Kathy G. makes some devastating points in her list of all the reasons why Jim Webb's past sins disqualify him from being Barack Obama's running-mate (also see Ezra's article on the same topic). Webb evidently is a sexist pig. And in addition to all the "women can't fight" statements over the years, as recently as 2000 he was calling affirmative action "state-sponsored racism." And in 2004 he circulated mendacious tripe about those who opposed the Vietnam War, including John Kerry.

On the other hand, Webb is singing a very different song today. He came from nowhere to narrowly beat George Allen, Jr., mainly because along the campaign trail, after listening to ordinary Virginians, he metamorphosed from a Reagan Democrat into a New Deal Democrat, and won the votes of lots of good old boys (and gals) who were suffering economically. He is now just one of six members of the Senate Progressive Caucus.

All of which puts me in mind of Michael Kinsley's astute observation that the right welcomes converts while the left considers them unreliable. Ronald Reagan, after all, used to be a New Deal Democrat. But this didn't scare off any of his conservative supporters. Rather, they grasped that his New Deal roots and ideological odyssey only enhanced Reagan's electability.

I, for one, believe in redemption. And I have to ask, how long is the statute of limitations for past sins of converts? Or to put it another way, what would Kathy have to say about the truly idiotic statements of a current hero of the left, Arianna Huffington, back when she was a rightwing nut? If we consider Arianna's conversion genuine, are we holding Webb to a higher standard? Is that reasonable, given that the man might be president someday, or are we just acting out Kinsley's stereotype?

If memory serves, after Reagan was elected he did not revert to Roosevelt Democrat, and he helped convert others to Reagan Democrats.

--Robert Kuttner

You may also like