I’ll say right away that I’m pretty uninformed about Jim Webb. So far as I can tell, Webb is the hottest topic for an Obama Vice Presidential pick after Hillary Clinton, and more people are enthusiastic about Webb as VP. For obvious reasons, Clinton is often mentioned just for the sake of unifying the party–she has positives, but she’s got a well defined public image, a record of criticizing Obama, and they come from opposite places within the party.
I found Matt Zeitlin arguing against Webb as a VP. His first point is that it would probably not do much to reach out to female Clinton voters. I definitely can’t contest that point, so I’ll mention his worry that Webb will undermine Obama’s national security credibility:
Another argument against Webb is that instead of acting as “insurance” that Obama would be able to compete for working class white votes and not have McCain get away with questioning his patriotism, he would instead accentuate that Obama is perceived to be everything that Webb is not. If the purpose of putting Webb on the ticket is, as Massie and others say, to project strength on foreign policy, military issues, patriotism, being a badass, getting white working class support, then that very action implies that Obama is weak on all those fronts. And when a candidate essentially cops to weakness in certain areas, the media and the other party will just eat it up.
This is at least possible. However, I think the thing to fear, as far as undermining Obama, is to pick someone “tough” who disagrees with Obama. If they go for someone to project national security strength who is a hawk, they thereby send the message that hawkishness is the tough posture. But if they pick someone who mostly stands with Obama, it is neutral or even reinforces the message that national security credentials don’t exclusively belong to hawks.
Also, as the Kerry case makes clear, the undermining problem arises mostly when the candidate is really vulnerable on the issue. While I hate the style of politics that says “KERRY IS FRENCH, HATEZ,” Kerry was quite vulnerable to that attack. I’m not sure how vulnerable Obama really is on the national security front. First, the Democrats are in a great position overall this year. Second, Obama has shown every indication that he’s prepared to not back down, but instead respond forcefully to any suggestion that the hawks own the national security issue. This is in fact one of the issues that has really enthused me about him.
Anyway, I need to learn more about Webb, but so far as the last ten minutes tell me,† it seems like he was elected on opposition to the Iraq War.
(†) Ain’t blogging fun?