Thanks to those of you who joined us for our May Moose Mountain Area Democrats meeting. We were honored with a special guest, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. Governor Chafee, along with two of his staff, joined us for lunch. He spoke with our group, taking questions after his talk.He opened his talk explaining why he had been the only Republican in the Senate to vote against going to war with Iraq. He stated that, although he was a Republican at that time, he felt President Bush had mislead the American public on several occasions, breaking his campaign promises and allowing himself to be too strongly influenced by the neocon members of his party and cabinet. Therefore, Governor Chafee felt uneasy about the decision to go to war. He decided that he would personally talk with the CIA about the WMDs and find out what their thoughts were on this issue. He met with the CIA advisors and concluding the meeting he detected a lack of hard evidence on their part concerning any forms of WMDs. Senator Chafee went back to his colleagues in the Senate and urged them to talk with the CIA and consider their vote based on facts. As history tells us, this did not happen. Around this time Governor Chafee decided to leave the Republican Party and become an Independent. He later worked for the Obama campaign and is now a registered Democrat.
Governor Chafee talked about his background, including having been a blacksmith for seven years working the harness racing season in the United States and Canada. After this experience he returned to Rhode Island and entered politics. He was a Warwick City Councilman, and in 1992 he was elected Mayor of Warwick. In 2011 he ran as an Independent to become Rhode Island’s Governor. He states that his years working in local politics gave him a deep understanding of the problems facing average people in their day- to -day lives.
Governor Chafee became a US Senator in 1999 replacing his father who died in office. He was later elected on his own and became a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Words as well as chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East Subcommittee. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and has gained an understanding of their issues and culture. He is a firm believer in the use of diplomacy and showing respect to other nations in our efforts to establish peace and provide opportunities for all people. He states that people, no matter what their country, all basically want the same things. They want their children to be safe, healthy, and to have an education. We must work with what we have in common with other people, and be more persuasive helping them get a better life, in order to counter the appeal of fanatics and jihadists.
Governor Chafee has consistently voted in favor of environmental issues, investing in education at all levels, funding the infrastructure of the country, and work force development programs to address unemployment.
Governor Chafee answered the following questions:
When asked about gun control he stated that we need to involve the NRA with discussions and look for common ground if we are to come to any consensus about common sense gun control.
Governor Chafee says he is an Internationalist, and trade is going to happen whether we want it or not. Therefore, he is in favor of granting President Obama fast track abilities on the upcoming trade agreement. He said we need to do this or other countries, such as China, will step in and be in control. We will have to insist on strict rules for labor standards, environmental standards and currency manipulation. There needs to be enforcement capabilities to ensure the trade agreement is followed.
When asked about the difference between himself and Bernie Sanders he says it is mainly that he has more experience in the area of foreign affairs.
Concerning the present divisiveness in Washington D.C. he believes one of the main problems is the ongoing election cycle, where congressional members are always coming up for election and therefore feel that have to cater to their base. This causes them to be more partisan making it harder to compromise. He feels as a former Republican he can be effective in helping both sides work together.
On Iraq he believes we need to involve and empower the United Nations more effectively to help bring about peace. He feels the United Nations is underutilized and is the proper forum for finding world peace – that the US cannot impose its ideas of peace on the world. He believes the only long-term solution to the Middle East crisis is better economic conditions for all.
In foreign dealings we need to treat other nations with respect and listen to their concerns. He would appoint experienced, career diplomats to be our ambassadors and not make ambassadorships political favors.
Governor Chafee’s vision is to form alliances, work together to make the world a safe, peaceful, and better place for all. He prides himself on being a peacemaker with the ability to bring sides together. He feels he is a good listener, and is respectful of other opinions. This allows him to help bring about compromise in difficult situations.
He reminded the group that he has experience at all levels of government, starting on the local level, being a Senator on the national level, and a Governor on the state level. He has high standards, excellent character and has had a clean record with no scandals while he has been in office.
It was a pleasure to meet and hear from Governor Chafee and we hope he will return to New Hampshire in the future. If you missed him this time, hopefully you will be able to attend another event where he is speaking.