From Jonathan Alter on Hardblogger:
Something unprecedented happened tonight, beyond the doorkeeper announcing, “Madame Speaker.” For the first time ever, the response to the State of the Union overshadowed the president’s big speech. Virginia Sen. James Webb, in office only three weeks, managed to convey a muscular liberalism-with personal touches-that left President Bush’s ordinary address in the dust. In the past, the Democratic response has been anemic—remember Washington State Governor Gary Locke? This time it pointed the way to a revival for national Democrats.
Webb was given a speech to read by the Democratic leadership. He threw it out and wrote his own.(my emphasis added)
I think Alter gets it exactly right. Not only was Webb's response substantive and clear, his tone was perfect. It was nice to hear a democrat sound confident, smart, and unapologetic.
I shudder to think what the speech he was given looked like. Maybe, just maybe, the leadership will learn something from this.