By Jefferson Flanders

With apologies to newspaper legend Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

U.S. SENATOR-ELECT JAMES WEBB (D, VA.) ERRED BADLY in his ill-tempered response to President Bush’s question about the well-being of Webb’s son (who is serving as a Marine in Iraq) at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress. News reports of the incident surfaced this week.

It was not Webb’s finest hour. He had, he told reporters, been trying to avoid Bush before the exchange. When Bush asked Webb, ”How’s your boy?”, Webb responded: ”I’d like to get them out of Iraq.”

Bush persisted (”That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?”), and Webb responded testily: ”That’s between me and my boy.”

Webb shouldn’t have abandoned common courtesy; a civil response—which would still make Webb’s point—could have been: “Thanks for asking about my son. He’s doing fine, but the sooner we can get him and his buddies home, the better.”

A EXHIBIT FOCUSED ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE is packing them in at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, with long lines and record crowds. Don’t underestimate the draw of religious faith, even in a city not know for piety.

MAYBE THE ARMY FOOTBALL TEAM CAN BEAT NAVY next year—but the 2006 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia found the midshipmen winning, 26-14, for the fifth year in a row. Navy now leads the all-time series  51-49-7, but Army coach Bobby Ross appears to have the Black Knights heading in the right direction.

THE LATE NEW YORK SENATOR DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN warned of “defining deviancy down.” Janice Min, editor of US Weekly, told Reuters: “We really live in an era where there is no such thing as bad publicity for a celebrity.” This week certainly proved it: actor Danny DeVito bashed President Bush in a drunken television appearance and singer Britney Spears flashed her underwear-less “nether region” for the paparazzi in several late night appearances. Sadly, it seems that this deviancy will enhance their career prospects…

AN UGLY START FOR MEXICO’S NEW PRESIDENT Felipe Calderon, with fist fights in Congress before, a hurried four-minute swearing-in ceremony, and protest marches across Mexico City. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who attended the ceremony, remarked that “It’s good action,” but the civil unrest in Mexico is no joking matter.

AS MORE DETAILS HAVE EMERGED, it looks like the six Muslim imams removed from a U.S. Airways flight at the Minneapolis airport may have been looking to provoke an incident. After the episode the six claimed bias and discrimination by the airline. But rather than an example of discriminatory profiling or anti-Muslim prejudice (based solely on the men praying before boarding the flight), it now appears that the flight crew was responding to other suspicious behavior.

Richard Miniter reports in the New York Post that:

“* An Arabic speaker was seated near two of the imams in the plane’s tail. That passenger pulled a flight attendant aside and, in a whisper, translated what the men were saying: invoking “bin Laden” and condemning America for “killing Saddam,” according to police reports.”

“* An imam seated in first class asked for a seat-belt extender – the extra strap that obese people use because the standard belt is too short. According to both an on-duty and a deadheading flight attendant, he looked too thin to need one.”

“A seat-belt extender can easily be used as a weapon – just wrap one end around your fist, and swing the heavy metal buckle.”

“* All six imams had boarded together, with the first-class passengers – even though only one of them had a first-class ticket. Three had one-way tickets. Between the six men, only one had checked a bag.”

Any American who has flown since 9/11 has seen passengers stopped and searched who could hardly present any credible threat (I’ve seen little old ladies and pregnant women with children chosen for extra attention). Why not err on the side of caution?

IT’S FAIR GAME TO JAB AT A CANDIDATE’S MIDDLE NAME in my book, so supporters of  Barack Hussein Obama should think twice before claiming the Islamic-bashing card. Just recently we saw James Webb backers mock George Felix Allen for his, well, un-cowboy-like middle name in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia; we have a president known (and sometimes lampooned) for his middle name—“W”.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN HAD IT RIGHT: “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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