Statement Announcing Candidacy for President
After many months of thought, deliberation and discussion, I have decided to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States.
I understand the odds, particularly in today's political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money. I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars — some estimates run as high as two billion dollars — in direct and indirect financial support. Highly paid political consultants are working to shape the "messaging" of every major candidate.
But our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process. Our elected officials need to get back to the basics of good governance and to remember that their principal obligations are to protect our national interests abroad and to ensure a level playing field here at home, especially for those who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power. And at the same time our fellow Americans need proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President's first days in office.
I believe I can offer both.
We all want the American dream — unending opportunity at the top if you put things together and you make it, absolute fairness along the way, and a safety net underneath you if you fall on hard times or suffer disability or as you reach your retirement years. That's the American Trifecta — opportunity, fairness, and security. It's why people from all over the world do whatever they can to come here. And it's why the rest of us love this country and our way of life.
More than anything else, Americans want their leaders to preserve that dream, for all of us and not for just a few.
We need a President who understands leadership, who has a proven record of actual accomplishments, who can bring about bipartisan solutions, who can bring people from both sides to the table to get things done. And that leader needs to gather the great minds of our society and bring them into a new Administration and give them direction and ask them to help us solve the monumental challenges that face us.
What should you ask for in your next President?
First, there is no greater responsibility for our President than the vital role of Commander in Chief.
I have spent my entire life in and around the American military. I grew up in a military family. I fought as a Marine rifle platoon and company commander on the battlefields of Vietnam. I spent five years in the Pentagon, four of them as an assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the navy. I covered our military on many journalistic assignments, including the Marine Corps deployment to Beirut in 1983 and as an "embed" reporter in Afghanistan in 2004. And while in the Senate I spent six years on both the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee.
Let me assure you, as President I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq, nor as a Senator would I have voted to authorize it. I warned in writing five months before that invasion that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world, and that this invasion would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions, empowering Iran and in the long run China, unleashing sectarian violence inside Iraq and turning our troops into terrorist targets.
I would not have been the President who used military force in Libya during the Arab Spring. I warned repeatedly that this use of our military did not meet the test of a grave national security interest, that it would have negative implications for the entire region, and that no such action should take place without the approval of the Congress. The leadership in the Congress at that time not only failed to give us a vote; they did not even allow a formal debate, and the President acted unilaterally. The attack in Benghazi was inevitable in some form or another, as was the continuing chaos and the dissemination of large numbers of weapons from Qaddafi's armories to terrorist units throughout the region.
And today I would not be the President to sign an executive order establishing a long-tem relationship with Iran if it accepts Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. This Administration and those in Congress should be looking very hard at the actual terms of this agreement, which we on the outside cannot yet see or evaluate. They should also be questioning whether it is appropriate for such an important agreement to be signed without the specific, prior approval of the Congress.
On the other hand, I would make it clear to our friends and our potential adversaries that we will retain vigorous relationships with our treaty partners and our allies, and that we will meet and defeat any international terrorist movement that threatens our national security. We will work with our NATO allies to restore stability in Europe, and with our friends in the Middle East, particularly Israel, our most stable partner and friend in the region, to reduce the cycle of violence and turmoil in that part of the world.
I have been warning for many years that the United States is the essential guarantor of stability in East and Southeast Asia, and that China's increasingly aggressive military posture in that region threatens our own national security. If I am elected as your President I can promise you that we will not accept China's continuing military expansion and intimidation in such areas as the South China Sea. Nor will we be so fearful of our economic reliance on trade with China that we fail to protect our citizens in such matters as cybersecurity, where it is becoming increasingly apparent that the personal information of millions of Americans have been penetrated and breached, apparently by Chinese intelligence agencies.
Second, on domestic issues I would ask you to look at the results we were able to obtain during my time in the Senate, when many were throwing their hands up in the air and lamenting that little could be done when the government had become so paralyzed.
I spoke loudly and consistently on the issue of economic fairness, and made this issue the principal focus when I was asked to deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union Address in 2007.
Despite the warnings of political advisers that being portrayed as soft on crime was political suicide in American politics, from the beginning of my campaign for the US Senate and throughout my tenure, I spoke long and loud about the need to fix our broken criminal justice system. We pushed this issue directly from my Senate office, meeting with more than 100 stake holders from across the political spectrum, taking the hits and the criticism along the way and eventually bringing the need for criminal justice reform out of the shadows and into the mainstream of political debate.
I wrote and introduced the Post-911 GI Bill on my first day in office. Some said I hadn't earned the right to introduce such broad legislation as a brand-new freshman Senator. The Bush Administration opposed the bill until the day it was signed. But we built a bipartisan coalition — a prototype for how things can indeed be accomplished in Washington — and within 16 months we passed the finest, most comprehensive GI Bill in history, which now has allowed more than a million of our Post-911 veterans a first class shot at the future.
Third, once we have brought together many of the great minds and leaders of America, what else should we be asking them to do?
Let's work to restore true economic fairness in this great country, starting with finding the right formula for growing our national economy while making our tax laws more balanced and increasing the negotiating leverage of our working people. Our doors will be open to everyone who wants to work with us to find real, lasting solutions, from either party and from all segments of the American economy. But our goal will be to increase the financial stability of the American work force.
Let's work to rebuild the infrastructure of this country vigorously and thoroughly, including roads, bridges, water systems, schools, alternate energy systems, and, vitally, the electrical grid through which all of our energy sources flow. A better infrastructure guarantees the increase of our inherent national wealth — it's a "capital" investment in all of us — and it brings jobs that cannot be exported.
Let's put a priority on fixing our educational system, and in the process giving our young people the priorities in our society and the future that they deserve. Not long ago a high school senior made a comment that still gives me pause every time I think of it. She said, "I'm not afraid of fighting for a cause. I'm afraid I won't find a cause worth fighting for."
Let's give our younger people a cause worth fighting for. Let's clean out the manure-filled stables of a political system that has become characterized by greed. Let's rebuild an educational system that gives everyone a fair chance. A democracy is only as strong as the promise it offers its young citizens through the public education system.
When it comes to education in America we are looking at three challenges, which could actually intersect and become opportunities. The first is the benefit we can get through Pre-K programs that would allow less-privileged children to begin socialization and education at an earlier age. The second is the huge student loan debt that is hanging over the heads of so many of our talented young people who must mortgage their futures in order to have one. And the third is the reality that about 25 percent of the young people in this country do not even finish high school.
During my time in the Senate we worked hard to create second-chance programs for those who had not finished high school, financed in part by employer tax credits combined with programs in local community colleges. If I am elected President we can make these programs happen. We could also find a way for those who have finished their education to complete a period of public service, with loan forgiveness as an incentive for that service.
Let's work together to fix our broken criminal justice system. This isn't a political issue, it's a leadership issue. It's costing us billions of dollars. It's wasting lives, often beginning at a very early age, creating career criminals rather than curing them. It's not making our neighborhoods safer. We can fix this, strengthen our country, and make our people safer in their own homes and communities. It won't happen overnight, but it won't ever happen if we don't start.
And let's work toward bringing the complex issue of immigration reform to a solution that respects the integrity of our legal traditions while also recognizing the practical realities of a system that has been paralyzed by partisan debate. The holistic leadership approach I instituted nine years ago regarding criminal justice reform offers a prototype that can be used on the multifaceted challenges of immigration reform.
With every one of these recommendations I can make you two promises. The first is that every endeavor will be based on the premise that has been the foundation of our society from the day the United States Constitution was signed: that we are a nation of laws, not of specially privileged people, and that our greatest strength comes from the power of our multicultural heritage. And the second is that I mean what I say, that if I make a promise I will keep it, and that outside my faith and my family, my greatest love will always be for this amazing country that for more than 200 years has given so many people the opportunity to have a good life, raise a family, live in freedom, and achieve their dreams.
Let's work together to make America an even better place.
I am ready to fight on behalf of every one of these issues. Will you help me do that?
Jim Webb, Statement Announcing Candidacy for President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310713