The OZY Hunger Games: Jim Webb’s Lack of Combat Readiness

An illustration of Jim Webb.

Source James Hodge for Ozy

Why you should care

Because in presidential politics, as in war, there’s no place in the ranks for the halfhearted.

Remember how The Hunger Games would honor its fallen tributes? In this occasional series, OZY predicts which presidential candidates will be the next to fall — whether they know it or not.

Tonight’s the big night, Sen. Webb. The first Democratic debate and your chance to introduce yourself to the American people — and also to the reporters covering your campaign. That’s because so far the Jim Webb for President campaign has been waged more like one of the SEAL missions you might have ordered as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy: a stealth operation clouded in secrecy in which no one aside from a few key operatives has any real clue as to its mission.

“Is Jim Webb actually running for president?” the Mother Jones reporter assigned to your campaign wondered last Friday. He wasn’t sure, and we heard no response from your campaign to our requests on that front either. Sure, you reportedly have a dozen or so SEALs — sorry, staffers — on the payroll, and you’ve turned up at a few large events in Iowa. But, as the Democratic party’s chair in New Hampshire told Mother Jones, “The crickets here in New Hampshire are louder than the Webb campaign.”

Unsurprisingly, your poll numbers, like your campaign, have been pretty much invisible. So is tonight the night that a camouflaged Jim Webb, 69, emerges from the background he has been lurking quietly behind in order to make his first kill?  Well, Senator, you may be the only combat veteran in this presidential field, but when it comes to the rigors of the campaign battlefield, we have some serious concerns as to whether you’re combat ready.

And if there’s one thing that Jim Webb is well-versed in, it’s what qualifies someone for combat. “I can visualize a woman president. If I were British, I would have supported Margaret Thatcher,” you once wrote in the Washingtonian. “But no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat.”  Ouch. Well, at least one of those three sentences will not get you court-martialed in today’s Democratic party.


I know, that was in 1979. Ancient history, right? But so is most of your truly impressive résumé, from the Navy Cross you were awarded for heroism in Vietnam to your years in the Reagan administration to your 1983 Emmy for covering the Lebanese civil war as a journalist. More recently, you’ve served as a one-term senator, proved yourself an astute critic of the war in Iraq and staked out ground as an economic populist who has championed everything from early childhood education to sentencing reform. But you still find yourself marching out of step with Democratic voters and have had to signal a retreat from your old positions on matters like women in combat and the Confederate flag (and it will no doubt be difficult to stick to your pro-gun guns as well).

It’s hard to wage a war when you’re in retreat, but it’s never been clear just how serious you are about real hand-to-hand political combat. On the surface, your square-jawed, Waspy warrior look — seemingly torn from the pages of a best-selling military thriller like those you yourself have penned — would make you the picture-perfect commander-in-chief. But you’ve never shown the stomach for the gantlet of backslapping, baby-kissing and fundraising that a run for the White House entails. And speaking of books, presidential candidates have written a lot of them, but we’re pretty sure yours is the only where anything like the following appears:

“Fogarty … watch[ed] a naked young stripper do the splits over a banana … her round breasts glistening from a spotlight in the dim bar [as she] left the banana on the bar, cut in four equal sections by the muscles of her vagina.”

Surely if a woman can manage that, then she can easily cut an enemy combatant into pieces with an M4 carbine assault rifle?

Senator, thank you for your service, but it’s time to sign off before you are less than honorably discharged from the race. Leave the front lines to the political warriors, including the women, who are ready for the fight. Please lower the flag, sound the bugle and pay your respects to a fallen hero, Sen. James Webb of Virginia.


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