Webb, who left the Senate in 2012, says Americans “need to shake the hold” of political elites
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Saying the United States “needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us,” former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has announced that he will seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“I understand the odds, particularly in today’s political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money,” Webb said in a message announcing his candidacy posted on his campaign website July 2. “Our fellow Americans need proven, experience leadership that can be trusted to move us forward.”
In his opening campaign salvo, Webb positioned himself as an outsider in the race, noting that “more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars.”
“Highly paid political consultants are working to shape the ‘messaging’ of every major candidate,” he said. “We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process.”
Webb also took a direct swipe at the Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her initial support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Webb publicly opposed.
“Let me assure you, as president, I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq,” Webb said. “I warned in writing five months before that invasion that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world and that this invasion would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions.”
When she ran for president in 2008, Clinton defended her vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq — a vote which was used against her with great effect by Barack Obama. But in a 2014 book, she conceded that her vote was a mistake.
Webb also said he would have opposed military intervention in Libya in 2011 — which Obama authorized and Clinton supported as secretary of state — and that the subsequent terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on her watch “was inevitable.”
Webb, 69, is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who served in Vietnam and was the secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. In 2006, he won a surprise victory to the Senate, narrowly ousting incumbent Republican George Allen in an election in which anti-war sentiment lifted Democratic fortunes.
In the Senate, Webb was considered a centrist who frequently bucked the party line, including an assertion that Obamacare would be a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. In 2012, facing the prospect of a contentious rematch with Allen, he decided not to run for re-election and left the Senate after a single term.
More recently, Webb sounded a cautionary note on the renewed drive to remove the Confederate battle emblem in the wake of the Charleston church shootings, saying in a Facebook post that “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.”
Recent national polls have shown Webb’s support for the Democratic nomination in single digits, well behind Clinton and second-place U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In the message launching his campaign, Webb touted his sponsorship in the Senate of a GI Bill providing benefits to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan and his support for reform of the criminal justice system.
“It’s costing us billions of dollars. It’s wasting lives, often beginning at a very early age, creating career criminals rather than curing them. It’s not making our neighborhoods safer,” he said.
Like a number of other presidential contenders in both parties, Webb also sounded a note of economic populism.
“Let’s work to restore true economic fairness in this great country, starting with finding the right formula for growing our national economy while making our tax laws more balanced and increasing the negotiating leverage of our working people,” he said. “Our goal will be to increase the financial stability of the American workforce.”
Webb also said he would “work toward bringing the complex issue of immigration reform to a solution that respects the integrity of our legal traditions, while also recognizing the practical realities of a system that has been paralyzed by partisan debate.”
Webb is the only Southerner among the five candidates seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, although Clinton was a resident of Arkansas before moving to New York to run for the Senate in 2000.
Eight Southerners are seeking the Republican nomination: U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.