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Webb: 'I Was Raised by My Mother's Milk to Be a Skeptic About the Ornaments of Power'

11:40 AM, Dec 13, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Retiring Virginia senator Jim Webb explains why he decided not to seek reelection and leave the Senate in an exit interview with public radio.

Jim Webb

"I leave with a heavy heart. It's an incredible honor to be able to represent the people of Virginia, and the people of this country," says Webb, in response to whether he has any regrets. "I'm kind of a born cynic... in a lot of ways, I was raised by my mother's milk to be a skeptic about the ornaments of power. At the same time, everyday when you walk into those historic corridors in the nation's Capitol, you can't help but be reminded of the responsibility that you have to really try to make our country a better place. So it's been a tremendous honor to be here."

On leaving, he says, "This is the fourth time in my professional life where I've had a period of public service, and I've always had the cycle of stepping away and getting my bearings again. For me, it's just kind of a natural cycle. I've had a great time — not always a fun time — but a great time in the Senate, and we've done a lot of good things. And it's time to step away to regain my own philosophical independence and do some other things."

As for his biggest accomplishments in the so-called world's greatest delibrative body, Webb says he is proud of the work he accomplished regarding Southeast Asia. "We took on big issues," says Webb. "When I ran for the Senate, I did not run on an 'I got 'ya' kind of legislation... I said we need to re-orient our national security strategy around the world... we've had major players over the past six years on Foreign Relations Committee and on Armed Services Committee. I was able to get the chairmanship of the East-Asia subcommittee. I spent a lot of my life in east and Southeast Asia. And I think we made the principal contribution from the Congress to the reorientation of our interest to the east and Southeast Asia world. We worked very hard to pan Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore... we led the shift in focus on Burma... I was the first American leader to visit Burma in 10 years, when we put a trip together in 2009. The second thing we said we were going to do is focus very hard on economic fairness and social justice, and beginning with the rebuttal speech I had with President Bush's State of Union in '07... we put an inequality compensation... those economic fairness issues on the table. We became the principal office in the United States Congress for trying to reorient our criminal justice system... and then thirdly, I ran on issues of the balance between the Congress and the presidency when it comes to so many of these issues. And I had the same approach with President Obama as I did with President Bush on those issues."

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