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By Sarah Kneezle and Lloyd Nelson
MANCHESTER, N.H., 10/21/07 – Sen. Jim Webb yesterday challenged
Democrats to recapture the White House next year by making their party
the vanguard of unity and solutions, not division and fear.
“The American people are ready to reject the divisiveness of the Karl
Rove era,” the Virginia senator said in reference to President Bush’s
now departed former chief of staff. “They are looking for leaders who
want to solve problems, we have those solutions—we have those
leaders.”
His remarks were met with a standing ovation by those present at the
party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner held at the Radisson Hotel.
After joking about being a piece of road kill between 1,000 people and
a Red Sox game, Webb addressed the gathering not simply as a senator
from Virginia, but as someone who has fought in combat, covered two
wars as a journalist, and spent five years in the Pentagon—one as a
Marine and four as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration.
His resume is long. His message was not.
The Jefferson-Jackson dinner, a $50-per-plate fundraiser, where Webb
spoke for a little more than an hour, featured many local Democrats,
from Representatives Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter to state Party
Chairman Raymond Buckley. But missing from the event were the
Democratic presidential candidates, who in presidential years past
have often attended.
However, they were there in spirit—or at least their money was. Barack
Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden all
gave undisclosed amounts to help sponsor the event. Michelle Obama,
Sen. Obama’s wife, was in the audience.
With the candidates absent, the focus was drawn to the senator from
Virgina. Webb, who has been considered a rising star in the Democratic
Party since he narrowly defeated Republican incumbent George Allen in
2006, remains steadfast when asked about the possibility of his being
tapped as vice-president on the Democratic ticket. “I have no
aspirations to be on a ticket,” Webb said. “It’s truly not on my game
plan.”
Instead, he focused on the issue that helped win him the Senate for
the Democrats — the Iraq War. He touched on a bill he sponsored that
would have required U.S. troops to spend as much time at home as they
do in Iraq or Afghanistan. The bill, he noted, received a majority of
56 votes, but was blocked by the threat of a Republican filibuster.
“This is a solvable situation with the right executive leadership,”
Webb said.
Webb also highlighted an initiative that he and fellow freshman Sen.
Claire McCaskill of Missouri led through the Senate that would create
a Truman Plan-style commission that would investigate the billions of
dollars of contracting abuses in the reconstruction of Iraq. The bill
is now in the House of Representatives.
Raymond Buckley, Democratic party chairman and master of ceremonies,
assured Webb that New Hampshire voters were ready to answer their call
of duty.
“We will make this state blue again. Never again will New Hampshire
fail our state, country or the world.
Are we going to carry this state?” he asked, as voters jumped from
their chairs in applause.
New Hampshire’s four electoral votes would have put Vice-President Al
Gore over the 270 mark needed to be elected president in 2000. But he
lost the state by about 7,000 votes.
Webb acknowledged the profound impact the Granite State had on
national politics every four years by holding the first Democratic
primary of the campaign.
“You here in New Hampshire have a unique opportunity every four years
to shape the national debate,” he said. “It’s fascinating to watch
this process from the outside, as candidate after candidate goes up
against your nationally famous skepticism and sense of fair play. I
salute you for it.”