The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, June 16, 2006

Webb: U.S. Troops in Iraq 'Part of the Problem'; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Things in Iraq will get better when American troops pull out and the United States makes clear that it has “no long term objectives in terms of occupying Iraq,” Virginia’s Democratic U.S. Senate nominee said Friday.

James H. Webb, who was chosen this week to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen, told reporters on a conference call Friday that “Reagan Democrats” and other Virginians are looking for a new approach in Washington.

President Bush should tell the nascent Iraqi government to get ready to deal with its own problems and begin a careful withdrawal, Webb said.

But he couldn’t say what would trigger a troop withdrawal.

“I think a date certain is not the way to go,” Webb said, but troops should come out as soon as possible. “We got in kind of recklessly, so we need to get out carefully.

“I can’t sit out here simply as a candidate and give you a specific formula” for when the United States will leave, he said.

“Our troops in Iraq are a big part of the problem,” he said. “I support them tactically... but strategically I don’t think we have any value in having” U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq.

Webb also said he doesn’t buy the White House’s argument that Iraq is a “central front” in the war against terrorism.

Calls and e-mails to the Allen campaign for comment weren’t immediately returned Friday.

Webb won a bruising primary fight against former Washington lobbyist Harris N. Miller, taking home 53 percent of the vote to 46 percent.

The former secretary of the Navy overcame a substantial Miller fundraising advantage, but
Webb told reporters he understands that he can’t touch Allen’s $7.5 million — and growing — war chest.

“We’re never going to raise the kinds of money the George Allen has raised or will raise,” Webb said.

Even with all of his emphasis on Iraq, Webb insists his campaign is no one-trick pony.

“I think some people think this is a one-issue campaign. It’s not,” he said. The federal government has to deal with economic issues, he said, such as the emergence of China’s economy.

Legislators have to deal with “presidential overreach,” he said, referring to the Bush administration’s alleged domestic spying and information gathering programs.

“I believe we have something fresh to offer here. People are looking for new answers,” he said.

That’s the reason that people who identified as “‘Reagan Democrats’ in one era will come back” to the Democratic Party. Voters who felt better with President Reagan in charge of national security may now be put off by the “bellicosity” of the GOP, Webb said.

“I think my experience is representative. I went with the Republican Party on national security issues,” he said. But “I think there are people who were never comfortable with” the GOP on social and economic issues.

Webb doesn’t have a deep policy background; this is his first campaign. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he said.

“It is a learning curve for me on many issues,” he said, noting that he’s “still studying.”

“How do you define what you want in a leader?” he said. “No one is a master of every detail, and it’s wrong to pretend off of briefing sheets that we are.”

Election Day is Nov. 7.