Jim Webb For Secretary Of Defense?

Former Senator and Denocratic Presidential candidate Jim Webb is reportedly being considered for Defense Secretary.

The New York Times is reporting that the Trump Administration is reportedly considering former Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration, as Secretary of Defense:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator and Reagan-era secretary of the Navy, to be the next defense secretary, according to three officials, potentially bypassing more hawkish Republicans whose names have been floated to replace Jim Mattis.

Mr. Webb, an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, is being considered as President Trump seeks to carry out campaign promises to withdraw American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Those two decisions prompted Mr. Mattis to resign late last month, putting the deputy defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, in the top role in an acting capacity.

Representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, have reached out to Mr. Webb, one of the three officials said. Separately, a senior Defense Department official confirmed that Mr. Webb’s name had been circulating at the White House. Those two and the third official all spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal discussions.

Mr. Webb did not respond to a request for comment. How seriously he is being considered was unclear; Mr. Trump likes to float names as he considers his options for various openings in the government — sometimes to test responses and sometimes to keep the news media guessing.

But the views of Mr. Webb, a former one-term Democratic senator from Virginia and candidate during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, align closely with Mr. Trump’s drive to pull American troops from the Middle East and confront China more aggressively.

During a Democratic primary debate in 2015, Mr. Webb railed against Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea and cyberattacks on Americans.

“If you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, a focus, the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China,” Mr. Webb said.

Much like Mr. Trump, Mr. Webb was also critical of President Barack Obama’s efforts in 2015 to strike a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. “The end result of this could well be our acquiescence in allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Webb said.


Ronald Reagan appointed Mr. Webb first as an assistant secretary of defense and, in 1987, as secretary of the Navy, where he pushed for modernizing the fleet and opening more jobs for women in the service. Between his stints in government, Mr. Webb continued his writing career, which includes the critically acclaimed Vietnam War novel “Fields of Fire.” He switched parties and in 2006 ran for the Senate as a Democrat; there, he helped pass the post-9/11 G.I. Bill and oversaw Asia-Pacific issues on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Other names that have surfaced as potential replacements for Mr. Mattis have included a former Republican senator, Jim Talent of Missouri, and two current ones, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. David H. Petraeus, the retired Army general and former C.I.A. director, was considered for the post earlier in the Trump administration but recently told the BBC that he “cannot envision returning to government at this time.”

Last week, Mr. Trump said Mr. Shanahan might remain as acting secretary “for a long time.”

As Allahpundit notes at Hot Air, there is some level of agreement on foreign policy between Webb and Trump notwithstanding the fact that they are ostensibly members of opposing parties. Webb, for example, was a critic of the Iraq War just as Trump became in later years even though he initially supported it. Additionally, Webb was critical of the Obama Administration’s policy in Syria, including its decision to place troops on the ground, and he has suggested in the past that its time to bring the American commitment in Afghanistan to an end, Additionally, Webb has a military career that includes graduation from the Naval Academy, service in Vietnam during which he was awarded several of the nation’s top military honors, and a stint in the Defense Department under President Reagan that included service as Secretary of the Navy, although he only lasted there about a year and was not exactly known as someone who worked well with others, a tendency that followed him to the Senate and which led, in part, to his decision to retire rather than run for re-election after just one term,

Notwithstanding all of that, it’s unclear if Webb would be the best person to serve in this Administration at this point in time. First of all, as noted, Webb is not exactly known as someone who works well with others so it’s unclear that he’d fit in well as a Cabinet Secretary. Second, given the way that Trump has treated other members of his Cabinet and foreign policy team, including but not limited to Jess Sessions, Rex Tillerson, H,R, McMaster, Jim Mattis, and others. Given that, one wonders why Webb or anyone else would want to be part of this Administration,

In any case, Webb is not the only name that has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Mattis in the Pentagon. Other names include former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, current Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham, as well as retired General and former Central Intelligence Agency head David Petraeus. Petraeus, though, reportedly said that he would most likely decline to serve in a Trump White House. At this point, though, it isn’t clear who the frontrunner might be or when a selection might be made,

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mattbernius says:

    Of the names floated, Webb is by far the best. If nothing else, his record on Iran is mixed. While he came out against the 2016 Nuclear Deal with Iran, in 2007 he vehemently opposed the idea of any military action against Iran without Congressional Approval (this was in the good old “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran” days). Still mixed is far better than any of the other Iran hawks on that list.

    That said, it also is hard to see how he fits in with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo who are both Iran Hawks (and let’s not forget the president either).

  2. Kathy says:

    He’ll likely pick a yes-man who likes to keep his head inside Trump’s anal cavity.

  3. mattbernius says:

    From Trump’s Twitter Feed:

    The story in the New York Times regarding Jim Webb being considered as the next Secretary of Defense is FAKE NEWS. I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him. Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!


    It’s like he was just waiting for you to finish this post Doug.

  4. Jen says:

    I cannot see Jim Talent working well with Trump, at all. He is, or was, studious to the point of nerdiness (in a good way). Tom Cotton, I can see.

    All of these folks need to bear in mind that the honeymoon period is short and everyone ends up covered in…mud (or something else) when they work with/for Trump.

    Things seem to be going a bit nuts today…Trump is now suggesting he’ll use the military to seize private land and build the wall (see-through steel, not concrete, apparently). TSA agents, meanwhile, are calling in sick–which will soon cause havoc at airports. I’m sure there’s more, but this all feels even more unhinged than normal.

  5. dennis says:

    I seriously doubt Jim Webb would take a job in this circus attraction. Webb is a serious man, and Trump is a show clown.

  6. Teve says:

    Does Jim Webb have an IQ greater than room temperature? If so he’d never take the job.

  7. CSK says:


    Funny, but this is just what the Trump-slobberers were saying over at Lucianne.com yesterday: That this was Fake News because it was reported by the NYT.

  8. Blue Galangal says:

    @dennis: Yeah, exactly – my take is Webb turned him down, hence the tweet.

  9. Kathy says:


    Things seem to be going a bit nuts today…Trump is now suggesting he’ll use the military to seize private land and build the wall

    So he’s going to order the US military to conquer US lands?

    Yeah, that’s crazy even for Trump.

  10. CSK says:


    He’ll argue it’s eminent domain. He looooves eminent domain.

  11. Erik says:


    room temperature

    You’re measuring that in Celsius, I assume

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Has someone pointed out to Mr. Bone Spurs that “eminent domain” doesn’t mean what he thinks it means? That the Fifth Amendment doesn’t allow for uncompensated takings? That the U.S. Gov’t is going to have to PAY for that land?

  13. Tyrell says:

    Mr. Webb has an outstanding, stellar military record. He is just the kind of person we need in the office of Secretary of Defense. His experience gives him a much needed broad view of the various foreign issues. Webb’s demeanor is low key, calm, not flashy, abrasive, or given to flights of fancy.
    Favorite Secretaries of Defense: Edwin Stanton (Sec. of War) – “The man who got Booth”, George Marshall – “The man who saved Europe”, Robert McNamara, John C. Calhoun (Sec. of War), William Belknap (Sec. of War)

  14. JohnMcC says:

    Borrowing from the wonderful Betty Cracker over at Balloon-juice: From what I know of Jim Webb and what I know of our shared “born fighting” ethnic background I think it would take only weeks before Mr Webb walked out…. No, wait…. From what I know it would take only weeks before Mr Webb lunged across that Cabinet Room table and PUNCHED OUT that orange fascist!

    Betty, that is a really delicious fantasy!

  15. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: Oh! Tyrell — please do NOT consider Mr McNamara anywhere near the front ranks of public servants. He willingly continued the VietNam War long after he knew with stone certainty that it was lost. That is a war crime, at least. I hope he is roasting somewhere.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: And bye the way — didn’t Stanton have some less-than-honorable role in playing with the Impeachers and Radical Republicans in the Andrew Johnson Impeachment? Memory fails to pull the full story out — but the actual charge against Johnson was that he fired Stanton which violated a law passed specifically to prevent Johnson from firing him.

    Pretty much as a Mueller-protection law being violated by the President would trigger an impeachment today — eh?

  17. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC: Thanks for that information. I did not agree with Robert McNamara’s Vietnam War strategies, especially as the war kept dragging on.
    I am more familiar with Stanton’s Lincoln years and his involvement with Booth.
    Where are the missing diary pages?

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:


    So he’s going to order the US military to conquer US lands?

    Nobody has considered that since Obama and Jade Helm. Good thing super patriots like Gov. Greg Abbott and AG Ken Paxton were hyper vigilant, otherwise Texas would now be another state in the US.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Probably in the pages of someone else’s diary. Very few people write

    Dear Diary, Today Congress cobbled together a partisan ploy to force the President to fire me so they could impeach them. I wish them well, I’ve always hated the bastard!


    “The end result of this could well be our acquiescence in allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Webb said.

    I’ve always loved how people say things like this as though it’s really in our power to control who develops nuclear weapons.

  20. wr says:

    @Tyrell: : I did not agree with Robert McNamara’s Vietnam War strategies, especially as the war kept dragging on.:

    If you are an actual person and not a troll or a bot, you should check out Errol Morris’ film The Fog of War, which is essentially a 90-minute interview with McNamara… in which he states with complete certainty that he and those around him knew the war was lost in the mid-60s but decided to keep sending troops to their death to keep from being accused of being “soft on communism.”

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: Tyrell, you made a joke!