Saturday, May 31, 2008

Webb V-P Talk Buzz

Nearly every recent article and blog post about Sen. Jim Webb is about the very real possibility of Webb being asked to be on the ticket as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Webb, of course, is an excellent choice...few are better. Nevertheless, one pesky thought keeps germinating to the top, Would Webb be happy even if he were to accept...???

James Fallows of The Atlantic makes an excellent point in the latest column on the issue:

About Webb's value up through election day, I realize that there's an argument: Would his credentials on national security and as an undoubtedly tough southern Populist offset, among other problems, the perceived slight to older women among Hillary Clinton's base? It's like a vector problem in physics. My belief is that, purely as a matter of electoral math, Webb would help Obama much more than he would hurt. But I know that's a judgment call, with countless ramifications to argue out.

The problem is what would happen if he did help Obama win. Having first met Webb nearly thirty years ago -- and having co-written an Atlantic cover story with him, and having broken my rule against giving money to political candidates two years ago when he began his Senate run -- I can't imagine a job he would enjoy less than the vice presidency.

Jim Webb has arranged his life so as to maximize his intellectual and personal independence, and minimize the things he "has" to do and the bosses he must answer to. Novelist, essayist, journalist, movie-maker -- through the two decades before his Senate race he's been his own boss as much as possible, and has clearly relished saying exactly what he believes. The federal government office that most nicely matches his previous life is the one he now holds: as a U.S. Senator. Especially a Senator of the model Webb has described as his ideal: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. There are still lots of things Webb "has" to do -- fundraising, constituent service, party efforts -- to maintain this role. But in the big scheme of things, not that many.

Webb -- who has not endorsed either Clinton or Obama - has often said during his recent VP mentioning-boomlet that he thinks he could help a new Democratic president best by staying in the Senate. (And holding that Virginia seat for the Democrats.) Whether or not that answer is coy, I think it's absolutely correct. He's a great person for the Senate; the Senate is a great place for him, and I hope it will be for a long time to come.

And that's the crux of the matter. Jim Webb is too much of a free spirit and too darn good at his current job.

I expect Obama to choose a no-name of Dan Quayle caliber.
If Webb were talked into it I have no doubt he'd do the job as well as he could, but it would be a pale imitation of what he could and will continue to accomplish if allowed to remain in the Senate. His GI Bill is just the first in a string of goals he has set for himself, of fundamental changes he is seeking in the way this country approaches everything from proper support of our military, to universal health care, to restoration of the rights of labor to organize without obstruction, to resolution of the incarceration crisis in this country. I'm reading his book, "A Time to Fight", and think his effectiveness would be severely hampered by the the quasi-ceremonial role of Vice President. The only way he could exercise real power as a Vice President would be if he continued the usurpation of executive power started by Cheney, and this would interfere with his stated goal of restoring Constitutional balance between the three houses of our government.

Keep Jim Webb in the Senate!
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