By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:58 AM
Political friendships, and political animus, apparently are not made to last.
Six years ago, former Reagan Navy secretary James Webb was a Republican, and he opined that President Bill Clinton's administration was "the most corrupt administration in modern memory." He made the comments at a news conference endorsing Republican George F. Allen for the Senate, and renouncing his past support of Virginia Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb.
Today, Webb is a Democrat, running against the incumbent Allen. And Webb's campaign said last night that Clinton has agreed to headline a fundraiser for Webb this fall at -- just to complete the circle -- Robb's house in McLean.
Bygones are bygones, apparently.
"I think he has said it was a different time when he made those comments," said Webb communications director Kristian Denny Todd. "It was a very different situation."
Todd said that Clinton and Webb have not met, but that she believes Webb's rough assessment of the Clinton years was discussed when Webb met with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) "I wasn't in the room, but it seemed to be addressed and done," she said, adding that Sen. Clinton had offered her help as well.
Even a man as famously forgiving as Clinton must have paused over some of Webb's denunciations, which came as recently as 2001, when Clinton was leaving office. "It is a pleasurable experience to watch Bill Clinton finally being judged, even by his own party, for the ethical fraudulence that has characterized his entire political career," Webb wrote in the Wall Street Journal that year.
Webb has not fully explained what he meant when he said the Clinton administration was "corrupt,'' but the decorated Vietnam veteran said his anger was driven by the actions Clinton employed to avoid military service.
"My comments about the Clinton administration were more personal because of a lot of anger that's related to the Vietnam War," Webb said when asked about it a recent debate. "That's an anger that in my view really fell to the wayside when we look at what happened in this country after 9/11."
Webb has also said he has apologized to Robb, and told him that the Senate "would have been a better place" if he had been reelected in 2000. A large number of Robb's former aides endorsed Webb in the Democratic primary. Robb has an unlisted telephone number and couldn't be reached for comment.