Entry for September 25, 2006

The Denver Post’s Mike Keefe’s September 14 cartoon on the upcoming election.  For another of his on electronic voting machines, see September 20.

You may have seen the latest ad by the Allen Campaign against James Webb.  Today, Viveca Novak of the Annenberg Center’s Fact Check has this interesting piece, “Casting Credentials Away in the Old Dominion.”. In the ad, the announcer says,

Twenty years ago, fiction writer James Webb served in the Reagan Administration.  After 10 months, he quit. Webb attacked Reagan policy.  Now Webb wants you to believe the late  President would support him.  Nancy Reagan doesn’t .

On screen, you see news clipping and headline “Nancy Reagan tells Webb to pull footage of husband from ads,” The Virginian Pilot  and a letter from Nancy Reagan’s office.  The announcers continues,

She called on Webb to  take down his ad, Webb refused. Would Ronald Reagan really endorse a candidate who hires people who call him a fool? And disrespects the wishes of his widowed wife? That’s just fiction.

Then Allen comes on screen,

I’m George Allen and I approve this message.

Here’s Fact Check’s analysis:

Republican Sen. George Allen tries to portray his opponent, Democrat James Webb, as a lightweight, identifying the Marine-turned-novelist as a “fiction writer” who served under former President Ronald Reagan for only 10 months before quitting. It also criticizes Webb’s continued use, in his own ad, of a clip of Reagan praising him in a 1985 speech despite widow Nancy Reagan’s request that he stop using the footage.

The Allen ad is wrong about Webb’s service in the Reagan administration. It’s true Webb served only 10 months as Secretary of the Navy but he was an Assistant Secretary of Defense for three years under Reagan before that. And Webb is legally entitled to use the footage of Reagan’s speech, which did in fact praise the future Democratic candidate profusely.

Fact Check describes Webb’s service:  
 
Webb joined the administration in 1984, when he was nominated and confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. The Vietnam veteran, who was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his military service, resigned to write another book in 1987, but almost immediately then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger asked him to become Secretary of the Navy.

Webb was confirmed to that post, but it was a short stay. He had conflicts with Weinberger’s successor, Frank Carlucci, and didn’t agree with the way Carlucci wanted to implement cuts in the Pentagon’s budget that had been mandated by Congressional and White House agreement. Specifically, Webb publicly objected to cutting the Navy fleet as Carlucci proposed. Webb’s leavetaking was indeed turbulent.

About Reagan’s statement,

In fact, Webb never claimed the late President endorsed his current candidacy, and we find that the Webb ad is historically accurate, whatever Mrs. Reagan may think of it….  Here’s what Reagan said in 1985:

Reagan: One man who sat where you do now and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968 is another member of our Administration–Assistant Secretary of Defense James Webb, the most decorated member of his class. James’ gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decortions, including two Purple Hearts. James wrote several books about American servicemen and women. In his book, a Sense of Honor, he describes the life that you have chosen.

Reagan then quotes from Webb’s book.

Mrs. Reagan’s aide Nancy Drake had written Webb:

The use of video footage of President Reagan, or the use of photographs, likenesses and/or quotes in this manner is neither authorized nor appropriate. Using the President’s name, image or likeness implies endorsement which is neither fair nor respectful of any candidate, certainly not after President Reagan’s death. At the direction of Mrs. Reagan, please refrain from the use of her husband’s name, video footage, photograph, likeness, and/or quotes in any further campaign materials, including television advertisements.

So who did Webb hire who called Reagan a fool?  Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who helped Democrat Mark Warner win the Virginia governorship in 2001Their book, published in March, Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ’Em Out

was not written in connection with the Webb campaign, but Allen’s right — they did call Reagan a “fool,” and worse.

 

Sources

John H. Cushman, “James Webb’s New ‘Fields of Fire’,” The New York Times, 28 February 1988.

 

Letter to James Webb from Joanne Drake, 8 September 2006.

 

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