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U.S. SENATE RACE

Born Fighter in Another Battle

U.S. Senate candidate James Webb, center, with Steve Brooks, left, Robert Gillenwater and Joe Bagley in Weber City, Va., in April. Webb is challenging Harris Miller for the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent George Allen.
U.S. Senate candidate James Webb, center, with Steve Brooks, left, Robert Gillenwater and Joe Bagley in Weber City, Va., in April. Webb is challenging Harris Miller for the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent George Allen. (By Dave Grace -- Associated Press)

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By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 8, 2006

James Webb estimates that he has published more than 2 million words in his prolific life as a journalist, essayist and author, but there are two that he wrote that may best describe the man himself:

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Born fighting.

Not fighting for you , as politicians always like to describe themselves. Just plain fighting.

"Born Fighting" is the title that Webb gave his somewhat romantic history of his fellow Scots-Irish and how they have fought in the United States' wars and defined its populist form of democracy. It is the slogan he has appropriated -- to the chagrin of some Democrats who don't think it sets the right tone -- for his unorthodox Democratic primary campaign for the U.S. Senate from Virginia.

He is asking primary voters on Tuesday to overlook his Republican past and some policy positions that put him at odds with the catechism of his new party. He presents himself not as the man who best represents the Virginia Democratic Party but as the man most likely to change it.

He promises to bring in rural voters, the military community and independent moderates who don't trust Democrats with the big issues debated in Washington. He says his military background, his populist message and his affinity for blue-collar workers make him the best candidate to take on Republican incumbent George Allen.

His presence, along with Allen's presidential ambitions, has brought the race national attention, and party leaders have overwhelmingly agreed with Webb's appeal.

That was reinforced yesterday when Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, joined Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, 2004 presidential nominee John F. Kerry and a pack of current and former senators who have tossed aside traditional neutrality and pledged their support for Webb over his Democratic opponent, longtime party activist Harris Miller.

Webb warns lobbyists and special interests -- and maybe everyone else: "If you elect me to the Senate, I guarantee you we will raise hell."

Fighting and raising hell -- that pretty much sums up his life.

When Webb was 6 years old, his daddy gave him boxing gloves and told him that, if ever drawn into a street fight, he should always leave a mark on the other guy.

As a 23-year-old Marine lieutenant, he commanded more than 150 men during one of the most brutal phases of the Vietnam War. He came home with the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, a slight limp and some shrapnel that's still in his head.


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