Webb pulls out of Democratic presidential primary race
By NBP Staff | October 20, 2015, 13:30 EST
WASHINGTON — Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator who last week publicly criticized his party’s first debate as “rigged,” withdrew from the Democratic presidential race and said he is mulling options for how he may “remain as a voice” in the 2016 elections.
Webb had spent much of his less-than 15 minutes on camera during the Las Vegas debate saying he hadn’t been given enough time to speak. He later said that the moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, had provided him with no other option.
“It was rigged in terms of who was going to get the time on the floor by the way that Anderson Cooper was selecting people to supposedly respond to something someone else said,” Webb said at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York two days after the debate. He said the debate format favored certain candidates in terms of on-camera time.
His withdrawal removes the most conservative candidate from the Democratic field, and the only one who served in a Republican White House. A decorated Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Marine Corps officer, Webb was President Ronald Reagan’s Navy secretary. Some reports said he was considering mounting an independent White House run, citing people familiar with the races.
While he enjoyed strong approval ratings as a Democratic senator, he remained largely unknown to voters nationwide, with surveys of likely Democratic voters showing his support levels hovering around 1 percent. He trailed both Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, alongside former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Webb had raised only about $700,000 for his bid compared with the millions banked by Clinton and Sanders.
Webb brought a far more varied career to the race than his opponents. He had unseated a Republican incumbent in his Virginia senate race coming out of a background that included stints in television and as a writer. He won an Emmy award for a documentary on the Lebanese civil war that aired on Public Broadcasting Service stations in the 1980s, wrote a best-selling novel about Vietnam and penned the screenplay for a major Hollywood film.
With views on many issues that may appeal to white men, Webb opposes creating more restrictive gun controls, citing citizens’ right to self-defense. He favors securing the border first and reforming immigration afterwards. Webb supports Obamacare, but has insisted the programs ushered in by the president’s 2010 Affordable Care Act should be smaller in scope. Webb has also ripped president Barack Obama’s administration over the Iran nuclear deal, saying negotiators didn’t squeeze enough concessions from Tehran and faulting the White House for skirting congressional approval.
He also may appeal to traditionally liberal voting groups as well. Long before Clinton publicly embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, Webb worked tirelessly – and silently – to reform the criminal justice system as a senator in 2011. Way before Sanders started promising to put a stop to for-profit private prisons, Webb took the lead on prison reform in 2008. And long before Clinton, who as a New York senator backed the Iraq War, and before Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq, Webb questioned “whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years.”
Webb became a Democrat in response to the Iraq War, which he opposed, according to the Associated Press.
He commanded a Marine Corps combat platoon in Vietnam after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, winning a Navy Cross for heroism, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. His 1978 novel, “Fields of Fire,” became a bestseller praised for its searing look at jungle warfare.
His Emmy award came in 1983 for a special report he produced for the MacNeil/Lehr NewsHour. He wrote the screenplay for the 2000 film “Rules of Engagement,” a military drama starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson that earned more than $100 million in box office sales.
Before being appointed Navy secretary, Webb served as Reagan’s assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. In 2006, he defeated Republican George Allen to win his place in the U.S. Senate seat, beating a GOP incumbent in a state that hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.
As the presidential primary race was beginning to take shape in June, Webb bucked a wave of emotional criticism over the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag by calling for “mutual respect” after the racially charged church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. Images of the perpetrator showed him holding the flag.