A Military Officer Dissents on Jim Webb, and a Bernie Sanders Supporter Backs Him

Last night I explained why I respected the career-long independence of former Senator Jim Webb, now reflected in his leaving the Democratic race.

A reader who spent eight years as an active-duty officer during America’s recent open-ended wars, and is still in the reserves, writes in to disagree with my post. I said that the younger Jim Webb’s defense of his father’s comments in the debate was an apt puncturing of America’s chickenhawk mentality. This reader says:

The reason the young Webb needs to be put over somebody's knee is that his op-ed is the kind of ridiculous huffy how-dare-you bullshit that military officers produce like crap these days.  I challenge this douchebag to produce one civilian who talks as if his time in the Marine infantry was just a jaunt in the sand. There's almost none of that being said out there.

On the contrary, there's vastly too much hero-worship and deference to the military, and lack of willingness to criticize.  You go out in a uniform and decent people come up to you and thank you and try to give you discounts and stuff, and fat little kids bang out half-assed salutes with solemn faces, and it's embarrassing as hell but you try to respect them.  That is the experience military have with ordinary Americans nine-tenths of the time.

So for Webb to pull out the idea that people are laughing at his father because they don't respect his service experiences, is naked dishonesty from a boob trying to sell you something.  This kid is trying to breed chickenhawks.  The Senator gave a dumb answer at the wrong time, people are laughing at it, and that's all that is.  Pulling out the military honor card at that, is the action of an ass.

After the jump, a contrary view of Webb and his implications.

A reader on the East Coast, who supports Bernie Sanders and is in his early 20s, explains what he also likes Jim Webb:

I want to share my opinion on Jim Webb, because I've come under a lot of fire recently for my views (no grenade story pun intended). Like the majority of white, upper middle class, liberal arts college students/recent ex-students I associate myself with,

I consider myself to be pretty darn liberal. I donated $50 of my graduation gift money, which is unfortunately still a decent chunk of change for me at this stage of my post-graduate life, to Bernie Sanders' nascent campaign back in May. I've been fired up that Bernie has been speaking my language ever since he jumped in the race in April, long before the rise of the "Bernie-bro".

And yet, I love Jim Webb.

I try to tell this to people my age who usually align pretty closely with my political views. And they respond with either laughter, shock, or disgust. The laughter I can understand, as their only experience with Webb is the not-so-hot debate performance last week. The shock I can get because Mr. Webb is clearly out of step with my usual feel-the-Bern liberal nature. The disgust, however, I find appalling and disturbing.

It's one thing to realize that Mr. Webb faces a steep climb to the Presidency, and that's probably the most generous thing I could say about his odds of winning. But it's a wholly different to reject a man's presence in the Democratic primary, especially after us Democrats spent an entire summer laughing off the presence of Trump, Carson, Huckabee, Santorum, etc etc in Republican field… I'm saying that Webb is analogous to John Kasich, in the sense that people say Kasich stands no chance because of how sane he sounds on stage next to everyone else.

Again, I love Bernie. And I don't think one can fairly compare him to Mr. Trump. But you have to admit, their insurgencies do reflect how bitterly polarized our country is right now. As does the chaos in the House leadership vacuum. And I think same for the fact that there's no clear mandate for Biden to jump in, despite the fact that he's the VP for a scandal-free President with 50+% approval rating and an improving economy.

Instead, both parties rush to the ideological extremes of their party spectrum and demand sweeping, fundamental change, and they demand it NOW before its too late….

What's concerning for me, and what I'm struggling to clearly express to my liberal friends, is that our country is far too politically polarized for me to feel confident that the best way for the modern progressive movement to move the country forward is by having Bernie occupying the the presidency right now and being the leader of a bitterly divided country. If Republicans can obstruct a President's agenda solely because he's black, you better believe they're going to obstruct a socialist's agenda…. I'm unenthused by a Clinton presidency because of her willingness to ride the Democratic base of identity-driven liberals to the White House without any desire to unify the American people....

I worry about this current progressive movement because I don't think we are united behind a coherent brand of populism. And the rejection of Jim Webb proves that to me. Jim Webb IS an economic populist. He IS a leader who wants to unify the country. He unequivocally wants , to put it in Hillary-speak, to "even the odds" for downtrodden Americans.

He simply wants to do it for people who typically fall into Republican constituencies as well. Just like John Kasich expanded Medicare for people of color and the disabled, people who fall into the modern Democratic constituency. How ridiculous is it that those are the reasons they're being discredited as candidates in this election cycle?

When I told a group of liberals my age this past weekend that I respect Jim Webb's presence in the primary despite my appreciation of the Sanders campaign, the response was alarming. One kid said "I will only vote for a candidate who centralizes race (as in the plight of Americans of color) in his or her platform."…  Another responded with, "Well, I don't want those people in my party anyway." I told them they sound like the Republicans we love to laugh at. And the debate ended there.

The exchange and my further reflection on Webb's candidacy made me realize something: we deserve to have Donald Trump as our president. If people on both sides want to ignore voices of reason, moderation, and pragmatism in the face of ugly polarization, then we deserve to have someone like Trump force his way into the vacuum we are creating for ourselves. A Trump victory would prove that the main problems aren't necessarily the big banks, Citizens United, corporate media, the gays, the NRA, abortions, religion, Fox News, ISIS, George Bush or Barack Obama - the problem is ourselves and our utterly hypocritical patriotism.

We love America, but not the guy on the other side of the aisle. We love America, but not the guy in my own party who wants to compromise and win more voters than merely the core base at which we throw red meat political rhetoric. We love America, but not the liberal intellectual elites. We love America, but not the rural rednecks who think homosexuality and abortion are sins.

It's infuriating because I genuinely believe its going to take a legitimate crisis for our country to unify again, to actually genuinely love America for what it is and for who we are again. And the problem is, I'm not sure which crisis I'm more scared of - an attack similar to or worse than 9/11, or a Donald Trump presidency….