Senator Jim Webb, author of A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, touched on a variety of political, social and economic issues while speaking to a largely partisan crowd at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last Sunday evening, Originally scheduled to speak at UCLA, the venue was changed at the last minute because Webb, not unlike former President Bill Clinton, who canceled his planned UCLA commencement speech the prior week, did not wish to cross the picket lines of the striking hospitality workers there.
Webb first spoke of the Bush administration's claims that the Iraqi War surge was working. Webb intimated that it was premature to judge its merits, but that, instead, he would utilize the surge "as a sort of Rorshark test." In essence, questions he felt that needed to be asked at this juncture were: How should we use this information to determine issues such as possible relocation of combat? What can be done to stabilize Iraq? What are the larger strategic issues that come into play?
He then turned to economics in a broad-ranging discussion of Jacksonian Democracy as it related to the current transparency of economic inequity. At the core of this issue was the Bush
administration's lack of responsiveness to Hurricane Katrina, which Webb stated "connected the dots" for him in formulating the notion that fairness was simply not part and parcel of the current Executive landscape. He spoke of having campaigned about fairness in government, which allowed him election success, despite being outspent 2-l by his opponent. Economic success is at the heart of American capitalism but Webb insists it "must be done fairly."
Webb further stated that while John Edwards spoke of "two Americas," he believed there were actually three, in referring to what he perceived to be "economic Darwinism" as the top l% has achieved its own category. He espoused the notion that governments have the capacity to create and sustain economic aristocracies, and worries that those at the bottom are in real danger of permanent entrenchment. As "Exhibit A", Webb detoured only slightly off the path of economic principles in reeling off the poignant statistics of the predominantly low-income, American incarcerations; 5% of the world's population is American; 25% of the world's reported prisoners are in prison in America; 2.38 million are in jails, the highest incarceration rate in the world.
After eliciting audible gasps from the crowd with this information, he asserted, "Either we have the worst people in the world or our prison system is terribly broken."
Returning to the notion that fairness and the U.S. economy appear to be mutually exclusive at this interval in history, Webb offered four explanations for the current sorry state of economic woes:
l. Executive compensation is "off the charts," as the typical CEO makes 400 times what a worker makes at this corporation. He stated that when he graduated college this figure was 20-l, and in Europe, as well as other countries, it is still within the modicum of this range.
2. Capital gains is wrongly applied
3. Windfall profit tax is badly needed
4. Speculation as we are seeing it bloat the cost of oil.
Segueing into briefly addressing the oil crisis, he noted Newt Gingrich's urging Bush to urge Congress to drill for more oil and thus lift the off-shore oil drilling ban. Webb argued that it is the need for increased oil production that is necessary, as many of the areas currently leased by oil companies for drilling purposes are inactive at present.
Webb was asked a question about the climate of negativity in the recent campaign. He stated that Karl Rove was the chief architect of the worst aspect of political campaigning that America has ever seen. He said that Rove's model, which the RNC is expected to employ again this year, is to destroy the opponent's credibility while creating fear and suspicion about him. He attacked this methodology as poisoning the environment in so much as issues and ideologies should be discussed instead of false characterizations and fear-mongering.
Finally, he appeared immensely proud of the passage of his G.I. Bill of Rights and stated that Bush has basically thrown up his hands and will sign it as opposition to the bill is slim and
weak. Webb criticized the Pentagon's continuous deployment of enlistees in Iraq without substantial time back in America with their families. He said that this was the only war in our history that utilized this policy of "stopwatch" deployment, which he termed "backwards." This war, he said, was wrong because there was no thought to the endpoint.
"If you cannot articulate the endpoint of your strategy, you simply don't have one," he told the crowd which, broke into thunderous applause.