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Chafee takes pro-Iraq war Dems to task

There are a number of lively revelations in Scott MacKay's ProJo story today on the forthcoming book by former US Senator Lincoln Chafee. This following quote about the run-up to the Iraq war, in particular, could be construed as a sharp slap at Hillary Clinton:

“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,” writes Chafee. “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.”

Speaking of lapses in judgment, Chafee tells MacKay that he should have left the GOP sooner to become an independent, a la James Jeffords of Vermont.

While Chafee has been mentioned on this blog as a potential Providence mayoral candidate in 2010, he declined to talk about his political future with the ProJo, saying, "I'm focused right now on promoting my book."

MacKay notes how Steve Laffey, Chafee's 2006 GOP primary opponent, used his own campaign book to call Chafee "fickle," "a confessed cocaine abuser," "a dull fellow," and a "Ted Kennedy Republican," among other things -- and how Chafee doesn't mention Laffey's name in his book.

Both men, however, suffer from some convenient myopia. Laffey's book devoted all of about two paragraphs to the self-imposed problems of George W. Bush's Republican Party, preferring to focus on the former Cranston mayor's shock and outrage about how the GOP came down on one of its own, rather than remaining more neutral in his battle with a RINO such as Chafee. Apparently, Laffey's never heard the line about politics making odd bedfellows.

For Chafee's part, as MacKay notes, the former senator, irked that pro-war Dems advocated against him, "doesn't mention that such GOP war supporters as former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, Arizona Sen. John McCain and First Lady Laura Bush traveled to Rhode Island to raise money or campaign for Chafee."

This bit, about the then-senator's search for an explanation for Dem support for the war, is intriguing:

A bewildered Chafee, seeking an explanation, turned to an unnamed Democratic senator who opposed the war but was well-respected by his party’s leaders. This senator tells Chafee “in confidence” what concerned the Democrats. “They are afraid the war will be over as fast as Gulf One. Few will die, the oil will flow and gasoline will cost 90 cents a gallon.”

The anecdote is the only unattributed quote in a book that otherwise names names. The speaker was reportedly Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed. When asked whether Reed was that senator, Chafee declined to confirm or deny it.

Reed, too, declined comment when asked last week about the quote.

Other interesting revelations:

-- former ProJo reporter Tony DePaul helped Chafee to "focus his thoughts and meet deadlines."

-- When the CIA presented him with its ant-Saddam evidence, " 'I looked at the aluminum tube, looked at the analysts and thought, I can go buy one of these at Adler’s Hardware,' the Providence hardware emporium."

-- Regarding his entry into politics, via the mayoralty in Warwick: "He recalls with a wink the times he was verbally lambasted by the Democrats who controlled the City Council when he was mayor of Warwick. After these meetings he and his tormentors jawed over beers at a nearby tavern."

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