Friday, February 08, 2008

Lincoln Chafee Is Our Republican of the Week!

A Weekly Friday Feature...

Not unlike other Republicans
I have featured in this once-a-week tribute to members of the Once-Grand Old Party (O-GOP), Lincoln Chafee is, alas, only an ex-Republican. Since his involuntary dismissal from the Senate in 2006, he has been registered as 'unaffiliated', which is a Rhode Island political argot for independent. Not unlike other recent émigrés from the new, Autocratic & Greedy Old Party (A-GOP), Chafee provides an object lesson in modern Republicanism.

His father, the late John H. Chafee, was the archetype of the New England Republican moderate and served as a Rhode Island state legislator, governor, U.S. Navy secretary and as a U.S. senator. As the party drifted right, New England moderates such as Chafee and his father became relics.

As a Republican Senator from Rhode Island, Chafee Jr. was the one Republican who voted against the Oct 2002 resolution authorizing Bush's use of force against Iraq. In 2004, he did not support Bush's re-election. In interviews, Chafee acknowledges now that he made some mistakes the most blatant of which was not bolting the GOP sooner and becoming an independent, as did his friend then-Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont.

But he saw how the A-GOP treated deserters: Jeffords' legislation, which helped Vermont dairy farmers, was demolished. Chafee hung in with the Republican back benchers out of concern for the interests of his state's defense industries, installations, roads and highways, etc., all of which were vulnerable to retaliatory cutbacks.

Even so, A-GOP retaliation came in the form of a primary challenger named Stephen P. Laffey. As his name implies, Laffey was a laughable contender for a Senate seat in New England. He was a right wing nut-job selected by the infamous Club for Growth to siphon off Republican contributions from Chafee. Laffey campaigned using bumper-sticker and talk-show attributions of Chafee such as a "backstabber," a "confessed cocaine abuser," "fickle," "a dull fellow," a "limousine liberal," a "Ted Kennedy Republican" and a "possible member of a Neville Chamberlain fan club," etc.

Thus weakened and, with his state party split, Chafee lost his Senate seat to Democrat Sheldon Whitehorse. Chafee looks back on the general election with resentment at the parade of Democratic Bush's war-enablers who trekked to Rhode Island to campaign for Whitehouse such as Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and others.

But revenge is sweet, even if late in coming. This April, Chafee is coming out with his political memoir, Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President. This volume is supposed to disclose where the bodies are buried and name the names of the suspected perps and pimps of Busheney's invasion of Iraq, Democrats as well as Republicans.

Some excerpts have been released early:

Few members of Congress were willing to stand up to the schoolyard tough [Mr. Bush] and in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2002, weeks before the crucial midterm elections, he bullied them into declaring Saddam an imminent threat.

I find it surprising now, in 2008, how many Democrats are running for president after shirking their constitutional duty to check and balance this president … Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill.

… They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.

… The top Democrats were at their weakest when trying to show how tough they were. They were afraid that Republicans would label them soft in the post-September 11 world, and when they acted in political self-interest, they helped the president send thousands of Americans and uncounted innocent Iraqis to their doom.

… Instead of talking tough or meekly raising one's hand to support the tough talk, it is far more muscular, I think, to find out what is really happening in the world and have a debate about what we really need to accomplish. That is the hard work of governing, but it was swept aside once the fear, the war rhetoric and the political conniving took over.

… how quickly key Democrats crumbled … They went down to the meetings at the White House and the Pentagon and came back to the chamber ready to salute. With wrinkled brows they gravely intoned that Saddam Hussein must be stopped. Stopped from what? They had no conviction or evidence of their own. They were just parroting the administration's nonsense. They knew it could go terribly wrong; they also knew it could go terribly right. Which did they fear more?

[...]Few members of Congress were willing to stand up to the schoolyard tough [Mr. Bush] and in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2002, weeks before the crucial midterm elections, he bullied them into declaring Saddam an imminent threat.
Chafee's memoirs should make for an interesting read. I hope it's out in the book stores before the Democratic Presidential primary is resolved.