November 20, 2014

Despite what you're going to hear from the corporate media, Jim Webb really does present a strong threat to a Clinton nomination:

Webb announced the exploratory committee in a message posted from his Twitter account late Wednesday, making him the first candidate of either of the two major political parties to take the initial official step for the White House.

"A strong majority of Americans agree that we are at a serious crossroads," Webb wrote in a message posted to a website for his committee. "In my view the solutions are not simply political, but those of leadership. I learned long ago on the battlefields of Vietnam that in a crisis, there is no substitute for clear-eyed leadership."

The former Virginia senator has hinted at a possible presidential campaign for months and made campaign appearances this fall with Democrats in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But he would be considered a longshot against Clinton, who will be the leading Democratic candidate for president if she seeks the White House again.

Webb said the nation faces major obstacles in governing and points to domestic and foreign policy items that need to be atop the agenda. "We need to put our American house in order, to provide educational and working opportunities that meet the needs of the future." He said the U.S. needs to "redefine and strengthen our national security obligations, while at the same time reducing ill-considered foreign ventures."

I watched the entire video and the most interesting part (to me) was completely ignored by the major media coverage.

Former Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, launched his campaign for President late last night via an e-mail and a video. Webb is establishing a exploratory committee that is likely to become a full presidential campaign effort. His speech featured an interesting line that few in American politics from the White House on down talk about: Poverty. Specifically, race and poverty and — the most ignored group in American politics — white folks in poverty. That is an interesting table setter for the oncoming 2016 campaign.

Let’s see if Hillary says this:

“Walk into some of our inner cities if you dare, and see the stagnation, poverty, crime, and lack of opportunity that still affects so many African Americans. Or travel to the Appalachian Mountains, where my own ancestors settled and whose cultural values I still share, and view the poorest counties in America – who happen to be more than 90 percent White, and who live in the reality that “if you’re poor and White you’re out of sight.”

Unlike wanna-be poverty populists like Paul Ryan, Webb is the real thing and presents a very credible threat to the Clinton juggernaut. A former Republican, he's liberal on many (if not most issues) but served as the Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. As a Democratic senator, he was a mostly liberal vote (scored at 85% by Americans for Democratic Action). From a 2010 interview, he was described thusly:

Webb's one of the last FDR Democrats. An economic populist. A national security hawk. His Democratic politics are less concerned with social groups than social equality (of opportunity, not outcome). His values were predominant in the Democrat Party from FDR to JFK, the period in the twentieth century when Democrats were also dominant.

[...] "In his [Webb's] book "Born Fighting" you see that he understands what a lot of Democrats don't," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "That is the white working class, long time Americans who never made it, who lost jobs. It's really a problem that has existed since the 1960s. Webb is also exactly the kind of Democrat who ought to be showcased and given more visibility and authority."

There are aspects of Webb that liberals' embrace. Many relished his critique of George W. Bush over the war in Iraq. But that critique could never have succeeded without the fight in this man. It takes a hawk to politically challenge a hawk.

Webb is a hawk in the traditionally conservative sense. He is adverse to "adventurism." And that evokes the wider rub for Webb. The antiwar bloc championed Webb's Iraq fight. But that same bloc, more broadly, has driven hawks like Webb from this dovish, post-Vietnam, Democratic Party. Webb was pushed away himself, after his decorated Vietnam service.

Liberals also admire the populist Webb. The same cannot be said for the Democratic establishment. Webb has pushed for a onetime windfall profits tax on Wall Street's record bonuses. He talks about the "unusual circumstances of the bailout," that the bonuses wouldn't be there without the bailout.

"I couldn't even get a vote," Webb says. "And it wasn't because of the Republicans. I mean they obviously weren't going to vote for it. But I got so much froth from Democrats saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fundraising.

"People look up say, what's the difference between these two parties? Neither of them is really going to take on Wall Street. If they don't have the guts to take them on, and they've got all these other programs that exclude me, well to hell with them. I'm going to vote for the other people who can at least satisfy me on other issues, like abortion. Screw you guys. I understand that mindset."

This race is going to be a lot more interesting than we thought. Between Webb and Bernie Sanders, we will have more populist candidates than not. The ball is in Hillary's court.

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