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Chafee speaks with students about election

Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 18:02

10/05/04 - Disagreements over the War in Iraq and domestic policy will cause Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island's republican senator, to write-in George H. Bush for president in the November elections instead of voting for his son, George W. Bush."I think our leaders have a job to be square with the public," Chafee said.


Chafee questioned President Bush's motives for invading Iraq, claiming that he supported former President George H. Bush's actions because he considered the freedom of Kuwait a noble pursuit.


Speaking of the current invasion of Iraq, he said, "At some point you have to focus on the evidence, and it wasn't really there."

Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against the war in Iraq. He attributed the lopsided vote to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"A lot of it had to do with the trauma of Sept. 11," he said.

Chafee made his remarks to about 20 journalism students yesterday morning in a classroom at the University of Rhode Island. The room was in the Chafee Social Science Center, a building dedicated to his father, former Senator John Chafee.

"I've never been in this building before, believe it or not," he said.

Chafee said he did not think former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.

"The six countries surrounding Iraq said not to do it," he said. "If he's not a threat to them, then how is he a threat to us?"


Chafee discussed how some of the "hawkish" conservatives have suggested that the draft should be brought back. He said he has heard talk of invading Syria or Iran next, and worried that Iraq was simply a first step. He viewed this as a contradiction to President Bush's pre-election mandate to be humble in international affairs.


He also criticized President Bush's record on the environment, citing the administration's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol or raise minimum mileage standards for SUVs. Referring to carbon dioxide pollution, he said, "Even the president's scientists are saying that this is a problem."

Chafee added that Congress should be pushing automakers toward producing more fuel- efficient cars.

"I drove my Toyota hybrid here this morning and I love it," he said.

Chafee said he felt President Bush has let the budget deficit grow too large. "I don't know what the conservatives are thinking," he said. "They haven't cut government spending at all."


According to Chafee, the proposed cuts by President Bush were repealed because they concern issues in states favorable toward him, such as farm subsidies and defense contracts.

"They all came back because they're Bush states," he said.


On the subject of gay marriage, Chafee was willing to let the courts decide the issue, but stated that he personally accepted it.

"If they want to have a union and call it marriage, I think that's okay," he said. "They're in love."


The stability of the Supreme Court after new appointments by the next president worried Chafee. "Even if you're republican, you have to be concerned about the upheaval that will occur," he said.


The "dwindling moderate voice" in the Senate was also a concern of the senator. "Gravity is pulling power toward the conservative south," he said. "There's a balance between being a team player and doing what's right."


Chafee viewed the moderate Republican governors in six of eight northeast states as a positive sign. "There's hope in the party. Everything is not going to right wingers," he said.


Despite being liberal on many issues, Chafee said that he did not plan on changing his party affiliation even if the Republican Party continued to drift to the right. "I enjoy being a Rhode Island republican. We're reformers," he said.


When asked about health care problems, Chafee said he didn't have any easy answers. "80 percent of health care costs are devoted to the last three months of a person's life," he said. "People are living longer and longer, which is good, but it's very expensive."

Commenting on last Thursday's presidential debate, Chafee said that President Bush appealed to his political base.

"The president has got the swagger," he said, adding that he was also impressed by how Senator John Kerry handled questions on world leaders.


Chafee graduated from Brown in 1975 and worked for seven years horseshoeing in Canada before starting his political career running as a delegate. Originally, he went from door-to-door in his district for support.


"I think they were just happy I wasn't trying to sell them vacuum cleaners or change their religion," he joked.


Chafee was elected mayor of Warwick in 1990, becoming their first republican mayor in 32 years. He served four consecutive terms.
When Chafee's father John passed away in 1999, Governor Lincoln Almond appointed him Chafee interim senator. He defeated current URI Vice President of Administration Robert Weygand in the 2000 election.

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