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Webb Pays Tribute to Warner

Anita Kumar

Democratic Sen. Jim Webb honored his Republican colleague, Sen. John W. Warner, who is retiring after three decades in the Senate.

Webb, elected in 2006, took the Senate floor this afternoon to pay tribute to Warner, considered an elder statesman highly regarded for his expertise in defense matters.

"He has always put the interests of the people of Virginia and the people in this country ahead of political party,'' Webb said. "He has been very clear at different times that he and I are in different parties. But this is an individual who has served this body with great wisdom and a deeply ingrained sense of fairness and someone who has the temperament and the moral courage of a great leader."

Warner then took the floor, saying in an emotional response that he was "moved" and "grateful" for Webb's comments.

"America will always look down on you as a proud son,'' Warner said. "And I don't know what the future may be, but I know that there are further steps of greatness that you will achieve, Senator. And I wish you the best of luck."

Read Webb and Warner's remarks below

Senator Webb: You know, right now with the situation facing this country, we are in more turmoil and we're facing greater problems than at any time probably since the combination of the Great Depression and the end of World War II. We really need people who are willing to work to solve the problems of this country rather than simply falling back into partisan rhetoric or simple party loyalties.

I think it can fairly be said that throughout his lifetime of service, and particularly his service in politics, that is one thing that everyone can agree on about John Warner. He has always put the interests of the people of Virginia and the people in this country ahead of political party. He has been very clear at different times that he and I are in different parties. But this is an individual who has served this body with great wisdom and a deeply ingrained sense of fairness and someone who has the temperament and the moral courage of a great leader.

Our senior Senator has a history and a family heritage involving public service. If you go into Senator Warner's office, you'll see a picture of a great uncle who lost his arm serving in the War Between the States. His father was an army doctor who participated in some of the most difficult campaigns of World War I. Senator Warner himself enlisted at the age of 17 in the Navy toward the end of World War II, was able to take advantage of the G.I. Bill to go to college. When the Korean War came about, he joined the Marine Corps, went to Korea as an Officer of Marines and, in fact, remains as a member of the Marine Corps Reserve for some period of time. He, as most of us know, gave great service in civilian capacity in the Pentagon. He had more than five years in the Pentagon, first as Under Secretary of the Navy and then as Secretary of the Navy. And after leaving as Secretary of the Navy, was the official responsible for putting together our bicentennial celebrations in 1976.

I first came to know John Warner my last year in the Marine Corps when I was a 25-year-old Captain and was assigned, after having served in Vietnam, as a member of the Secretary of the Navy's staff. John Warner was the Under Secretary at the time. John Chafee, later also to serve in this body, was the Secretary. And then toward the end of my time in the Marine Corps, John Warner was the Secretary of the Navy, and, in fact, retired me from the Marine Corps in front of his desk when he was Secretary of the Navy. I've been privileged to know him since that time. I was privileged to follow him in the Pentagon when I spent five years in the Pentagon and also was able to serve as Secretary of the Navy.

Shortly after I was elected to this body, Senator Warner and I sat down and worked out a relationship that I think could be a model and hopefully can serve as a model for people who want to serve their country and solve the problems that exist even if they are on different sides of this chamber. We figured out what we were not going to agree upon and then we figured out what we were going to be able to agree upon. And I think the model of bipartisan cooperation on a wide range of issues, ranging from nomination of federal judges to critical infrastructure projects here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to issues facing our men and women in uniform, to issues of national policy. It has been a great inspiration for me, and a great privilege to be able to have worked with Senator Warner over these past two years.

Just last week was a good example of how bipartisan cooperation, looking to the common good, can bring about good results when judge Anthony Trenga made it through the confirmation process, an individual that Senator Warner and I had interviewed and jointly recommended both to the White House and to the Judiciary Committee. And I am particularly mindful of the journey that I took upon myself my first day as a member of the Senate when I introduced a piece of legislation designed to give those who've been serving since 9/11 the same educational opportunities as the men and women who served during World War II. Perhaps the key moment in that journey, which over 16 months eventually allowed us to have 58 cosponsors of that legislation, including 11 republicans, was when Senator Warner stepped across the aisle, joined me as a principal cosponsor and we developed four lead sponsors on that legislation, two Republicans, two Democrats, two World War II veterans, two Vietnam veterans, that enable to us get the broad support of the Congress and eventually pass that legislation.

History is going to remember John Warner as a man who accomplished much here during his distinguished tenure. He was the first Virginia Senator to support an African-American for the federal bench. He was the first to support a woman. He was the first Virginia Senator to author wilderness legislation. Senator Warner has never wavered in his determination to do the right thing for America, even when it caused him from time to time to break with the leadership of his own party.

There are important legacies but perhaps more than anything else, we will remember John Warner's tenure here is having been a positive force for the people who have served in uniform. There is not a person serving in the United States Military today or who has served over the past 30 years whose life has not been touched by the leadership and the policies of John Warner and whose military service has not been better for the fact that Senator Warner, as a veteran, as someone who served in the Pentagon, and as someone who served on the Armed Services Committee understood the dynamic in which they to live, understood the challenges that they had to face when they served, and understood the gravity and the costs of military service.

Senator John Warner has stood second to none in protecting our troops and their way of life. When John Warner announced his retirement 13 months ago on the grounds of the University of Virginia, he reminded us that at the end of the day public service is a rare privilege. And in my work with him over these many years, and particularly over the last two years, I can attest to the fact that he certainly approaches this work in that humble spirit.

So, Mr. President, on behalf of the people of Virginia, and all those who have worn the uniform of the United States in the past 30 years, I want to thank Senator Warner for his exceptionally talented leadership and all that he has done and that his staff has done for our state and for our country.

This institution will miss John Warner, his kindness, his humility, his wisdom and his dedicated service and I know we in Virginia will continue to benefit from his advice and his counsel for many years to come.

Sen. Warner: Mr. President, I'm very deeply moved by this moment. When I look back now just a month or so short of 30 years, I can't think of another opportunity or moment in the senate when I've been so moved and so grateful to a fellow Senator. I have served with five individuals, you being the fifth now, in the United States Senate that have come from Virginia to form the team that we've all had, in different ways.

But generally speaking, Virginia's two Senators have worked behalf of on not only the Commonwealth, but what's best for the United States. I remember one time so vividly we stood together here at the desk on a rather complex issue, and there were clear political reasons for us to have voted a certain way. But you turned to me, and you asked what I was going to do, and I replied. And you said, "that's what I'll do because that's in the best interest of the country, though it may not be politically to our benefit or possibly to our state." but that's this fine man that I finished my career in the senate with as my full partner and, most importantly, my deep and respected friend.

Our relationship, as you so stated, started many years ago, over 30, when we were in the Navy Secretary together. And you mentioned Vietnam. To this day, I think about that chapter in my life. I remember John Chafee, whom I'm sure you recall very well. He and I one time were asked to go down to the mall. The Secretary of Defense sent us down there, and we put on old clothes and went down, and there were a million young men and women, over a million, Mr. President, expressing their concerns about the loss of life, the war in Vietnam and how really the leadership of this country had not given, I believe, the fullest of support. To those like yourself, Senator, Senator Hagel, who fought so valiantly and courageously in that war. And in the years that I've been privileged since that time to serve here in the Senate, I might add a footnote, that Senator Chafee or then-Secretary of the Navy Chafee and I was Under Secretary, went back and directed the Secretary of Defense and sat in his office. And that was sort of the beginning of the concept of Vietnamization when we tried to begin those plans to bring our forces home.

In the years past, I remember so well working with Senator Matthias on the original legislation to establish the Vietnam memorial. I felt strongly that that would be some tribute fitting to the men and women who served like you did so valiantly during that period. And I think time has proven that while there was enormous controversy about that memorial, it has in a very significant measure helped the families and others who bore the brunt of that conflict, you being among them. But I thank you for the short period we've been here together.

And as I leave, Mr. President, I leave with a sense that knowing for the state of our Virginia, but perhaps even more importantly, for the United States of America, there's one man in Senator Webb that will always do what's right for his country and will fear absolutely no one in trying to carry out that mission to, whether it be a vote, or a piece of legislation, or whatever it may be. You'll persevere.

You showed that on the G.I. Bill legislation, and I was privileged to, I might say, just to be a corporal in your squad on that. But you led that squad with the same courage that you fought in Vietnam and that you'll fight today and tomorrow. And so long as you're a member of the Senate, I hope perhaps maybe you might exceed my career of 30 years in the United States Senate if that wonderful family of yours will give you the support that my family and my lovely wife today and my children have given me so I could serve here in this Senate. But, America will always look down on you as a proud son. And I don't know what the future may be, but I know that there are further steps of greatness that you will achieve, Senator. And I wish you the best of luck. And from the depths of my heart, I thank you for these words today, similar to words that we've shared, both of us, in speaking of our working partnership here in the United States Senate. I thank you, sir. I salute you. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

By Anita Kumar  |  September 29, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , James Webb , John W. Warner  
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Why didn't John Warner salute Elizabeth Taylor? If it wasn't for her, perhaps Senator Andy Miller would now be retiring.

Posted by: Tony | September 30, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for sharing a piece of Virginia history in full. I really appreciate this blog. This meant a lot to me.

Posted by: Fairfax Voter | September 30, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

John Warner has served the Commonwealth and our nation with distinction. He will be sorely missed for his sacrifice, wisdom, and leadership. Thank you for covering this tribute to his service.

Posted by: Old Fairfax | September 30, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

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