VA. SENATE RACE
Nancy Reagan Asks Webb to Pull Ad With Her Husband
Saturday, September 9, 2006
RICHMOND, Sept. 8 -- Former first lady Nancy Reagan on Friday asked Virginia Democratic Senate candidate James Webb to not use a television commercial that shows former president Ronald Reagan praising Webb, his former Navy secretary.
In a letter faxed to Webb at 5 p.m., the chief of staff of the Reagan Library in California urged him to not use footage from a speech by the former president at the Naval Academy in 1985. Webb is trying to unseat Sen. George Allen (R) in November's election. The speech lauded Webb and his achievements.
"Using the president's name, image or likeness implies endorsement which is neither fair nor respectful of any candidate, certainly not after President Reagan's death," wrote Joanne Drake. "At the direction of Mrs. Reagan, please refrain."
The ad shows Reagan saying: "James's gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decorations." An announcer's voice continues as Reagan's image morphs into pictures of Webb as a Marine.
Webb's campaign immediately rejected the criticism and said it intended to proceed as planned by running the commercial in Norfolk, Roanoke and Northern Virginia. Spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd accused Allen's campaign of playing partisan politics.
"It doesn't imply an endorsement," Todd said. "It's Reagan in his own words. What Reagan said about Jim Webb, that belongs to Jim Webb, frankly."
The library's letter could hurt Webb's effort to woo moderates by wrapping himself in Reagan's legacy. But it could also give much broader attention to the ad, which Webb has paid less than $100,000 to run in just three television markets for a limited time.
The Reagan Library has often asked campaigns to refrain from using the former president's image. It made a similar request to the conservative Club for Growth in 2004, when the group ran an ad comparing Reagan to President Bush and criticizing Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). An official at the library, Kirby Hanson, said Nancy Reagan was aware of the Webb ad and asked for the letter to be written. Hanson said the same would be asked of "any political campaign."
Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said he hoped "the Webb campaign would respect the clear request of Mrs. Reagan."
But he declined to say whether Allen would remove a photo from his campaign Web site that shows Reagan and a young Allen shaking hands. It appears next to a Reagan quote.
"We do not have a television ad that is trying to convey the false impression that the late president has endorsed a candidate in this race. Only one campaign is trying to do that," Wadhams said.
Hanson declined to say whether the library would request that Reagan's image be taken down from Allen's Web site.
Earlier in the day, Allen unveiled a plan that he said would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
In a speech from the Senate floor, Allen urged further exploration of oil and gas reserves in the United States, including in an Alaska wildlife area. And he called for more international cooperation to isolate oil-rich nations with which the United States is in conflict.
"In each challenge to our self-determination and freedom, we not only declared our independence, we mustered the resolve and the resources to achieve it," Allen said. "And it is time to declare our independence again."
Allen linked energy independence to the fight against terrorism, saying, "Today, many of our gasoline dollars now go to finance the war efforts of our enemies."
The speech coincided with Allen's new 30-second television advertisement, in which he says, "We need to be developing and exploring for more oil and gas in our own country." Allen advisers said the ad is running statewide.
Todd called Allen's proposals "rhetoric" without serious substance.
"It sounds like Allen is just trying to take care of his oil buddies to us," Todd said.
Concerns about energy and oil became issues in the race as gasoline prices surged this summer and the candidates traded barbs about connections to profitable oil companies.
Webb has accused Allen of taking $800,000 in campaign contributions from oil companies and has demanded that Allen give the money back. Allen, in turn, accused Webb of owning more than $64,000 in oil company stock.
Webb has called for a windfall tax on oil company profits. Allen dismissed the idea, saying higher taxes would slow the economy.
In an interview after the speech, Allen dismissed critics who say some aspects of his proposal, such as drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, could endanger the environment.
"You would think [the refuge] was Yosemite or Yellowstone," Allen said. "There are not trees. It's barren. It's flat. It's tundra."