Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jim Webb withdraws from Democratic Party primary race

On the same day as I posted a recommendation for Senator Webb to make a full apology to women who serve for the consequences of his 1979 article, I saw a notice that Jim Webb would be holding a press conference.

Before the conference began, it had already become clear that the coming announcement would be a withdrawal from the Democratic Party primary race.

During the 30 minute event, streamed live and archived on C-Span, Senator Webb explained that he had determined that he did not fit comfortably into today's Democratic Party or into today's Republican Party.

He described his views as aligned with about 47% of Americans who consider themselves independent and have major disagreements with planks in the platforms espoused by both parties.

He said he was supportive of the 2nd amendment, believed that affirmative action should be limited to African-Americans and not be a general preference program for diversity that includes almost everyone but poor white native born Americans, and did not like the way that the financial sector was dominating decision making in both parties.

He noted that he was a card-carrying union member, supported collective bargaining, supported Roe V Wade, supported gay marriage rights, had prioritized criminal justice reform while a Senator, and placed country before party.

Senator Webb told the gathered press corps that he would spend the next couple of weeks engaged in discussions with numerous people from both sides of the aisle and that he was not giving up or dropping out.

He said that he had been contacted by a number of people who wanted to help, both as volunteers and as donors.

Within a few weeks he would make an announcement about whether or not he would run as an Independent. He noted that third party candidates have a history of topping out with about 20% of the vote, but also noted that the atmosphere in the US today might prove to be different than the past. There is a growing dissatisfaction with both parties and the way that some representatives consider the other party the "enemy" instead of as the "opposition."

He reminded everyone that loyal opposition was one of the hallmarks and strengths of a free country and that places like Russia and China do not tolerate opposing views or opposition parties.

Senator Webb is right; there is growing dissatisfaction with the available choices; people with questioning attitudes are asking why they have only been offered the choice of the less of two unsatisfactory platforms.

Here is the full video of the press conference from C-Span.

Recommend Webb issue sincere apology for "Women Can't Fight"

Jim Webb, the independently minded author, former Democratic senator from Virginia and Secretary of the Navy during the Republican Reagan Administration, is running for President of the United States.

He is a decorated combat veteran and a fellow alumni from the US Naval Academy (Class of 1968) who has a natural attraction for many members of the military.

Unfortunately, Webb also has a number of current and former service people who still remember the article that he published in the Washingtonian Magazine in November 1979 titled Women Can't Fight.

That article did not limit itself to discussing reasons why women might have difficulties in the kind of ground combat that Webb experienced in the swamps and jungles of Vietnam. It also focused on the opening of the service academies to women and Webb's belief that the change was ill-conceived because, in his 1979 opinion, the only reason the service academies exist is to prepare men to serve as combat leaders.

I was in the class of 1981, the second class at the Naval Academy that included women. My daughter was in the class of 2005 and I served two shore tours at the Academy during my career. From 1991-1993, I was a company officer and from 1999-2001 I taught Weapons Systems Engineering. During the second year of that tour, I served as the Associate Chairman of the Weapons and Systems Engineering Department.

There is no doubt that Webb's 1979 article is still well remembered by my classmates; we were second class midshipmen when it was published and James Webb was appointed to be Secretary of the Navy during our first class year. I can also testify that the Brigade of Midshipmen was well aware of the article when I was there in the early 1990s, still aware of it in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and still influenced by it as late as 2010, the last year during which my wife and I sponsored midshipmen while living in Annapolis.

Several of my classmates remain so angry about the article that they told me that they would not even consider a vote for Webb unless he issues a formal apology.

They made those comments even after they viewed the below video, which is a clip from an October 15, 2015 interview at the Council on Foreign Relations.

I cannot put myself fully into the shoes of the women who were affected by Webb's article, but after rereading it, I can say that I would not have been able to graduate in 1968.

In fact, there is a good chance that if I had been subjected to the kind of plebe hazing that Webb experienced and describes in the article, I might have landed in the brig for assaulting an upperclassman.

Unlike Webb, who grew up in a military family with an authoritarian father, I entered the Academy with a rather casual outlook on authority figures. My plebe summer nickname was Hollywood because of my hometown, my dark tan, and the transitions glasses I wore while waiting for my Navy glasses to be issued.

I had a somewhat rebellious sense of my own value and importance. (My classmates might not have used the "somewhat" modifier in that sentence.)

I think I just might have been tempted to punch someone who hazed me in the manner that Webb endured.

The Naval Academy is a better leadership training ground now than it was in the 1960s. The leaders it has been producing since the 1980s are more balanced and more able to make good decisions throughout their career. They are not even tempted to treat their subordinates as if they were enemy soldiers - at least I hope that is true for all of them.

I'm glad that Jim Webb is running for President. His kind of thinking and his experiences, if nothing else, will expand the discussion and force the other candidates to address Commander in Chief issues that they might otherwise ignore.

However, it would help his candidacy if he would forthrightly recognize that he was wrong in 1979 to write a damaging article in the early stages of a transition that has been beneficial to the Academy and to the Nation. He would most likely gain tens of thousands of passionate, talented new supporters if he made a sincere apology and disowned his own work.

Reviving my questioning attitude

It's been more than 5 years since my last post on Questioning Attitude. It's time to revive this outlet for discussions about topics that interest me, but are unrelated to the subjects that Atomic Insights, my primary venue, is designed to cover.

 The world we share needs a lot of help and has many confusing events that deserve the application of a questioning attitude to figure out how they happened, why they happened, what can be done to repair any damage done, and how can they be avoided or reinforced in the future.

 I tried to phrase that to ensure that readers understand that this blog will not just apply a questioning attitude towards events and actions that deserve criticism, but also to those where positive lessons can be learned because good things happened or good people made admirable choices.

 Since we are already well into a presidential campaign, even though Election Day is more than a year from now, Questioning Attitude will also be a place to discuss politics and politicians even when the topic cannot be linked to atomic energy in any way.

This should be fun, or at least intellectually stimulating.