In 1994, Fred Thompson was locked in a Senate campaign against an increasingly desperate opponent, Jim Cooper. During a debate, in response to what Thompson thought was an unfair attack, the once-and-future actor said in his most authoritative voice, “Jim, it’s one thing to lose an election; it’s another thing to lose your honor.” Cooper seemed to shrink, and I could tell then-and-there that Thompson would be the one going to Washington.
I’ll leave it to others to debate whether, or to what extent, James Webb has lost his honor as a result of the smear campaign against his opponent Senator Allen. But I do think it would have been honorable for Webb to have distanced himself from his “netroots coordinator” when that blogger attacked Allen for alleged “deep-seated issues” regarding his Jewish heritage. More generally, it would have been honorable for Webb to have denounced making that Jewish heritage an issue in the campaign.
In any event, I agree with John Podhortetz’s take on the surprising turn the Webb candidacy has taken:
Webb is a brilliant and unclassifiable guy — I’d say he’s very close to being a paleocon with socially liberal attitudes. But if he is anything, he’s politically incorrect. How ironic, therefore, that his campaign has now staked itself on the incredibly dreary politically correct issue of “offensive language” dating back decades. Instead of being the philosopher-novelist candidate, Webb is instead on the line in the most dispiriting and unintelligent political contest the United States has seen in years.