Warner, Webb have historic opportunity: Will they go for it?


    By Paul Goldman

    In our copyrighted article published elsewhere today, Professor Rozell and your Blue Virginia columnist urge Democratic party leaders to begin openly discussing what we believe will be America’s most important conversation of the 21st century. Over the coming months, we hope to lay out what I call the “New Security”, my working title for a unified, comprehensive Democratic approach to economic and national security, the Peace and Prosperity markers for this new era.

    Virginia Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner are uniquely situated to play a leading role in this discussion since both of them “get it” as my teenage son would say, evidenced by their recent comments on matters of national security [Webb’s area of expertise] and economic security [Warner’s comfort zone based on his experience in the private sector.] To be sure, neither of them has articulated a comprehensive policy in their particular sphere, much less an integrated “New Security” plan blending both into a unified whole. But then, neither has anyone else, moreover such a work product will take time before it is in the political shape to be rolled out as the future blueprint for how Democrats propose to ensure Peace and Prosperity in the new century and hopefully beyond.

    However, as the saying goes, even the longest journey begins with the first step.

    Whether Democrats want to hear it or not, when push came to shove, as our article states today, “[o]n  the defining issues of peace and prosperity, the Democratic Party, after calling President George W. Bush a “historic” failure, has chosen a Bush-lite strategy in Afghanistan and apparently a Bush-like economic plan. Welcome to Bush 43-3, despite the prohibitions of the 22nd Amendment. ”

    Yes, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have delivered on any number of major indeed historic achievements. But No, as our article discusses, as best one can in the limited space allowed for any one OPED column, the new paradigm promised in the 2008 Democratic Platform on these defining issues has not happened, indeed quite the opposite given the message sent by the Tax Deal since it was sold on the grounds of being the only way to grow the very economy out of the very ditch Democrats previously claimed Bushonomics had caused. There has never been anything quite like it in modern politics.

    Enter then Webb and Warner. Except for West Virginia, our Commonwealth is the only state in the South with two Democratic Senators. It is unclear just how much of a Democrat the junior Senator from the Mountain State intends to be going forward. But suffice to say that on balance, even given Senator Rockefeller’s seniority, the most energetic Democratic delegation in the upper chamber from the Southland will be ours.

    Moreover, unlike West Virginia’s, it has a national security and an economic security wing.

    I submit this is a very important constructive for Senator Webb to consider as he decides whether to seek re-election.

    Yesterday, Senator Warner, joined with Georgia Republican Sonny Chambliss to lay down a marker in the economic security arena, promising to introduce legislation building on the work of the President’s Deficit Commission co-chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.  As I suggested previously in this space, Senator Warner had been telegraphing his itch to come out of the phone booth dressed wearing his deficit hawk uniform for sometime. Cynics will ask why didn’t he sprout those deficit hawk wings in time to vote against the Tax Deal. It is a fair question, which my gut says he feels will be answered when the Warner-Chambliss plan is unveiled. Thus, he knows it raises the bar, rather than eliminating him from the High Jump competition.

    The Warner-Chambliss political play – I call it that because of the love of the game – is fascinating given the seniority bias of the Senate. In effect, Warner is pulling a Cuccinelli, bypassing the older senior players and betting he can be first passed the post with a credible fiscal plan.

    It is a good risk vs reward play, I always believe the advantage goes to the guy playing offensive although it is true defensive probably wins more games. Moreover, media reports on the President’s Deficit Commission overstate their work product, for they didn’t actually endorse a deficit reduction plan, in some areas they merely gave options, not a single final choice. This gives Warner an opening not yet appreciated by others.

    But he knows he will not have the luxury. But he needed to get onto the track prior to the State of the Union address. If you want to be the guy with the “New Security” plan, waiting for the President to move before suiting-up isn’t a workable strategy.

    My bottom line gut political instinct: A “New Security” plan, jointly authored by Warner and Webb, one part national security, the other part economic security, is precisely what Democrats need.

    FDR is my hero, the greatest President of the 20th century, he saved America not once but twice, along with the rest of the free world. But he would be the first to realize the New Deal needs to be brought up to digital age speed.