Presidential Campaign

Could recently withdrawn Webb be a VP candidate for Clinton?

Greg Nash

There is a year to go and anything can happen. But already, as some read it, the fix is in: The next president of the United States will be Hillary Clinton, says seasoned watcher Mark Halperin at Bloomberg, and the Republicans are in denial about it.

Maybe so, but before they start sending out the invitations, here is a thought. It will be difficult at this stage of the game to predict the winner, because this race, like the one in 2008 which brought the new and occasionally enigmatic then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to the Oval Office, brings heightened and mixed emotions.

{mosads}And there is a fierce strain of dislike and even hostility to the Clinton family political culture both within the Democratic party and throughout the conservative heartland. Hillary Clinton is a divisive figure and part of the charm of the relatively unknown Obama in 2008 was, as others had suggested, that he was not Hillary Clinton.

So then and again today, Newton’s third law applies: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In politics, that means that every politician, especially one who breaks the mold or pushes new ground, will find an equal and opposite contender. For every Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant will suddenly appear, and that, in my opinion, is where entrepreneur Donald Trump’s unusual and spontaneous arising comes from. The Donald is the new anti-Hillary.

It might be fair to say that Clinton does have the Democratic nomination. But she has some problems ahead. The first is that she is from the Sixties; her husband and their entourage are identified as being from the Sixties era. But she herself has ambivalence about it — which Hillary will we see tomorrow, the old “Goldwater girl,” as she was in high school, or the generational spokesperson profiled in LIFE magazine in a piece titled “The Class of ’69”?

And with the Sixties comes Vietnam and the bloody legacy at the Democratic convention in Chicago, which brought America almost to the verge of outright revolution. It was a nasty business. But if she brought in as her vice president an honored veteran of that conflict, it would show a maturation of attitudes both for her and others. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — both former presidential candidates in 2004 and this year, respectively, and both badly wounded in Vietnam and awarded for heroism — would fill the bill, and help heal certain Democrats of their pacifist pretensions as well.

Her other problems: Her vote in the Senate for the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq in 2002, which she has since called a mistake, and the folly of Libya, to which she is fully responsible as then-secretary of State.

Clinton seems to be a less than intuitive administrator; she appears to read the opinions of others and then picks a card. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as director of policy planning under Secretary Clinton from January 2009 to February 2011, wrote in her March 2011 New York Times op-ed titled “Fiddling while Libya Burns” that “Now we have a chance to support a real new beginning in the Muslim world,” while Clark, former chief of NATO, had written two days before in The Washington Post that Libya did not meet the test for U.S. military action. On the invasion of Libya, he wrote: “familiar voices are shouting, once again: ‘Quick, intervene, do something!'”

When Clinton chooses her vice president, she should look to the results today in Libya and environs and follow this maxim from Revelations 3:15: “I know your works.” Webb also opposed the invasion of Libya.

Both Clark and Webb also openly opposed the invasion of Iraq, while others, who were not brave when it was time to be brave, were silent. Clark and Webb were not. Clark ran for president in direct opposition to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney’s invasion of Iraq.

In 2003, Webb wrote in The New York Times, “If American forces are successful in these engagements, the war may be over sooner rather than later. But if these battles stagnate, guerrilla warfare could well become pandemic, not only in Baghdad but also across Iraq.”

To include Clark or Webb as vice president would bring a sea change to the Democratic Party. The remaining Sixties dross which still stings where the black flags still fly outside veterans’ halls throughout America would be swept away. And a sense of starting again — badly needed by Hillary Clinton — could be sensed: New thinking needs new people.

Clark is from Arkansas and, like President Bill Clinton, was a Rhodes Scholar. He has known and worked with the Clintons forever. And Webb was not only brave in Vietnam but last decade when he, like distinguished members of the Eisenhower family, left the Republican Party to parley with the Democrats — a pilgrim’s progress.

Webb was considered as a vice presidential candidate by Obama, but withdrew before vetting. However, he is a few years older now and his circumstances have changed; an Obama-Webb team back then would have been inspired and Webb would have received the same attention Vice President Joe Biden did when he was deciding whether to run for president this year.

But this could work as well. And Clark and Webb are old world men of honor; they are warrior/scholars of the highest moral rank. If either “heard my country calling” — the title of one of Webb’s books — I am sure that either would again accept the call to duty.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Anne-Marie Slaughter Hillary Clinton Iraq Jim Webb libya Wesley Clark

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