Webb for VP Backlash
After several weeks of being the odds-on favorite to be Barack Obama’s running mate (at least if bloggers were doing the picking) it appears is if the inevitable backlash has set in.
Kathy G, guesting at Matt Yglesias’ site (apparently, the Atlantic Monthly has given their bloggers the week off) takes the lead, setting out the anti-Webb argument in a long post. The bullet points:
- It would give a Republican a chance at his Senate seat.
- Webb isn’t a team player.
- Webb isn’t a natural campaigner.
- “Webb basically became a Democrat the day before yesterday, and he has a long history of holding some pretty wingnutty opinions and making some fairly outrageous and offensive statements.”
The last of these, not surprisingly, most energizes Kathy. She thinks Webb shares the Southern resentment of the 1960s counterculture, doesn’t think the Vietnam war was unmitigated evil, and most notably, he was opposed to the admission of women to the Naval Academy thirty years ago and he compounded his misogyny with a partial defense of the Tailgate transgressors.
Ezra Klein — who has opposed Webb for VP longer than Kathy — seconds these concerns but, more importantly, thinks Webb too risky simply because “there’s a lot about what James Webb thinks that we simply don’t know.”
Spencer Ackerman thinks Webb’s record is more complicated than Kathy gives him credit for and believes there’s still a strong case to be made for having him on the ticket.
Alex Massie thinks some of the complaints lodged against Webb are features, not bugs. To the extent that this election is “a battle for the centre-ground” it makes sense for Obama to do what he can to appeal to moderates rather than to shore up his support with the hard-core base.
I tend to agree. As I noted in my “endorsement” of choosing Webb a few weeks back, “he’s a bit of a loose cannon and might not be the ideal guy to have out in the hustings to deliver a scripted message.” But the fact of the matter is that moderates, most of whom are the white working class voters that we’ve heard so much about in recent weeks, are probably closer to Webb on the issues in question than to Kathy G.
Granting that George Allen ran a spectacularly bad re-election campaign in 2006, he still barely lost. Had Harris Miller beaten Webb, Allen would almost certainly still be a Senator — and probably made an interesting run at the the Republican presidential nomination. The Republicans would still have nominal control of the Senate, thanks to Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote.
Virginia is thought of as Red state but is really Purple and trending Blue, owing to the staggering growth of the D.C. suburbs and exurbs of Northern Virginia. The ability to win here is a strong indicator of appeal in other swing states. Jim Webb or someone with similar credentials, then, makes sense unless the Democrats really think Obama is going to win this thing walking away.
Photo via Daniel Farrell
UPDATE: Bill Dyer, who’s about as likely to vote for Obama regardless of his VP choice as I am, was bemused by the suggestion when I first broached the subject on April 1 (No, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke).
The thought of Webb and Obama sharing a ticket really makes me giggle. I can envision a joint appearance with Webb getting into gear about the Scots-Irish and their heritage, and how they provided the work ethic which built the United States into the greatest country in the world — all while Michelle Obama silently seethes.
Then Barack Obama would explain that the Second Amendment permits the District of Columbia to ban handguns outright. At that exact moment, Webb would slyly nudge his briefcase, with its Glock and three extra magazines of ammo, further under the table.
Midway through Rev. Wright’s closing benediction, I would expect Webb to engage him in a fist-fight.
It is, indeed, quite a contrast. But, certainly, no more than Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
UPDATE: Ezra expands his argument in an American Prospect piece entitled “Is Jim Webb Too Good for the Vice Presidency?” The central thesis, laid out in persuasive detail, is that Webb’s “outlook is the antithesis of the vice presidency, which often requires mortgaging your personal credibility and sacrificing your independence in order to further the president’s point of view.”
Of course, the operative question right now is whether Webb would help Obama get elected, rather than whether he’d actually be a good VP. After all, the second question is rendered moot if Obama loses. But Ezra’s point is a good one.