The Passion Of Lincoln Chafee

chafee.jpgAnd then there was Lincoln Chafee, The Reluctant Senator. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

In many ways, Mr. Chafee’s struggle is of his own making. Besides opposing the war, he voted against some Bush tax cuts, citing deficit concerns. He opposed Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s appointment because he was convinced the jurist would be hostile to abortion rights. And he let it be known that he didn’t vote to re-elect the president, writing in former President George H. W. Bush instead.

“I knew this was coming from way back,” says Mr. Chafee, at an outdoor festival in Cumberland. “The president’s agenda, for better or worse, motivates the party base. I’ve been hearing from them for the last five years.”

To stem the damage, Mr. Chafee has been a regular at Republican spaghetti dinners and diner breakfasts. Even so, he isn’t “overly optimistic” that he has persuaded many of them, he says.

Chafee is perhaps the senator least suited for Washington life since Eugene McCarthy skipped roll call votes to write poetry in his office. This from the New York Times last week:

Compared with many colleagues in the Senate, Mr. Chafee, 53, keeps a low profile, and campaigning does not seem second nature to him. Stopping to buy lemonade from a truck, he asks the attendant about the book she is reading. Only after tipping her and turning away does he toss over his shoulder, “Vote Chafee!”

Wonkette proudly presents the first installment of The Secret Lives Of Senators: Lincoln Chafee On The Campaign Trail. Read it after the jump:


Lincoln Chafee On The Campaign Trail

Lincoln Chafee closed his eyes and swallowed hard, once, twice. “Gosh,” he said, to nobody in particular. He rocked back and forth on his heels and swallowed again. His two aides exchanged tired glances.

“Um,” the taller one said. “Um, Senator, just ring the doorbell.” The other aide nodded vigorously. “Just–just ring the doorbell, Senator,” the tall aide repeated.

Looking sick, Lincoln Chafee nodded and tentatively rang the doorbell of the house. “You know,” he said, turning to his aides, “we’ve rung a lot of doorbells today. Maybe we could–”

An older woman opened the door and regarded Chafee’s back. “Help you?” she asked. Chafee, alarmed, jerked back around to face her, looking scared. “I’m-Lincoln-Chafee-your-Senator-and-I’d-like-your-support,” he said in a run-on rush of words.

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that?”

“Nothing,” said Lincoln Chafee. “Say, are those hydrangeas?” The shorter aide kicked him in the back of the leg. He gulped. “I’m Lincoln Chafee. Your senator. You know?” Chafee tried out a smile that faded in the face of the woman’s blank stare. “Well, thanks very much,” he said, turning to leave. The shorter aide grabbed his shoulders and propelled him back to the stoop.

Linc-oln Chaf-ee,” the aide said, loudly. “Rhode Island’s friend in the Senate?”

“A friend of the people,” the other aide echoed.

The woman perked up.

“Oh, I think I voted for you once. Back in the ’80s.”

“No, that was Dad,” Chafee mumbled.

“What?”

“That was Dad,” Chafee repeated, only slightly louder. “John Chafee. He was senator, too. Kind of pushed me into this game.” Chafee paused, as if reflecting. “I used to be a blacksmith,” he said.

“Best damn blacksmith in the country,” the shorter aide said.

“A friend of the people,” the other aide echoed.

The woman pursed her lips. “Well, that’s weird,” she said. “What qualifies a blacksmith for the Senate?”

“Um,” whispered Lincoln Chafee. “Um, my dad was John Chafee. Kind of pushed me into this game.” A small laugh burbled up and died in his throat. “Whew,” said Lincoln Chafee. “It certainly is a scorcher.”

“You sound like a Democrat,” the woman said, eyeing him up and down. “I don’t vote for Democrats.”

“No, he’s a Republican,” the taller aide said. “Staunch as they come. Endorsed by Bill Frist. Liddy Dole.”

“A friend of the people,” the other aide echoed.

Lincoln Chafee nodded vigorously. The woman looked interested. “Well, where do you stand on the issues?” she asked. “How about abortion?”

“For it.”

“Gun control?”

“For it.”

“Estate tax?”

“Against it.”

“Iraq war?”

“Against it.”

The woman looked confused. “You sound like a Democrat,” she said.

Lincoln Chafee shook his head. “No, I’m a Republican.”

“Well, you sound like a Democrat.”

Lincoln Chafee looked at the sky. His aides sighed. “Say, is that a slate roof?” Chafee asked.

“Tell her about your plan,” the tall aide urged.

“Yeah, tell her about the plan,” the other aide echoed.

“What plan?” the woman asked.

For the first time that afternoon, Lincoln Chafee looked alert. He cleared his throat. “I hope to bring civility and moderation back to the Senate,” he said proudly.

The woman started laughing. She slapped her thigh, and she whooped loudly, and she walked back into her house and shut the door. Lincoln Chafee blinked. He swallowed hard. “Vote Chafee?” he said half-heartedly.

“Well,” said the shorter aide.

“Well,” said the taller aide.

“Gosh,” Lincoln Chafee said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, walking down the driveway to the next house on the street. “Gosh.”

Rebellion by Base Roils a Republican Race [WSJ]

Tight Race for Another Senator, This Time a Republican [NYT]

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