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Sen. Jim Webb as Barack Obama's running mate?

Posted 6/26/08

By Chuck Hobbs

With the Democratic primary behind us, the eyes of most Democrats are squarely cast upon Barack Obama as he selects a vice presidential running mate. Most national pundits have argued that because of Obama’s relative youth and skin color, that the junior Senator from Illinois should select an individual who would ease concerns about his perceived inexperience, his difficulty with certain demographics (white women), as well as geographical concerns (The GOP South).

A veritable “who’s who” of names has been listed to shore up these alleged weaknesses. With respect to white women voters, Senator Hilary Clinton and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sabelius are prominently mentioned. Concerning the “inexperience” label, former Senators Sam Nunn of Georgia and Bob Graham of Florida, along with former presidential rivals and current Senators Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden are mentioned. Nunn and Graham are also mentioned as potential boosts among white male voters in the heavily Republican Deep South, too.

As to white women, conventional wisdom holds that the prospects of Senator Clinton becoming a Supreme Court Justice or high level cabinet appointee under Obama, coupled with the fact that Republican hopeful John McCain has solid pro-life credentials, it is likely that Obama will receive overwhelming support among this group regardless of his vice presidential selection.

This leaves the perceived weaknesses among rural and blue-collar white males. While Nunn and Graham are considered solid selections toward this end, there is still the distinct possibility that neither will deliver their home states in the general election because of the presence of very popular Republican governors in each.

Enter Jim Webb, the highly popular Senator from Virginia who greatly impressed me during his interview with the recently deceased Tim Russert on Meet the Press last month.

Webb, of Scot-Irish Ancestry, is a former Marine Corps officer who earned the Bronze Star while serving in Vietnam. Following his wartime service, Webb graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center and began his career advocating Veterans issues on Capitol Hill. Following a stint as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, Webb became a professional author and documentary film producer, a job he held until winning his Senate seat in 2006.

Webb’s experience as a military officer and policy maker certainly makes him a formidable ally for Obama. As with any political candidate, however, his ideological enemies have surfaced and begun insinuating that he is a misogynist and a racist.

As to the former, the controversy centers around an editorial that Webb wrote for the Washingtonian in 1979 entitled “Why Women cant Fight”, where he articulates in graphic detail the horrors of combat and why, in his opinion, women would be better suited in non-combat units. This hardly proves that Webb is against women, as the position that he espoused at the time was widely held by a majority of military leaders.

Similarly, the question about his position on race center around Webb’s affinity for the Civil War, in general, and the Confederacy, in particular. The argument is that Black voters will not support a Confederate sympathizer.

At issue is a speech that Webb gave at the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery in 1990 in which he praised Southern Soldiers for their “gallantry” which he said “is still misunderstood by most Americans.” Webb a prolific author, has since stated “Most Southern Soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than Slavery.” For historians, the argument behind the primary causes of the war, whether it was to “Preserve the Union” as Abraham Lincoln said or for “States Rights" as Webb and many others suggest, has long been the subject of debate. As an aside, the truth is that the immoral institution of Slavery drove both viewpoints and whether the Union had a right to forbid it or whether the individual states had a right to keep it.

Nevertheless, the Civil War was unique because those who fought it on both sides left copious information in the form of journals and books that helps us to understand their rationale for fighting. This is huge when considering that in our current War on Terror, the only perspective is the American perspective since there is a paucity of books and information from our enemies.

It is frustrating to think that whenever individuals like Webb proffer historical opinions that the same can be mistakenly used to cast them in a false light. Webb is not a racist because of his pride in his Confederate ancestors. Soldiers, then and now, do not legislate--they fight, and it is wholly proper for descendants to honor their forefather’s courage. It is no different than the pride many Black Americans have in the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 9th and 10th Cavalries despite the fact that the same fought against and killed many Native Americans during the period of Westward Expansion.

I strongly suspect that the false allegations of bigotry being spewed by the extreme left are because Webb was a Republican until 2006 and is still considered a conservative. Ironically, this, too, could provide balance as some voters fear that Obama’s politics lie far too left of center.


Chuck Hobbs is a trial lawyer and partner in Hobbs & Richardson PLLC. Listen to the Chuck Hobbs Show on Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm on WTAL 1450 AM or via the Internet on Reach him at .

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