The Virginian-Pilot, the largest newspaper in the Hampton Roads area of coastal southern Virginia, endorsed Jim Webb for Senate today. Now, I don’t think that endorsements really matter much at this point, but I’m highlighting it because it does an excellent job of why many of us will be happy to vote *for* Jim Webb, and not simply against George Allen:

Over the past few months, Virginians have started to get to know James Webb.

There are still gaps in that knowledge, but on two of the most essential ingredients for a U.S. senator – character and intellect – the record is clear.

Webb has an abundance of both.

Witness the fact that you have seen no pictures of Webb with his son, Jimmy, as the 24-year-old Marine lance corporal deployed for Iraq last month. That’s because Webb would not allow any. Or the fact that nowhere on his campaign Web site will you find the citation (reprinted below) for extraordinary bravery that accompanied the Navy Cross awarded him for “courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty” in Vietnam.

[ . . . ]

As for intellect, very little that is canned or formulaic makes its way into Webb’s speeches or conversation. For better and occasionally worse, his answers appear to have been concocted in his own head, not during some poll-driven strategy session in Washington, D.C.

Personal understanding of cultural forces in the Middle East and an innate skepticism governed Webb’s courageous decision to speak out against the war in Iraq before it ever began. He took that once-lonely view long before events proved him right.

Read the whole thing. And I knew that he’d been awarded the Navy Cross, but I’d never heard the story around it. The Virginian-Pilot published the citation itself, explaining:

The Navy Cross is the nation’s second-highest award for bravery in facing an enemy. James Webb has refused to use it in his campaign. We are publishing it with our endorsement of him because we believe it testifies to his character.

Hampton Roads is also the world’s largest naval base. I think this just might grab the attention of a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have given Jim Webb a thought.

Added: A very fair profile of Jim Webb, via the Washington Post.