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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Please Vote For Jim Webb Tuesday, June 13th

THE ENDORSEMENT

I don’t think it’s any secret or that anybody is shocked that I’m going to endorse Jim Webb. I’ve done that time and again on this blog. So, this is one last pitch rather than an earth-stopping announcement.

Yes, I endorse Jim Webb for the U.S. Senate primary, Tuesday, June 13th. I believe that he will make the more competitive candidate to go up against George Allen. Jim Webb is the more attractive and competitive Democrat for many reasons.

First, there is his compelling biography. He is a Virginia native so all talk that he is a national candidate not a true Virginian is nonsense. He is also a much decorated war hero. As an Annapolis graduate and a Marine, he won the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam. In a state with so many military families and veterans, that history counts for a lot.

In addition, as a former Secretary of the Navy, Webb has a stronger grasp of veterans’ issues. He also has a better and deeper understanding of foreign policy and military strategy than his opponent, Harris Miller.

Webb was an early opponent of the war in Iraq. In October 2001 he wrote an op ed piece in The New York Times, where he described it as the wrong war. Webb is not an anti-war, liberal. Not a dove. He has a fine strategic mind and a grasp of complex foreign policy issues. He basically came to the same conclusions as Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Graham, who was privy to much more of the true intelligence information during the run up to the Iraqi war than most senators, was a constant critic of the administration’s foreign policy because he felt we were ignoring the true terrorist threat and targeting a country that did not pose a real danger to U.S. interest.

As subsequent events proved, Graham was right. And so was Jim Webb when he pointed out that we were pouring precious resources into a battle that weakened us. Iraq was the wrong target.

On the other hand, Miller was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Iraqi war. Then just recently he began to switch his position. And what is his strategy for getting us out of Iraq?

Calling for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired as Secretary of Defense and cutting off funds to the troops in Iraq. Both of these are silly suggestions. And one is dangerous and irresponsible.

Secretary Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the President. If calling for his resignation would have convinced Bush to get rid of him, then Rumsfeld would be long gone by now. Others far more influential than Miller have already done so. And even if Rumsfeld was gone, at this point we would still have to clean up the mess we’ve made in Iraq.

And Miller’s second solution, calling for cutting off funds is truly reckless. Even the most ardent opponent of that war has not gone that far. It’s the suggestion of a Johnny-come-lately who wants to prove he’s as strong in his opposition as all those who were against the war earlier than him.

Webb, who actually did oppose the war from its earliest days, and for the right reasons, understands that we can’t simply cut off funds, pull up and leave. Unfortunately, Collin Powell’s famous “pottery rule” is correct.

If you break it you own. Well, we broke Iraq badly. And while we don’t own it, we do owe it to the Iraqis to try to leave that country in better shape than it is currently in.

Jim Webb’s solution is to make sure that Iraqis understand that we have no permanent plan to occupy their country. Nor do we have the desire to stay there indefinitely. Then, we have to engage other Middle-eastern nations in the peace building process. And we’ve got to encourage our global allies to participate in peacekeeping with us. And most important, we’ve got make sure that the Iraqis themselves are capable of defending their own country. We have to rebuild their military and their police.

The Bush administration shows no understanding of how to accomplish these goals and there appears to be no end in sight to the mess we are mired in. And Miller shows no understanding of the complex tasks that need to be undertaken to accomplish withdrawal from Iraq without endangering the rest of the world.

Jim Webb also has a better grasp of the economic issues affecting our country. His platform calls for addressing the growing inequality between the upper one percent of the country who own most of the nation’s wealth, and the middle class, which perceives itself as losing the economic race and, worse still, is watching its American Dream slip through its fingers like fine grains of sand on a stormy beach.

Webb is at least speaking to the concerns of ordinary people. He shows that he understands the issues of class and race inequity and the way the sense of privilege and cronyism are eroding our way of life.

Miller, on the other hand, has been the king of outsourcing and off shoring. His work as president of the ITAA has enriched the coffers of the largest corporations, their CEOs, and large investors at the expense of hard working and educated employees. His claim that the answer is for workers to re-educate themselves to be more competitive rings false. Most of the jobs that are being outsourced to India are the well-paying jobs that required advanced education. But a skilled engineer or computer programmer can do the work remotely from a country with a much lower living standard than ours. Miller is responsible for the Wal-Martization of the IT field. He has made it a race to the bottom for the educated middle-class.

Miller, the Washington Post, and other free trade advocates always claim that all that’s needed for American workers to be competitive is more education. But they fail to point to the specific jobs and fields for which we should be educating ourselves so that we can continue to be employed lucratively. The reason is that those new skills and industries for which we should be educating ourselves to take the place of the jobs we’ve lost just don’t exist. The high tech field was the new industry we were all urged to re-educate ourselves for after losing all the high paying manufacturing jobs to China.

And to prove that Miller actually knows that, he has made statements, when testifying before Congressional committees and while being interviewed for tech industry journals, that high tech workers and unions, will just have to get used to lower wages to be competitive in the global market. And he and the CEOs that he has lobbied for have made a fortune with that line of reasoning.

However, Jim Webb would take just the opposite approach. He supports finding the means to keep good jobs in America. He would re-examine the tax and trade policies that have rewarded corporations with tax breaks for off shoring their operations. He would also enforce existing trade laws and write new ones that encourage fair as well as free trade. He would write laws to make it beneficial for corporations to hire Americans again. That is a more productive approach than pitting business against workers as Miller has done.

For all these reasons and more, I support Jim Webb and urge everybody who reads this and agrees with me to get out and vote for him on Tuesday, June 13th.

NOW, THE PITCH FOR PARTY UNITY

Having said that, I will support whoever wins the primary. Earlier I had serious doubts that I could support Harris Miller should he win. The truth is I still do have reservations about Miller, but there are compelling reasons to support the Democratic ticket.

The first of which is that George Allen would be no friendlier or better for workers than Miller has been. And because Miller will want to unify the party behind him, including the Democratic base, which includes labor, there would be more of an open door to his office than to Allen’s. Labor is not part of the Republican base. So working people and their unions will have even less influence over Allen than even Miller. I had forgotten one important lesson of politics: I’d rather support a 50 per center than somebody whose door is permanently shut in my face.

Also, and this is the most convincing reason to support Miller. The Democrats are within striking distance of taking back the House and Senate this time. We may never get a shot this good. The country is finally seeing through Republican policy failures and they are fed up. But I think it’s going to be a close contest.

I would hate for it to come down to our being one state away from a Senate majority and realizing that it could have been Virginia that tipped the balance, but that I was one of the people responsible for our state going Republican and losing the Senate because I didn’t get behind our candidate.

I may not completely trust Harris Miller but I do trust Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and others in the Democratic leadership to protect the Supreme Court from its drift into rightwing extremism. I also trust them to insist on proper oversight of the administration, with greater checks and balances on presidential power, as the founding fathers intended it to be. And I trust them to write fairer laws that protect Americans. I will write more in depth about this after the primary. But I do think it’s important to maintain unity whoever wins.

Having said that, I still think Webb, for the reasons I gave above, is the better candidate, with a better platform, and better ideas for the future of Virginia and the country. And given that I think it’s going to be the Democrats’ year, I think he is the more electible Democrat in Virginia to run against George Allen. Please vote for him and, hopefully, Virginia will contribute to the new Democratic majority in Congress.

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