Is James Webb a threat to Hillary Clinton in 2016?

REUTERS/Larry Downing
James Webb retired from the Senate in 2012 after one term.

Writing for the New York Times op-ed page, Jacob Heilbrunn suggests that the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton’s coronation as 2016 Democratic nominee could be a foreign policy-based challenge, from the peacenik side, by someone like former Sen. James Webb of Virginia, who was also a Vietnam vet, a former secretary of the Navy and, as Heilbrunn summarizes the nub of the matter, an “opponent of endless wars in the Middle East.”

I don’t pretend to know what Clinton’s core convictions are in foreign and military policy. Heilbrunn implies she “has been tacking to the right on Iran, Syria and Russia in anticipation of Republican assaults during the general election.” I note that, as a Senator, she voted to authorize the Iraq War, which cost her dearly in her 2008 presidential race against Barack Obama, who (although he was not a Senator at the time of the Iraq vote) had publicly opposed the war.

Webb was also not in the Senate in 2003, but he did publish an op-ed piece that warned, at a time when the American people were being told that their troops would be greeted as liberators: “[T]he Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam.”

Webb retired from the Senate in 2012, voluntarily, after one term. He has formed an exploratory committee for a possible presidential candidacy.

If polls measure anything, Clinton must be viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination. But, other than an incumbent president, the prohibitive favorites always get challenged, often seriously.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/23/2014 - 12:31 pm.

    At this point

    …my off-the-cuff response is: “James who??”

    While Hillary as President disturbs me less than any of the Republican names currently being bandied about, I can’t say I’m enthused about a candidate as thoroughly establishment as she is. That said, I’ll have to wait a while before I generate any enthusiasm for Mr. Webb, or anyone else for that matter.

    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 12/26/2014 - 09:22 am.

      Indeed. He has marginal stage presence.

      James Webb isn’t going to hold a candle to Hillary, unless voters cross over to meddle with the election.

      We’re at Christmas now, a time of resolutions that you will not keep & all sorts of year end retrospectives & predictions – there isn’t a lot of news until sometime well into January & nobody remembers that all the year end psychics are usually dead wrong.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/23/2014 - 12:33 pm.

    Webb is not a threat to Clinton right now.

    IF Hilary makes some sort of gaffe that weakens her to the point that Democrats start looking for an alternative, THEN dark horses like Warren and Webb might come into play.

  3. Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/23/2014 - 12:55 pm.

    To answer the headline…


  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/23/2014 - 04:20 pm.


    The democrats keep trotting out rabbits to run against Mrs. Clinton so it doesn’t look like the one-dog race it is. If she decides to drop out the dems will be in a world of hurt.

  5. Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 12/23/2014 - 07:55 pm.

    For the last time

    Warren is not running. I like her, but I just do not think she has the fire in her belly to run for POTUS. Hillary may be corporate, but she has the experience and gravitas to work with Congress. I will support her.

  6. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/23/2014 - 10:32 pm.

    I agree with Dennis

    If Hillary drops out it becomes a much closer race with a very good chance that the Republicans could win. Like Dennis says the country, at least the peace loving middle class and the poor, would be in a world of hurt. Good observation, Dennis.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 12/24/2014 - 06:36 pm.

    Yes, Hillary

    does have skeletons in the closet, but I still like her better than anyone that the republicans have offered so far.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/29/2014 - 09:44 am.


    Eric says: “I don’t pretend to know what Clinton’s core convictions are in foreign and military policy.”

    Thaaaaat’s kinda the problem. Despite being in national politics since 1993, a US Senator for 8 years, and 4 years as Secretary of State, we can’t pretend to know what her “convictions” are. That kinda tells us something doesn’t it?

    What we do know is that she triangulates for political success rather than policy success. Despite decades of service neither her nor her husband made a dent in any of the our major ongoing national crises. From education to energy things have gotten worse. She has a track record of ill-advised compromises, such as her vote for the Iraq War, and her “market” approach to the health care crises in the 90’s.

    I think was decent Secretary of State, but then why can’t I guess what her foreign policy agenda might be?

    What I’m going to need to see before I vote for her, is some indication that she’s learned something from 30 years of political experience. I’ll need to see some indication that she will stake out a clear agenda, and will pursue that agenda instead of using to get elected and then abandoning it once in office. I’m not looking for inflexibility or ideological purity, but I’m not going vote for a democrat who’s going to deliver republican policies once in office. She gonna have to convince voters like me that she’s not going to to that AGAIN.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/30/2014 - 02:07 pm.

      ….What I’m going to need to see before I vote for her….

      Paging Dr. Carson, paging Dr. Carson—emergency–man choking while eating his words.

      And the winner is, “most connected to reality”.

      No actual stands required.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/30/2014 - 05:03 pm.

      “I’m not going vote for a democrat who’s going to deliver republican policies once in office”

      Did you vote for Barack Obama? Because this is exactly the reason I supported Hilary in 2008 and not Obama- because Obama was less liberal than Hilary Clinton. I think it’s hard to argue that we’ve gotten any (truly) progressive policies passed since 08.

      I mean, the woman is on record supporting, and actually tried to pass, universal health coverage in the 90s (albiet through a model in which a mandate was applied to employers). Methinks if you can’t look at the past 30 years of Hilary Clinton in American life and politics and discern roughly what her agenda would be like, even her foreign policy agenda, you’re not trying hard enough.

      Hilary is a known quantity, and a generally liked and respected one at that. She’s on record championing what is probably the most important progressive cause of our time, full universal healthcare, and has been under the ruthless gaze of the national media since 1991. She comes across as reasoned, tough, and resolute. Yes, she is representative of a certain old-guard, but I for one thought the Bill Clinton presidency was better than the 8 that preceded it, or the 2 that followed. And quite frankly, professional women of her era are (in my experience) whipsmart and fairly convicted, but still open to compromise. You pretty much had to be to deal with such an overbearing patriarchal power structure that she came up in during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

      I think there are plenty of reasons to support other candidates, for sure, just not the ones you’ve listed.

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