Sunday, September 17, 2006

More On The Debate This Morning

Those of you who watched the debate this morning on Meet The Press heard a reference by Tim Russert to a letter he had recieved from Kathleen Murray, USNA Class of 1984, Commander, United States Navy, Retired. In her letter she requested that Mr. Russert ask James Webb about his well know stand on women in the military and how it has affected all military women since the early '80s, and specifically women midshipmen at Annapolis (United States Naval Academy). Mr. Russert did indeed ask Mr. Webb to defend or denounce his earlier position, and was answered with neither. James Webb claimed to have apologized for his remarks with the standard "if anyone was offended, I'm truly sorry" non-defense. That's the equivalent of me hitting you in the face and then saying I'm sorry it hurt, not that I'm sorry I hit you, I'm just sorry you felt that it was painful.

Rather than issue a real retraction of his misogynistic writings Webb states that he is "comfortable with the position women hold in the current military" (paraphrased). Look also for the Webb campaign to attempt to deflect this issue as one manufactured by the Allen campaign using old, outdated, no longer relevant material.

That last tactic will not work. In order to head it off before it comes up I present for your perusal the letter from Cmdr. Murray; (emphasis mine)
Mr. Russert,

Thank you in advance for addressing the issue of Mr. Webb's positions on women in the military, specifically those concerning women midshipman of the Naval Academy. As the one who initiated Wednesday's press conference in Richmond, let me reiterate that it was my idea ALONE to approach the Allen campaign requesting assistance in getting our message out. For 24 years, as a midshipman, and later as a commissioned officer, I remained apolitical, following the orders of "those appointed over me", as I was sworn to do. Now, as a retired Naval Commander, I am free to exercise my First Amendment rights and it bothers me greatly that the press is spinning this as an Allen campaign initiative. Our story is one about James Webb, and I while I appreciate the assistance of George Allen's campaign in making our story public, I want the focus to remain on Webb, for without his poison pen, I would not be writing you today.

I would like to further reiterate that in November of 1979, when "Women Can't Fight", was published, I was still in high school. Yet, the following year, when I was a plebe or freshman midshipman, the article was brandished in my face by my upperclass and gave legitimacy to the sexual harassment experienced by me and my fellow women midshipmen. Worse yet, was the effect the article had on my own male classmates, to whom I found justifying my very presence.

It came as no surprise that Mr. Webb submitted a statement, which can best be described as a non-apology, following our press conference. As they say, it was too little, too late. Too little, because he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that the CONTENT of his article, "Women Can't Fight" was a scurrilous attack on women midshipmen. I simply cannot accept that as a graduate of the institution, Mr. Webb would not anticipate the widespread reaction to his article. As a "professional" writer, he must have known full well the impact that his sophomoric use of the English language, eg, "a horny woman's paradise", would have on the Brigade. I would ask Mr. Webb if his attack on the women midshipmen, in any way added to his coffers. He personally singled out and attacked then Midshipman Liz Belzer, knowing full well that she and the other women at the Naval Academy would have no means of rebuttal. That is, until today.

His "apology" comes too late. The time for Mr. Webb to apologize for the CONTENT of his article, would have been back in 1983 when he claims that he visited the Academy and called for "harmony among male and female midshipmen". The time to apologize would have been as Secretary of the Navy, to publicly acknowledge that he was WRONG in what he wrote about women Midshipmen and their potential for leadership in the naval service. His recent statement concerning his support of women in the military rings hollow in light of his long history of negative writings concerning women in the armed forces and can only be attributed to his political aspirations.

Kathleen Murray, USNA Class of 1984, Commander, United States Navy, Retired

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