Webb Seen as a Potential 2008 Running Mate
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Just 10 months into his first term in elected office, James Webb found himself on the podium for one of the most coveted speaking slots in Democratic politics.
The freshman senator from Virginia delivered the keynote address to the New Hampshire Democratic Party at its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner a week ago, a role that in recent years has been played by current and former White House candidates John Edwards and John F. Kerry. Two years ago the speech was delivered by Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), who is viewed as a potential vice presidential pick next year.
Webb's role in the debate over Iraq and Iran has helped raise his profile far beyond that of the typical Senate newcomer. Webb is the only freshman Democrat to regularly attend Iraq strategy sessions in Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid's office, and his proposal to extend home leaves for U.S. troops came closer to forcing a change in administration war policy than any other Democratic bill.
His upset of Sen. George Allen (R) last year and the prominent part he has taken in the congressional debate over Iraq have led to his being mentioned as a potential ticket-mate for the party's nominee in 2008. But he has made no effort to advance that cause with the leading Democratic contender in recent weeks.
On Oct. 18, Webb was one of five Democrats to help Republicans block a $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum in Upstate New York, putting him at odds with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), one of the sponsors of the funding and the Democratic presidential front-runner. Webb's official explanation was that the project already had plenty of private funding, which he viewed as the proper way to finance it, but it is hard to overlook that he was serving in Vietnam in 1969 at the time of the storied rock festival.
He also offered a sharp critique last month of a resolution urging that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps be designated as a terrorist organization, arguing that it would give President Bush an opening to seek war with Iran. Clinton supported that measure, and her vote has become a sore point on the campaign trail.
"Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach -- because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good," Webb said.
On other war-related bills, Webb and Clinton have worked as close collaborators. They co-authored a measure requiring the Pentagon to provide regular reports on redeployment plans. Clinton also endorsed a separate Iran bill, written by Webb, that would prohibit funds for U.S. military action against the country.
Webb's leadership on the Revolutionary Guard vote moved several other Democrats to oppose the resolution.
"The knee-jerk political response is, of course, we hate Iran," said a fellow freshman, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). "I voted no because I had a chance to talk to Jim about it."
Direct and withering when talking about war, Webb can be awkward when the subject turns to his political ambitions -- particularly the vice presidential chatter that erupted shortly after he took office in January.
"This is like the conundrum -- there's no good answer," Webb said, laughing nervously. "I'm not in any way actively interested in doing that. Nobody is asking me about it, either."