Jim Webb Should Be Barack Obama's VP: The Military Democrats Ought to Know

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To me, Senator Jim Webb is the perfect VP pick for Barack Obama. As I watched him on Meet the Press yesterday, I was struck by how he hits the notes Obama cannot. I think it's fair to say that in the general election (if indeed, Obama is the candidate), John McCain makes Obama very, very vulnerable on issues of defense and foreign policy. I doubt Obama can beat McCain in such a time of insecurity about foreign policy, and even the economy. While the DNC may cut ads in which McCain seemingly brags the US might be in Iraq for a hundred years, the real McCain is smarter than this: he is a nuanced, strategic thinker and I don't think Obama can easily beat him, no matter what national polls say right now.

Webb, a veteran, is a seasoned foreign policy thinker, but he is also young and from a purple state, Virginia. Webb is thoughtful and macho. He joked he has a purple heart and three tattoos. Webb says he would negotiate with foreign leaders, but he's also sponsoring a GI bill to offer educational benefits.

Webb's point is that the Democrats have lost the ability to be identified with the American military, while the Republicans, identified as the tough-guy, military party, use American service people for their own political ends while denying proper care and reparations to many of our enlisted. From Webb's new book:

"The Democrats who came of age during the Vietnam era and many others who have grown up under their tutelage, have erred greatly for many years in not understanding the positive aspects of military service. And in so doing, in the eyes of those who have served, the Democrats have become not simply the antiwar party but the antimilitary party...like a boil that must be lanced, it needs to be examined before it can be overcome."

On the other hand, the Republicans have politicized military service for their own purposes and identified with soldiers, as Webb writes, "even as it uses their sacrifices as a political shield against criticism for its failed policies." Remember the mantra when Congress tried to cut funds for the War: "Don't harm the troops." Republicans, it would seem, have a lock on the troops' wellbeing even as the GOP refuses to provide for many soldiers' wellbeing.

I encourage Webb to talk about this point, a lot. A small anecdote: My father always says he is disappointed, for mine is the first non-veteran generation in his family. Growing up in a super-liberal, wealthy area outside New York City, I barely met anyone who had served. I went to one of America's most liberal universities, where I swear ROTC had been banned. I then lived in major metropolitan areas. My naivete continued until this year, when I was lucky enough to attend grad school with some outstanding military officers and soldiers. Learning with them has completely changed my world view on the US military and it's a shame I had to wait 30 years to do it.

In truth, Webb notes, the Republicans do a disservice to our service people but get all the credit for being the party of the American military, of tough, honorable men and women in uniform. It all comes back to the image of George Bush in the flight suit, playing dress up.

But McCain is no George Bush, He doesn't have to play dress up. And for a Democrat to beat him, we'll need military chops in November.

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Dylan Loewe


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