Jim Webb’s decision to retire surprises few who know him best

February 10, 2011

By Christian Davenport and Anita Kumar, The Washington Post

“He’s going to be a total pain,” one Democratic aide groaned early on. And that was the sentiment in his own party.

So when Webb – who has always defined himself not as a senator but as a Marine grunt, Vietnam veteran, Navy secretary, novelist, historian and journalist – announced Wednesday that he will retire from office in 2012, few were surprised. This was, after all, a rare senator who once said that he pined for the days when “you can sit on a park bench and no one knows who you are.”

A politician he is not – at least not the way politics are played now. He hates asking people to vote for him. He hates raising money. He hates Capitol Hill cocktail parties. And, as someone who switched from being a Democrat to a Republican and then back again, he hates the partisan politics that define Washington.

He was such a reluctant campaigner that Rep. James P. Moran (D) said during Webb’s 2006 run: “It would probably help if he’d be willing to shake a couple of hands.” Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist who advised Webb that year, said the candidate found the slog of campaigning “offensive.”

Tick-necked and hard-headed, Webb is an acerbic, hard-working Scots-Irishman, an ethnic group whose values, as he wrote in his book “Born Fighting,” stands in contrast to the country’s “paternalistic Ivy League-centered, media-connected, politically correct power centers.”

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/09/AR2011020906920.html

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