it is necessary to revitalise the middle class and bring more opportunities to those who have not enjoyed the privileges of wealth. This means that poor white Americans will join poor black Americans and poor people of other races (hispanics and Asians) as the beneficiaries of deliberate and rational "affirmative action" -- based on *need*/economic circumstances. This would seem to reflect both Webb's familial progressive views on race on which he elaborates in detail in "Born Fighting" and Jim Webb's personal experiences in the military.

Frankly, I find Miller's attack a sign of desperation. Miller is a long-time political insider whose past does not reflect any significant social struggle. Miller has not pulled himself up from harsh circumstances. Miller is as much a part of the "culture of corruption" as Jack Abramoff; he just stayed on legal side of the line...

Info_Tech_Guy said...

We should ask Mr. Miller about his record of "affirmative action" hiring while at the pro-outsourcing ITAA lobby.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I obviously need to research more on both Webb's and Miller's records before I can comment further on what each of them believes, but I'm leaning toward info-tech-guy's explanation.

For one thing, as I've demonstrated amply on this site, I really do believe that there is a class war going on and the rich are winning it because the ordinary middle-class person doesn't even know he's in a war.

I know that sounds pretty simplistic but I really do explain what I mean in greater, and I hope much more depth, in some of my earlier posts on the economy. It's also a point that even disaffected Republicans, like Kevin Phillips, have been making.

No, I don't think the answer is to storm the barricades. This isn't a performance of Les Mis, after all. And it's not to pull up the Moat with protectionist policies. But it is to make a commitment to fair, as well as free, trade. This is something I'll post on in greater detail on the blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am personally in favor of affirmative action programs. At the very least, if you have two equally qualified candidates, I'd probably let race be the tie breaker to address past discrimination. But I don't think an unqualified person should ever get a job over a qualified candidate because when you do that, you really do make it even harder for minorities.

After all, what if you knew the major medical schools in the nation were admitting all people with blonde hair to their programs, for example, to address the past wrong of all the dumb blond jokes? Further, what would you do if you had cancer and found your doctor was a young blond woman? I'd be scared. It might be great to address prejudice, but if my life were on the line with a serious disease, I'd go elsewhere. That's just one example of how misperceptions can hurt innocent and well qualified people.

However, while people get upset about what they perceive as the unfair advantage of affirmative actions for poor black youth, I don't see similiar outrage over the legacy student who gets into Yale with a Gentleman's C average. Me, I don't go to preppie doctors whose fathers might contribute heavily to Ivy League schools either.

Anyway, my point is (and I promise there is one), while I do support affirmative action, many, many working class and even middle class people got disillusioned with the Democratic Party because they feared, wrongly or not, that affirmative action hurt their own chances to achieve the American Dream. Or worse, their children's chances. People are seldom rational when it comes to something they perceive as harmful to their children.

However, instead of the races fighting each other over limited resources, how about striving to make sure there is a big enough pie with enough pieces for all. Somehow, I think a candidate who staked his career on outsourcing and guest worker programs is less likely to do that than a populist.

So, until something really proves me wrong (and it could because I am open minded), I still stand by Webb.

Info_Tech_Guy said...

anon is a woman:

I think that you'll find Scott Kirwin's letter to JC of interest over at the Richmond Democrat.

Scott points out that Miller has accused people of racism before -- people critical of his pro-outsourcing and pro-worker replacement policies...

In any case, I'm bitterly opposed to Harris Miller and everything he stands for.

On the other hand, I think that Jim Webb is such an exceptional human being and a tremendous patriot (in the best sense of the word).

The contrasts between the moral fiber of these candidates couldn't be greater in my estimation.

Yet, we also see an incredible irony here. One candidate wants to claim to be a "big-D" Democrat while working to expand the power of economic elites and grind down the middle class into a low wage underclass. The other candidate has proven through his years of service and public writing that he is a "small-d" democrat who is also a gifted policy theorist and administrator.

It's clear that Webb could become a great American statesman.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I think so too. And I think "playing the race card" unless you have a really credible charge could backfire on Miller too. The problem is when you point a finger and call somebody a racist too often people become insensitive to the charge and then when somebody really is a racist (and Lord knows, there still are plenty of them around), the accuser won't be believed.

It's important not to trivialize racism this way because it still really, really exists and it's evil.