Semper Fi: Jim Webb Walks Tall in Son's Combat Boots

  • Chip's picture
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A former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy to President Ronald Reagan switched parties from Republican to Democratic to challenge the one-term incumbent junior Senator from Virginia. James H. Webb, a highly decorated Marine officer who served in Vietnam, an Emmy award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author of seven books is running in the Virginia Democratic primary.

Jim Webb's move came after an intensive internet campaign to draft him. His move to the Democratic Party is particularly poignant because, as Steve Jarding, former campaign manager to Gov. Mark Warner noted, "This is Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy saying, 'The Democratic Party is closer to my ideals.' This is the genuine, real deal."

"When I look at where this administration has taken its own party, I cannot help but think about the pendulum of history," Webb said. "The pendulum has swung, I think, as far as it can swing given the principles this party had once espoused."

"I wake up every morning very concerned about the country. We need to put some focus back in our foreign policy, a different focus," says Webb who warned in 1990 against an Iraqi war: "The debate over our role in the Persian Gulf crisis has focused on national, rather than specific military goals. The fundamental questions, upon which all others inevitably rest, have not been addressed. Why did we send such a huge contingent of ground troops in the first place? And under what conditions are we going to use them or bring them home?

Answers are not forthcoming. Military officials intimate that the question would expose tactical options. Administration officials talk in vague terms: Defense Secretary Cheney is telling us to prepare for a commitment that may take years. Others have been quoted as saying we may be there for a decade. At the same time we are being reassured, amidst many loud calls to initiate a war with Iraq, that the U.S. military commitment is wholly defensive."

Although Jim Webb opposed involvement in Iraq, he clearly points out that there is no contradiction in honoring the service of our courageous military personnel while questioning the war.

    Jim wrote: "...statements defending Bush claim that the National Guard was not a haven for those who wished to avoid Vietnam; but it clearly was. According to the National Guard Association, only some 9,000 Army Guardsmen and 9,343 Air Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Considering that nearly 3 million from the active forces did so, one begins to understand why so many of America's elites headed for the Guard when their draft numbers were called.

    Bush used his father's political influence to move past many on the Texas Guard's waiting list. He was not required to attend Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. He lost his flight status after failing to show up for a required annual physical. These facts alone raise the eyebrows of those who took a different path in a war that for the Marine Corps brought more casualties than even World War II.

    The Bush campaign now claims that these issues are largely moot and that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring "war president." And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause.

    Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

    There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves."

The Webbs are a family of Marines: Jim, his brother, and father all wore the birdie and ball. Jim's son, a Marine expecting deployment this summer to Iraq, recently asked why Jim's primary opponent wears cowboy boots, as "there are no cowboys in Virginia." In a show of support and solidarity with his son, James now wears his son's desert combat boots. He suggests others standing in solidarity with our courageous military but not supporting the Iraqi invasion do so, too.

Jim believes that solutions will be found using a progressive approach to policy that prioritizes fairness and justice, focused on four major themes:

  • Refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened.
  • Repairing the country's basic infrastructure, which has eroded badly over the past decade, and developing more creative ways to assist disaster-stricken areas such as those in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast.
  • Reinstituting notions of true fairness in American society, including issues of race, class, and economic advantage; and
  • Restoring the Constitutional role of the Congress as an equal partner, reining in the unbridled power of the Presidency.

"We really need to get back to a time when the members of Congress will stand up to an administration that is abusing its constitutional privileges," Webb said.


Trust and Verify

  • Chip's picture
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I'm always suspicious of politicians who change parties, but people do change as do political realities. That's where values come in. A person certain of their core beliefs may find that their political party doesn't address their values any longer and change political alliances.

Many Dems hailed Jeffords when he changed to Independent, and Reagan began his political career as a Democrat, then became a Republican.

Your post contains a lot of conjecture and vitriol:

  • that Webb considers Reagan a "great president," (Did Webb say that? Or are you speculating on his opinion because he was part of Reagan's administration?)
  • that Webb's "only act of political courage" was to resign in 1988 rather than "sign off on a budget-cutting move to downsize the Navy fleet." (Switching parties is an act of political courage, also. One risks being flamed as a "liar" and "hypocrite" by those who would rather attack the man than his proposals.)
  • Webb served in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. It isn't hard for me to imagine that the kind of courage he showed in combat action is reflected in other aspects of his life, also.
  • that Webb helped trash Kerry. Do you have any proof of that claim? (As a matter of fact, Webb himself is facing being trashed by the swifties). "Allen" (Webb's Dem primary opponent) "has no military service, but he's prepared to take on Webb's record if necessary. A top Allen adviser, Christopher J. LaCivita, was the mastermind behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Vietnam veterans who made unsubstantiated allegations challenging Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's record of wartime heroism."

The military oath of office calls one to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and Webb has clearly stated his position that Bush et. al. are abusing our Constitution. I'm inclined to welcome him to the big tent and to say, as Reagan would, "trust and verify."


  • rational's picture
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This year in this campaign Webb has defended and praised the addled one. Infact using your point that the oath states "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" I ask where was he during Iran/Contra? The Constitition and the supporting history all addresxs the need to prevent the executive branch from having an independent funding source. This was how George lll was able to hire and use Hessians in our revolution without Parliaments approval. So if he really did take his oath serious how could he ignore the addled ones subversion of the Constitution? Rather he praises him. Hypocrite.

They were not going to "downsize" the navy they just weren't going to give it all the shiny new toys that webb wanted to play with.

Violence may be a product of courage or it could just be a survival instinct. Don't confuse a berserkers rage with true honor and principles. Political couage and honor would have him running in the rethuglican primary not by flying false colors.

During the 2004 campaign webb wrote a letter/column questioning Kerry's record and playing the nutcase talking point of show us all the records while never demanding the same from awol. Where was he when Max Cleland was getting trashed? He was campaigning for those trashing a wounded veteran.

Of course he is going to get swift boated. Just as the inventor of the Guillitine was executed by it so webb's past support of trashing any,and all, progressives and liberals is coming back on him. Even though he is a zell miller replay he has spoken badly of der leader so must be destroyed.

But I do not accept the adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That is how poppa bush paid for bin ladens training during the russian invasion of Afgahsistan and look how well that has worked out.

You are entitled to your own

  • Bill Harding's picture
    Bill Harding
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You are entitled to your own opinions, but NOT your own facts. Either post sources and links to support your allegations, or your post will be removed.

Links to Support Your Assertions?

  • Chip's picture
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Please provide links to verify your statements that:

  • Webb has defended and praised the addled one
  • the Navy wasn't being downsized in 1988. "Beginning in 1988, the Pentagon began to downsize its far flung military base structure with the first round of base closures in response to wind down of the Cold War."
  • Webb resigned because he couldn't have shiny new toys
  • 2004 campaign webb wrote a letter/column questioning Kerry's record
  • Webb campaigned for those trashing Max Cleland

As to your inquiry where was Webb during Iran/Contra, in 1988, the year Oliver North and John Poindexter were charged, Webb was Secretary of the Navy. "In 1994, Webb endorsed Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) for reelection over retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, calling North a chronic liar."

Again you have written a lot of allegations that I hope you will support with links, or simply acknowledge that these are your own personal opinions and not supported by fact.