With the Feb. 12 Democratic primary in Virginia now on the horizon, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, an early supporter of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, told the News-Press in Richmond last week that he felt Obama, if nominated, “would be well served” by selecting Virginia’s junior U.S. Sen. Jim Webb as his running mate.
Kaine acknowledged that Virginia is now considered a key “battleground state” in the race for the presidency, joining such critical states as Florida and Ohio. In light of that, he was asked if Obama should choose a vice presidential running mate from Virginia.
“I think he should choose someone who is strong in foreign policy and defense issues,” he said. He then went on to drop the name of Sen. Webb.
Kaine was making an appearance at the annual state legislative reception sponsored by Equality Virginia, held in the Library of Virginia, last Thursday.
His unsolicited suggestion of Sen. Webb contrasted to the reaction of his predecessor, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, a likely candidate to run for the U.S. Senate this November to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner.
When asked by the News-Press about the idea of including Sen. Webb on the Democratic presidential ticket, Mark Warner said only, “I think Sen. Webb has his hands full and is enjoying doing a fantastic job as a U.S. Senator.”
The comment came during a visit to a Jan. 7 fundraiser for State Del. Adam Ebbin, in the Lake Barcroft section of greater Falls Church.
The subject did not come up when Sen. Webb hosted a telephone conference call with journalists from all over the region prior to President Bush’s State of the Union address on Monday.
Webb, who as a barely-sworn in freshman senator gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union address a year ago, focused in the call on where the country is going since he delivered his response on Jan. 23, 2007.
“The issues I raised then are still paramount,” Webb said on the conference call, pointing to foreign policy and the economy.
On foreign policy, he said that military gains in Iraq do not address the issues of the formation of an effective Iraqi government or of the region “writ large.” Overall, he said, “there has been an increase in volatility from Lebanon to Pakistan.”
While the efforts of al-Qaeda may have diminished in Iraq, it has led to rises elsewhere, such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also cited the Turk-Kurd crisis and the problems presented by 2.5 million refugees spilling out of Iraq into Syria and Jordan.
As to whether the military “surge” in Iraq is working, he said that “it takes time to reply to that, because there are a lot of moving parts.”
Among the factors, he said, the cost of the war in human terms and fiscally for the U.S. economy. “What we really need is firm diplomatic leadership,” he added.
The issue of the military role of the U.S. in Iraq will become “a major presidential campaign issue,” he said, noting that Sen. John McCain has said that U.S. troops may remain there for 50 years. “But with the right leadership, we can eliminate our military in Iraq.”
On the economy, he said the nation faces “a great risk on a wide variety of fronts.” He said that long-term trade policies with China have made the U.S. vulnerable.
“They’re a strategic adversary and at the same time our banker,” he noted, saying he supports more investigation into foreign, so-called, “sovereign wealth funds.”
Overall, he said, “After one year, I wish we were in a better place.”
He decried the lack of bi-partisanship in the Senate, although he hailed the cooperation he’d experienced from fellow Virginia Senator John Warner. But the Republicans in the Senate adopted a “conscious strategy” not to allow significant legislation through Congress by filibustering. Since it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, “Republicans have put their own welfare ahead of the welfare of the nation.”
He said that the most filibusters in the history of Congress were 61 during a two-year Congressional cycle, but this last one year alone, there were 62.
Finally, Webb touted the formation of the Webb-McCaskill Commission on Wartime Contracting, an independent, bi-partisan body, which was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act by President Bush.
“The Commission is modeled after the ‘Truman Committee’ which investigated defense contracts during World War II and was credited with saving $15 billion in 1943 taxpayer dollars,” he said.
In a statement issued yesterday, he challenged Bush’s claim that the commission “would inhibit the President’s ability to execute his authority as commander in chief.
“Those of us in Congress have an obligation to the American taxpayer to be proper stewards of their tax dollars,” Webb said.