Yorke Interviews Sen. Chafee
Dan Yorke interviewed Senator Chafee for the first time in 4-5 years on his radio show yesterday afternoon. Yorke has not been easy on Sen. Chafee over the last few years–it was he who dubbed him “the Senator from Virginia”–and I thought it worth the time to listen and pass along a summary of the conversation. For those of you who don’t want to read the extended summary, here are the major points I took away from the interview:
1) Senator Chafee doesn’t regret voting for former President George H.W. Bush instead of his son, President George W. Bush, who was actually running for office in 2004. He also seemed to imply that he showed more party loyalty by doing this than did Zell Miller, who crossed the line to vote for a Republican. And isn’t it neat that the current President is still supporting Senator Chafee? My quick take: Sen. Chafee held party loyalty higher than personal ideals during the 2004 election. He has been rewarded with support from the national GOP.
2) He’s opposed to the policy in Iraq. WMD was a false premise. The WMD used by Saddam on the Kurds was WWI technology and wasn’t “real” WMD. There’s was no link between Al Queda and Saddam. (Though maybe there was…) Thinks we’re in “another Vietnam” and that Iraq is a quagmire. My quick take: Sen. Chafee holds personal ideals higher than loyalty to a President of his own party on this point. Nonetheless, he still has the support from the National GOP.
3) Still unwilling to announce whether he is going to vote for Judge Alito’s confirmation or not. My quick take: Finger is in the wind.
4) Thinks Mayor Laffey showed disrespect by not telling him personally that he was going to run against him for Senate. Hinted that the Mayor was also ungrateful given the help Sen. Chafee gave him when he first came to RI. Also still thinks that Mayor Laffey should have run for some other office to help the RI GOP. Finally, thinks that Mayor Laffey has shown a retributive character and gave the example of the Jackvony pixelization episode. My quick take: Senator Chafee thinks Mayor Laffey has shown no party loyalty by not following the advice of the RI GOP leadership and he has also not shown Sen. Chafee proper respect. Sen. Chafee won’t be mean in the campaign except when he says that Mayor Laffey is mean.
Now, here’s the extended summary–and please remember that this is a summary, not a transcript. (I’ve quoted some lines when confident I got it right). I’ve put the topical headings in bold. I’ll leave the rest of the opining to the commenters:
Discussion of Yorke/Chafee “Relationship”
Yorke first broached the subject of how Senator Chafee felt about the sobriquet “Senator from Virgina” and tried to make clear that the reason behind it was that Senator Chafee had run for Senate in RI and shortly after winning moved his whole family to Virginia. Senator Chafee responded that while running for election in 2000 he had no plans to move to Virginia. It was something he and his wife talked about over Christmas that year and then they made the move. He reiterated that there was no plan.
Diverting to some inside baseball, they also talked about the Senator’s absence from Yorke’s show for 4-5 years and Senator Chafee thought he hadn’t been invited. To this, Yorke answered that he stopped inviting him after he kept getting no reaction from Chafee’s camp. In reply, Senator Chafee said he didn’t recall being invited and went on to say that he calls into shows on different issues all the time. Yorke then asked if–after over 4 yrs of not being on the show–wouldn’t you have asked the staff why? Chafee responded that he supposed that both he and Yorke both got on different tracks and their relationship just got a bit harsh. Yorke responded that he had no personal ax to grind and that no matter their difference on issues, Senator Chafee can always call and debate him. Senator Chafee responded the he was glad the bridge had been rebuilt. Finally, Yorke concluded that he realized that it’s 2006 and an election was coming up [which may be the acute cause for Senator Chafee’s visit], nonetheless, he hoped their newfound relationship could continue after
Voting against the President who now supports Sen. Chafee
After a break, Yorke asked Senator Chafee what was he thinking when he voted for George H.W. Bush instead of the current President Bush in 2004? Would he do it again or take it back? Sen. Chafee responded that no he wouldn’t. He had thought about it a lot and is always honest with himself. The war was a big issue and he thinks we’re in another Vietnam like era, Iraq is becoming a quagmire. The President led the country into Iraq under a false premise–WMD–and there were no WMD. The father had such a different outlook–one which Sen. Chafee agreed with. The cost of the war is staggering. In the end, at least he [Sen. Chafee] was not hypocritical by not voting for the current President.
Following up, Yorke asked if Sen. Chafee then thought we have a President who he didn’t think should be there. To this, Sen. Chafee responded that, no, he won fair and square. When asked if he felt that the country was set back by the re-election of President Bush, Sen. Chafee responded that the main fact is to have respect. He then mentioned that they [the Bush Administration] were supporting him for re-election in both the primary and general election and he mentioned that Presidential Chief of Staff Andy Card had visited Rhode Island a few times on Chafee’s behalf.
Yorke then asked Sen. Chafee to be honest: did the President and his people call Sen. Chafee in? Were there any repercussions? Sen. Chafee indicated that there weren’t, they he was sure they were unhappy. He then offered that “this is Rhode Island” and it wasn’t in flux: it wasn’t a swing state in 2004. Further, he met both President Bush’s and they smiled at each other. He concluded, “Victory wipes away pain.”
Yorke then noted that now this same President is concerned about Sen. Chafee’s re-election and that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Yorke also offered that if he were the President he wouldn’t support Sen. Chafee. He then asked , “Why do they?” Sen. Chafee responded that he supposed it was because even though he voted for the father, he hadn’t betrayed the Republican party. He contrasted this with the actions of Democrat Zell Miller, who was very public in his support for the Republican George W. Bush and crossed party lines. Thus, according to Senator Chafee, he thinks the White House respects that they have differences and that Sen. Chafee isn’t a hypocrite.
The Iraq War
Yorke then brought the conversation back to the War in Iraq and asked if Sen. Chafee thought that “we screwed up.” Sen. Chafee responded that the premise was that Saddam was a threat, but he didn’t see the evidence for it. He looked at things himself and wasn’t convinced. He visited various agenicies–he even examined the aluminum tubes–and thought that they looked like something he could buy that at Mancini’s Hardware. He said that even the Kuwaitis were saying don’t attack and that Europe said don’t, too. Thus, if they didn’t think he [Saddam] was a threat, why should we? If we’re going to say democracy
is good for war on terror, let’s have that debate, but we never did at that time.
Yorke reminded Sen. Chafee that President Bush had admitted problems with the intelligence. Yorke also recalled the President’s UN speech where he gave Saddam a last warning. [Yorke also offered that our intelligence wasn’t so good then, it is better now.] The UN resolution was a last demand to come clean. People seem to forget that Saddam was our worst enemy. Yorke opined that Secretary of State Powell’s presentation was poor in hindsight, but Saddam was forwarned. Doesn’t that matter?
Chafee responded that he “never understood the drumbeat for war in Iraq.” He stated that there was no connection between Al Queda and Iraq. He also worried over where we [the United States] gets this appetite for war.
Yorke responded that “the appetite came with 9/11.” He also clarified that there’s never been a heavy line drawn between Al Queda and Iraq. That Saddam had a past of using WMD in iraq, a decade of him not
cooperating, and he was warned. What else was there to do? Continue offering a veiled threat without backing it up, which would lead to a credibility issue?
Sen. Chafee responded that he never understood why we got ourselves in that position with Iraq in the first place. Further, he asked what constitutes a WMD? The stuff used on the Kurds was World War I technology. Nuclear weapons are WMD. This guy [Saddam] was nowhere near a real threat.
Yorke then shifted the conversation to the Alito hearings. Sen. Chafee explained that he watched what he could and that he had someone in Washington, D.C. watching every minute and reporting back to him. Sen. Chafee believed that it would be a partisan vote in favor of Judge Alito and that he’d win confirmation, “but its early.”
Yorke asked if he was supporting the Alito nomination and Sen. Chafee responded that he hadn’t decided. He wants the hearings to conclude as there are still more witnesses.
Yorke asked if he’d seen the part of the hearings when Mrs. Alito left in tears. Sen. Chafee said he hadn’t, but that he did see the Kennedy/Spectre argument over the CAP papers.
Yorke believed that Judge Alito had offered concise and surprisingly specific answers, but Sen. Chafee thought he’d been very careful in his parsing because he didn’t want to upset either half of committee which would automatically vote for or against him if he were to offer an overt statement on Roe v. Wade.
Yorke agreed that Roe v. Wade was “the lightening rod,” but aside from that, he [Alito] has been good. He’s been challenged on acute things and the Princeton stuff was ridiculous. Hasn’t he been classy? Sen. Chafee responded, “yes,” and that his answers on the Princeton things have been good. Additionally, Alito’s other comments on such things as the Commerce Clause and the 14th ammendment have been good, but there still hasn’t been enough such exposition.
Yorke responded, “So he hasn’t given you anything yet.” He queried Sen. Chafee if he wasn’t leaning one way or another: how could he be neutral? Sen. Chafee responded that, since President Bush won election and he told us the type he’d nominate for Supreme Court [like Judge Scalia]…now that nominee is here.
Yorke offered the aside that Harriet Miers was a mistake, and asked if Sen. Chafee thought that the Democrats were going to hold up Alito to which the Senator said it didn’t look like it. He also said that the Gang of 14 hadn’t talked yet and that they were letting the hearings go on.
The 2006 Senate Race
Yorke then broached the topic of the Senate election. Yorke asked if Mayor Laffey did the classy thing and told Sen. Chafee personally that he was running against him in the Republican primary. Sen. Chafee said that he didn’t. Yorke asked what he thought of that and Sen. Chafee pointed out that, while he didn’t want to cast aspersions, he worked with Steve Laffey when he first came to Rhode Island and ran for Mayor in Cranston. Sen. Chafee also said that he worked closely with Mr. Jackvony on the Cranston Town council and that since then they [Laffey and Jackvony] have had a well-publicized falling out.
Yorke explained that Mayor Laffey and Senator Chafee represented two parts of the already small RI GOP and asked for Sen. Chafee’s take on having that split in a small party. Sen. Chafee said that Mayor Laffey had every right to run, but that Republicans in RI have plenty of vacant seats statewide–as well as both congressional seats–that the RI GOP needs to find candidates for.
Yorke continues, summarizing that Mayor Laffey decides to run, he doesn’t call you and the party is fractious. This is going to be a WWF pay-per-view event. One of the things Mayor Laffey did was challenge you to debates. Have you reacted to this? Sen. Chafee said that he said that there’s a time and place and he won’t duck debating Mayor Laffey. Yorke asked how many debates would be appropriate and Sen. Chafee stated he’d have to think about it, but recalled that he had 8 against Robert Weygand in 2000.
Yorke stated that “I had to laugh at his call for debates,” and said there were two schools of thought on how an incumbent like Sen. Chafee should react. The first was that he rope-a-dope Mayor Laffey, the other was that he burn him out and people get sick of it. Had Sen. Chafee thought of how to handle it? Sen. Chafee said that he had and that there are sharp differences and debates at proper time would be to his advantage.
Yorke conveyed that he thought that Mayor Laffey “thinks he can eat your lunch.” Yorke reasoned that this was because Sen. Chafee comes across as the nice guy, but Mayor Laffey is a pit bull. According to Yorke, Mayor Laffey is dying to get you and kick your ass. Yorke asked if Mayor Laffey was underestimating Sen. Chafee in this, to which the Senator responded that–“if that’s his point of view–absolutely.”
Yorked stated that he had heard the Senator was competitive and wanted some evidence. Sen. Chafee responded by reciting his political career, of running for office as a Republican in a Democrat dominated city [Warwick] and winning when people said he couldn’t.
From this, Yorke observed that some say the legacy of Sen. John Chafee is a buoy to his son and that that may have worn off a bit. Sen. Chafee stated that he didn’t think it helped him in Warwick, but it was a factor in his first senate run in 2000. It was probably unfair to Weygand to be caught in that, but this time Sen. Chafee is on his own.
Yorke asked if–other than political races–if there was anything else that showed his mettle. Sen. Chafee then talked about going and working at race tracks, working as a blacksmith and going to Alberta Canada on his own with no family support. He got to know people and made his own business.
Yorke then asked if Sen. Chafee visualized this race getting personal. Yorke couldn’t see Sen. Chafee doing that, and asked if Mayor Laffey risks a boomerang if he does go down that road. Sen. Chafee offered that he thought that the whole pixel-picture story showed a different side of Mayor Laffey, “Why not just take picture off is obvious question?”
Yorke asked if this was some insight into Mayor Laffey’s character and Sen. Chafee it shows that it shows a retributive character. Yorke then asked if he thought Mayor Laffey was “a good guy.” Senator Chafee explained that he didn’t think Mayor Laffey was a good guy for running against him since we’re [the RI GOP] looking for candidates for office in other areas. “I don’t think he’s a good guy for doing that.”