Sunday, January 28, 2007

Senator Webb Sheds Light on the Matter, Lampshade or Not

In keeping with his status as a rising star in national politics Senator Webb was interviewed on Face the Nation and declared a Person of Interest on the McLaughlin Group today.

Bob Scheiffer on Face the Nation started off asking Senator Webb what he thought of the peace rally which took place yesterday. Webb replied that "one of our greatest strengths is we have the right to stand before the people in power and state our views." He went on to distinguish the turmoil of Iraq from that of Vietnam, noting that along with the war many other issues had been involved in the protests, and that 8 years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution the majority of Americans supported our assistance to the South Vietnamese government.

He went on to point out that he was not so much against the Iraq war as he and others of long military background and experience thought it would be strategically bad idea. There was no endpoint, no strategic plan. He said we cannot keep increasing troop numbers on the theory that when all else fails we are going to throw more military in. The preponderance of evidence is that it will not work.

Scheiffer then asked what Webb suggested. He replied that what is needed is something like the Dayton accords. The problem cannot be solved militarily but requires a political solution in which the parties can be brought in and assume ownership of the issue and responsibility for its resolution.

On Scheiffer's inquiry about his response to SecDef Gates's statement that the Senate opposition was "emboldening" the enemy, and Vice President Cheney's statement that Webb's opposition to the increase was "hogwash", Webb replied that throughout the history of this war Cheney's statements have been "off and wrong". As to Gates's comments, he said they were wrong and a Defense Secretary should not take such positions. He questioned which enemy Gates was talking about: Iran? Al Queda? Al Sadr? In a situation in which the enemies are many the solution is to "boldly step aside and invite them to the table" to negotiate. By starting this war "we lost the place we had in the world before we began this".

Next was the question of the resolution. What should happen if the President does not listen? Webb replied that there will be other congressional actions. We need a strategy with clearly articulable endpoint and Congress will take the steps necessary to accomplish that. He noted also concern about the way the money is being spent. He hopes soon to "put on a lampshade, er, eyeshade, and really analyze the situation. There has been no accountability and a lot of sweetheart deals for the contractors," and he is going to see how the money’s been spent.

Webb went on to say that when he first arrived Senator McCain met with him and said there needs be no impugning of the patriotism of either side. He hopes Senator McCain remembers this because recently he has been seeing something bordering on charges of disloyalty from the Republican side. He pointed out that "our military is diverse and we should not presume to speak for the troops. What we’re doing is trying to define how it can be a win."

Once again Senator Webb hammers home his major points about strategic necessity and context in our actions rather than mere tactical moves. He noted again that we cannot be trapped into trying to solve this matter militarily. I wondered if he misspoke and said lampshade because he really is trying to shed some light on how this war should be conducted and on the other troublesome aspects, including the abject failure to establish accountability with respect to contractors.

On to the McLaughlin Group. John McLaughlin declared Senator Webb a Person of Interest, reviewed his impressive resume, and asked if Senator Webb heading for national leadership or will he burn out? UPI's Martin Walker said Webb will be a national statesman who was "absolutely right" in his challenge to the President. He called him "brilliantly bipartisan" in his choice to refer to two Republican presidents and said "this guy is going to be a sage of this country."

Do Hagel and Webb have special authority as combat veterans? inquired McLaughlin. Pat Buchanan opined that Webb lends great authenticity to the war debate, a tough guy who "wrote a great book". He has "capacity to be a president but in that party it would be very tough for him." Eleanor Clift described him as a serious man who is among people who were in student council during Vietnam. Among administration voices are the chickenhawks, and they're flocking.

Tony Blankley didn't like the chickenhawk comment, but declared that Webb is a virile man in a party led by two women and the Democratic "nuts" now have a real man around the house. Was hoping Clift would succeed in her attempt to launch herself at his throat.

The admiring Walker summed up by saying this war is more and more about people sent into a less and less hopeful fight, and now there is a war hero to say so. He cited with approval Webb's statement that Americans will fight and die when called but the President owes a corresponding obligation to be extremely thoughtful about the battles into which he sends them.

There you have it. A year ago Jim Webb was a private citizen who had already just about made up his mind not to run for office. Now he's on a fast track to becoming one of the nation's elder statesmen and among the most influential members of the Senate. Astounding.

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