Thursday, February 11, 2016


There have been whispers of a possible Jim Webb third-party presidential bid this week:
Former Democratic presidential contender Jim Webb is speaking in Dallas today, and he may be ready to re-enter the race -- as an independent.

Speculation that Webb, a former Viriginia senator, might attempt such a bid began soon after he left the Democratic race in October. He’s appearing before the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth today and will reportedly announce his decision.
But it's not going to happen:
Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2015, said Thursday he won't mount an independent presidential bid.

“Theoretically it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run,” Webb planned to say during a foreign policy speech in Dallas, according to prepared remarks provided by spokesman Craig Crawford.
I'm sorry he won't run -- simply because, even though he now considers himself a Democrat, he would have taken far more votes away from the Republican candidate than the Democratic candidate. Yes, Webb can occasionally be skeptical of the use of military power, and yes, he can be an economic populist. But he's also a guy who posted this on his Facebook page a week after Dylann Roof massacred nine black churchgoers:
This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.

But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect.
Max Rosenthal and Tim Murphy of Mother Jones have noted that this is a hobbyhorse of Webb's:
Webb ... has two relatives who served in the Confederate Army.... In a 1990 speech at the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, which Webb called a "deeply inspiring memorial," he argued that Confederate soldiers' "enormous suffering and collective gallantry are to this day still misunderstood by most Americans."

... In his 2004 book Born Fighting, a popular history of Scots-Irish immigrants in the United States, Webb complained that present-day attacks on the Confederacy and the Confederate flag were part of "the Nazification of the Confederacy."
This is a fixation Webb shared with a long-time political adviser:
Webb's longtime strategist, Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, is an even more ardent fan and defender of the Confederacy. As the New Yorker reported in 2008, Saunders "sleeps under a Rebel-flag quilt, and when challenged on such matters he has invited his inquisitors to 'kiss my Rebel ass' -- his way of making the point that when Democrats are drawn into culture battles by prissy liberal sensitivities they usually lose the larger war." Saunders is currently advising Webb on his potential presidential campaign.
Both Democratic contenders embrace a multi-ethnic America. Both were opponents of the Vietnam War, in which Webb served. It's hard to imagine that there are very many Americans who would have voted for Webb but said Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders was the second choice. Webb, I'm sure, would've taken votes from the GOP candidate, whoever it might be -- especially Trump, a guy at least some cultural conservatives recognize as a Johnny-come-lately to both conservatism and militarism, particularly given his avoidance of the Vietnam draft.

Webb would have been a second Republican in the race. He wouldn't have run up much of a vote total, but maybe, like Nader, he would have flipped a close state or two to the Democrats. (Virginia? North Carolina?) Too bad he's out.


Feud Turgidson said...

I don't know how MUCH of a factor this is, but given Webb's raising, it's got to be one:

If you've never read any of Webb's books about war, maybe consider sampling at one. It's pretty okay, if you're into graphic war porn (I didn't quite make it thru the one of his I bought.). He's very strong on descriptions, particularly the pus and shit running out of dying bodies and the sweat and blood splatters that have to be constantly cleaned off arms, ammo and kit in order to get thru a mission and a day alive. He's pretty solid at setting up the sense of tension involved in every mission, regardless if it ends in a firefight, and in the contrast with the assumed, falsely so, safety for rear encampments.

But I don't get at all the particular 'dignity' for which his fans buy his books and attend his talks, and even vote for him: his constant efforts to capture some sense of dignity and honor in hopeless, stupid causes. Then, I'm not his faithful audience. That same oeuvre that I like in small chunks, in the right setting, he works right across the var genre, but particularly in bad stupid losing wars, gloriously doomed pointless violence in pursuit of supposed honor, i.e. essentially the Civil War, repeated again and again endlessly.

Now, add to those this is not just his living, not just his fortune, not just his ticket, not just his writing niche, but his market: his commercial and related sustenance. One sees all kinds of reasons why Webb expresses his medievalism so publicly: more books sold, more film treatments discussed, more projects invited in on, more sponsored sinecures, more paid speaking engagements, and more Civil War and war porn events.

It's not like it seeped into his brain over time - this accords completely with what his thought as naif - but it's been reinforced enough that his brain is pocked with caverns occupied by dead enders.

Orthodox said...

Okay. I'm 27, so my memory of election madness doesn't date back as far as some commenters here, but I have to ask: can anyone recall an election cycle as tumultuous as this one at least appears to be?

Sure, sure, 2000 gave us the Nader dilemma and the Florida debacle, and Perot made a strong run in '92, but have there been other cases where establishment favorites struggled so much against more fringe candidates? (I don't consider Sanders fringe, but loads of people do, and he's much more to the left than any strong contender in the Dem ranks that made this much of an impression as I can recall.) Are there other cases where there were so many threats of candidates running third party? I don't count Webb in this (obviously), but Trump could very well do it if he winds up feeling he was screwed out of the R nom, and Bloomberg is hinting at it to boot.

I know I wasn't around to experience the day-to-day chaos of a lot of elections in the last 40-50 years, but this one feels especially silly. Or maybe I should buckle down and just accept that this is the rest of my life.

Rand Careaga said...

I have plenty of issues with Webb, but there is a solid lower level beneath which my esteem will not descend: he put paid to the execrable George "Macaca" Allen's political aspirations in 2006. That's a permanent karmic credit as far as I'm concerned.

Ten Bears said...

Actually a third Republican candidate.

Cirze said...

Won't Bloomberg answer this prayer?

Theo said...

... a guy at least some cultural conservatives recognize as a Johnny-come-lately to both conservatism and militarism, particularly given his avoidance of the Vietnam draft

Really? Perhaps to some conservatives. Having avoided the Vietnam War while praising it is a badge of honor among most conservatives/chickenhawks.

Ten Bears said...

Guys like me, Theo, have a bit of an algorithm not unlike Godwin's: the louder someone talks about 'Nam the less they know about it. I'm not proud of what I did, and you'll neither find me prancing around in a parade or panhandling a street corner.

Of all the crimes, the karmonic debt, of the Cheney Administration the worst was dragging back to the surface that which was long buried, opened wounds not healed but not bleeding. That we were spit upon when coming home was a demonstrable myth, that we were spit upon forty years later is not.

And continue to be spat upon.

Curtis Tribble said...

Strictly anecdotal, but Republicans I know hate Webb for multiple reasons. The single biggest reason was taking out George Allen in 2006, but they also feel he was disloyal to the Reagan administration.