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March 28, 2007

DANA MILBANK SAYS THAT JIM WEBB IS EXECUTING A CUT AND RUN — not over Iraq, but over the fate of his aide Phillip Thompson:

If Webb seemed to be enjoying the moment a bit too much, that’s probably because a Virginia politician has never lost an election for loving guns too much. But Phillip Thompson, who carried the weapon, derived rather less pleasure from the incident.

Thompson — a.k.a. “Lockup No. 1” — spent 28 hours in the slammer after walking into the Russell building Monday morning with a gun and two loaded magazines in his briefcase. Two hours after Webb’s performance in front of the cameras, Thompson — sandwiched between drug cases and domestic disputes — made his appearance in the foul-smelling arraignment room at D.C. Superior Court. He had a 5 o’clock shadow and a new pair of leg irons to accessorize his rumpled business suit. Ordered to stand in a box marked off with frayed duct tape, he must have been too stunned to answer when the judge asked if he understood the charges. . . .

Webb even hinted that he ignores the District law requiring handguns to be registered. Asked if he considered himself above D.C. law, he said: “I’m not going to comment in any level in terms of how I provide for my own security,” he said.

The senator was less forthcoming in his defense of Thompson. “He is going to be arraigned today,” Webb said. “I do not in any way want to prejudice his case and the situation that he’s involved in.”

Prejudice the case? But wasn’t it Webb’s gun that his aide was carrying for him?

Webb wouldn’t even acknowledge it was his gun. “I have never carried a gun in the Capitol complex, and I did not give the weapon to Phillip Thompson,” he stipulated.

Webb had kind words for his aide — “a longtime friend” and “a fine individual” — but he seemed to be trying to cut Thompson loose as he spoke of the incident.

That doesn’t seem right. If the gun was Webb’s, and it was all an accident, — and I can’t think of any other likely explanation — why doesn’t Webb make things clear? Am I missing something here?

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