This week, Jim Webb gave an address to the National Press Club which commented on America’s position both domestically and internationally. It was a speech that was comprehensive and original in scope.
Webb continues to be a lonely voice talking about the most critical issue in our nation today — the increasing economic gap between the “haves” and “have nots.”
The globalization of our economy, as well as a tax system that discriminates against earned income, has remade America into a society where capital yields are historically strong while working families scramble to maintain their parents’ standard of living. Today’s CEO makes exponentially more than his counterpart a generation ago. Meanwhile, real wages have been stagnant for decades.
This gap is most alarming when you examine the prospects of a child growing up in poverty. Regardless of Federal programs, there is little to sustain a child’s success if he grows up in a household with no assets and no track record of achievement. Quite simply, there’s no path to economic stability.
(As Webb accurately noted, this lack of opportunity is not automatically linked to race. In fact, the poorest county in American — rural Clay County, Kentucky — is 98% white).
Meanwhile, the U.S. has no articulated foreign policy, other than lurching from crisis to crisis. Unlike the “Cold War,” where America formed a united front with the NATO countries against the threat of Soviet Communism, there are few, if any, modern-day alliances that have shared values or sacrifices. That’s not a criticism of anyone (either Bush or Obama). It’s just a statement of fact.
Webb’s speech is not for everyone. It eschews the usual left vs. right clichés that make modern politics so stale and underwhelming. (“Koch brothers!” “Extremism!”) Instead, it actually treats the listeners like intelligent adults.
As a decorated Marine officer and former Secretary of the Navy, Webb is a one-man antidote to the current crowd on Capitol Hill which invests tremendous energy in superficial cultural wars (which usually last about 24 hours) – and very little into addressing the problems of real Americans.
Having said all that, it’s hard to see Jim Webb as a Presidential candidate. Leaving aside the political obstacles, such as the formidable Hillary machine, there is the simple fact that Jim himself is not really a politician — nor does he play one on TV. As he once said, “my motto is ‘born fighting,’ not ‘born fundraising.’”
The “anti-politician” angle can work at times but you do, at some point, have to meet the people you want to represent. You also have to raise money. There is not much hope for the reclusive intellectual. You may not have to like politics — but you have to like people.
If Jim Webb did run for President, our nation would be the better for it — whether he wins or loses. Simply the fact that he speaks honestly about real issues and is not boxed in by “political correctness” makes him a better candidate and better leader than pretty much anybody in politics today (and that includes both parties).
Besides, isn’t it time our nation had a major Presidential candidate with a union card, two tattoos and three Purple Hearts?