Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb joined the Democratic presidential nomination race earlier this month. He’s facing an uphill battle against those already in the race: Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and current front-runner Hillary Clinton. Webb says he “understands the odds,” but he decided to run because he believes the Democratic Party of today has moved too far to the left. As president, he says he’ll be the voice for poor and working-class Americans who, he believes, have been forgotten by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Jim Webb talks with us about why he should be our next president.
- Jim Webb Democratic candidate for president in 2016; former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Jim Webb has represented the state of Virginia in the Senate, served as secretary of the Navy and assistant secretary of defense. He's also an Emmy Award-winning journalist and a bestselling author. Now, he wants to be president of the United States. Jim Webb joins me to talk about his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
MS. DIANE REHMI'm sure many of you will have questions for him. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see you again, Senator.
SENATOR JIM WEBBThank you very much. Nice to be with you today.
REHMI'd like to begin, before we talk about your presidential bid, to ask you about your reaction to the Iran deal.
WEBBWell, I have to say I have a lot of concern about this deal. I'm concerned principally that this might actually increase the imbalance in the balance of power in the region. And I'm doing the best I can to read through the documents. I have said many times before that this actually, I think, should have been a congressional process from the beginning, not simply a vote of disapproval or approval at the end of it, rather than an executive agreement.
WEBBThis should've been debate openly in front of the Congress. The seriousness of this agreement can't be underestimated in terms of our long term policies in the region. And if I look at what I've been reading, and I'm doing my best to get through the document itself, I say to myself, what does Iran get out of this? And they get a lot out of this. They get immediate lifting of sanctions and over a period of about 10 years, they are going to be able to say that they can move forward with a nuclear weapons policy with the acceptance of the United States and these other countries.
REHMAfter 10 years.
WEBBYes. But I think we're kind of moving the cart before the horse here in terms of improving relations with Iran. If you look at what's happened in the region since the Iraq War, Iran's position has become more powerful and we have to be very careful about the signals that we are sending into the region about to what level we are accepting this change in the balance of power among Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
REHMWhat do you think the U.S. gets out of it?
WEBBThat's what I've been trying to figure out. The idea that some of these programs will be postponed with the kind of vague guarantees of how we can conduct examinations are pretty vague. So that's where my concern is. I'm not so sure that we're going to get the kind of harmonious relationship with Iran that we could have perhaps in other ways and we still can, by the way, in other ways.
WEBBIf you look at, for instance, the two different processes that have been used as precedents for this kind of approach, the rapprochement with China and then also the strategic arms limitations talks with the Soviet Union in previous years, China was a much different situation. It's been talked about a lot. It had incentives to cooperate with respect to other concerns that it had and ambitions it had in the region. With the Soviet Union on these arms limitations talks, we were two nuclear powers already and we were talking about how we would reduce nuclear weapons in a cooperative way.
WEBBHere, we are in a situation where we are dealing with a country that is not yet a nuclear power and we seem to be exceeding to that point. The United States should never exceed to the point that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons.
REHMAnd to that point, Iran claims that what it wants to do is to develop nuclear power, nuclear energy rather than nuclear weapons. But I wanted to follow then if you were still in the Senate as a Democrat, would you find your voice alongside those of Republicans, objecting to the agreement?
WEBBWell, in terms of foreign policy, I've been doing this a long time, as you know. I mean, I served in the military. I've been a journalist covering the military in many different occasions, including in Beirut when the Marines were in Beirut and Afghanistan as a journalist. I've spent five years in the Pentagon, one as a Marine and four as a defense executive and six years on the foreign relations committee and the armed services committees. And I've also been an observer, opinion writer, as you know, for many different capacities.
WEBBAnd my voice is an independent voice. I was one of the first people to warn about the strategic inadvisability of invading Iraq, that the downside of this would be the empowerment of Iran on the one hand, the long term economic empowerment of China and the destabilization in the region. I also had strong concerns about the present administration's approach during the Arab Spring and spoke on the Senate floor and in committee hearings many times about the inadvisability of using military force inside Libya without the direct consent of the Congress.
WEBBSo if I were in the Senate, if I had been in the Senate during this period over the last year or so, I would've been speaking very strongly about the need for the Congress to actually directly consider and approve this agreement, not simply to allow it as an executive agreement that the president negotiated with this other group of nations. And so at this point, I would be very skeptical if I were still in the Senate and...
REHMDo you have any regrets about having left the Senate when you did?
WEBBIt was a great honor to serve in the Senate. My professional career has been about 50/50. I've spent about half of my time in public service and half of my time doing other things, particularly as a writer and journalist and those sorts of things. And it's just a -- that's compatible, I think, with the way that I've attempted to approach looking at issues and also my personal life. You know, I've had people say, he served just one term in the United States Senate.
WEBBWell, one term in the United States Senate is a term and a half of a presidency. It's a long time. And so it was a good time in our life and right now, we're looking to maybe get back into it again in some process or another.
REHMYou haven't really answered my question. Do you regret having left the Senate when you did?
WEBBNo, I'm comfortable with the decision. We talked about it. My wife, Hong, and I talked about it for a number of weeks before we finally made the decision and I'm comfortable with having left the Senate.
REHMSo you feel at this point, having not read through the entire agreement, that there are insufficient safeguards as far as the Iranians are concerned.
WEBBWell, my concern really is that at the bottom line of the agreement, here is what we have. We have Iran having their sanctions lifted, having a number of these other issues with respect to their activities not addressed and having the rest of the region receiving a signal that we, the United States, are accepting the eventuality that they will acquire a nuclear weapon. So however you get through the checks and the measures and this agreement moves forward, that's what looks like, that's where we end up after 10 years.
WEBBEven if everything works, that's looks like where we end up in 10 years.
WEBBAnd is that a good thing for the country and that's really where the debate should be. The verification procedures, there've been a lot of things written about, you know, whether we actually could move through the verification procedures in a timely way, if there were concerns or how we raised the concerns. But really, the bottom line is even if it all works, is this where we want to be in that region as a country with Iran having been so empowered in recent years following the other things that have happened in the region?
WEBBAnd we do want to -- I think this point needs to be made. We do want improved relations with Iran and if you look at my history on foreign relations, I have been a proponent of removing sanctions in a properly balanced way. I lead the rapprochement with Burma, now Myanmar. I started this two years before President Obama was elected. I've been to Burma as a private citizen and I lead the first delegation into Burma in '09, 2009.
WEBBI was the first American leader to visit the country in 10 years, the only American leader ever allowed to meet with the leadership of the Hunta. So and I support, actually, the measures that have been taken in Cuba. The concern that I have here is that we cannot send a signal to this region that we will, in any way, accept the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.
REHMAre you most concerned about Israel?
WEBBNo. Obviously, Israel is our great ally in the region, but this is an issue that affects the strategic balance of power in the region, writ large.
REHMFormer Senator Jim Webb, he has announced that he will seek the nomination for the presidency from the Democratic Party. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is with me, and he has announced he wants to be president of the United States. Here's an email from Brenda in Springfield, Virginia. She says I canvassed for Senator Webb in his campaign for the Senate. I think he would make an outstanding president. My concern is his opinion on the mess in the Middle East. It's now a broad-based regional, sectarian, more incited by our disastrous invasion of Iraq. We should leave the Shiite and Sunni factions to fight it out among themselves. What role does the senator envision for the U.S. in this are?
WEBBWell, that's an excellent question, and it goes to the central problems that came from our invasion of Iraq. What I was saying before the invasion of Iraq was that the United States does not belong as an occupying power in this region, that we can address our national security interests without having these large numbers of troops on the ground, that this would result in sectarian violence inside Iraq, Sunni versus Shiite heavily, which she mentioned in her email to you, and also the empowerment of Iran eventually.
WEBBAnd we have seen this occur. I'm going to push your cough button. One second here.
REHMThat's okay, not to worry.
WEBBSorry about that.
REHMNot to worry.
WEBBAnd in the long term, it is in our interests to try to encourage the balance in this region, I say among the three key power centers in the region, Israel, the Sunni powers, particularly by the Saudis, and Iran. But we should -- and with respect to the situation with Iran right now, we do not want to be signaling in the region right now that we have accepted that Iran would have a larger role in this balance than would be good for the region.
WEBBAnd so again, one of the concerns from this agreement that has been signed is are we doing this in these other areas, not simply in the nuclear area, but we are not addressing the aggressiveness that we have seen from Iran in the follow-on areas that have taken place since the Iraq invasion and occupation.
REHMI want to remind listeners that you can watch our interview with Senator Webb, find our video stream at drshow.org. And we'll be video streaming throughout the hour.
WEBBAnd, you know, if I'd have known that, I would have worn a sport coat here today.
REHMI think you look terrific. You look relaxed. You look comfortable. Here's another email from Dan, who served with the Ninth Marine Amphibious Brigade, 19th Special Forces Group, Airborne. He says, as a former Marine captain who also served in Vietnam, I'm pleased to support Jim Webb again. I'm concerned that he seems to get positions of power where he can do good and then walks away. Is he in this for the long run this time?
WEBBI believe that, as we were talking earlier in the show, that is healthy for people to be able to come into government and public service and be citizen servants as the Constitution originally thought of us, and then go back into private life and show that you can live under the system that the government creates. So for me, this has been a very healthy series of public service.
WEBBI served in the military. Then I served as a committee counsel in the Congress. And I served in the Pentagon, and then I have served in the Senate. But I've also done other things. And it allows me to bring different perspectives in terms of the issues and also in leadership. And the times that I have been in public service, I'm very proud of what we were able to do. For instance in the Senate, we were able to bring criminal justice reform out of the shadows in this country into the national debate. I focused on issues of economic fairness and social justice.
WEBBNine years ago, I was talking about the danger in this country of the people at the very top moving away from the rest of society. I made it the front issue when I was asked to give the State of the Union response to George W. Bush's State of the Union message in 2007. We put into place the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Actually, I wrote this bill before I was sworn into the Senate, wrote it with legislative counsel and introduced it on my first day, and within 16 months, we had passed this with a bipartisan coalition, a prototype for how leadership can get things done in the Senate. It's the greatest G.I. Bill in history.
WEBBSo if you look at the period that I was in, I'm very proud of what we were able to do, and I think it's healthy. If you want people who aren't career politicians and yet who understand the system, it's healthy for people to step out from time to time.
REHMAs I understand it, you made a comment on Fox News that you felt the Democratic Party had moved too far to the left, and that is one of the reasons you want to become the Democratic nominee for president. Explain that. Where have they moved?
WEBBWell, the comment, the comment was made with respect to messaging on a lot of the social issues that we've been debating over the past several years, where there's an old term in politics that, you know, addition is the goal, not subtraction. You want to be more inclusive, you know, if you have something that is good for the country. And I worry that the Democratic Party's message has become less inclusive, even as it has become more focused on different interest groups.
REHMAnd if you look at the 10 elections and the 14 elections, you will see that the Democratic Party, I believe, needs to open up and be more inclusive to the people who traditionally were a part of the basic message of the Democratic Party.
REHMDo you know feel the president has attempted to do that?
WEBBWell, let me just give you an example here of the type of thing that really concerns me. This weekend, and in Wise County, Virginia, the far southwestern corner of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, they're going to hold a medical clinic in the open air of the Wise County Fairgrounds. And they are going to, if recent history is any indication, they're going to be treating more than 6,000 people who have no health care. They're going to pull 3,000 teeth in the open air of the Wise County Fairgrounds, and these are people who should be natural, naturally affiliated with the Democratic Party.
WEBBAnd neither party really is focusing on how to elevate people from this area, the rural mountain areas and not just mountain areas in America, and also in the more troubled areas of our cities. I used an example when I spoke at the National Press Club last September that if your kid, living in West Baltimore today, 10-year-old kid, and you're in a building where the plumbing doesn't work, and the people that you see making money are the ones selling drugs on the street, or if you're a kid in Clay County, Kentucky, which is 94 percent and the poorest county in America, and you see crystal meth problems and unemployment, you're not seeing the same American dream.
WEBBAnd the Democratic Party, for the good of the country, I think, can really embrace people in these situations in a much more affirmative way.
REHMHow do you feel about the Affordable Care Act?
WEBBIt was a journey, I will tell you. You know, the year that I think we lost so much time during that year that it took to debate this. One of the difficulties for me in the Senate, having been a committee counsel in the House, in other -- in another era, was that there's an old saw that Bob Dole was fond of saying that the president proposes, the Congress disposes.
WEBBAnd as the bill made its way through, we never had a specific legislative proposal from the White House. We had five different congressional committees considering different parts of this legislative, 7,000 pages of contradictory information out there. And that's what caused the country to become so worried. And, you know, it made it an unfortunately complicated -- more complicated process.
REHMBut how do you feel about it now?
WEBBAnd now we have it. It's -- you know, I voted for it. It was clearly the better alternative than voting against it. I voted 17 times, I think, with different Republican proposals to try to make sure that some of these measures weren't in there, but it's better than it -- we are better off than we were if we hadn't had the program, but we do -- you know, it's a 50-yard-line kind of thing.
REHMThe process was messy.
WEBBIt's not on the process, but we have some things in there that, you know, if -- I think the sensible thing for the Republicans to do right now, instead of saying don't, you know, throw the bill out, throw the legislation out, would be let's tighten up, let's fix it. Every time we've had major social legislation in our country, we've seen this rhetorical debate that goes along with it. You know, my mother is from East Arkansas in a very poor area. She was one of eight kids. Three of them died in childhood, not childbirth, childhood.
WEBBThere was no medical care out there. There was no Social Security net under people. When Roosevelt started talking about Social Security, people said this was a socialist program.
WEBBWhen we started talking about Medicare, people said it was a socialist program.
REHMSo we have to get through those wickets to demonstrate that these program do help the country, but we also have to make sure that they're properly focused, and we shouldn't be afraid to refine different portions when they're not working.
REHMThe president is speaking from a U.S. prison today. He, too, is talking about criminal justice reform, feeling very strongly that those who committed minor drug offenses should not be in prison for long periods of time. How much farther would you go if you were president?
WEBBWell, I would -- I would ask people to look at what we did in a very specific, measurable way, during the time that I ran for the Senate and while I was in the Senate. I started talking about the disaster of our criminal justice system when I was running, and in Virginia, you can imagine I had political advisors coming up to me and saying you're committing political suicide by talking about mass incarceration and some of these issues.
WEBBBut my point was this isn't even a political problem, it is a leadership problem for the country when we have so many people in prison and in the supervisory systems, parole and otherwise, after it, and at the same time people don't feel any safer in their neighborhoods than they did a year ago. And when I got to the Senate, we held two and a half years of hearings on all the different aspects, the holistic approach to the criminal justice system, and we finally introduced a piece of legislation that would create a national commission for -- to bring the best minds of the country together and, for a year and a half, to examine all these different components and to report back to us on how we could fix them.
WEBBWe changed the debate. I can say that fairly. We got the buy-ins of more than 100 different stakeholders in this process, all the way from the National Sheriff's Association to the ACLU, et cetera, and I am happy to see that the president is now doing some of this because we could have done a lot of it.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Pardon me. But you haven't answered my question. What would you do differently now if you were...
WEBBWith respect to the criminal justice system?
REHMIf you were elected president of the United States?
WEBBIn the area of criminal justice reform?
WEBBI would -- the first thing I would do would be a no-brainer, and that is that the legislation that I propose for this national commission could be issued in an executive order. I am not a fan of executive orders in a lot of these other areas.
REHMBut you would do so.
WEBBBut on this one, this is a $14 million expenditure. That's one helicopter. We could bring the great minds of the country together. We have not had this type of an evaluation of our system since I think 1969, as I recall, the Kerner Commission. We have the support of this from -- Supreme Court Justice Kennedy was a supporter of ours. The actual -- the American Bar Association actually offered to pay for this commission because of the importance of it.
WEBBAnd it's -- people say commission, commissions, but no, to get the great minds together and to tell us where -- how we can fix all the way from apprehension, type, what do you do after you apprehend someone, do you arrest them, when they go to prison, who goes and how long, what should prison administration look like.
REHMSo that would be a high priority for you?
WEBBYes, and it's doable. And I spoke to the president about this in 2011, and I was very hopeful that if our legislation didn't pass -- we got it to the Senate floor in October of '11, and you remember that period where everything was being filibustered, and we got 57 votes, we needed 60. We'd already got it passed in the House. And the National Review Online, the conservative magazine, editorialized that it was insanity to vote this down.
WEBBAnd I was hopeful then that the president might use an executive order and get this thing going.
REHMIt takes time.
WEBBI think it's important.
REHMIt takes time. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton laid out her plans. Apparently she feels as you do, very much as you do, that the working class Americans have been left to the side, have not made the gains that the upper, upper, upper portions of our society would do. How would you think your plans would differ from hers?
WEBBWell, I haven't read her proposal in detail. I know that there are a number of people on the Democratic Party side now who are really pushing this issue. As I said, I've started talking about this nine years ago, and one of the things that I was mentioning nine years ago was in the way that our economy itself has been changing, the wealth accumulation has gone very heavily to capital rather than to labor, you know, because so many of the -- as you know, so many of the areas in our economy that are being wildly successful are high, high-intellect, little-labor, you know, particularly Silicon Valley and these sorts of things.
WEBBAnd so we need to find a way to grow our economy, and I see your hand's in the air, so I'm not sure...
REHMRight, so I'm going to...
WEBBBut we need to...
REHMHold that thought.
REHMAnd we'll take a short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, former US Senator Jim Webb is with me. He served as Senator from the state of Virginia from 2007 to 2013. Earlier this month, he announced he will be a candidate for US President of the United States. There are a great many people who sent in emails and phone calls, asking about your stance on the Confederate flag.
WEBBMy -- the statement that I made, when the incident occurred, and when this debate began, I think is probably the best way that I can still explain my views. The first is that the Confederate battle flag was a battle flag and it was not appropriate for it to continue flying over public areas because of the misuse that has taken place with the flag by some extremist groups for political and racist reasons, during the -- particularly during the Civil Rights era. But at the same time, I ask people to please, you know, let's think our way through this.
WEBBIn terms of the very complex history, not only of the Civil War, but of the American South. Which is, you know, my own family is largely from that area. The -- there are no two cultures in America that are more closely intertwined, through their history, than the southern black and the southern white. And when you start to untangle these issues, it's very important that we be fair to the history on both sides. The south has never been white verses black, so much as a thin veneer at the top, manipulating the emotions of white verses black.
WEBBAnd I think it's important for us to focus on how we bring our people in this country together and to focus on issues like jobs, education and inclusiveness. I mean, we're seeing the mood of inclusiveness in a country in a very positive and dramatic way. You know, I had an experience that has always affected me, and that is that I grew up in the United States military. It was the first institution in this country to be racially integrated. And there's not a day in my life that I don't think about the benefit that I had, as an American, by watching this process.
REHMBut surely, you're not denying that racism continues to manifest itself in this country. I had a lawyer in here the other day from Georgetown University. African-American lawyer. A woman called and said the Confederate flag, I honor, because it honors my ancestors who fought in the South. Fought against the North and I honor the memory of those ancestors. And he immediately spoke out and said, I do not honor your ancestors because if they had won the war, I would still be a slave.
REHMSo, you have a very, very strong feeling, I think, about that Confederate flag. I don't want to spend too much time on that, but I'm interested.
WEBBWell, I would -- let me agree with you that racism in many different forms still exists in this country. And that it's so important for political figures to ramp down the rhetoric and bring people together in an affirmative way. And we've seen this with Donald Trump's comments about Mexican Americans, and one of the, you know, one of the most beautiful things that happened to me last week was when a Mexican American marine, who had been in my company in Vietnam, wrote Donald Trump a letter and allowed me to put it on my Facebook page.
WEBBAnd he did it totally on his own initiative. But he said, dear Mr. Trump, my father came here from Mexico as a worker, not as a rapist. And I served my country in Vietnam as a United States Marine. Where were you? So, people need to tamp down the rhetoric here. And let's work to...
REHMDonald Trump says he has no intention of tamping down the rhetoric. He's been approached by Republicans. He's been told to ramp it down. He says, I have no intention to. Do you support his freedom to continue to speak that way?
WEBBI'm a strong believer in the first amendment. I'm just saying, as a leader, you know, you have a different role. If you really want to lead in this country, work to be inclusive and respectful, and you can still make your points.
REHMAll right, and here is Joseph. He is calling us, I'm not sure where from. Go right ahead, Joseph.
JOSEPHGood morning, Diane. I'm a long time fan of yours.
JOSEPHAnd Jim, I signed on to your campaign early on. I firmly believe that you're the best prospect or candidate to be President, based on your experience and your integrity. And your wisdom. And we have a couple of things in common. I'm a Marine Corps veteran, a Captain that fought in 'Nam in '67 and '68. You know something about the Que Son Valley, so do I. Am I right about that?
JOSEPHAnd we have three tattoos. Anyhow...
WEBBWho were you with?
JOSEPHFirst Battalion, Third Marines.
JOSEPHAnd we were in the Que Son Valley in August of '67. It was not a nice place to be. I know you were there.
WEBBThose were some very famous battles in August of '67 in Que Son.
REHMAnd your question, sir.
JOSEPHI have a couple of questions.
REHMJust one, please.
JOSEPHI want to know what you're experience was concerning race in the Marine Corps, knowing that, people should know this, that it was the first service to be integrated.
WEBBWell, thank you for the question, and let me again start off by saying that I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the military and to have watched how people can work together. People from all across the different geographic and ethnic lines come together and solve problems. The period in the 1960s had a lot of racial tension in it, and I remember, particularly, after Martin Luther King's assassination. Racial tensions went up very high. And it was a mirror of what was happening in the country and I, you know, I like to believe, and from my own experience, that we were able to address these issues much better than they were being addressed on the outside when you're looking at the frictions that were in the country.
WEBBWe were not perfect. No institution's perfect, but I think good leadership, supervision can have a mitigating effect on some of those problems. And the institution worked its way through it. The military, as an institution, worked its way through it.
REHMAll right. And here's an email from Cynthia in Salem, Virginia. What is your opinion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership? The only two Presidential candidates who have opposed it so far are Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.
WEBBWell, first of all, let me, sorry, the, in terms of free trade agreements, I have supported a number of free trade agreements. The Korea free trade agreement, I went over to Korea. I was the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Foreign Relations Committee. I met with the top leadership in Korea. Met with our people here and I wrote a letter that was signed, as I recall, by nine Democrats, to the President, saying we should move forward with the Korea Free Trade Agreement. The TPP is a little bit different.
WEBBIt's more complex, because you have a dozen different countries with vastly different economic systems and governmental systems that we were trying -- we are trying to put together in a way that would create a so-called balanced playing field in our trade. I was concerned that there was no transparency as this agreement was being negotiated. I was concerned, when I was in the Senate, on this point. And afterwards. And as a result, I opposed the notion of passing fast track until we could be able to see what the actual terms of the agreement were.
WEBBThere was no reason that that should have been kept away from the American people. And with respect to the agreement itself, there's a period now, I think it's a 60 day period, after the fast track was passed, where we would be able to examine it and move forward with it. I'll probably, well, I want to see a couple of provisions, particularly with respect to Vietnam, where we have such an imbalance in our economic systems. The average Vietnamese worker makes three dollars a day. How are they really addressing level playing field in terms of work product workers and those sorts of things.
REHMBut generally speaking, you feel you are in support.
WEBBI generally support free trade agreements. But it really depends on labor provisions and at this point, I would not yet say I support TPP.
WEBBNo, I think it's fair to hedge here. You know, they held the details pretty close, very close to their vests.
REHMOkay, and here's a question from Facebook from Karen. I want to know what Senator Webb will do to return jobs back to the US and will he support stopping tax credits to companies who ship our jobs overseas?
WEBBI think what the best approach that we can take, in terms of creating good jobs for our working people, are first, to find ways to grow our economy. And I think on the corporate side, that would mean reducing, and Democrats, please, you know, bear with me on this, reducing the corporate tax rate but eliminating loopholes. Bring this money back in, repatriate this trillions of dollars that have been held overseas. Get them invested in good job producing areas here, like infrastructure projects.
WEBBYou can't outsource an infrastructure project. And then the second thing we need to do, I think, is strengthen the nature of collective bargaining. I'm a union guy. And I think that we have lost the ability to protect our working force, because of the way that collective bargaining has become not a part of our formula anymore, in a large sense.
REHMThe unions are losing members by the month.
WEBBThey are. And, you know, if you look at the -- let's look at one of the absolute healthiest economies in the world, Germany. It has the highest rate of export in the world, highest trade balance in the world on any given month. I follow this on Economist Magazine every month. And trade union members are a part of their board. They're not this adversary element. They are a part of the formula, in terms of making successful corporations. We can, we can invigorate collective bargaining and not hurt our economy.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to James in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
JAMESHey, good morning, sir. Good morning.
JAMESAll the listeners out there. So, as a fellow Marine and as a millennial, I want to ask you, sir, about climate change. I'm going to be proud to vote for you, but I am hesitant that, you know, a couple people have come out and said that your record on climate change is not the greatest in the world. And even the DOD, you know, recognizes it as a threat to our foreign policy going forward. So, can you please speak to that, sir?
WEBBYes. And thanks for your Marine Corps service. I believe that our record, in this country, on environmental issues, is very strong. You could go, if you go back to 1970 and move forward. And the health of these environmental programs is demonstrable when, you know, you drive from the southern part of Virginia all the way down to -- through the Carolinas where you used to --you drive through there and you could smell the stench coming out of the mills, et cetera. And I think our record is good.
WEBBI think we need to focus on cleaner air, clean water programs. I think water is going to be a key, I mean, you talk about strategic concerns for the future. But when we get to the area of climate change, global climate change, we have to go after clear global solutions. This has been my point since I was in the Senate. When President Obama went to Copenhagen for the climate change meetings, he, in '09, he announced that he was going to come back with a binding international agreement. And I wrote a letter to him.
WEBBI said, you cannot, as a President, bind the country in these kinds of agreements, without the consent of the Congress. If you look at the most polluted cities in the world, I would venture, cause it varies year by year, 16 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are either in China or India. They have to sign up. They're not signing up. The agreement that was announced several months ago with China didn't even give them a start period for cleaning up their programs until decades in the future.
REHMBut what about investment, for example, in solar and wind energy? Acknowledge...
WEBBI think those, I think those are good investments. You know, in Iowa, particularly, having traveled across the state a number of times recently, you see what they've been able to do with wind, you know, I visited a wind farm. I visited ultimate fuel plant.
REHM...so, you would be in favor of a national policy.
WEBBI'm on all of the above when it comes to energy. And ultimate energy. I think we, you know, I'm an engineer by training. I didn't want an engineering degree. I went to the Naval Academy, they made me get it. But it does help when you look at the approaches on these different programs.
REHMAnd very quickly, from Facebook, Laura says, what about public education reauthorization of No Child Left Behind? What are your views on high stakes testing?
WEBB...you cannot have a healthy democracy unless you have healthy public education. And I say that as someone, I moved around in the military, at one point, I went to nine different schools in five years. I had my full taste of public education.
REHMNo Child Left Behind.
WEBBIn terms of, well, in terms of these standardized testings that affect the reputation and careers of teachers, you've gotta be really careful on those. Because the student bodies change in a lot of these places very quickly. You're not having accurate comparisons, so I don't believe in national standards that have those sorts of implications.
REHMAnd that will have to be the last word. Former US Senator from Virginia James Webb. He has announced he is a candidate for the nomination for the US Presidency. Good luck to you and thank you for being here.
WEBBThank you, and very nice to be with you, today.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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