Poli Sci Pulse is proud to present the next in our “Name-Dropping” series of explaining and informing the average voter about why certain Presidential Candidates never made it out of the primary – or in some cases, never ran. This issue, we are taking a look at Jim Webb (D-VA), and the campaign that never was. Our guest editor today is Rain Tahtinen.
PSP note: In researching Dennis Hastert, we realized we had not yet finished examining our source materials. We will run this article at a later date.
There were four Democratic candidates running for the Democratic nomination, and then there was Jim Webb (D-VA). Though technically a Democrat, he didn’t fit in with the others on running. He was against affirmative action, and stood out like a sore thumb in the first Democratic Primary Debate. On some occasions, some of his statements on that debate stage could have even outdone Donald Trump on the (modern-day Liberal) racism scale. In the end, he could not get his campaign off to any sort of a start. This article will explain why that was.
On June 19th, 2016, the Register posted an article which argued that Jim Webb had all the requirements necessary to be president. He was a storied war hero, and advocated for criminal justice reform, repairing income inequality, and pivoting foreign policy to East Asia. What Jim Webb didn’t have, the article noted, was “excitement.” He had very low poll numbers, and directing funds that were now going to Hillary, to his pocket, would be a challenge. This article was written even before he announced his intention to run for President.
According to Eduwatch, a column by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Jim Webb believed that there were three major challenges in education. The first was getting the most out of Pre-K, especially for less-privileged children, so that they could start socializing at an earlier age. The second challenge was getting the student loan debt crisis under control, suggesting that public service could be performed in lieu of paying the debt and as a way of earning loan forgiveness. The final challenge was high school education graduation rate. He believed that the 25% of students that did not finish high school should be given a “second chance,” later in life and, as such, he was in favor of adult education as well. The three challenges were laid out in a speech by Mr. Webb in July of 2015, while his being in favor of adult education was discussed in March 2015.
In the July issue for Politico Magazine, Jim Webb published a short story entitled, “To Kill A Man.” If the piece reflected his feelings, then war was not about killing people. After all, the story argues, “you either died or they did.” He believed that war doesn’t make one a “better or worse person”; rather, it makes you “different.” The “moral paragons” of war, he wrote, were not about killing others; it was about your friends and comrades who, after months of building up strong trust which later became “love as close as family,” died or suffered far more than the person on the battlefield than the average soldier that did not get killed or suffer.
On July 2nd, 2015, the Democrat entered the race in the most personal of manners: by sending a 2,000-word email. Even his email tempered expectations: “I understand the odds, particularly in today’s political climate when fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money,” the email read according to Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti, “I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars – some estimates run as high as two billion dollars – in direct and indirect financial support….Our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us…and at at the same time our fellow Americans need proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President’s first days in office. I believe I can be both.”
On July 12th, 2015, Jim Webb went on Fox News to discuss efforts towards removing the Confederate flag from government grounds. According to Crooksandliars.com, he called these efforts “divisive,” even going as far as to compare those efforts to Donald Trump’s recent inflammatory comments towards Mexican immigrants. He said, “We’re seeing an issue which should have been resolved and now is resolved, flying the Confederate battle flag in public places, morphing into something different,” and called for “inclusive leadership.” A former Webb supporter said that Web’s referral to this as a problem “on both sides” was “intellectually dishonest and lazy, among other problems.”
On July 18th, 2015, at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration, Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), and Martin O’Malley (D-MD), all took the stage to speak. Webb barely made a splash in the Des Moines Register, who wrote an article about it. There was only one sentence about Jim Webb in that article, which was, “of the five, Webb elicited the least emotion.” Mr. Webb, much like in the debates (covered later in this article), he had squandered
On July 21st, 2015, Allan Hubbard of the Baltimore Sun, endorsed Jim Webb for President. The endorsement told the tale of how Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb was able to secure an honor guard for one of the son of one of Hubbard’s friends at 10 p.m., even though the Department of the Navy initially told that family that honor guards were “overbooked.” Hubbard tells this tale to relate Mr. Webb’s “do-the-right-thing-and-get-the-job-done” approach to the Presidency and how he is a “straight shooter and made of presidential timber.”
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta on August 23rd, 2015, he stated that the North Korean regime was “opaque and unpredictable.” He was later asked about the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump (R-NY). His response was that Americans “are seeing in the country writ [sic] large is a sort of period like total discomfort, almost just getting it out of the system right now…so, you see it in the Republican Party with people going to Trump on issues that are concerning their stability, their long term stability. And you see it in the Democratic Party with people moving toward Bernie Sanders on issues I – issues I actually agree with respect to economic fairness,” and opined that “things will calm down,” and there would be a gravitation towards candidates that could “bring people together.”
Going into the First Democratic Debate, he had raised just over $696,000 and had about $315,000 on hand. This amount was less than Larry Lessig, a Democratic candidate who did not even meet the 1% requirement to be invited to the debate.
After the First Democratic Debate on October 13th, 2015, in which he said controversial things, such as being of the opinion that affirmative action should not be legal as it distracts from the struggles of white Americans as well as seemingly bragging about killing an enemy soldier, it was clear that Democratic Webb, former Secretary of the Navy from Virginia, failed to gain traction, and likely never would.
On October 15th, 2015, Jim Webb’s son (of the same name) wrote an editorial in The Washington Post, which sought to counter the “almost stunning level of ignorance the general public has about war.” His son, who was also in the military, reminded the audience that Mr. Webb had shielded a fellow soldier from the explosion caused by the grenade that was thrown at him, while simultaneously killing the Vietnamese soldier. He also noted that he received the Navy Cross for that action. His son reminds the reader that his father is the architect of the post-9/11 GI Bill. Finally, he notes of the enemy soldier that his dad killed that “this is a person whose intent is to end your life, and that is as clear cut as an enemy as you can think of.” His son argues that it was only natural for Mr. Webb to think of this enemy soldier as the enemy he was most proud to have made.
On October 19th, 2015, an email was sent to reporters that said hat the former Navy secretary might be planning a run as an independent. He believed that if he had help from key supporters, such as David “Mudcat” Saunders, he might be able to win the presidency. Saunders himself was quoted by the Washington Post as saying “I think the process is rigged, the whole nomination process. This idea that the Democrat Party decides we only have six debates, they decide when they have them, who’s broadcasting it and what the subject is going to be…anybody who thinks that doesn’t benefit Mrs. Clinton is a moron, and even a moron knows they control the DNC.” The problem for Jim Webb, though, as keenly noted by CNN, was that “he has been to the right of the other candidates on most domestic policy issues.”
On October 20th, 2015, Jim Webb withdrew from the Democratic Presidential Primary race. At the National Press Club, he stated, “I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party,” and went on to say that he was not comfortable with their policies just as the party infrastructure was not happy with his. Claiming that “interest group politics” now dominated the Democratic Party, leading to the exclusion of movements such as BlackLivesMatter, Jim Webb had had enough and would “think about” even remaining a Democrat. In further remarks that day, Webb lamented how far away from the middle that both political parties had ventured. “Poll after poll shows that a strong plurality of Americans is neither Republican nor Democrat. Overwhelmingly, they’re independents. Our political candidates are being pulled to the extremes. They are increasingly out of step with the people they are supposed to serve.”
Webb floated the idea of running as an independent and also said he had the money to run, which would be given to him by “people I have not felt talking with as a Democratic candidate.” Despite the money shortfall (his under one million to Clinton’s $25.7 million on hand), he believed that he could run against both Republican Donald Trump (R-NY) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), frontrunners of their respective parties, and win if he ran a race that “worked and got traction,” despite having made only a total of thirteen campaign stops: nine in Iowa, one in New Hampshire, and three in South Carolina.
Shortly after Jim Webb dropped out, Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) decided not to run. PoliSciPulse will cover why Joe did not run.