Politics

Obama VEEPwatch: Who Is Jim Webb?

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In the search for VEEP, Jim Webb’s name has been floating around a lot, but why? If you’re in-the-dark about what makes Virginia Senator Jim Webb so special, here’s a comprehensive guide of all you need to know to engage in the Veepstake conversations at the water cooler!

Congressional Credentials:

VA Senator (2007)

Committees: Foreign Relations, Veterans Affairs, Armed Services, Joint Economic
Subcommittees: African Affairs; East Asian and Pacific Affairs; International Operations and Organizations, Democracy and Human Rights; Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs

Military Experience:

Secretary of the Navy 1987-1988 (under Ronald Reagan)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs from 1984 to 1987
US Marine – First Lieutenant & Platoon Commander during Vietnam War (1968-1972)
Graduated from the US Naval Academy at Georgetown University
His father was a career officer in the US Air Force

Background:

Scottish-Irish Jim Webb grew up in a military family in Missouri.

His Agenda:

According to his website, “Senator Jim Webb’s legislative priorities have been guided by three themes: reorienting America’s national security posture, promoting economic fairness, and increasing government accountability. Webb has successfully supported legislation that reflect these themes. He has introduced or cosponsored measures focused on: developing robust practices of international diplomacy, supporting our troops through responsible deployment cycles, providing comprehensive educational benefits for our post-9/11 veterans, developing stronger ethics laws and making government more transparent and accountable to the American taxpayer through greater oversight over wartime contracts.”

Foreign Policy Cred:

Webb is the full package — Military experience, administrative executive experience, committee experience and legislative experience!

Domestic Policy Cred:

He introduced two pieces of legislation: the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (to restore post-WWII type benefits to current veterans) and the S 759 (to prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran without Congressional approval.) The first one passed, with Bipartisan approval.

Star Achievements:

As First Lieutenant / Platoon Commander, he earned the Navy Cross for heroism (the second-highest decoration), the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. He won an Emmy Award for his 1983 PBS coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut. Webb was also awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the American Legion National Commander’s Public Service Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Media Service Award, the Marine Corps League’s Military Order of the Iron Mike Award, the John H. Russell Leadership Award, and the Robert L. Denig Distinguished Service Award

Possible Snafus:

-Attract the female demographic? Don’t count on it! Republicans care about personal life issues, but do Democrats? I think most women would say, “Five kids by three different women? Two divorces? RUN!” Former Clinton supporters might also not want to endorse an Obama-Webb ticket, citing Webb’s 1979 article titled “Why Women Can’t Fight.” At the time, a press conference was held by five female Naval Academy graduates, who were offended –  although, nine other women graduates  called Webb “a man of integrity” and thanked him for “recognizing the crucial role that women have in the military today.”

Actions speak louder than words? He’s a writer, so naturally there’s cannon fodder for the ignorant who like to pick apart passages, rather than looking at the book as a whole.(Trust me, it’s happened before.)  His old senate opposition pointed to “homosexual/immoral” passages in one of his books. His book Born Fighting has garnered much praise but some say he portrays the Confederacy sympathetically.

Domestic experience? Not exactly. Well, he’s another Junior Senator. Some say Obama would be best served selecting a seasoned governor – and Webb is far from it. His foreign policy credentials are unbeatable (with the exception of Wesley Clar, possibly), but if McCain goes with an economics / domestic policy expert, Obama will be in trouble.

VicePresidents.com Assessment…

Around Washington, Webb is known as a “tough Southern populist.” He’s not afraid to bite, if provoked – even if the provoker is President Bush himself! He likes his guns and he’s a good Irish Protestant, which may be how he won over Virginia – a traditionally Republican state. While he holds a stately appearance, Webb once called himself “a redneck!” There’s no doubt that he’s very much his own man – independent and unwilling to simply “tow the line.” Articulate and confident, Jim Webb is someone who sometimes comes off “wooden” (in an Al Gore sort of way) — but certainly commands respect.

Democrats like him because he’s “seen the errors of his ways” (he was once a Republican) and now he’s defected to the other side, he has a longstanding opposition to the War in Iraq and he fights for the working middle class. In his response to Bush’s State of the Union address last year, he garnered much praise by saying, “The middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table… In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy –that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.” (Recognize the Obama-lingo there?) Similarly, he penned a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “Class Struggle.”  If Obama needs to appeal to the country working class base, Webb is an ardent fighter. The Swift Boat veterans can’t get him, either: unlike Kerry, Webb has never bad-mouthed the Vietnam War or his service. In a 2004 op-ed, Webb said Kerry “defamed a generation of honorable men.”

Personally, I think he recently took a much-coveted seat in the senate that had been held by Republicans for quite some time, so he’s needed there.  His agenda would mesh well with Obama’s,  but I wonder could Obama have it all and find someone with military and governing experience to put wind in his sails? Unfortunately, California Governor Gray Davis is the only one who comes to mind that has both qualifications and his legacy is forever tainted by the California energy crises. As for mayors with military experience… there was the time that Atlantic City mayor Bob Levy fabricated a military record, but uh, that’s it. Given the shallow pool of VEEP nominees that seemingly “have it all,” Obama has a tough decision making process ahead of him – one that Jim Webb will most certainly factor into.