Has Senator Webb just lost his chance of being Obama’s veep pick?
I asked that because David Mark at the Politico wrote yesterday about an issue that popped up briefly during Webb’s successful 2006 campaign for Senate against then-incumbent George Allen, and that issue is his fondness for the Confederacy (h/t: James Joyner):
Barack Obama’s vice presidential vetting team will undoubtedly run across some quirky and potentially troublesome issues as it goes about the business of scouring the backgrounds of possible running mates. But it’s unlikely they’ll find one so curious as Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s affinity for the cause of the Confederacy.
Webb is no mere student of the Civil War era. He’s an author, too, and he’s left a trail of writings and statements about one of the rawest and most sensitive topics in American history.
He has suggested many times that while the Confederacy is a symbol to many of the racist legacy of slavery and segregation, for others it simply reflects Southern pride. In a June 1990 speech in front of the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, posted on his personal website, he lauded the rebels’ “gallantry” which he said “is still misunderstood by most Americans.”
Webb, a descendant of Confederate officers, also voiced sympathy for the notion of state sovereignty as it was understood in the early 1860s, and seemed to suggest that states were justified in trying to secede.
“Most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery” he said. “Love of the Union was palpably stronger in the South than in the North before the war — just as overt patriotism is today — but it was tempered by a strong belief that state sovereignty existed prior to the Constitution and that it had never been surrendered.”
Webb expanded on his sentiments in his well-received 2004 book, “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” which portrays the Southern cause as at least understandable, if not wholly laudable.
As most thinking people know, especially those who grew up in the South, having an “affinity” for the Confederacy does not automatically make one a racist, and I certainly don’t believe that Webb’s beliefs on this issue make him one – I’ve heard simliar views expressed by many a Southerner who would give the shirts off their backs to anyone who needed it, white or black. But to one-track minded race-baiting Democrats looking to score political points against Republicans, it’s a sure way to play the old race card – and in fact, the “he’s a Confederate sympathizer who supposedly used the n-word” card was used against George Allen in 2006 and that, coupled with his now-infamous “macaca” incident, killed his reelection bid.
Will Webb’s sympathetic view towards the Confederacy doom his chances for a veep slot alongside Barry O.? More from the Politico article:
Ron Walters, director of the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland and a professor of political science there, said Webb’s past writings and comments on the Confederacy could dampen enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket, should he appear on it.
“Unless he is able to explain it, it would raise some questions” Walters said.
Edward H. Sebesta, co-author of the forthcoming “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction” (University of Texas Press), said Webb’s views express an unhealthy regard for a political system that propped up and defended slavery.
His book, in fact, will cite Webb as an example of the mainstreaming of neo-Confederacy ideas into politics, said Sebesta, a widely cited independent historical researcher and author of the Anti-Neo-Confederate blog.
I personally don’t think Obama is going to touch this one with a ten foot pole – but then again, if he decided that Webb’s military creds would be a huge asset for his candidacy, he might just decide to pick him, give a grand speech about how Webb’s an honorable man whose opinions on the Confederacy aren’t as far outside of “mainstream rational thought” as Democrats have previously painted similar views when they’ve come from Republicans, and then the nation can, as a result, begin the “healing process.”
I suspect Howard Dean might actually be on board with the idea, considering what he said back in 2003:
“I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” the former Vermont governor said in a telephone interview quoted in Saturday’s Des Moines Register. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.”
Perhaps he was talking about those “bitter” (not to mention “racist“) folks who “cling” to guns and religion?