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Webb says he's seriously considering presidential bid

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Former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said Tuesday that he is seriously contemplating a run for president.

“I am seriously looking at the possibility of running for president, but we want to see if there’s a support base from people who would support the programs that we are interested in pursuing,” he said in an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.

Webb, who in 2012 chose not to seek a second six-year term in the Senate, said he has been involved in discussions “among people that I respect and trust about the future of the country” and that he will continue having such discussions over the next four or five months.

“We’re taking a hard look, and we’ll get back to you in a few months.”

During a hard-hitting speech, Webb stressed his concerns about economic inequality and said this “societal dislocation” is taking place while the country’s foreign policy is “adrift.”

He said the United States must develop a clear statement of national security and foreign policy so that Americans, U.S. allies and adversaries will know when it is in the United States’ interests to commit military force.

“Our foreign policy has become a tangled mess in many cases of what can only be called situational ethics,” Webb said.

A run for the Democratic presidential nomination could put Webb in competition with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Webb declined to say how much of what he considers the foreign policy “mess” is attributable to the former secretary of state.

“I’m not here to undermine her,” Webb said. “I’m here just to explain where my concerns are as someone who has been involved in the military and foreign policy all of my life.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the 2008 presidential nomination. On May 29, the governor ribbed Webb during the annual fundraising luncheon for the Virginia Public Access Project.

“Jim, as you know, is a true American hero,” McAuliffe said of Webb, a highly decorated Marine in Vietnam.

“He’d make a great president of the United States, and I have no doubt that he is up for a presidential run because he was so excited to run for re-election to the United States Senate in Virginia.”

Webb, the author of 10 books, has spent his professional life alternating between public service and being a writer.

He has been a lawyer, serving as a committee counsel in Congress. He served as an assistant secretary of Defense and as secretary of the Navy and has worked as a filmmaker and Emmy-winning journalist.

In recent months, he has contemplated running for president in 2016. He recently concluded a three-day tour of Iowa, and he will visit New Hampshire next month.

He was asked Tuesday how he envisions politicking as president, given that he stepped down from the Senate after one term.

“I look at these positions more as opportunities to lead rather than to conduct politics, per se,” he said.

Webb devoted much of his address to U.S. foreign policy.

“Once the Cold War ended, strategically we lost our way and we have yet to regain it,” he said. “In the area of international relations, it’s not a healthy thing when the world’s dominant military and economic power has a policy based on vagueness.”

As a result, he said, “we ended up and continue to be trapped in the never-ending, ever-changing entanglements of the Middle East.”

During the question-and-answer session, Webb was asked about President Barack Obama’s authorization of military strikes in Syria against the Islamic State.

Webb said it brought to mind the comment of a young Marine he encountered 30 years ago in Lebanon while reporting for what was then the “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.

The young Marine told Webb:

“Sir, never get involved in a five-sided argument.”

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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