Good for Senator Webb.

James Webb, Through the Lens

You know what Congressman Tom Perriello should have done differently?


That’s basically how I feel about today’s news that Senator Jim Webb isn’t going to seek a second term. If Perriello had changed his votes or his message to appease the right, he wouldn’t be Perriello—he’d just be another pandering politician. Webb hated running for Senate, and has demonstrated a remarkable independence in his four years in office. Webb’s a guy who just like to get shit done, and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about it, least of all campaigning about it. The biggest news about Webb yesterday—eclipsed by today’s announcement—was that he is reintroducing his prison reform bill. (I speculated two years ago that Webb was planning to be a single term senator, with his prison reform plan as Exhibit A.) I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Today is Jim Webb’s 65th birthday. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, either.

So good for Jim Webb for not running for reelection. In two years, he’ll be able to be “James Webb” again—I’m not sure that he’s thrilled with strangers calling him by the familiar “Jim”—and, between now and then, he gets to retain his total freedom to vote for what he wants, introduce bills that support whatever he wants, continue to ignore fundraising, and just generally be Jim Webb.

As is obligatory to acknowledge at this point, yes, a lot of people are bound to dip their toe into the water for this seat. Now that there won’t be an incumbent, we’ll probably see more Republicans stepping forward, perhaps acting as a relief valve for the 2013 gubernatorial election. On the Democratic side, potentials surely include everybody from the odious Terry McAuliffe to the recently defeated Tom Perriello. But I suspect that, if Tim Kaine enters the race, everybody else will step aside. I imagine there will be a little dance, in which Kaine weakly denies that he’s going to run, then has a well-publicized meeting with President Obama at the White House, then says he’s thinking about it, starts fundraising, and then makes it official. The key for Democrats is to get a candidate quickly, somebody who can fundraise like there’s no tomorrow, and that’s somebody who can destroy George Allen in November of 2012, especially with Obama on the ticket. Given Kaine’s longstanding personal relationship with the president and that he’s the chair of the DNC, it’s hard to envision a more suitable candidate than him.

A Kaine-Allen race? That would be great. I’m not sure Allen could get the nomination but, Lawd, I hope he does.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

5 replies on “Good for Senator Webb.”

  1. This is so much not a surprising announcement, but I am still terribly sad. I think I was prouder of him as a senator than of any other politician since I can remember.

  2. My employment requires I be apolitical; however, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Webb & Warner’s staff the past two years. They work with constituents as a team which I believe is a great benefit for Virginia. Webb’s announcement is also respectful of his staff and allows them time to make decisions in a “rat race” environment.

  3. I’d agree that Webb seemed to enjoy being a U.S. Senator much more than running for the Senate.
    And he was good at it.
    I think he just couldn’t face the prospect of campaigning again. It’s a process that is inherently fake. And Jim Webb is as real as it gets.

  4. There’s also an element here of Sen. Webb having accomplished what he primarily set out to do in 2006. Are U.S. military forces continuing to draw down in Iraq? Yes. Do we have better, smarter leadership in the Pentagon today? Yes. Are we doing more now to take care of our veterans when they come back from what’s now the longest war in our nation’s history? Yes.

    I wonder if perhaps Webb’s military career instilled in him a mindset that’s not particularly prevalent in Washington: when you accomplish your objectives and finish your missions, you don’t stick around for the sake of sticking around. You pack up your gear and go back home to your family.

  5. That’s a sweet perspective Sam, really. However, I’ll take Webb on his word that the Senate is a “snake pit”. And when you adopt Republican proposals like cap and trade for pollutants, and the individual mandate for health care insurance only to be called a socialist by Republicans, you know you are sharing a fighting hole with an unworthy partner in the defense of America. The Senate is foundered, and sinking. Webb is a survivor.

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