Jim Webb for Defense (Elizabeth Warren/Jim Webb 2016)

If the Super Bowl is any indication of current American sensibilities, and it should be, America divides East and West today across the Mississippi, held together, at least till the lights go out, by the celestial light in between that is New Orleans. But the ads — the purest poetry of democratic capitalism — send a judicious warning: Mercedes pitches its new model with the anthem of a self-styled “street fighting man” who called for “Sympathy for the Devil” back in 1968. While Dodge truckers opine with Paul Harvey, very popular as well in 1968, in a whimsical heart-felt ode to the 19th century farmer, Mercedes-driving liberals, and pretend conservative agrarians, are products today of Wall Street-marketed nostalgia. America is clearly at a turnstile and facing fully new paradigms ahead, but the times haven’t turned yet. Whoever turns first will take the century. President Obama today has the opportunity if he ditches Chuck Hagel and brings in Jim Webb for secretary of Defense.

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Nothing prepares Hagel to be secretary of Defense. The only reason Obama could conceivably want him is that it would annoy the Republicans. The Wall Street Journal’s inimitable Dorothy Rabinowitz says on Hagel in this morning’s WSJ: “Mr. Hagel had come by this wisdom, we were informed, because he had been at the front [in Paul Harvey’s day], seen men die, and knew, as we were frequently reminded, what the ordinary soldier thought and felt. All of this, the argument ran, gave him a unique capacity to head the Defense Department. ... Could rational men and women seriously credit such a claim?”

The one Vietnam veteran distinguished in battle, who does not parade himself as a dissident Rambo or Reagan nostalgico, intent on winding the clock back to imagined victory, is Jim Webb, until recently a Democratic senator from Virginia. He was as well the one who was right on the invasion of Iraq while Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and John Kerry appeased the apparent Cheney/Bush Decepticons. A year after the invasion, Kerry, Clinton and Biden, along with conservative columnists George Will and David Brooks, would opine, “I don’t think anyone could have imagined it would have turned out like this.” Webb did. Wes Clark did. Gary Hart did. Larry Wilkerson, former chief for Colin Powell, did. Three of these men have “been to the front and seen men die.” Any would be a substantive choice for Defense.

Clark and Webb railed against Cheney/Bush at every turn, presented mature opposition and came up with a better plan. This is still, for history’s sake, a position that needs to be vindicated. Webb, secretary of the Navy under Reagan, would be the ideal candidate to do this and to advance a new future for defense on an East/West paradigm. Back in action, he would also be the perfect candidate for vice president in 2016 with Elizabeth Warren, which would allow the Dems to build again, not from ’60s nostalgia, but from original new strengths.

Obama, unlike most presidents and contenders, is a study in light and dark. He has at hand those who could build a new party to fit the contours of the rising times. Coming first to mind: Warren, Webb, Mark Warner, Erskine Bowles, Wes Clark, Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester. Then instead he reaches into the shadow and comes up with Samantha Power, Susan Rice or Hillary Clinton. Hagel is another from the dangerous and dark wing of nostalgia.