News

Jim Webb on Meet the Press

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd

February 12, 2017

Watch the interview here

Transcript:

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, my next guest is part of a rare and dying breed, a centrist and a moderate. A moderate Democrat. Jim Webb was secretary of navy under Republican President Ronald Reagan. He voted for George W. Bush over Al Gore. But by 2006 he had switched parties to become a Democrat and he won a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. Jim Webb takes a somewhat more optimistic view of the potential for a Trump presidency. And he joins me now, Senator Webb, welcome back to the show.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Well, nice to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

So let’s put some context to your words when you wrote an op-ed right before, literally the day before the inauguration in the Wall Street Journal. And it was mostly on foreign policy where you were saying, “There’s something about his election is a jolt the system needed or a shock that it needed.” What –explain.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Well, you know, in so many words here. I didn’t say that the system needed a President Trump. But I’ve been saying for a long time that the system that we’re operating under needs some sort of a, you would call it, jolt. You know, I think both parties have sort of gotten calcified.

And let’s remember that if Hillary Clinton had won you would be seeing the same sort of activities that you’re seeing now. They would just be focused on different things. There would be people out there saying she belonged in jail. There would be people talking about corruption. Turnstile government, et cetera, et cetera.

So what we’re seeing playing out right now, first of all, as the governor mentioned this is a new administration, you know, getting its wheels under it. But at the same time, this is an attempt by President Trump to pull different types of people into the system from the old turnstile government. There’s a lot of Republicans that are mad at him who are sitting out there in the think tanks thinking that they were going to come into a Republican administration.

And also he’s got a payback I think that he feels strongly about in terms of the people who actually put him over, these voters that were alienated, were not voting. And these issues, controversial issues, that he’s putting out in a wrong kind of forum I think are issues of credibility. On the Democrats, first of all, they’re looking at 2018. And they don’t have a message. They don’t have a–

CHUCK TODD:

Speak to them as they, by the way.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

–well, you know.

CHUCK TODD:

You don’t say we. Is there a reason?

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

I’m not in the system right now as, you know, I’m over here with you right now–

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Okay.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

–bit of my life as a writer and a journalist. And it’s a good place to be about making these observations.

CHUCK TODD:

Then welcome back. And finish the observation.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Well, you know, there is a campaign going on on the Hill, in the media, in the academia to personally discredit not only Donald Trump but the people who are around him. And, you know, the end result of this really is try and to slow down the process, by the way. You and I were talking a minute ago about the confirmation process, it’s slow it down so that by 18 when the Democrats are very vulnerable particularly in the Senate they will not be a record of accomplishment that they can run against.

And at the same time the Democratic Party over the past five or six years has moved very far to the left. You know, when you can’t have a Jefferson/Jackson dinner which was the primary, you know, celebratory event of the Democratic Party for years because Jefferson and Jackson were slaveholders, they were also great American in their day, something just different has happened to the Democratic Party.

CHUCK TODD:

You think that they’re too focused on identity politics?

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Well, I think that the message that has been shaped by the Democratic Party has been shaped toward identity politics. And they’ve lost the key part of their base, the people in, you know, my family history goes back to the Roosevelt Democrats, the people who believed that regardless of any of these identity segments you need to have a voice in a quarters of power for those who have no voice. And we’ve lost that with the Democratic Party. I’m not saying the Republicans have it. But–

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say the center’s been hollowed out. You can make an argument that the political center in both parties, because right now if you espouse that you were running for reelection, any Democrat were espousing what you just espoused which is, you know what, look, essentially you’re saying, hey, start working with him a little bit, accept the fact that he’s President, you’d get primaried. And you’d probably lose.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Well, true. Well, I don’t know about–

CHUCK TODD:

I understand you, but I’m saying Democratic incumbent.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Generally, you know.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

That is a danger to people who would say those sorts of things. But the Democrats have not done the kind of self-reflection that they should have starting 2010. And I was talking about this in the ’10 elections. You’ve lost white working people. You’ve lost flyover land.

And you saw in this election what happens when people get frustrated enough that they say, “I’m not going take this aristocracy.” You know, Bernie, good friend of mine. Bernie can talk about aristocracies all he wants. You know, the fact that you’ve made money doesn’t make you a member of that philosophy. Look at Franklin Roosevelt. But there is an aristocracy now that pervades American politics. It’s got to be broken somehow in both parties. And I think that’s what the Trump message was that echoed so strongly in these flyover communities.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you on the election, you stayed away from saying who you supported in the election. I know that Tim Kaine is somebody you have a lot of respect for. I can’t imagine you didn’t vote for him.

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

I voted for Tim Kaine for Senator.

CHUCK TODD:

For Senator. At the end of the day, are you comfortable with your vote, with whoever you voted for?

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

I’m comfortable for my vote and my vote is private to me. But at the same time, you know, I will say that I did not endorse Hillary Clinton. I had a lot of the concerns that, you know, people in my group that I’ve grown up with have. And the Democratic Party’s got to do some real, hard looks at whether or not they are going to expand and get back working people who used to be the core of their party.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you done with politics?

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

I’m over here with you right now.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I will leave it there. Senator Jim Webb apparently coming back to the journalism world. We’d welcome you back–

FMR SEN. JIM WEBB:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

For sure.