I’ve been “horsey” all my life, but have a similar watch-through-my fingers approach to thoroughbred racing as I do for Red Sox playoff games. Racing has incredible highs and lows and for as exciting as it was to have American Pharoah win the Triple Crown, there are tens of thousands of “also rans” whose careers on the track end in a far less magnificent fashion or downright tragically. While most American politicians head into retirement far more gracefully after being an “also ran” in a presidential election, I’m going to make the bold prediction that Lincoln Chafee will be the exception and will come up lame at the end of this race.
While some among us were hoping that our own “horsey” former Governor Lincoln Chafee was putting himself out to pasture, last week he launched his campaign for President the only way he seems to do things: strangely. No web video, no home state rally, no tweet to supporters. He officially launched his run for President in a darkened auditorium at George Mason University in Virginia as a guest speaker in a lecture series. Earlier, his wife posted a public plea to former staff looking for his Facebook password. To say that he stumbled at the start would be an understatement.
Chafee has been clear that he’s planning to spend his campaign attacking Hillary Clinton for voting for the Iraq War (along with 76 other U.S. Senators) and his speech reflected his obsession with this one vote. He detailed what he saw as the deceitful and dishonest nature of the Bush-Cheney administration and made it clear that he views that one vote — taken in 2002 — as a litmus test for those who are qualified to be President, implying that anyone who supported our efforts in Iraq (i.e. Clinton) to be less trustworthy than he is.
And this is where he is going to come up lame, because the “thing” about Lincoln Chafee is that we really couldn’t “Trust Chafee” to do the things that most elected officials are supposed to do: lead, be transparent and yes, sometimes bite his tongue. He was quick to take a quirky stand — against Christmas trees, in support of a murderer — and slow to lead our state out of recession. His affiliations were murky: a Republican when it his name would get him elected then an Independent when he couldn’t survive a Republican primary. And now after a lifetime in politics and thirty years on the ballot, he’ll run as a Democrat for the first time in 2016. I witnessed him tell an auditorium full of elementary school students that he wouldn’t march in the 2014 Bristol 4th of July parade because he “didn’t have fun” the year before because “your parents and other adults” booed him for “doing the right thing” and putting tolls on the bridges. It was hardly a profile in courage moment.
I’m sure some of his stands were principled — at least in his own mind — but now he’s running on a new track, with billions invested in support of other candidates. The national media will cover his attacks on Clinton in case his ripping her down has an impact on the race. They have mocked his odd embrace of the metric system and noted that he “wouldn’t rule out” opening up negotiations with ISIS. That’s right, he’s indicated that he’s open to negotiating with terrorists. Yep, early indicators are that this race isn’t going to end well for Linc Chafee.