WSJ on Chafee

As the year comes to a close, the media is filled with the inevitable retrospectives. And Lincoln Chafee gets the full treatment in the Wall Street Journal today with a piece titled "Gov. Chafee Learns the Price of Independence."

The only political independent serving as a governor could use a few friends.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator, managed to tick off everyone from unions to the state's Roman Catholic bishop in his first year leading the country's smallest state by area.

"This was a tough year," he said in an interview Wednesday in his office at the State House. "There was a lot of negativity. People are angry, stressed out."

Only 27% of voters think he is doing a good or excellent job as governor, according to a Brown University poll released last week.

Mr. Chafee attributes the angst in part to the economy. Once a manufacturing hub, the Ocean State's unemployment is at 10.5%.

But he also said Rhode Islanders resented some of his policies. He angered conservatives by successfully pushing for same-sex civil unions and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. He bucked the unions that helped elect him by ushering in sweeping pension cuts. He irritated liberals when he joined with mostly Republican governors in signing a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at polls.

"He's trying to chart an independent course in a political environment that is very polarized," said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a moderate think tank in Washington. "The risk is that he ends up satisfying no one."

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