In all the bustle about George “Mr. Macaca” Allen’s racist comments and comfort with Confederate symbolism, many have overlooked Jim Webb’s past on this issue. Webb is Allen’s Democratic opponent for the VA Senate seat.

On the one hand, I’m reluctant to criticize him — certainly every Senate seat counts in the drive to take back the Senate for Democrats. On the other, I don’t envy Virginians their choice of Senate candidates. Jim Webb has been hostile to affirmative action only to change his position under pressure and needing a large turnout among African-Americans.

But how does Webb really feel? The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article just before VA’s Democratic primary describing some of Webb’s expressed thoughts on the Confederacy. The article quotes from a speech Webb gave in 1990 at the Confederate Memorial. It is one of only a handful of select speeches available on Webb’s personal site which indicates, I think, some measure of meaning and pride for him that continues. Despite this critical article and the potential negative impact on his campaign, the speech is still up on his site today.

Read it. I think my personal favorite is this selection:

But more than anything else, I am compelled today to remember a number of ancestors who lie in graves far away from Arlington. Two died fighting for the Confederacy — one in Virginia and the other in a prisoner camp in Illinois, after having been captured in Tennessee. Another served three years in the Virginia cavalry and survived, naming the next child to spring from his loins Robert E. Lee Webb, a name that my grandfather also held and which has passed along in bits and pieces through many others, such as my cousin, Roger Lee Webb, present today, and my son, James Robert, also present. And another, who fought for the Arkansas infantry and then the Tennessee Cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. And, to be fully ecumenical, another, who had moved from Tennessee to Kentucky in the 1850’s, and who fought well and hard as an infantry Sergeant in the Union army.

Chilling, ain’t it. Especially the part about Nathan Bedford Forrest, like Webb, a descendent of hard-working Scotch-Irish. He was also a slave trader, Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

I agree with Kilo that Webb’s got some racial problems and they don’t seem to be going away (though I disagree that Allen is the answer to Webb’s racial problems!) Generally, when people have 2 unsavory choices, they tend to avoid choosing at all. Without African-Americans voting in large numbers this fall, Webb’s Senate bid will be sunk.

Yet, is there some ray of hope that Webb can be reached and moderate more of his positions? Does a reasonable man exist beyond the evident mixed feelings about contemporary Virginia and Virginians? Below is an excerpt from the end of his speech that seems to carry even more resonance today given the President’s bloody Iraq adventure:

“…our leaders should carry next to their breasts, and contemplate every time they f ace a crisis, however small, which puts our military at risk. it should echo in their consciences, from the power of a million graves . It is simply this: You hold our soldiers’ lives in sacred trust. When a citizen has sworn to obey you, and follow your judgment, and walk onto a battlefield to defend the interests you define as worthy of his blood, do not abuse that awesome power through careless policy, unclear objectives, or inflexible leadership.”

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