The mudslinging of the current campaign season continued Thursday night in Virginia, where incumbent Republican Senator George Allen issued a press release to the Drudge Report condemning Democratic challenger Jim Webb for his tawdry fiction writing. According to the press release, Webb’s 2001 novel Lost Soldiers — which draws upon his personal experiences in Vietnam and which received strong praise from the likes of Senator John McCain — contains selected passages that are “disturbing” and “dehumanizing.”
While taking into account the absurdity of the political ploy, bloggers speculated about its potential impact.
Remarks Right Wing News: “Intellectually, people may know it’s fiction, but when you start describing and talking about grotesquely racist comments, incest, pedophilia, and women slicing up bananas with their private parts, there are just a lot of people who will find that disgusting, whether it’s fiction or not, and they will believe it reflects what Webb really thinks in his private moments. Is that fair? Maybe not. But, that’s people and that’s politics.”
Others bemoaned the press release’s potential effectiveness.
Writes Hot Air: “It’s an odd little vignette, to be sure, but the other characters seem as mystified by it as the reader is. The story’s about Vietnam; maybe he’s describing some obscure cultural practice that he encountered there. Or, just maybe, he made it up. Have we actually reached the point where Senate seats now turn on the sex scandals of fictional characters?”
Elsewhere conservatives were questioning Webb’s decision-making capabilities.
“Yes its a work of fiction and yes its his artistic impression, but it also leaves you needing to shower,” remarks Scared Monkeys in a powerfully written paragraph. “There are many writers who display these same talents and some on the radio like Howard Stern that say similar things. That being the case, Howard Sterns is not getting elected to the U.S. Senate either. As previously stated, it not even the words that really trouble me. Its the lack of judgment that one would run for public office, having wrote these words.”
Other pundits pooh-poohed the would-be scandal.
“Politicians who dabble in fiction writing usually throw in sex scenes, and these things nearly always look ridiculous out of context,” argues Althouse. “But do the desire to write a sex scene and the failure to do a very good job of it say anything about a person’s competence as a legislator?”
The Agitator writes: “Here’s a brainstorm: People from other lands sometimes do things we find strange. Merely describing those customs and traditions in a book isn’t indicative of the author’s own pedophilia. Jesus.”
While some liberal bloggers defended Webb’s fiction based on its irrelevance to the campaign, at least one commentator went in a different direction.
“Webb was a target back then because he’d fought in a war at a time when some war opponents regarded the troops as evil,” points out No More Mister Nice Blog. “The current situation is, in a way, a right-wing version of the same problem — Webb has written novels with sexual detail at a time when ‘traditional values’ right-wingers, drunk on their own sanctimony and self-righteousness, regard anyone whose work steps over the rated-G line as evil.”
Andrew Bielak was a CJR intern.
Continues the blogger: “Webb was the enemy for fighting a war his government wanted him to fight; now he’s an enemy for writing books people want to read.”