Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What's Up, Linc?

Lame duck Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) has never been considered to be all that bright. Everyone knows he came to power on the coattails of his father, who was well loved in his state. (Hmm, that sounds familiar).

Unfortunately for Linc, he found it wasn't as easy to be a Republican in New England as it was when his father was around. In a state where even the most conservative anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-progress politicians are Democrats, being a member of the Congressional majority was a lot harder than it was for most of his caucus-mates. As of January, when Senator-elect Sheldon Whitehouse takes office, there will be only one state-wide elected Republican, and HE only won re-election last Tuesday by a very small margin.

Linc often found himself walking a fine line. He wanted to remain a Republican, despite ample opportunity to cross the aisle or become an independent. Probably just as much out of homage to his father than an attempt to remain in the majority. But, he had to appear as un-Republican as possible in his home state.

He did this in grand fashion in 2004, when he announced he was writing in George H.W. Bush as his choice for President. He was quick to remind Rhode Island voters that he was a maverick, and often voted against his Party.

Of course, this was bullshit. The GOP knew how important this seat was to their majority, so they allowed Linc to play the maverick. But, when a vote was close, and Chafee's vote could make the difference, he always toed the party line.

Rhode Islanders got wise to this, and faced with a choice between a Republican in maverick's clothing and a real-live Democrat, they put their faith in the Democrat. But, other than slink into obscurity as a lame-duck Democrat, after the election, Mr. Chafee suddenly got talkative.

First, he began to trash-talk the GOP.

"I haven't made any decisions. I just haven't even thought about where my place is," Chafee said at a news conference Thursday when asked whether he would stick with the Republican Party or switch to be an independent or Democrat.

When asked if his comments meant he thought he might not belong in the Republican Party, he replied: "That's fair."


When asked whether he felt that his loss may have helped the country by switching control of power in Congress, he replied: "To be honest, yes."

It's not often you hear a politician who says that their losing is good for the country. Then, Chafee put words into action, and reaffirmed his opposition to the renomination of John Bolton for UN Secretary, effetively guaranteeing that the nomination will fail.

Why would Chafee do this? He was only firm about opposing Bolton when his re-election race tightened. Now that it's over, why drag it out? Certainly, he's not looking for a future in Rhode Island politics. The only real option I see is to run for Governor when Carcieri is term-limited out, but that's not for another four years. He could challenge Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) when he is up for re-election in 2008, but Reed is so popular, he'll break 60% no matter who runs against him. And it's FAR too late to switch parties. It seems, at least for now, Chafee has nowhere to go but down.

It seems that the real reason Chafee is bashing the GOP is personal. Chafee has been helping to build the Rhode Island Republican Party his entire life. But, the Rhode Island Republicans, and indeed most New England Republicans, are a far cry from the national party. A close friend of mine who works in Rhode Island politics described the scene in the recent Senate race...

Senator Chafee is a nice guy. Nobody doubts that. But, his campaign against Senator-elect Whitehouse turned ugly. And it was clear that it was the national party, and not Chafee, who was pulling the strings. They knew Rhode Island was crucial to their plans to keep the Senate, as evidence by their relocating their entire staff east of the Mississippi to Rhode Island the two weeks before their primary to make sure Chafee didn't lose his primary to arch-conservative Steven Laffey, whose nomination would have guaranteed a Democratic win back in mid-September. (I can think of at least two other lame duck GOP Senators who certainly didn't benefit from losing their staffers for two weeks during prime campaign season). $5 million and an ugly campaign later, Chafee still lost his seat.

It's understandable that Chafee would be bitter at losing. But my friend tells me that its something else. Chafee changed during the course of the campaign, as his overlords forced him to engage in tactics he was not comfortable with. He's a man truly concerned about Rhode Islanders, and they made him jeopardize that. They took Chafee's seat from a tool to help Rhode Island and denigrated it into a part of preserving their power.

Like I said, Chafee is a good guy, truly concerned about his state. It makes sense that after suffering through such an ordeal, he would rebel against the people that made it so.

I wonder sometimes why I've chosen to go down the political path. Why I've chosen to operate within the system that destroyed Lincoln Chafee and causes the most qualified people for a position decide not to run for it. But it's in my blood... what can I do?

On a different note, who's going to be the first pundit to mention the possibility of a "President Whitehouse?" You know it's coming...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should be happy that PC sent out its annual report entitled, "Profiles in Giving," a play on John F. Kennedy's book, "Profiles in Courage." Yes, PC continues to stump for the Democrats. Alot of people will be reducing their donations next year, sending them to the intentions of the blog, Ask Sister Martha Mary. Go figure.

11/21/2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Kachur said...

Well, as the main "intentions" of this blog are currently Creigh Deeds, David Toscano and whatever warm body challenges Rob Bell, that would be highly irregular, but most welcome.

A spike in donations from Providence College to a couple of random legislative districts several states away would make news indeed.

But, honestly, Mr. or Ms. Central Falls, Rhode Island, this continuing exchange would be much more interesting if you would stop cowering behind the "anonymous" option.

11/22/2006 1:57 AM  

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