Team Hillary 'Keeping An Eye' On Jim Webb

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 05, 2015 8:00 PM
Team Hillary 'Keeping An Eye' On Jim Webb

As previously mentioned, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb has launched an exploratory committee for a possible 2016 presidential run. He’s a long shot candidate, but one that could find avenues of attack to further undercut the narrative of Hillary Clinton’s supposed invulnerability. Yet, over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey mentioned a development regarding Webb’s Born Fighting PAC, which apparently benefitted his family. While Morrissey noted that this story could shine a light on Webb’s possible hypocrisy about the system being “rigged,” he also mentioned that this could be an opening salvo from the Clinton team concerning the dissemination of opposition research [bold text is US News]:

A couple of commenters think that this may be a signal that Hillary Clinton’s team is getting a head start on oppo research and dissemination. Noah found this buried in a US News report, which will feed that suspicion:

While they aren’t acknowledging Webb publicly, Clinton loyalists are keeping an eye on him privately. The week before Thanksgiving, staffers of Philippe Reines, Clinton’s longtime communications guru, pitched talk radio producers on the racy, sexually charged writings in Webb’s novels, according to a source. Webb was forced to fend off a similar attack in 2006, when Allen accused him of “demeaning women.”

That would have been just days after Webb’s announcement … and it’s old news anyway. It’s interesting to see the Clintonistas using a kitchen-sink strategy this early in the process. It definitely sends a message to other Democrats who might dare to intrude on Coronation II: Hillary’s Boogaloo.

Webb beat incumbent George Allen in the 2006 senate race by a slim margin. And if Team Hillary is looking for the “war on women” angle, they’re a little late. This line of attack really wasn’t effective in 2014; at times, it was laughed at openly in debates.

Besides being a candidate that could do well with the “beer track” voters with his brand of populism, Webb also has foreign policy bona fides that Clinton cannot match or attack, as Jacob Heilbrunn of the National Interest  wrote in the New York Times right before Christmas:

In contrast to Mrs. Clinton, who has gotten into hot water for trying to retroactively amend her views and record, Mr. Webb did not arrive at these beliefs casually or opportunistically. As his recent memoir, “I Heard My Country Calling,” makes clear, his opposition to ventures abroad is as much viscerally emotional as intellectual. Growing up as a self-described military brat, he spent his formative years in Britain, where he saw firsthand the effects of loss of empire and the devastation wrought by World War II. “Britain was bled out and spent out,” he writes. “They understood the great price of the recent wars in a much more sobering way than did most Americans.”

After he returned from war-torn Beirut just before a truck suicide bomber destroyed the Marine Corps headquarters in October 1983, he felt a nagging irritation as he rode home in a taxi early in the morning along George Washington Memorial Parkway. Then he realized that the calm silence was bothering him; it was both the emblem of America and the “protective vacuum that surrounds our understanding when it comes to the viciousness that war brings to so many innocent noncombatants in other lands.” Mr. Webb’s exposure to foreign societies gave him the ability, much like President Obama, to view America as both an insider and an outsider.

Whether Mr. Webb will attempt to begin a successful maverick campaign is an open question. But he is an eloquent and forthright speaker whose foreign policy experience would make it difficult for Mrs. Clinton to paint him as an isolationist or a novice who will leave America open to attack, as she attempted to do to Mr. Obama during the 2008 primaries. On the contrary, it’s Mrs. Clinton whose interventionist foreign policy record leaves her politically vulnerable.

William Greider reiterated such sentiments last fall in the left-wing publication the Nation:

In 2007, Chris Matthews dubbed him “the anti-war warrior.” That’s a clever label, but it fundamentally misconstrued Jim Webb’s position. He is not anti-war in the classical sense—war fought for history’s long-established justifications or real threats to the nation. What Webb opposes are reckless and limitless interventions the United States has initiated during the post–Cold War era of the last three decades.

Presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have strayed from the old principles and the country has been deeper into foreign conflicts without clear purpose or strategy. “It is not a healthy thing when the most powerful and capable nation on earth has a foreign policy based on vagueness,” Webb observed. He had in mind George W. Bush but also Obama’s vague purpose in entering the bloody civil war in Syria. “There is no such thing,” Webb has asserted, as “humanitarian war,” a feel-good concept popularized by some of Obama’s national security advisors.

Jim Webb, I acknowledge, is probably not going to become our next president. But he has the possibility of becoming a pivotal messenger. I think of him as a vanguard politician—that rare type who is way out ahead of conventional wisdom and free to express big ideas the media herd regards as taboo. With luck, the country might have two such characters in the 2016 primaries—Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders. In different ways, both are expressing unsanctioned ideas that Americans need to hear.

Hey, if a beaten and bloodied Hillary campaign emerges from victorious from this melee a la Romney in 2012, that’s fine by me. At least it’ll show that Ms. Clinton is just like anyone else running for president in 2016: human and beatable. At the same time, it also shows that progressives haven't–and probably never will–forgive her for her 2002 vote, which authorized the use of force in Iraq.