Democratic presidential candidate and former Senator from Virginia Jim Webb said during a foreign policy discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday that he believes that CNN’s October 13 Democratic presidential debate was rigged in advance to give Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders significantly more time than the other candidates.
Noting that Webb ranked a “strong third” in a Slate post-debate poll, CFR event moderator and Slate Group chairman Jacob M. Weisberg asked Webb, who had repeatedly complained to Anderson Cooper during the debate that he was not getting enough time to speak, to comment on his apparent frustration with the debate’s format.
Webb noted that he took second place in post-debate polls by Drudge and Time and said, “I know Karl Rove this morning characterized the different people in the debate and he called me Mr. Angry. I would say, you know, it was either the option in that debate, which was, I’m going to be very frank, it was rigged in terms of who was going to get the time on the floor by the way that [debate moderator] Anderson Cooper was selecting people to supposedly respond to something someone else said.”
He added, “I even turned around to Bernie Sanders at one point and said, Bernie, say my name, will you? Say my name. So you know, in that kind of an environment, you know, I was either going to be Mr. Angry or I was going to be a potted plant. That was the only way to try to get into the conversation.”
A New York Times tweet, embedded below, features an infographic indicating how much time each candidate spent speaking at the debate. Webb spoke for approximately half as long as Sanders and Clinton.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 14, 2015
“It’s very difficult to win a debate when you don’t have the opportunity to speak the same amount of time on issues as the other two did,” said Webb. “It’s a reality that the debate was being portrayed as a showdown between Mrs. Clinton and Bernie, but if you’re going to be invited to participate and people are going to judge whether you, quote, ‘won’ or not, at least you should be able to have the kind of time that’s necessary to discuss the issues that you care about, that you’ve worked on.“
Webb pointed out his early support of criminal justice reform, noting that it has become a national issue that now enjoys Republican support, as an example of a position that he wished he had more time to discuss at the debate.
“But it’s very difficult to make those kinds of points, and also the foreign policy differences that I have had with the past couple of administrations in terms of where we put our priority and these sorts of things, when you can’t talk,” Webb pointed out. “I think I got 14 minutes in two hours—14 minutes. So 14 minutes and 30 percent on a Time poll, I’ll take that for starters here.”
Commenting on his differences on Middle East foreign policy with fellow Vietnam veteran and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Webb said, “Where John McCain and I, I think, differ is how to handle the situations in the Middle East. And that probably had more to do with me being in Beirut than being in Vietnam.”
“I can remember being out with a Marine unit in Beirut in 1983 when they were involved in a firefight that became a firefight from multiple parties. You know how Lebanon could be back then. And a Marine turned around to me and said, sir, never get involved in a five-sided argument,” said Webb.
“And I came away with a very strong feeling that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world… We are not a Trotsky nation. We don’t export our ideology at the point of a gun. And I think that’s where Senator McCain and I have had differences in many different situations in that part of the world,” explained Webb.
The former Democratic senator from Virginia used the rest of his hour-long CFR discussion, which can be seen in its entirety in the above-embedded video, to explain in detail those positions that he was not able to fully express during the debate.
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