September 20, 2014

Jim Webb says it’s time to ‘rejoin debate’ & he’s not ruling out 2016 run

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb says he’s concerned about the future of the country — and he’s not ruling out a bid for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

“I am curious and it’s been good to meet with different people here and listen to how things are in Iowa,” Webb said late this morning.

Webb has logged over 800 miles in Iowa over the past two days as he campaigned with Democratic candidates here. Webb, a former Marine who is the author of nine books, began writing a biography in January of 2013 when he left the U.S. Senate after serving just one term.

“When the book came out at the end of May, I decided that it was time to come back in and really rejoin the debate,” Webb said. “We’re in a transitional period in the country and, you know, we need to have a strong debate inside the Democratic Party and between the two parties on where the country needs to go.”

Webb argued the prospect of facing Hillary Clinton in a 2016 primary shouldn’t prevent other Democrats from campaigning in Iowa.

“I think we ought to have more Democrats coming out here,” Webb said. “We need to stimulate a debate about where the country is.”

Webb is the guest on this weekend’s “Iowa Press” program on Iowa Public Television and he was asked to critique Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state.

“I think there’s time to have that discussion later,” Webb said, laughing.

A reporter asked: “Why not now?”

Webb responded: “It would probably take up the whole show.”

Webb served as Secretary of the Navy in the late 1980s during President Reagan’s final two years in office and, in the late 1990s, Webb said he couldn’t “conjure up an ounce of respect for Bill Clinton when it comes to the military.” When pressed, Webb did praise Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration for a “pivot to Asia” that refocused on long-term U.S. interests in the region, but Webb is critical of the decision to intervene in Libya. Webb also discounts the idea Obama’s foreign policy can be boiled down to: “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff.”

“I’m not sure that was a fair way for somebody to summarize what the administration has done,” Webb said. “It’s a very complicated world right now.”

Webb is harshly critical of the idea, advanced by Hillary Clinton and others, that the U.S. should have taken steps to arm rebels in Syria at the beginning of the uprising against that country’s dictator.

“I can’t understand why people would have supported the notion of arming certain groups inside Syria a couple of years ago,” Webb said. “I say that not only as someone who has spent a lot of time working on foreign policy, but as a journalist in Beirut in 1983 when the word I got from Marines on the ground was: ‘Never get involved in a five-sided argument.’”

In 1982 President Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon on a peacekeeping mission. The 1983 bombing of a Marine compound at Beirut’s airport killed 241. Webb served as a Marine in Vietnam, but a battlefield injury forced him to leave the corps. Webb’s latest book is titled “I Heard My Country Calling” and it outlines his family’s record of military service.

Webb’s appearance on “Iowa Press” will be broadcast tonight on IPTV at 7:30.