Alex Massie

Webb-mania revisited

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Kathy G, guest-blogging for Matt Yglesias, lays out a lengthy case for why Barack Obama should not pick Jim Webb as his Vice-President here. I suspect that the points she makes will prove persuasive and that Obama won't choose Webb, not least because of concerns over his attitude towards women and gender issues generally. It's true that Webb's most controversial statements on women in the military were made more than a generation ago, but thats not the point. As Kathy says, women are a vital Democratic constituency and, with so many women disappointed by Clinton's favour, there's no need to rub salt in their wounds by picking a Veep such as Webb.

Kathy G then writes:

In addition, I just don't buy many of the pro-Webb arguments. One argument I hear is that Webb would be great because Obama needs "credibility" on foreign policy. But as Mori Dinauer has pointed out, this may "just underscore the notion that Obama is somehow weak on foreign policy."

Then there's the notion that selecting Webb will buy Obama some white working class cred. I have multiple problems with this one. First of all, the notion, which some lefty males of my acquaintance really seem to buy into, that Webb is some pure tribune of salt-of-the-earth working class authenticity is highly questionable. Webb's father was a career Air Force officer; his family was not wealthy but certainly was comfortably middle class.

Secondly, the idea that putting a white Southern military dude on the ticket will somehow win Obama white working class votes he wouldn't get otherwise is highly problematic. It reminds me of the way I and my fellow liberals thought that nominating John Kerry might win over the working class, 'cause they love military heroes, right?

There's something in this, for sure. There are problems too. In an election against John McCain, Obama is likely to be seen as weak or inexperienced in foreign policy terms (I make no judgement as to whether this is accurate or not, I merely note the perception), consequently Obama has a deficit to make up in this area. Everyone knows that he's less experienced than McCain in foreign policy terms (though of course McCain has never run anything either, nor had to make judgements that actually have significant consequences), but I think picking a Veep with a military or national security background is likely to win more praise from the media than highlight any "weakness". After all, remember that Dick Cheney's long-experience in Washington was considered a great advantage for George W Bush who had never run anything in the capital and whose executive experience amounted to two terms in the weakest gubernatorial office in the country. Cheney's presence on the ticket higlighted Bush's inexperience in one respect, but it also offered reassurance. (How did that work out? Well, not so good, but that's not the point...)

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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