I’ve read a lot of comments about Virginia Senator-Elect Jim Webb’s “boorish” response to the President, but no one seems to have commented about the fact that the President also showed a lack of manners in that exchange. It seems to have started off politely enough. “How’s your boy” is a reasonable and courteous question to ask someone whose son has been deployed to a war zone. Mr. Webb, however, did not wish to discuss this topic with President Bush. So he attempted to redirect the conversation. (“I’d like to get them out of Iraq.”) Perhaps not the best response, but still, barely, within the bounds of courtesy. Here is where the President’s manners failed him. Instead of taking the hint and moving on President Bush not only repeated the question but bluntly (and rudely) called attention to the attempt at redirection. (“That’s not what I asked. How’s your boy?”) At this point Mr. Webb firmly, but equally bluntly, closed the topic. (“That’s between my boy and me.”) It should be noted that this is similar to the response he routinely gives reporters and others who ask about his son. Mr. Webb has, in fact, made it a point to not discuss his son with those outside his immediate circle.
Rudeness does not justify rudeness, but the President made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Mr. Webb to close the topic politely. I don’t know that I could have done any better. Could you?