Why Isn’t Jim Webb Criticizing Hillary Clinton?

Alex Pappas | Political Reporter

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, exploring a run for president as a Democrat, had three chances to criticize Hillary Clinton over the email scandal she finds herself in.

He didn’t do it.

“I think that’s between her and you all,” Webb told reporters after a speech to a firefighters union on Capitol Hill. “And she’s going to have an availability this afternoon, and I think it’s a good time for her to be clear.”

Asked about the emails again, Webb chose his words carefully. “I think it’s a good opportunity for Secretary Clinton to come forward and explain the situation she’s been in.”

Pressed one more time on the issue, Webb said: “I think that the best thing is to listen to her views and people will make conclusions in a better way than I can.”

For someone trying to gin up interest in a possible presidential bid as a Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton, the question remains: why isn’t Webb taking advantage of guaranteed news coverage by explicitly contrasting himself with the Democratic presidential front-runner?

Asked by The Daily Caller to characterize the sort of space he thinks he would fill in a Democratic primary — would he run to the left of Hillary on some issues? to the right on other? — Webb told a story about a news article that came out when he was in the Senate and President Obama had just been elected.

The story listed ten people Obama needed to worry about. “And I was number nine because it said nobody knows where he stands on any one issue,” Webb said to laughter, using the anecdote to argue he doesn’t really fit in any one box.

This is how Webb went on to describe himself: “I’m intellectually independent. I spent half of my — exactly half of my professional career — as a sole proprietor, as a journalist, etc. I think things through. But what our country really needs right now is leadership that people can trust.”

But if Webb’s role in a primary still isn’t exactly clear, one thing was Tuesday: Webb wants to be a populist candidate, someone who can appeal to working class voters.

“One area that I have tried to be very clear on, in terms of income, is that I will never vote to increase taxes on ordinary, earned salaried income,” Webb said. “No matter what the level is. That’s fairly earned.”

Elaborating, Webb said: “When it comes to passive income, capital gains, these sorts of things, we have this odd situation … where you can making millions and billions of dollars off of stock sales, capital gains, and pay a lower tax rate than the people who are in the room right now, putting their lives on the line, salaried workers fighting fires.”

In his speech before the International Association of Fire Fighters, which invited potential presidential candidates of both parties to its forum on Tuesday, Webb railed against things like high CEO salaries.

“These are just a few examples of the kind of issues that aren’t going to ring up the cash registers of the big campaign donors,” Webb said, “but they will make us a better country, and a better people, and a more fair society.”

As he continues to decide whether to run for president, Webb told reporters that he is going to Iowa next month, and is “talking to people” in early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“We’re also trying to figure out if we can get the sort of financial support where I can go and say the things I just said,” Webb said, “and still get financial support enough to mount a viable campaign.”

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