This week, Jim Webb announced that he's dropping out of the Democratic presidential primary.
But wait, wait. I'm getting ahead of myself: Jim Webb is a former Democratic senator from Virginia, and while he's been running for the Democratic presidential nomination since last November, you may not have been aware of that until last week's Democratic debate, when you tuned in and noticed there were all these other dudes onstage with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Jim Webb was one of those other dudes, the one complaining about not getting enough time to speak.
Okay, so, like I said, Jim Webb, a guy who was running in the Democratic primary, is no longer running in the Democratic primary. All that's over now. But while we can call this a definitive ending to his bid for his party's presidential nomination, we can't really call it a satisfying end to this story. After all, there are so many questions that Webb has left unanswered!
Webb's brief campaign is a lot like the final season of "Lost" in that regard. There are just so many mysteries -- from critical plot holes to intriguing loose ends -- that haven't been adequately explained. You know, like: "Was Walt magical? And did he use this magic to summon the polar bear to Lost Island?" I was disappointed when the "Lost" showrunners opted to leave these matters unresolved, and I find myself feeling similarly out-of-sorts now that Webb has quit the scene without providing closure on a number of points.
So, as inconsequential as the Webb campaign might have been to some, the end of it has left my psyche feeling all a-jangle. That's why I'm publishing my remaining questions for Jim Webb (or his surrogates), in the hopes that he (or they) might answer them and allow me to move on with my life as well.
1. Hey, so, between the time that you got into the race and the night of the first Democratic debate, what were you, like, doing?
I hate to come off so tedious right out of the gate, Mr. Webb, but while it may have seemed to you that you were working hard at being a presidential candidate, most of us didn't really notice you... how to put it? Oh, doing stuff! We didn't notice you doing stuff. And look, there's a lot of space to do stuff, and we tend to notice even the stupid stuff this early in the campaign. Some guy in New Hampshire accidentally tapped bumpers with Hillary Clinton's "Scooby van" and Politico wrote a whole story about it. They even asked the guy in question who he was, and for whom he was going to vote.
What I'm saying is that if you'd done even a little bit of campaigning, people would have noticed it. Instead, people noticed that they hadn't heard from you in a while. I think it's fair to say that a lot of political observers weren't sure you'd even show up for the debate, because a lot of us just figured that you'd forgotten you were running.
2. Who was Craig Crawford?
Just wondering, because a lot of reporters had the impression that Crawford was the guy we were supposed to call when we needed answers about the campaign. But I'm on what's apparently a long list of people who never heard back from him.
Just yesterday one of my colleagues was wondering how to get in touch with Craig Crawford, and I thought to myself, "Well, I have an email for him, but what's the point?" To this day, I don't know what Craig Crawford is. An imaginary friend? A blow-up doll? One of those balls from "The Last Man On Earth?" It's a mystery -- one that you, Jim Webb, might have unwound for everyone at the outset by just insisting that he get back to reporters.
You should know that at the time I tried to contact him, I was really, really hoping to talk to anyone with anything positive to say about "Webb 2016." Maybe this is why there weren't a lot of positive things written about your campaign? Just something to think about.
3. With the Democratic party growing more and more comfortable with economic populism, why did you suddenly become averse to it?
This is something that really did confuse some of your disaffected former allies. Having been on the Democratic party vanguard on economic populism -- you sowed those seeds long before Elizabeth Warren became a household name, man! -- you seemed a natural foil to the Clinton family's faith in Wall Street elites. Someone who might maybe brick up the revolving door between Citibank and the White House team of economic advisers. But for some reason, you suddenly got all shirty about the Democratic Party abandoning you on this issue. As I reported in July, it left some people mystified:
"One of the first things he said to me when I met him," says [Virginia Democratic Party activist Lowell] Feld, "was when I asked him why he had become a Democrat, he told me that the GOP had gone off the deep end, and that the Democrats were the only party with a set of viable economic policies. Now he's saying that the Democrats have gone too far to the left. In what way? This economic populism -- this is stuff you've been talking about."
So... did you forget about that, or did you just not mean it?
4. "Hey, correct me if I'm wrong here, but to run for president as a Democrat, you have to first win a Democratic nomination, right?"
That's just another curious question I got from Feld, which I'm reprinting here because it's still not really clear if you ever understood that winning a Democratic nomination involves meeting with actual Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire and persuading them to support you in numbers great enough to facilitate your campaign winning a majority of Democratic delegates.
Do you understand that? I can give you more help if you need it.
5. Did you have a staff in any of the early primary states?
I think you did, only because The Des Moines Register reported in May that the "Democratic strategist who was running the Iowa effort for presidential hopeful Jim Webb" had resigned from your campaign.
See, when the person running your "Iowa effort" quit, that tipped me off to the possibility that you might have some sort of "Iowa effort."
But said Iowa effort must not have expended a whole lot of ergs, because it took The Des Moines Register a week to notice that there was no one running it anymore. Not that I blame them.
6. Was Walt magical? And did he use this magic to summon the polar bear to the island?
I'm just asking on the off chance that this is what you spent your "campaign" trying to figure out. Also, how did the frozen wheel thing work, exactly?
7. Having not really mounted any sort of campaign, or built any sort of infrastructure, or hired a communications director who would communicate directly with people, what makes you think you'd be a viable independent candidate?
See, independent candidacies are very difficult to mount. You have to do things like secure your own ballot access, and you won't have a national party and its small army of people-who-can-do-the-tedious-stuff-for-you standing behind your candidacy. Basically, an independent candidacy would combine all the work that you evidently couldn't be bothered to do during your brief campaign as a Democrat with all the work that you probably didn't realize gets done by other Democrats. In an independent candidacy, you would be largely responsible for overseeing the completion of all this work.
Does this sound like something for which you've got the drive? Because it would really surprise me to hear you say yes, after the minimalist approach you took to your first presidential campaign.
Also, you're not going to win this election, so the work, in and of itself, is going to have to be the thing that really fulfills you.
8. This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) agreed in principle to run for speaker of the House, on the conditions that he get blanket support from everyone in his party, not be forced to do any of the busywork traditionally associated with the office and be allowed ample time off to spend with his family.
Was this sort of what you were going for?
Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode: