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Why Webb Won’t Run

Noah Millman considers the benefits of a Jim Webb presidential campaign:

And, I think it would be very helpful on foreign policy in particular for Democratic primary voters to recognize that Clinton is all the way on the bleeding right edge of her party. I’d love to see a debate where Hillary Clinton faces off against Jim Webb, and Bernie Sanders, and Brian Schweitzer, and Russ Feingold, and Joe Biden, a group of politicians with plenty of disagreements between them (including on foreign policy), all attacking her for advocating a foreign policy that is far too militarized, aggressive and expansively ambitious. I suspect that would make a more powerful point than Webb being a fiercely solitary dissenter in a field dominated by Hillary, and populated otherwise by candidates who aren’t eager to rock the boat.

Like Millman, I think Webb is an interesting and impressive figure, and I was very pleased when he knocked George Allen out of the Senate in 2006. During his one term in office, he did some important work on veterans’ issues, and he took a principled and correct stand against Obama’s illegal war in Libya. His response to Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address was the only one I can recall from the last decade that wasn’t immediately irrelevant. His decision to run for office as a Democrat in large part because of his disgust with the Iraq war and Bush administration incompetence was one of the more meaningful rebukes to the GOP back then, and if Republican leaders were smarter they would have learned something from it. It would be good for the country and the Democratic primary process if he ran against Clinton and put some obstacles in the way of her coronation, but I’m not sure that I see any incentives for Webb to do this.

The Democratic field that Millman imagines above would be interesting to watch, but the field will probably end up being a much smaller and duller one filled with the likes of Martin O’Malley. His only distinctive foreign policy view seems to be that we shouldn’t try to invade Canada again. Unfortunately, the fact that Webb is a former Republican and only returned to the Democrats in the last ten years would be held against him by candidates and voters alike, and other non-Clinton candidates would probably be more inclined to go after him to establish their positions as the most plausible anti-Clinton alternative rather than ganging up on Clinton along with him. Maybe he’ll run in spite of all this, but it seems extremely unlikely.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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