A Confederate Vice President?

by Fred Ray on June 11, 2008 · 1 comment

No, I don’t mean John C. Breckinridge. I mean Virginia senator James Webb, who is apparently being considered for the Democratic ticket. Suddenly, pundits are discovering his address on Confederate soldiers in Arlington Cemetery and his mention of the role of the Scots-Irish (including his ancestors) on the losing side in the Late Unpleasantness. It certainly isn’t new—I blogged on it two years ago. But that was then. Apparently these days you have to be willing to spit on your ancestor’s graves to be vice president.

David Mark, writing in Politico, starts by mischaracterizing Webb as “a descendant of Confederate officers” when in fact his ancestor, who died at Chancellorsville, was a private soldier, an unlettered farmer from Southwestern Virginia. Of Webb’s writings he says:

There’s nothing scandalous in the paper trail, nothing that on its face would disqualify Webb from consideration for national office. Yet it veers into perilous waters since the slightest sign of support or statement of understanding of the Confederate cause has the potential to alienate African-Americans who are acutely sensitive to the topic.

It gets better, quoting an academic who specializes in finding Neo-Confederates under the bed. Frankly I find it risible that African-American voters would not vote for the first Black presidential candidate because his running mate said something nice about the common Confederate soldier. All this, as I said, isn’t exactly a secret, although the press did ignore it during the election while at the same time painting Webb’s Republican opponent, George Allen, as some sort of Confederate sympathizer.

I’m not a member of an organized political party (which is to say I’m a Democrat), and I agree with Timothy Noah that Webb wouldn’t make a good Veep. While he’s a fine writer, he’s too much of a loose cannon and is capable of quite churlish behavior. Still, even the most hardened Confederate-baiter should be able to appreciate the significance of this election—the Black guy gets top billing and the White guy, the admirer of Robert E. Lee, would be his sidekick.

Trivia: James Webb and Oliver North were classmates at Annapolis and sometimes boxed each other. Webb was by far the better of the two.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Maass June 13, 2008 at 6:06 am

Webb’s book on the Scotch-Irish is, well, a bit much. He calls himself an historian and yet is untrained and (more importantly) doesn’t really understand how history should be researched, written and interpreted. “Born Fightin'” plays on stereotypes of the S-I, as if they were all they same. This falls into that genre of history that I call “ethnic feel good” books, i.e., how to make a particular sub-culture/ethnic group/nationality special, singular, great. They have questionable value.


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