Election 2016

Lincoln Chafee Will Probably Get Eaten Alive by Hillary Clinton, But Take a Look Anyway

Former R.I. senator really hoping people still care about Clinton's Iraq War vote.


Formerly a Republican, yet attacking Clinton from the left.
U.S. Senate

Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee may not have any hope of putting a dent in Hillary Clinton's inevitability. It's nevertheless still worth noting that the former Rhode Island senator and governor, the only Republican senator who voted against the use of force in Iraq following Sept. 11, declared on CNN unofficially that he really is going to be running for president. He is really, really hoping that one vote on Iraq is going to differentiate himself from Clinton:

Chafee, a former Republican and former senator, announced he was forming an exploratory committee last week. Chafee's been differentiating himself from fellow Democratic primary contenders by taking sharp jabs at Clinton, willing to be more critical than would-be challengers former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley or former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb over her vote in Congress to authorize the war in Iraq.

"That was a moment where the premise for going to Iraq was so false that there were weapons of mass destruction; she didn't do her homework. We live with the ramifications," Chafee told CNN's "State of the Union" over the weekend. "You may say that's 12 years ago — that's a big motivator for me running. If you show a lack of judgment, lack of doing homework then, what can we expect in the future?"

If you weren't told Chafee had been a Republican and just looked at all of his positions, you'd think he was a Democrat anyway (pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-minimum wage increases, and eventually pro-Barack Obama). This was criticism he faced within his own party back when he was a senator. (David Weigel covered conservative efforts to oust Chafee in Reason back in 2007.)

Beyond his contrary position on the Iraq War, and his generally limp performance as a leader (he didn't even run for re-election as governor), he has done a few things worthy of note for Reason readers. He has lobbied the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana so that doctors could legally prescribe it as medication. Prior to election to governor he was opposed to Rhode Island providing $75 million in cronyist loan guarantees to the video game company founded by baseball celebrity Curt Schilling and did his best to shut the whole thing down once the project fell apart. And as governor he supported then-treasurer (and his successor as governor) Gina Raimondo in reforming the state's public employee pensions to make them solvent.

But so far there's no sign that any of these positions of the past are going to play any role in the Democratic primary, given the apparent lack of interest in restraining President Barack Obama's foreign interventionism by Democrats over the past six years. And ultimately, while Chafee may take positions friendly to libertarians in more situations than Clinton, that's a pretty low hurdle to jump over.