Our Next Senator

By Too Conservative

Jim Webb joined Senator-elect Tester of Montana on Meet the Press Sunday for a fairly wide-ranging interview (transcript here). It was a little disconcerting to bounce back and forth between the two gentlemen, but the interview was of sufficient length to be informative. What continues to be of interest to me is watching Mr. Webb fill in his issue card on matters other than Iraq. He’s a smart guy and I’m hoping that this little “class warfare” number that he tried on in a WSJ op-ed and again on MTP is discarded before he goes out in public very much with it. I sort of detect that he’s not entirely comfortable with it. It’s definitely not you, Senator.

On Iraq, Webb made an interesting comparison with Viet Nam. He said that to this day, he could make a cogent case for our decision to get into Viet Nam, however poorly executed the conflict was. Iraq, he contends, differs in terms of the wisdom of the initial decision to assert military force (Read it for yourself – I hope that is a fair paraphrase from memory). Personally, I don’t find those distinctions compelling. In Viet Nam we slid slowly and stupidly down a long slope from having a few advisors on the ground to full-scale military involvement. Like people who feel that if they yell loud enough, they will eventually get their way, we kept turning up the volume of troop levels and air action looking for the point at which the other side would break.  Webb is probably right in that in Viet Nam, U.S. decision-makers had hard, objective, uncontroversial evidence South Viet Nam was not dealing solely with indigenous unrest, but was also facing armed intervention from military forces of the Hanoi regime. Where things fell flat at a cost of tens of thousands of American lives and many times that number of casualties was the national interest analysis at different levels of troop and military resource commitment.  To this day I am convinced that a major part of the problem was LBJ’s psyche. He was used to having his way and could not stand the idea of having to reverse or even alter course.

Whatever the wisdom of the Iraq invasion, whatever the shortcomings of the execution of the post-April 2003 phases, Iraq remains a problem without a clear solution. Webb seems to realize this and is treading very carefully around any particular prescriptions for exit. I was encouraged to hear him identify clearly that there are three problems that, while related, cannot be mushed together with any hope of success: 1. Stabilizing the Israel/Palestine dispute; 2. Having an effective anti-terrorist policy; and 3. dealing with Iraq. Problem 1 has been abjectly and irresponsibly ignored by the United States for almost six years. Problem 3 distracts and perhaps exacerbates Problem 2. Problem 2 is no nearer solution now than it was in 2003. In some ways, things are worse on that front. While Iraq had little to do with the threat to the United States from international terrorism pre-2003, a hurried exit from there by the U.S. military will leave an environment far more dangerous to us than Afghanistan was pre-2001.

  No single United States senator is going to get this sorted out, but they can stimulate discussion and debate. My hope is that Webb is enough his own man that he’ll protect us (and everyone in Iraq whose life depends on our presence) from the worst instincts of some of his colleagues in his adoptive Party.     Â


Comments

  • t says:

    Webb is obviously a person who is not comfortable in his own skin.

  • NoVa Scoiut: Why is the Palestinian vs Israeli problem a U.S. problem?

  • Ocho Cinco says:

    NoVa: Instead of simply saying you don’t want Sen.-elect Webb to talk about issues of class in America, why don’t you argue his points. I for one, a middle class American, concur with his arguments. Do you disagree or do you just not want to see it.

    t’s remark above=childish. Webb isn’t comfortable in his own skin? What’s that supposed to imply? He’s not a polished speaker, aw, shucks, I guess he isn’t comfortable in his own skin???

  • Citizen Tom says:

    The main similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is that in both cases the Democrats did not give a damn about creating a democratic government. We spent all those years in Vietnam and accomplished little because we never had a plan to create a democracy in Vietnam. Because we never made any serious effort to help create a government the Vietnamese would accept as their own creation, we never had an exit plan.

    In Iraq, we deliberately set about creating a democracy, and we have found it hard and difficult work. Yet each step of the way, we have succeeded. The news media has virtually ignored those successes and concentrated instead on the calamity. Even in the best of worlds, why should we have expected anything different?

    The only way we are going to hear the real story about Iraq is from our people on the ground. What do our troops think? In Vietnam, our soldiers became disheartened. Has that happened to our soldiers in Iraq? In spite of the fact our military is undersized for this task, have our soldiers abandoned the mission or have we?

  • Fauquier Dan says:

    NoVa Scout,

    I enjoyed your analysis. I share your encouragement with regard to Webb’s clear identification of the various problems in the overall Middle East region and that they are related but are not all the same thing. The country has suffered from some fuzzy thinking and, in some cases, willful deception in these matters. A strong dose of realistic thinking and acceptance of reality will enable us to find a resolution in the best interest of America. I think we can yet salvage some success from the mess that has been created.

    I would take exception to your characterization of Webb’s ideas on domestic issues as “this little ‘class warfare’ number”. I find his notion of shared responsibility for one another and measuring the success of a society by the health of the folks at the base rather than the top to be very traditional populism. And very much in step with Democratic traditions. And American tradition.

    The loss of our manufacturing base means not just the loss of jobs, it has national security implications. And our trade policy with Communist China would be a joke if the consequences weren’t so serious. It is hard to ignore the 40 million without health insurance and the fact that we pay far more for the care they do receive than we would if we had some rational plan for dealing with the situation.

    A few months ago Wes Pruden wrote a column in which he drew a distinction between the heart felt Republicans and the corporate Republicans. He defined the corporate Republicans as viewing America as simply real estate. A convenient place to do business. They have been in the ascendancy for too long and have done way too much damage to our country.

    From reading your past postings you impress me as one of those heart felt Republicans. Don’t buy into the corporate Republican “class warfare” slogan. That is designed to end the discussion before it begins. To preclude any possible solutions that cost the favored few even a nickel regardless of the benefit that may accrue to the nation as a whole.

    I think we can have policies that address the needs of our fellow citizens in distress AND benefit the nation and its security. I urge you to keep an open mind with Senator Webb on domestic issues. I am betting you will be pleasantly surprised.

  • Fauquier Dan says:

    JAB,

    You ask, Why is the Palestinian vs Israeli problem a U.S. problem?

    As a superpower with obvious strategic and economic interests in the region how can it not be a problem with which we must be concerned? Can we afford to continue the current administration’s seeming lack of interest in this piece of the Middle East puzzle?

  • NoVA Scout says:

    Nice comment, Dan. I do have an open mind on Webb domestically because I don’t think he has really formed up on that front. This race was primarily about Iraq so we didn’t get into the range of issues that one would normally expect. At this moment, I view Webb’s ideas on domestic issues as unknowns, perhaps even to him.

    On the domestic front, I have fairly serious reservations about the degree to which national governmental policy should attempt to realign the distribution of wealth. I’m far more in the “rising tide lifts all boats” camp. But – - – I recognize that severe inequality of opportunity will cripple economic progress. If that’s what Webb is beginning to talk about, I’ll give him a respectful ear (or two).

  • Citizen Tom says:

    NoVA Scout

    The senate race was about Iraq? I seriously doubt that. I think the senate race was largely about macaca. The Washington Post had its candidate and succeeded in jamming him down our throats. The Post knocked Allen off message, and he never succeeded in getting back on it. Instead, he came across as just another politician with negative campaign ads.

    Fauquier Dan

    JAB’s question was a trap. Your answer better justifies our involvement in Iraq than the Palestinian vs Israeli problem. Due to its location and the size of its military force, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq’s posed are far greater threat to American interests than the Palestinians.

    As a practical matter, the Palestinian vs Israeli problem is a nuisance. The Palestinian vs Israeli problem provides an excuse for authoritarian Arab governments to seize and hold political power. Yet if the Palestinian vs Israeli problem did not exist, these governments would find another excuse. There is always a Great Satan.

    Like NoVA Scout, I have serious reservations about wealth redistribution. If we want business in America, we have to make it a place to do business. That, of course, does not mean we have to make America an unpleasant place. Nonetheless, we do have to make government do only what it must and otherwise get it out of the way.

    While I agree we do need to support our manufacturing base, I do not think our problem revolves around China. Much of the problem is one of perception. We still manufacture many products in this nation, but like farming, fewer people are needed. Many of the jobs we ship overseas do not require an educated work force or a complex public infrastructure. What do we loose by shipping those jobs overseas?

    Nonetheless, entire industries have moved overseas, and that is probably undesirable. What can we do to encourage manufacturing in this nation? The stupid approaches involve corporate welfare or setting up trade barriers. Such approaches would just contribute to a second Great Depression.

    The way the government can help involves three areas: improved education, a supportive legal infrastructure, and an efficient public infrastructure (communications and transportation systems). To improve our education system, we need competition. We need to break the public education monopoly. Our legal people are sue crazy NIMBY protectors. We need tort reform. Our transportation system responds poorly to supply and demand. To get politicians focused on meeting real needs, we should adopt user fees (tolls) to pay for public infrastructure.

  • Fides says:

    I think the problem is that not all the boats have been rising.

    For decades now, we have seen the rich getting richer. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – I’m working on getting rich myself. But we also have seen median incomes not only fail to go up in proportion, but fail to go up at all – and in the last few years, to fall (on an inflation adjusted basis, of course.)

    Further, people’s jobs are far less stable. Any smart investor pays attention to the volatility and stability of a bond, and adjusts his return expectation accordingly. American jobs have become far less stable – without an increase in return. Long term benefits (e.g., pensions) are also getting cut, promises made long ago.

    There’s also a question of economic concentrations of power being self sustaining. We justify unequal distribution of wealth based essentially on a merit arguement – that those who work smarter, do smart things, deserve that larger share of the pie whose size they’ve helped increase. Fair enough – but a lot of the economic activity that is increasing the concentration of wealth nowadays isn’t creative and isn’t increasing the size of the pie – it’s merely increasing and perpetuating the split. In the long run, we’ll have to address the issue if we want to retain our values.

  • novamiddleman says:

    Good Discussion here

    Webb is extremely serious about his domestic policy. He stated that was his number one concern. To me it sounds like redistribution of wealth and protectionisim. (We knew he was populist going in btw) I was a bit disappointed in Russert who seems to be in love with the guy and was not his usual hardhitting self. Maybe in a later interview Russert could press for more specifics. Actually Russert is going downhill a bit relying on gotch ya rhetroic I like Stephnopolis better lately. Anyway…

    As far as the actual issue of economic fairness is concerned I find the idea fascinating and think it is a good topic for debate amongst the blogosphere humm maybe I will actually post something for once

    For now I think this issue can be boiled down to a harsh reality check. The world is different today. Jobs are going to the best and brightest and (the more important part imho) to keep jobs one must continue to reeducate oneself to remain competitive. (i.e. a high school diploma, college degree, or even masters degree is not enough stagnant) I think thats my general point. Two questions to end on

    Is it the responsibiltiy of the government or the individual to remain competitive in the global marketplace? What role should government play in the reeducation of the workforce?

    One more point is our economy large enough? If every person got a college degree tomorrow would there be enough jobs available?

    Ok I think I should post

  • NoVA Scout says:

    Citizen Tom: I really doubt the Washington Post has the kind of strong influence that you attribute to it, particularly in Virginia. As I said earlier, in a very close race, anything can be pointed to as being outcome determinative, so Macaca might have changed the minds of 7,000 voters and put Webb over the top. But the Post didn’t make Allen behave that way. He did it all by himself.

    But without Iraq, you don’t have Webb as a Democrat, and without Webb, the Dems can’t beat Allen (given that Warner (M) did not run). Iraq is the prime mover in that sequence of events. It also probably had a strong impact on how the military communities in NoVA and Hampton Roads voted. You have to go back to orginal causes.

  • novamiddleman says:

    Compare the totals to Robb Allen in 2000. CW says different time different rhetoric etc… blah blah

    The percentages by district are amazingly similar except for a couple cases

    2000
    http://www.sbe.state.va.us/web_docs/election/results/2000/nov/nov2000/
    2006
    http://sbe.virginiainteractive.org/nov2006/d_02.htm

    4th (5 percent swing)
    Webb off a bunch raw numbers (bad statewide work)
    Allen maintains (nice GOTV)

    7th (maybe not worth mentioning but it was really close)
    Webb +5%
    Allen -5%

    8th (Opposite of the 4th 9% swing)
    Webb relatively stable
    Allen loses over 40k votes

    10th (As I said during the campaign ouch this is our problem area fellas going to post the raw numbers for this one some of this is the federal election dropoff but still)

    2000

    Allen 191,704 58.73%
    Robb 134,486 41.20%
    240 0.07%
    Total 326,430

    Allen 118,132 48.83%
    Webb 120,959 50.00%
    2,568 1.06%
    280 0.12%
    Total 241,939

    Allen lost 70,000 voters here and the election (IMHO)
    Marriage vote wasn’t a factor here

    one other note the 11th was basically unchanged from 2000 to 2006 by percentages

    So, pretty sure the 8th is gone the 11th is stable the 10th has problems as I am sure all of our Loudoun friends know too well. Any RPV work needs to focus on what the people in the 10th district are thinking. I am sure Loudoun Insider has some ideas :)

    The devil is in the details with these vote totals I might have some more time over Thanksgiving to look into the individual districts in the 10th. I have a hunch Loudoun was a major factor.

  • novamiddleman, see the Wolf race for insight. People in the 10th are very interested in transportation and associated land use issues. They are NOT interested in the religious purity wing of the GOP, at least not in winnable numbers. Check out my earlier thread on the election numbers by supervisor district in Loudoun County. I’ll be interested to see some overall 10th district analysis.

  • Dean Settle says:

    Citizen Tom…you Da Man.

    LBJ did have a great fear which made him bounce back and forth in his approach, seemingly always second-guessing himself. He was terrified that his place in history would be as the “mistake” between two Kennedys.

  • Citizen Tom says:

    Thanks Dean.

    Excuse me, but where in Virginia does the Washington Post operate its news network? Was the Washington Post operating in the 2000 election? Are there more or less people in northern Virginia now?

    News is important in politics. The Founders realized it right away. They knew they had to get their version of events out to the voters. After the U.S. Constitution created a real central government, they set up partisan newspapers to fight over the vote.

    For years, Republicans have virtually abandoned this part of the battle (We have great GOTV!), and we have paid an awful price. The story about Republican successes is not getting out. FOX and talk radio just do not carry that much weight. When you compare a conservative paper like the Washington Times (the moony paper) with the liberal Washington Post and its media network, it is no wonder we lost in northern Virginia.

    The Bush administration had lots of good news. The economy is in good shape. With most of the world, we have good relations. But what did you hear about?

    Consider how the bit with Katrina was ridiculously overblown. In any other part of the world, if that storm had hit a major city, it would easily have killed 500,000 people and devastated the economy. Our military rescued tens of thousands. Our economy shrugged off the effects, and Bush failed? Of course Bush failed. Didn’t we get enough stories about rapes and murders that never happened?

    Even though we thus far met every milestone set by the war’s opponents, our “war” with 10 – 20 thousand terrorists (there 25 million people in Iraq) has been successfully portrayed as a lost cause. Relative to the GDP, the defense budget is down, but you would think spending on Iraq is all by itself responsible for the deficit. Reenlistment rates are up, but you would think everyone is quitting the military. And, don’t forget, every combat veteran is a battle fatigued crazy man.

    Where is the perspective?

  • “Our legal people are sue crazy NIMBY protectors. We need tort reform.”

    You do realize that there are FAR more lawsuits BETWEEN corporations than tort litigation actions of consumers against corporations, right?
    And if you don’t want excessive government regulation, and you don’t want the free market alternative (i.e. tort law), then what exactly are consumers supposed to do if they get ripped off, injured or killed due to misdeeds by big corporations? Just suck it up? Tort law, especially contigency fee personal injury law, is the classic free market solution. PI lawyers do not take frivolous cases, or even meritorious but weak cases, because ALL of the cost of litigation has to come out of their pocket and if they don’t prevail, they have to eat it all. Even a modest design defect case can cost as much as $250,000 in litigation expenses, expert fees and so forth, to bring to trial. And even if the plaintiff wins (an occurence which is becoming rarer and rarer), deep pocket defendants can afford to finance endless appeals, and appeals courts frequently reduce jury awards anyway. This is not to say that there are no such as frivolous lawsuits; they do exist. But arguing that they are proof that we need to abolish the right to trial by jury in civil cases is the equivalent of saying that a bad acts by some corporations are an argument in favor of communism. The tort law system is the only capitalist way to encourage good behavior by corporations who are pretty clearly not deterred by boycotts, bad publicity, regulations or government fines. The fear of being sued into a smoking radioactive crater, however, is an excellent deterrent to cutting corners on safety or screwing over customers.

  • Citizen Tom says:

    Mr. Crank, who said anything about abolishing the right to trial by jury in civil cases? You do not think corporations abuse tort laws? You are kidding, right?

    70 percent of our legislators are lawyers. That fact by far makes the legal profession the best represented interest group in government. The mere notion that the legal profession would need lobbyists too is hysterical, but do not worry, they have lobbyists. That is why, Mr. Crank, we hear supposedly serious people saying it is asking too much if the plaintiff pays the whole cost when he loses. The legal profession is so well represented in government that its practitioners can make absurd demands without getting serious pushback.

    Do we want our laws to serve the People or lawyers?

  • Dean Settle says:

    Oddly, I agree with Fauquier Dan, JAB. How is this NOT ur fight?
    If we roll up the carpets and lock the doors of isolationism again (three versions of the Monroe Doctrine have been rolled out to counter that thinking over the years)we would most definitely be hit blindside by that logic in years to come. Helping an ally in the region, coupled with opening a functioning democracy in Iraq will change thinking. But it needs to happen first.
    Iran and Syria have a lot riding on stirring the pot, because if their citizens see the democracy next door and begin to desire that type of government, the radicals in those countries cannot operate there any longer.
    Notice that we have pockets of instigation here, but they never really gain any traction, per capita. We’re pretty complacent here… and complacent people with plenty to eat and freedom to speak their greivances don’t usually end up killing to make their point.

    The continued attacks on Israel are just testing the waters of resolve over here. How far can they go before we step in. And we should step in. It is absolutely in our best interest. How many people here in the good ol’ US of A realize how much intelligence is handed to us from Israel? Not many, it seems.
    The world is a dangerous place, and Utopia is a magical place in a book. We need to stay sharp and focused and meet the aggressors at the door or outside of it, or we’re doomed to wake up one morning to another 9/11 that some said couldn’t happen here.

  • NoVa, missed you answer on Israel-Palestine.

    Dean, I’m not an Isolationist. I’m not a neo-con, although my ideas of Munificent Destiny and Imperial responsibilities without Imperial ambitions strike some as such. I’ve written my thoughts on our place in the world, national strategy, military strategy, operational campaigns and tactics – see my archives.

    Iraq was perceived by Left, Right and in-between as a clear and present danger in 03. Too bad some of the intel was wrong, maybe the President shouldn’t have given the CIA chief the Medal of Freedom, huh? I knew, like Webb, what a mess it would be to occupy Iraq. I wrote ‘The Long Hard Peace’ during combat ops. Rumsfeld made many mistakes and should have been fired in 03. His errors cost us, by my guesstimate, about a year and half – maybe two. The election that counts in Iraq has been on going since 04 – it is the election with guns. Pres. Bush and Sec Rice’s Wilsonian rhetoric set the stage for failed expectations in a place which is 800 years, culturally, behind our Civilization. Stability and security, of sorts, can be achieved as a ‘win’.

    Israel and Palestine on the other hand are not a clear and present danger to the U.S. Their dispute is a grievance for Muslims. But, if the Islamists didn’t have that, they would find another. The U.S. has been involved in the peace processes there because war can widen in bad ways. That’s why we have U.S. troops in the Sinai right now. On the border. Remember?

    Yet,fundamentally the issue is one the U.S. is incapable of solving, unless we went for a ‘Mongolian’ peace or another draconian measure we are unwilling, rightly, to do. Blaming problems there on the Bush administration is partisan politics on the cheap or just cheap sophistry.

    The U.S. has interests in resolving the issues, but not a stakeholder position until our national security is threatened.

  • NoVA Scout says:

    JAB: There’s a long answer and a short answer. The latter is that our perceived anti-Arabism arising from Israeli/Palestinian issues is a major fuel element of anti-Americanism in the Middle East. The safety of our citizens at home and abroad is directly affected by that perception. We therefore have a national security interest in seeing and promoting a stable, sustainable solution to those issues. The long answer is more appropriately discussed in another context. My co-guest hosts already give me enough grief about the length of my posts and comments. Read my article in Foreign Affairs.

  • Okay, NoVa, what issue and what title?

  • NoVa Scout says:

    As soon as I get it written and published, I’ll let you know, JAB. Right now it’s stacked up behind the galley proofing of my memoir of my tempestuous, on-again, off-again relationship with Ava Gardner.

  • Thanks NoVa for sharing that you are a man after my heart too. How did you ever break it off with Greer Garson? I really don’t see how any man could do so.

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