Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Jim Webb Should Not Be Barack Obama's Vice Presidential Pick

Here it is, the link to the notorious article penned by Virginia Senator (and favored VP candidate) Jim Webb in The Washingtonian in November 1979:

Jim Webb: Women Can't Fight

"Lest I be understood too quickly, I should say that I believe most of what has happened over the past decade in the name of sexual equality has been good. It is good to see women doctors and lawyers and executives. I can visualize a woman President. If I were British, I would have supported Margaret Thatcher. But no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat...

...There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation. By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences."
Okay, here's the case for Webb: he is a decorated war hero. He has won the Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. He worked as Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. He was a Republican until 2006. He is now a Democrat.

The advantage he brings to the Democratic ticket has three parts: (i) he virtually neutralizes John McCain's war hero status; (ii) as a former Republican who worked under Reagan, he can potentially have a lot of crossover and centrist appeal; and (iii) he puts Virginia - a key swing state this year - into play for the Democrats.

And to give him the benefit of the doubt, the article is from 1979. It's clear that his political and personal perspective have changed and evolved dramatically since then, evidenced by his going to the extent of switching parties. Also, the article was written more in the spirit of chivalry than sexism; although they can be virtually synonymous, the line between the two was much more definitive three decades ago, and has blurred significantly since then.

Yes, it was 29 years ago. Yes, he may have changed his mind. Yes, he did offer that half-assed disclaimer up there in the first paragraph of the excerpt. And yes, in almost every other way, he is a near-perfect VP choice.

But this is not the year for him. This has been a historic year for women. Hillary Clinton, in her graciousness when she conceded, became a hero in her own right even as she lost the nomination. Read the transcript of her landmark speech here.

Hillary Clinton got almost as many votes (or more, if you count Michigan where Obama's name wasn't on the ballot) as Barack Obama. She has millions of supporters, many of them women who had years of struggle and a strong personal, political, and emotional investment in her candidacy.

Inviting Jim Webb onto the Democratic ticket this year will potentially alienate this essential component of the party's base. It will not help to heal the schism left from a bitterly fought primary season. Already, many (sometimes too) vocal Clinton supporters have been (rightly) screaming sexism and (wrongly) pointing fingers at Obama - and he risks legitimizing their argument by picking Webb as his running mate.

It's not the smart thing to do politically. But more importantly, it is not the right thing to do, period. It is not conscientious, unless Webb really goes out of his way to reach out to women across the country and rescind his outrageous proposition about women in combat.

For now, though, that article is not going away.


Anonymous said...

Before saying anything about Jim Webb or anything else, I want to know why you allow that ad by John McCain on your blog.

joe said...

Jim webb is the ideal choice...he is cerebral - like barack. he's worked in the executive branch - a little inside experience wouldn't hurt. he's repected by the military. he's introduced some exellent pieces of legislation already in the short time he's been on the job. and he's a NAM VET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! not in the air, or on the water, but on the ground, the jungle, the rice patties. and he probably saved a lot of young American lives because of his leadership skills.
he would provide a steady hand at the wheel

Ali A. Rizvi said...

Anonymous: Scroll up and down through the ads using the up and down arrow icons - there are many pro-Obama ads as well. Not only can I not regulate the kinds of ads that are on my page (Google does that based on post content), I don't want to.

Speech should be countered by speech, not censorship. There are both Obama and McCain ads on my blog, and I am comfortable with that. The ads are not the focus.

Thanks for the comment.

Ali A. Rizvi said...

Joe - you're right - that's why this is such a difficult choice that I think the Obama campaign will be poring over very carefully. He's literally ideal for this, with the triple advantage I wrote about in the post.

The problem is, because of the time and the circumstances surrounding this year's election, that one article he wrote can nullify all of those factors. Even if he is not inherently sexist and is an incredible human being, none of it matters if he's not elected. He really needs to take care of this situation, effectively remedy it, convincingly reach out to women, and win them over. Otherwise, the 18 million Hillary voters may be further alienated.

phoenix said...

Yes, I think he should ask him. Then we can have two pigs up there instead of just one. And of course, he thinks VA is stupid enough to vote Democratic with Jimmy on board. Obama has been eyeing VA since his insane advisors and his inflated ego have "determined" that he can win the "red states". Clinton was the only Democratic candidate who out polled Obama AND McCain in carrying the red states...KY, AR, W.VA. Kiss this election goodbye. The DNC and elitists have once again thrown this election right into the laps of the Republicans. Be Proud.

Ali A. Rizvi said...

Phoenix, thanks for the comment.

I agree with you that Hillary would've made a great general election contender. Anything can happen - that's the theme of the year.

And speaking of elitists, I'd be interested in your thoughts on this:

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