Laffey Claims Chafee Didn’t Support Action in Afghanistan
Mayor Laffey is running a new radio ad that states that, in the aftermath of 9/11, Sen. Chafee did not support attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sen. Chafee disputes that claim and can point to his September 14, 2001 affirmative vote for authorizing Military force against those who attacked the U.S. on 9/11. The Chafee campaign has asked Laffey to pull the ad. The Laffey campaign has refused.
The Laffey camp defends its decision with the claim that their ad is refering to Sen. Chafee’s initial objection to the use of military force against the Taliban. Further, they contend, given that Sen. Chafee did eventually support the action, his shifting position on Afghanistan provides an example of how reluctant Sen. Chafee is to make a decision on even fundamental matters.
As proof, the Laffey campaign is citing a ProJo story (fee required) from September 21, 2001. In it, the ProJo reported that Senator Chafee:
…balked at endorsing a punishing strike on the Taliban in the event that it fails to cooperate in the hunt for the terrorists. “In anything we do, we’ve got to take the long-term view. There are a lot of people that would like to be on our side that can’t,” Chafee said.
Further, on October 8, 2001, the Projo reported (fee req’d) that
The three Democrats in Rhode Island’s Washington delegation yesterday lined up solidly behind President [Bush]’s decision to launch a military reprisal against Osama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, but Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee declined comment on the attacks.
The attitudes of [Jack Reed], Kennedy and [James Langevin] were in line with the prevailing mood in Washington…
The next day (fee req’d), Sen. Chafee finally offered tepid–and worried–support for attacking the Taliban
Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, the lone Republican in Rhode Island’s Washington delegation, said yesterday that he supports President Bush’s decision to bomb Taliban targets in Afghanistan, but worries the military action will inflame anti-American opinion in other countries.
Chafee said he was waiting until he received more information and did not make statements until yesterday.
Finally, this story from December 2001 further supports the Laffey campaign’s contention that Sen. Chafee was reluctant to pursue aggressive action in Afghanistan. In fact, Senator Chafee admits as much himself:
Senator Lincoln Chafee indicated today that he may have been wrong in his early doubts about the war in Afghanistan. Appearing on the WJAR-TV show “10 News Conference”, Chafee said, “It is easy to admit when I am wrong. I could have been wrong on this” referring to the war. “I was apprehensive about going into Afghanistan” based on the unsuccessful Russian experience there. “We had not had success in our recent skirmishes in the area,” he argued. “I came up through the Vietnam period. I have seen this country dragged through a bloody morass.”
It is incorrect to simply state that Sen. Chafee didn’t support attacking the Taliban: he eventually did, even if with reservation. The fact is that Sen. Chafee did support the action and it is not correct to imply–as the Laffey ad does–that Sen. Chafee never supported attacking the Taliban.
The Laffey campaign’s subsequent defense of their ad rests on the reluctance of Sen. Chafee to make a firm decision. To my mind, this defense of the actual ad is actually more compelling and (yes) truthful than the original. As such, I would think that an ad that systematically presented the facts as listed above as proof of Sen. Chafee’s pattern of always “considering” a tough issue and only making up his mind once his decision is essentially irrelevant (re: Alito) would have been just as effective and would have insulated the Laffey campaign from criticism. But then again, I’m no political consultant.