Hit & Run

Jim Webb Prepares for 2016 Presidential Run

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Running as neither Hillary Clinton, nor Barack Obama
Senate Photo

With a call to a return to the mostly imaginary bipartisanship of the days of yore, former Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced last night he has put together an exploratory committee for a 2016 run for president.

He launched a site with a video and a four-page speech that seems to mostly say the same things as the video.  From his comments:

Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for President. A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges. They're worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. They're worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric.

I share every one of these concerns.

He then follows up with four pages of mostly rhetoric and talking points. Anyway, though Webb is seen as a longshot (even by Webb), his candidacy matters in terms of what the Democratic Party's post-Obama identity is going to look like. His comments do not advocate for a continuation of Obama's policies, even though he makes comments about income inequality that could have come straight from the president's mouth (or any other Democratic politician). He doesn't intend to try to ride in on Obama's coattails.

Webb isn't Elizabeth Warren, but his positions fall more on the Democratic progressive populism side of the party rather than Hillary Clinton's Democratic establishment support for interventionism from the left. He takes anti-war positions, but he is also a Vietnam War veteran (maybe "but" should be "because" there). As Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted in September, it's been Obama's abuse of authority in the Middle East that has been pushing him to consider his run.

Over at The Week, Michael Tracey thinks Webb's progressive economic populism combined with his military background and anti-war positions would make him the perfect alternative to Clinton in the primaries:

Foreign policy is Webb's main strength. Remember that during the storied 2008 Democratic presidential primary, the defining issue seized on with great effect by Barack Obama was then-Sen. Clinton's vote to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein. And wouldn't you know it, here we are again, embarking on another military offensive of indeterminate length — one that very much includes "boots on the ground."

By the time the 2016 Iowa caucus rolls around, the U.S. may well still be mired in Iraq and Syria (and who knows where else?). Clinton, as Obama's secretary of State, is widely reputed to have been one of the administration's foremost interventionist agitators, producing disillusionment among anti-war grassroots Democrats who will probably take an active role in the primaries. This contingent is unlikely to accept the coronation of Hillary the Hawk without a fight.

He's also a strong voice for criminal justice reform, and as a senator proposed a commission to examine issues related to mass incarceration. As a candidate he could be fighting for the same independent voters that Sen. Rand Paul might go for should he get the Republican nod. But that assumes Webb is able to fight past the massive establishment machine that will be supporting Clinton.

Watch Webb's comments about possibly running below: