Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Last Time James Webb Worked in the Pentagon

 

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering Jim Webb to be his new Secretary of Defense. Webb, a combat Marine, author, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, might be conservatives’ favorite donkey. Unlike most of his fellow travelers, Webb understands the military from the ground up and holds a special committment to the “deplorables” so loathed by the political class.

Thankfully, we have a preview for how Webb would perform running the Pentagon. On May 1, 1987, President Reagan appointed Webb as his Secretary of the Navy. It did not go well, to put it mildly. I was serving on a submarine at the time, so I remember well his brief and stormy tenure. Here’s a refresher from the March 7, 1988, edition of the Washington Post:

James H. Webb Jr. says he is a man who can’t be bridled, a Marine who isn’t good at playing the bureaucrat, a political appointee who couldn’t march up to Capitol Hill and sell a pack of ideas he detested.

Some of his former Pentagon colleagues see it another way. They say he was reckless, bullheaded and unrealistic in his expectations of a massive bureaucracy like the Defense Department.

Reagan appointed Webb on May 1, 1987. Webb quit in a huff just ten months later.

Webb resigned by letter, refusing to inform his boss in person. “Secretary [of Defense] Carlucci and I were not talking at that point at great length anyway,” Webb explained. “I’m not a good bureaucrat in [that] the tedium of the bureaucracy does get to me.”

He disagreed with President Reagan’s decision to escort U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf following an Iraqi attack on the USS Stark. Instead of dealing with the sensitive issue in private, Webb ran to the media, recommending that we launch major military strikes.

Webb continued to grumble publicly about his Commander-in-Chief’s strategy throughout the world. He gave an unvetted speech to the National Press Club calling for dramatic drawdowns in NATO forces throughout Europe and the distribution of those forces around the world. This drew the ire of our allies and Secretary of State George Shultz who was managing the delicate world of Cold War negotiations.

Finally, ten months into his tenure, Webb abruptly quit, blasting the Reagan administration for an “insufficient” Navy budget.

In The Reagan Diaries, the President jotted a brief note on February 22, 1988:

“Present Sec. Webb resigned over Navy budget cuts. I don’t think Navy was sorry to see him go.”

There are 12 comments.

  1. George Townsend Inactive

    While I am old enough to have voted for President Reagan, I must admit that I don’t remember much about Webb’s tenure. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. I am not sure if this is good news or bad, but I will pay more attention this time, and I thank you for calling this to our attention.

    • #1
    • January 3, 2019, at 2:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Webb continued to grumble publicly about his Commander-in-Chief’s strategy throughout the world.

    While DC is the one place where you can fail your way up the ladder, this wouldn’t work. 

    • #2
    • January 3, 2019, at 2:16 PM PST
    • 1 like
  3. Stad Thatcher

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: President Donald Trump is reportedly considering Jim Webb to be his new Secretary of Defense.

    Absolutely not. No Democrat is worthy for office these days, Zell Miller being the last one who was . . .

    • #3
    • January 3, 2019, at 2:33 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Senator James Webb recklessly handed his aide a briefcase containing a loaded firearm and didn’t tell him at the time. The aide was arrested when he brought his boss’ briefcase to work the following Monday.

    If Webb is willing to make his aide a patsy, what do you think he will do to the DOD?

    • #4
    • January 3, 2019, at 2:35 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I can only hope Webb is another Chris Christie always a bridesmaid never a bride.

    • #5
    • January 3, 2019, at 2:51 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    It all comes down to if he has the same philosophy as PDT.

    • #6
    • January 3, 2019, at 4:06 PM PST
    • Like
  7. E. Kent Golding Member

    I hope I am less stupid than I was during the Reagan administration.

    • #7
    • January 3, 2019, at 4:37 PM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Danny Alexander Member

    I don’t know whether he wants the job or not, but why not move Rick Perry over to SecDef?

    • #8
    • January 3, 2019, at 7:37 PM PST
    • Like
  9. Theodoric of Freiberg Member

    I am 100% opposed to Webb being anywhere near any part of our government. If the president appoints him, it will probably turn out to be the worst decision he’s ever made.

    • #9
    • January 3, 2019, at 7:40 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Theodoric of Freiberg (View Comment):

    I am 100% opposed to Webb being anywhere near any part of our government. If the president appoints him, it will probably turn out to be the worst decision he’s ever made.

    Wow. That’s a crowded field of contenders.

    I liked James Webb until I read the post. I knew he worked for Reagan, and anyone who worked for Reagan could be that bad – even for a democrat, but had never heard of any of the details. On the democrat side, I think he was my preferred choice in that field of self-propelled landmines.

     

    • #10
    • January 3, 2019, at 10:30 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Personalty-wise, Webb and Trump are way too much alike for this to work, since both want to have the last word and are disdainful in a very public manner of those who disagree with them. They might be in sync on policy as of 1/4/19, but the first disagreement and it will look like Trump vs. Rosie O’Donnell (which I suppose would be great for Webb if he wants to spend the rest of 2019 in the CNN and MSNBC studios….)

    • #11
    • January 3, 2019, at 10:56 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Trump vs. Rosie O’Donnell (which I suppose would be great for Webb if he wants to spend the rest of 2019 in the CNN and MSNBC studios….)

    I heard the pay isn’t so good.

    • #12
    • January 4, 2019, at 6:13 AM PST
    • Like