A new and relatively unexpected politician has, in an admirably straightforward way, offered himself as a challenger for the Democratic nomination for president. He’s Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, whose complicated political history includes time as a Republican, an independent and now as a Democrat and also includes service as a mayor, a governor and U.S. senator.
Surely someone will challenge Hillary Clinton’s march to the coronation, and whoever it is will start out as a deep underdog. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been saying for months that he would like to figure out a way, but he hasn’t figured it out and he is not even a Democrat. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has convinced at least me that she won’t be a candidate this cycle. Former Sen. Jim Webb is in the mix, recently criticized and is headed for Iowa this weekend after offering a critique of the foreign policy of both Ms. Clinton and her husband as lacking “strategic direction.” Much recent speculation has centered around former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who doesn’t deny he’d like to do it.
Now comes Chafee. His entry into the speculation comes via a 97-second video just released (and embedded in this clip from Rhode Island Public Radio) which consists entirely of him talking to the camera (no great videographic brainwashing here) and begins with this not-terribly-handsome-or-charismatic fellow announcing: “I’m Lincoln Chafee and I’m a Democrat considering running for president of the United States.”
Before long, he makes clear that he will call out the Republicans for their record (“when the Republicans were last in power, they left the economy in shambles”) and won’t be running away from Obamaism, stating: “Over the last six years, President Obama has led admirably. He has revived the economy…”
To tell you the truth, as one who is absolutely starved for straightforwardness and what the punditocracy has taken to calling “authenticity,” my favorite things about the video are its low production values and Chafee’s lack of acting skills. He is neither handsome nor smooth. His sing-songy delivery (although there is, impressively, no music in the video) and the way his head wobbles as he delivers the tune were sure signs that he hasn’t spent his recent retirement (and it should be mentioned that he didn’t seek another term as governor because his poll ratings were below the survivable level) studying with a voice or acting coach.
He doesn’t mention former Secretary of State Clinton and he will obviously have to do some work to explain why Democrats should put him on the ticket instead of her.
Two weeks ago, apparently flying below the media radar, Chafee posted a seven-minute video, labeled a “mini-documentary,” in which he pointed to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq as the source of much of the recent instability in the Middle East and managed to mention that he had voted against the resolution to authorize the war (unlike Clinton who voted “aye,” but Chafee doesn’t mention that). The Iraq invasion, he says, “was based on falsehoods and was one of the worst decisions in United States history.”
‘Where we should go’
The rest of that video consists of three clips that Chafee says “help us understand where we’ve been and where we should go.”
The first clip is President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address (written by a former president of the University of Minnesota, by the way) in which Ike warned about the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”
The second clip is an interview with Dick Cheney in 1994, after he had served as defense secretary during the first Gulf War, the one to drive the Iraqi military out of Kuwait. Cheney is asked whether the victorious U.S. troops should have marched on to Baghdad and gotten rid of Saddam Hussein. Cheney says no, that would have turned into a U.S.-only operation that would have left an ungovernable situation with the United States stuck to pick up the pieces without Arab allies.
The third clip, by far the least compelling, shows Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi addressing a joint session of Congress, in the period shortly before the 9/11 attacks, talking about the moment of peace among former enemies that then existed. At the end, Chafee again mentions that he is exploring a presidential bid in hopes of steering U.S. policy back to seeking an age of peace for our children.