Caught in his own Webb

There’s nothing like a party changer to sense exactly when the political winds have shifted decisively in the other direction. Before the champagne at Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown’s campaign headquarters dried, freshman Virginia Senator Jim Webb, D-VA, was busy trying to figure out how to spin his way out of the mess he’s in.

The former Republican issued a statement acknowledging that “the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform, but also on the openness and integrity of our government process” – obliquely referring to the behind-closed-doors deal making conducted by leaders of his adopted party, to which Webb has up until now silently acquiesced.<br />
It was only after Brown’s victory that Webb declared: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”

Blogger Roger Simon praised Webb for his after-the-fact admission: “In our culture, anyone who crosses party lines to make a criticism deserves our encouragement and high praise.” (

That may be true, but Webb has now crossed party lines twice – and to advance his own political career, not to uphold political principles. The former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, Webb jumped ship to run as a Democrat in 2006, defeating George Allen in Virginia by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. The election of three conservative Republicans in Virginia’s statewide election last November must have made him nervous, but apparently not enough to cross party lines and vote against the Democrats’ health care bill.

No, it took the late Ted Kennedy’s seat falling into Republican hands to convince Webb that he needed to distance himself from the rest of his fellow Senate Democrats, who totally excluded Republicans when they were putting together this legislative monstrosity. Webb’s too-little, too-late insistence on fairness now is nothing but another political calculation designed to insulate himself from irate voters. If Brown is seated and the Republicans filibuster, Webb can blame them for “killing health care reform,” supposedly leaving him completely off the hook.

Webb can spin this all he wants, but there’s one thing this party changer can’t change: his vote for Obamacare.

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