Jim Webb

What Ever Happened to Jim Webb?

The populist Democrat and his barely-visible campaign


By the time I get to Phoenix, I'll be at 5 percent.

Remember Jim Webb? Former senator, Vietnam vet, war novelist, sort of a maverick. Was mulling a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And then he kind of disappeared.

Oh, he didn't vanish entirely. Last month BuzzFeed spotted him at the annual Scottish Games in South Carolina, where he gave the haggis-and-kilt crowd what was "arguably the briefest stump speech in presidential history—a six-minute-and-five-seconds contemplation of the role of the Scotch-Irish in American history." Last week he published a piece of fiction in Politico called "To Kill a Man," which may be a first in presidential politics. And after the other Democratic candidates reacted to the Charleston church massacre with full-throated condemnations of the Confederate battle flag, Webb released a more subdued statement asking us to "remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War."

(A quick aside about that. On what is widely, and I think rightly, seen as the central civil rights fight of the day—the constellation of issues around intrusive policing and mass incarceration—Webb has by far the best record of the possible Democratic candidates. As a senator he pushed for criminal justice reform long before it was a trendy topic, and he has said it will be a big part of his presidential campaign if he runs. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has an unimpressive history in this area, and while her rhetoric on the subject has recently shifted for the better, even now her proposals are pretty weak. And Martin O'Malley's record on these issues is even worse than Clinton's. But Clinton and O'Malley condemned the flag, and Webb didn't. How you judge those combinations of views will say a lot about the relative weight you give to symbols and substance.)

Beyond those brief moments of media attention, Webb has been making stops around Iowa while mostly staying out of the national limelight. A number of people expected him to step out of the shadows and declare his candidacy last Friday, but Fox is reporting that the plan fell apart:

Webb was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Clinton County Democratic Hall Of Fame dinner in Clinton, Iowa. While the timing was bad (Friday night, where news goes to die), insiders said Webb thought it would be a good place to drop the hammer on a presidential run.

Enter the Clinton campaign, which Webb confidantes grumble has been sandbagging them at every turn. They convinced the Clinton County Democratic Party to add Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to the speakers roster. The intention was for her to give a spirited sales pitch for Hillary at the very same place and time Webb would launch his campaign.

For Webb, insiders say, that, plus the fact that a Friday night launch could have gotten lost in the news cycle, was enough to convince him to delay the announcement.

Until when, only Webb knows.

If Webb does run, it's not clear what role he'll play in the race. The conventional wisdom is that he would try to chip away at Clinton from the right while Bernie Sanders goes after her from the left. But Webb and Sanders might actually have more in common with each other than either has with the frontrunner. Webb bashes plutocrats just as surely as the socialist does, and he is arguably more anti-war; they also have similar views on criminal justice reform, and Sanders tends to share Webb's support for gun rights. The most significant split among the Democratic challengers might not be the line separating left from right, but the one dividing the populists—Webb and Sanders—from the more establishment-oriented candidates, Clinton and O'Malley.

Don't ask me where Lincoln Chafee fits in.

NEXT: Donald Trump Is A Blowhard Idiot: Especially on Immigrants

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  1. He’s an interesting feller. When he was running for Senate, he was all fiery and passionate in his combat boots and stuff.

    I’m wondering if he just doesn’t have a taste for this kind of “work” (maybe one reason he withdrew from the Senate so quickly?), and perhaps his cronies are pushing him, blowing smoke up his ass.

  2. Don’t ask me where Lincoln Chafee fits in.

    Later that day: “Don’t ask me where Chris Christie fits in.”

    1. In an extra extra extra extra extra extra large suit.

  3. In the modern Democratic Party, which defines itself on opposition to white males, there isn’t a place for a candidate like Jim Webb. Times have changed. It isn’t the 90’s anymore.

    1. This. The modern left has become so completely psychotic that you now have college professors advocating that whites should all commit suicide.

    2. Yet, ironically, every single potential candidate not named Hillary is a white male, while the RACEIST teathugliKKKans have the most diverse set of candidates in US history.

  4. Every single candidate for the Democrats, even the insane ones, is better than the one they’re treating, for the moment, as the heir apparent.

    1. Sander’s is NOT and I don’t think O’Malley is either.

      1. Sanders is a socialist buffoon, but I don’t think he’s a criminal planning to rape the U.S. It’s not like President Sanders would actually be able to do much, not that I wouldn’t be horrified to see him elected. In any case, he does suck quite a bit. I only give him the edge over her because of her unindicted felon status, proven incompetence, proven dishonesty and corruption. And she’s an evil, evil person.

        1. Don’t sugar coat it, shoot me straight.

          1. Honestly, do the Democrats serve a purpose anymore? How about they go away and we make it the Republicans versus the Libertarians? At least then the fight would be more well-defined–statists versus anti-statists.

            1. But who will represent the super-statist?!?

              1. The Superstatist needs no representation. Such men take what they want.

        2. I see your point, but there’s another way of looking at it: a corrupt grafter may actually do less damage to the body politic than a deluded ideologue detached from reality. The latter may be honest, but at least the grafter knows the free market is better at producing graft.

          1. To be sure, I’d be rolling back and forth in a fetal position if either were elected, albeit for somewhat different reasons.

        3. The Corrupt like Clinton will steal. Sanders will DESTROY.

          1. It’s like deciding whether you want to be hacked to pieces or chewed up.

          2. I prefer 1970s hippie Sanders, who wanted to legalize heroin and abolish compulsory education. Too bad he’s gone all mainstream since then.

        4. Sanders is still worse in most ways.

          Sure, Hillary plans to run the country as her personal fiefdom while president – and she’ll get plenty of pushback, not to mention, that as a robber baron, at some point she might be sated.

          Sanders isn’t ‘evil’, he’s a *crusader*. He believes that his way is the best way and will not stop, ever, until all of us conform to this ideal. And when faced with pushback, I certainly believe that he would be willing to set up camps to help the disaffected ‘concentrate’ on joining the new future.

          And its not like the Democratic party wouldn’t support him pretty whole-heartedly. There’s really nothing in his platform that they disagree with and a lot they already push.

          Hell, a good chunk of his platform is stuff the *republicans* push – but they’ll oppose simply through team politics.

    2. I believe O’Malley is quantifiably worse. He ran Baltimore for God’s sake.

  5. I just want one sane, ‘pro-business’ Dem candidate. Just one. PLEASE

      1. Zing!

      2. What’s Chris Christie? Chopped Liver?

        1. That’s his Democratic VP selection.

  6. He found a horse’s head in his bed.

    1. Better than finding Hillary.

  7. The Confederate flag kerfuffle really annoys me. The southern leaders seceded to maintain slavery, but individual soldiers (1) had little choice unless they wanted to shame their family, (2) had even less choice once conscription kicked in, and (3) did it primarily because the north invaded, so to speak. Individual soldiers almost certainly didn’t own any slaves, or they probably would have been able to dodge the draft. It’s like blaming ordinary German soldiers for the Nazi evils; what choice did they have?

    I digress.

    1. All that’s true about most of the individual soldiers, but they still shouldn’t fly the flag. They also really shouldn’t have statues in the National Statuary Hall of the governors who disenfranchised blacks and thus “Redeemed” their states either. If anything, the conscription, and the suspension of habeas corpus and civilian courts (everywhere but NC, thanks to Gov. Zebulon Vance), and the internal checkpoints and papers, and everything else demonstrates that the CSA was terrible on civil liberties and states rights.

      1. I agree that the Confederate flag has no place flying over state capitol buildings or other government property, but the impression I get from most of the progtards on this issue is that that’s not what they are after. It’s more like they hate Southerners, conservatives, and anyone who might have a different opinion about the flag than they, and humiliating them while congratulating themselves on their enlightened moral superiority.

        1. Well, yes, they’re idiots. As some of the less idiots on the left have mentioned, most of them probably would be on the Confederate side were they in that time or place. The people who ran North Carolina’s White Supremacy campaign in 1896 and 1898 were progressives to a man, like N&O publisher Josephus Daniels, later seen progressively running sting operations on gay sailors for FDR.

    2. Your nuance smells vaguely of white supremacy. How dare you suggest that spitting on the graves of confederates is inappropriate.

    3. The Confederate flag kerfuffle really annoys me. The southern leaders seceded to maintain slavery, but individual soldiers (1) had little choice unless they wanted to shame their family, (2) had even less choice once conscription kicked in, and (3) did it primarily because the north invaded, so to speak. Individual soldiers almost certainly didn’t own any slaves, or they probably would have been able to dodge the draft. It’s like blaming ordinary German soldiers for the Nazi evils; what choice did they have?

      While it’s true that it’s unfair to blame your average Wehrmacht soldier for Hitler’s crimes, that doesn’t mean they should fly the swastika over the Bundestag to honor them.

      1. I know this is heresy, but the Confederacy is not even close to equivalent to Nazi Germany. I mean, let’s have some perspective here. The entire world, pretty much, had slavery right up into the 1800s. Some countries still do. That’s awful, and it’s particularly embarrassing that the otherwise freedom-loving U.S. had to have a war to get rid of the institution, but it’s not attempted global conquest and genocide.

        1. but it’s not attempted global conquest …

          Is that so? Hmmm?!?

            1. Yeah, well, we have out own variety of crazies now, as did the U.S. back then. There’s mountains of reasons to criticize the Confederacy without resorting to equating them with Nazis.

              1. But why bother with an informed understanding of history when you can derp the word “NAZI” as loudly as you can and watch as your opponents cower with fear.

              2. Please don’t think I was seriously equating the Filibusters with the Nazis.

        2. Sure, the Confederacy isn’t Nazi Germany, and it isn’t Communist China or the Soviet Union or the Khmer Rouge either, and idiots who like Communist chic are terrible too.

          Still don’t like flying any CSA flag, and certainly not over the state capitol or near the state capitol in that place more visible than over the dome, or I don’t like it in the MS state flag.

          1. That’s a different matter, and I agree. Whether or not it’s rational, fair, whatever to make the flag a black-and-white issue, it is a divisive symbol and shouldn’t be used in a way intended to represent a whole state. Different matter, obviously, when used for historical purposes, but that’s not really the point of the flag in SC.

        3. Does it have to be just as bad as Nazi Germany for the point to remain valid?

    4. And all of those are reasons to *not consider the Confed flag as ‘heritage’. I don’t have a dog in this fight – the civil war was fought for equally good and horrible reasons and, IMO, comes out a net draw morally.

    5. Regarding point 1, that’s not much of an excuse. Regarding point 3, that’s not entirely accurate. This is from Joseph Glatthaar’s book “General Lee’s Army.”

      “Even more revealing was their attachment to slavery. Among the enlistees in 1861, slightly more than one in ten owned slaves personally. This compared favorably to the Confederacy as a whole, in which one in every twenty white persons owned slaves. Yet more than one in every four volunteers that first year lived with parents who were slaveholders. Combining those soldiers who owned slaves with those soldiers who lived with slaveholding family members, the proportion rose to 36 percent. That contrasted starkly with the 24.9 percent, or one in every four households, that owned slaves in the South, based on the 1860 census. Thus, volunteers in 1861 were 42 percent more likely to own slaves themselves or to live with family members who owned slaves than the general population.

      The attachment to slavery, though, was even more powerful. One in every ten volunteers in 1861 did not own slaves themselves but lived in households headed by non family members who did. This figure, combined with the 36 percent who owned or whose family members owned slaves, indicated that almost one of every two 1861 recruits lived with slaveholders …”

    6. ” … Nor did the direct exposure stop there. Untold numbers of enlistees rented land from, sold crops to, or worked for slaveholders. In the final tabulation, the vast majority of the volunteers of 1861 had a direct connection to slavery. For slaveholder and nonslaveholder alike, slavery lay at the heart of the Confederate nation. The fact that their paper notes frequently depicted scenes of slaves demonstrated the institution’s central role and symbolic value to the Confederacy.”

      Lastly, I don’t see why it’s necessary to fly or take pride in a flag to remember your ancestors. People disliking the Confederate flag doesn’t mean they think every Confederate soldier was evil any more than disliking the Nazi flag, Imperial Japanese flag, or Soviet flag means that you think any soldier who ever fought for those nations was evil.

  8. Remember Jim Webb?

    No. Should I?

    1. Isn’t he the guy with a space telescope? Seriously, he should go around claiming that that’s him, insisting that it’s true even when NASA calls him a liar.

  9. I don’t give Webb much of a chance in modern Donkey-land.
    Served in military? Demerit.
    White? Demerit.
    Heterosexual? Demerit.
    Did I mention he was a ‘he’ and white? Double Triple demerit.
    Not a self-professed socialist? Validates above demerits.
    Not a rabid Carbontologist? The 9/11 of demerits.

    Personally, I think the Grand Wizard of Carbontology – the priest they call ‘Owlgor’ – might just jump into this mess. Everybody thinks the Democrats have their Nixon – but maybe a better one shows up.

  10. “arguably the briefest stump speech in presidential history?a six-minute-and-five-seconds contemplation of the role of the Scotch-Irish in American history.”

    So he does politickin’ the way it used to be (read: should) done. He brings a one page speech with 1.5″ margins and 2″ header and footer, double spaced in 14pt font.

    Good man.

    1. Right! I vote for him if he promises just to shut the fuck up as president.

      1. I’m pretty sure I would vote for any candidate if they ran on the sole platform of returning the State of the Union address to a simple letter to Congress

        1. Double spaced, 14 pt font.

  11. A Democrat who is sane and not downright horrifying to imagine as President.

    Not a chance.

    1. “Sane” only relative to other candidates. I think anyone who can look at the job of the presidency and say “YES! I am the man for that job!” is a clinical narcissist, at the very least

  12. He didn’t just give a speech about the Scots-Irish*, he wrote a book:


    In contrast, I don’t think Hillary even *read* her own books.

    *not scotch-Irish, scotch is a whiskey

    1. My dad gave me that book. I haven’t read it yet. He says his father told him he was scots-Irish so he read the book. Said it was pretty good.

    2. not scotch-Irish, scotch is a whiskey

      A relatively recent affection of my fellow Scots, but sure, always charitable to avoid offending people when they come up with some new way to take offense. The euphemism treadmill does its work, and political correctness eventually demands a change in terms.

      Also importantly, scotch is a whisky, not a whiskey. Irish and American is a whiskey.

      1. I beg your pardon!

      2. So, Scotch-Whiskey then?

  13. If Clinton’s campaign really did that to Webb, I’d like to know if Clinton herself had anything to do with it. The pettiness and/or paranoia that that move would betray is just more evidence (in an already oceanful of evidence) that Hillary Clinton is the modern day version of Richard Nixon. Jim Webb poses almost no threat to Clinton, so there was no good reason to do that.

    Not only that, but it was poor strategy too. Even if Webb managed to develop a following during the campaign, the kind of folks who would naturally gravitate to him would be far more likely to support Clinton as a second choice than they would any of the other already declared Democratic candidates. Why aggravate and tick Webb off when you might need his supporters later in the campaign? There was no reason, at this point, to give Webb a reason to try to stick it to you out of spite later on. Clinton might need him and his supporters later on to help fend of an attack from the Democratic left. Why give Webb a reason to demur, or worse, support your opponent?

    1. You mean Webb is not a threat, like a do nothing junior senator was not a threat? She learned her lesson. Strangle competition in the crib.

  14. Flashback to Warner 2008

    1. Meh. Warner fucked himself when he gave a gawdawful speech at the same D convention Barack Obama came into the limelight.

  15. What Ever Happened to Jim Webb?

    If you see him getting smaller, he’s leaving.

  16. I was at the dinner last Friday in Clinton. I thought Webb was by far the better of the other two Democrats I have seen/heard (Sanders, Clinton).

    When I pointed out the Taliban was directly financed by Drug Warriors, Webb quipped, “I can’t say there are poppy patches in every village in Afghanistan. I can say there were poppy patches in every village I ever visited in Afghanistan.”

  17. …and does anyone care that he’s disappeared, though he might be a plausible Veep for Shrillary.

  18. Eh, politicians from Virginia and Maryland are always overrated by the Beltway press for their national chances. Webb is sort of interesting because he reflects a political type that has faded and isn’t a strong member of the current coalition, but that same thing limits his ability to win a nomination in the Democratic Party.

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