I have known, respected, and come very much to like Jim Webb over the course of more than 30 years. We originally met because of deep disagreements about the Vietnam War. He went to Annapolis, served with distinction and bravery as Marine officer, was badly wounded, and then in his novels, movies, essays, and public-affairs work championed the memories and the futures of the people he had served with. I was in college while he was in combat, opposed the war, and deliberately avoided being drafted to serve in it.
Over the years we have come to share similar views about many of America's biggest challenges, from the pernicious new culture of permanent undeclared war to the increasing polarization of the country on many fronts but especially including economic class. I was living in China six years ago when Webb made his surprising but welcome decision to challenge George Allen for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. I wrote then that
From a partisan perspective, Webb (who served in Ronald Reagan's administration) is just the kind of candidate the Democrats need: a culturally-conservative populist whose personal and policy toughness no one can possibly doubt. More broadly I think he is the kind of politician the country needs more of: someone getting into politics because he feels so strongly about the issues of the day.
Via Andrew Sullivan, I have just seen (while still out of the country) the video of Webb at a Democratic rally in Virginia talking about the idea that 47% of Americans are "takers." It is no secret that Webb has disagreed frequently with the Obama administration and in many ways is an awkward cultural fit with today's Democratic party. But in speaking for the president and the party, in a crucial swing state, Webb displays the unconcealed moral indignation that, in a good way, has distinguished him through his political and literary career.