I hope I’m not giving voters too much credit if I predict that George Allen’s attempt to use scenes from Jim Webb’s novels against him will backfire pretty seriously. When the National Review crew are claiming to be embarrassed by one of their own’s tactics, it can’t bode well, and the polls since this tactic was deployed are consistently giving Webb the edge.
I think Allen’s mistake here was not waiting until a day or two before the election to try pushing this. Because there’s at least anecdotal evidence that people had initial reactions of disgust to passages like:
A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.
But, of course, it took no time at all for anyone who can use Google and cared to inquire to discover that this was not, in fact, some bizarre fantasy description of “incest” or “pedophilia,” but a non-sexual (albeit pretty weird) Cambodian cultural practice signifying parental affection. And it doesn’t take all that long for most of the people who heard the initial hubbub to hear the real story. At which point only two conclusions are possible: Either the Allen campaign understood what that was really about and was cynically trying to tar Webb as a pedophile, or they were both clueless and too incurious to find out, which just draws attention to the fact that Webb has encountered this weird stuff in the course of a distinguished military career his opponent doesn’t share. That’s actually why I was a bit surprised to see some Webb defenders trotting out the line that “hey, it’s just fiction.” Because, of course, it is, but the real point shouldn’t be that Webb was just inventing a random father-son penis kissing scene, but that he was describing something he’d actually seen during his overseas service. Which seems to be the aggressive approach Webb’s own campaign blog is taking.