James Webb Accused of Anti-Semitism in Democratic Primary

Former Reagan Navy Secretary and now Democratic Senate hopeful from Virginia James Webb is being accused of anti-Semitism for a flier produced against his opponent Harris Miller.

Senate candidate James H. Webb, President Reagan’s former Navy secretary, was criticized by his Jewish opponent Friday over a campaign flier that depicted the opponent with a hooked nose and cash spilling from his pockets. The flier was intended for distribution among labor groups. It was titled “Miller the Job Killer,” referring to Webb’s opponent for the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary, businessman Harris Miller.

The flier, drawn in comic-book cartoon style, depicts Miller with a grotesquely hooked nose and cash overflowing from his suit pockets as he orders an underling to find ways to export U.S. jobs overseas. The flier refers to Miller as the “anti-Christ of outsourcing.”

Miller called it “despicable.” “One of the things I hoped we would keep out of this campaign, because it has nothing to do with the campaign, is my religion and my background,” Miller said.

Webb said the flier was not intended to disparage Miller’s religion or heritage and apologized if it was perceived that way. “I would not in any way look at that and say that it was anti-Semitic. Harris is the one who’s played the race card in this campaign by distorting my views on affirmative action,” said Webb, a Republican-turned-Democrat and best-selling author.

While I would love to see Miller defeat Webb in the primary, since I think Webb would be the much tougher opponent for my preferred candidate, incumbent Senator George Allen, there’s nothing in his past that would suggest anti-Semitism.

Joe Gandelman has some images that are indeed disturbing. That someone in 2006 would think they were anything but anti-Semitic is hard to fathom. They are, however, not the image from the flier!

Here’s the actual image, via NRO:

James Webb Anti-Jewish Flier

Not particularly offensive, I’d say. Sure, it plays to the stereotype that Jews are “money grubbing.” But there’s a pretty good reason for that in this case: Miller is being accused of trying to buy the election.

Senate Democratic hopeful Harris Miller pumped $250,000 more of his own money into his campaign this week, bringing to nearly $1 million the amount of his personal fortune invested in his nomination battle against former Navy Secretary James Webb. The new financial disclosure, filed with the Federal Election Commission, means that Miller – a multimillionaire telecommunications executive – will likely outspend Webb by a wide margin in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

The winner of that contest will challenge Republican Sen. George Allen in November.

The Webb campaign, which has accused Miller of trying to buy the election, stepped up its attack Friday, after learning of the additional money. “This guarantees that if elected in this primary, Harris Miller will lose miserably to George Allen,” Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said. “Miller can’t get other people to give him money to do this dirty work, so he uses his own money to do it.”

A Miller aide offered no apologies, noting that the Fairfax businessman and lobbyist had outraised Webb over the course of the campaign, even after excluding personal contributions. “We feel good about the amount of money we’ve raised,” Miller spokeswoman Taylor West said. Financial reports show that Webb raised about $100,000 more than Miller did in the last reporting period, excluding Miller’s personal investment.

When Miller filed his statement of candidacy in January, he indicated on that form he had no intention of spending any of his own money for his primary election. Now, nearly $1 million later, intentions have clearly changed.

In this light, the flier hardly seems out of bounds. Indeed, the cartoon is a pretty good likeness of Harris Miller:

Harris Miller

It seems to me the one who is being “despicable” here is Miller, who’s using bogus anti-Semitism charges in a desperate attempt to save a campaign he thought he’d win walking away.

UPDATE: Dean Esmay, Radley Balko, Dennis at CV, and Not Larry Sabato agree. The latter provides a PDF of the whole ad and this side-by-side photo indicating that the cartoon might actually have been a tracing.

Miller Comparison

I’ve saved the PDF for archival purposes and also saved it as a GIF, which I’ve thumbnailed below.

James Webb Anti-Jewish Flier Complete

You’ll have to click again at the link because of the large file size and the vagaries of WordPress.

UPDATE: In addition to the flap over the cartoon imagery, there is some discussion about the flier’s reference to Miller as “the anti-Christ of outsourcing.” An obvious anti-Semitic slur, right? Jews as Christ Killers? Well, no. Googling around, it’s pretty clear that the coinage was from the AFL-CIO which, while not an organization of which I’m particularly fond, has no taint of racial or ethnic animus. The flier contains a footnote to the 1/09/2006 issue of Information Week (which upon second look was buttressing Miller’s assertion that “outsourcing is good for the American economy,” not the anti-Christ quote. Nonetheless, I located the article and, sure enough, the opening line begins, “Harris Miller, aka the Antichrist if you’re an unemployed IT worker . . . .”

Move along folks. Nothing to see here.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Race and Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. inkling says:

    Beware the Instalanche! While I appreciate that some might not think this is anti-semitic, it looks that way to my eyes.

    I was at first skeptical about the claims of racism. However, after seeing the nose, combined with “anti-Christ”, money symbols and cigars, “blame it on technology while count my money,” and Webb calling him “Killer” (right across from the anti-Christ mention, I might add)… it’s just too much imagery to be an coincidence, IMHO.

    While you couldn’t prove racism in a court of law, Webb is too smart and highly educated to claim ignorance about the history behind these kinds of smears. I think he’s playing dirty pool to appeal to his view of what motivates rural Southern voters. Thankfully, I don’t think it will work.

  2. Mike says:
  3. red says:

    It looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. Yep, its a duck. The ‘anti-christ’ reference and the hitlerian assistant sunk it for me.

    I think that a law should be passed that calling your opponent the Anti-Christ automatically disqualifies your candidacy. We need to have some basic respect for each other, even Democrats in a Democratic primary.

  4. observer 5 says:

    The cartoon looks like Miller, end of story.

    This “controversy” is a last minute hit on Webb by the Republicans, who are very afraid of him.

    Miller will be easily beaten by Allen, on the other hand.

    The hit is so crude it may backfire and sweep Webb to victory, though.

  5. submandave says:

    I’m confused. Is the new rule that it is OK to call your opponent money-grubbing as long as he’s not Jewish? If this flyer is anti-semetic then it is racist to call a black man stupid, as it plays to a stereotype of inferior intelligence. News flash: a Jewish person can be money-grubbing just like anyone else. This flyer carries no hint of anti-semetism unless one already knows Miller is Jewish, and I see no evidence anyone has made a big deal of this.

  6. Missy says:

    Of course, you’ve all now see that this was traced directly from Marvel comics and that Miller’s head was just traced on too. Right. Those anti-semitic Marvel comics are the worst. How DO they stay in business!