Hillary's Competition?

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Jun 06, 2008 12:06 PM
Having let it be known that she'd like the VP slot, it seems that Hillary Clinton has some competition in Virginia senator James Webb (Webb for VP slot here).

In some ways, he meets important criteria for Barack.  He's become a darling of the left -- Obama's key constituency -- in part because he's a Vietnam vet who opposes the Iraq war.  He adds some military cred to a candidacy that badly needs it, and, his partisans hope, blunt McCain's status as a war hero.  His position as a former Reagan administration official adds a sheen of bipartisanship. He's from a red-turning-purple state that Barack hopes to win in the fall.   And he can talk the populist talk as well as any Democrat out there.

He seems to want the slot -- badly.  So why not?

Well, there are a couple of drawbacks.  First, it's going to be hard for lefties to succeed with their new meme that McCain's view of the world is limited by his "obsession" with Vietnam when you have the Washington Post writing stories about how Webb's opposition to the war is "defined by Vietnam."

He's got a temper (as this clip illustrates) -- so much for that being a disqualifying characteristic on McCain's part -- and, as the same clip illustrates, sometimes makes verbal gaffes . . . is it really smart to refer to elected officials' trips to Iraq as "dog and pony shows"?

There's also some strange elements to the man, like this weird gun-toting incident (his aide was arrested for carrying a gun in the Capitol; the aide said he was keeping the gun for Webb, who essentially denied it).  As the WaPo noted,

[T]he few details Webb offered contradicted an account provided Monday by a Senate official familiar with the case. That official said Webb had given the gun to Thompson during a trip to the airport earlier in the day.

Finally, what may be the biggest nail in Webb's VP hopes is the fact that, as this piece documents, Webb has said some politically incorrect things about women in the military:

His friends also wonder whether it was Webb's temperament that led at least partially to his writing a Washingtonian magazine article in 1979 about women in combat called "Women Can't Fight" that some female midshipmen say encouraged hostility and sexual harassment.

It may just be Webb's bad luck that the Obama campaign is already having trouble with women voters, thanks to Hillary Clinton -- and that the type of women most likely to be offended by Webb's statements are the ones he most needs.  Is this kind of history likely to reassure them?