August 15, 2006

Liberal Republicans, Character, Principles, and Negative Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee opened Thursday night’s Senate debate with an important point: issues will change, so people need to elect representatives whom they trust to have the character to make good decisions in unforeseen circumstances. But character is not all that indicates how a politician will deal with the unknown. Yes, character helps determine how someone will react when confronted with the temptation to wander astray from his principles, but the principles themselves are important too. To make an informed decision between candidates running for office, it is necessary to consider the basic principles that candidates believe in, as well as their characters.

In some ways, determining the principles underlie the liberal Republicanism that Senator Lincoln Chafee represents is difficult, because Rhode Island's liberal Republicanism has become an unfinished thought. We all know how the thought begins, “Rhode Island is a blue state, so everyone has to accept the Rhode Island Republicans will be more liberal than the Republicans in the rest of the country in order to win elections”. But how does the thought end? Is there any difference between the ends of liberal Republicans and those of plain ol’ liberals, or do liberal Republicans offer nothing more than, to paraphrase Peggy Noonan, a promise to try to to slow down the liberal program -- the continuing government takeover of as much political and economic life as possible -- just a little bit?

The recent paid media put forth by the Chafee campaign, the latest in a string of issueless, backwards-looking attacks on Steve Laffey, makes the answer pretty clear. Liberal Republicans, in another unfortunate conjunction between liberal Republicanism and unqualified liberalism, have adopted the attitude that anybody who believes differently from they do can’t possibly be serious – can’t even be a good person! They've bought into the idea that liberal assumptions and liberal ends are so self-evidently correct, they need no defense, and that non-liberal ideas like tax-simplification, smaller government, reducing the power of bureaucracies and empowering individuals don't merit any serious discussion.

The only choice that matters to the liberal wing of the Republican party is which personalities can best manage the high-tax nanny-state they would like to perpetuate; that's why their campaign spends so much time focusing on the issue of personality. Any other discussions are treated as mere distractions from the inevitable march of history towards an ever-stronger Federal government. Fortunately, America's voters have a history of embracing a belief that a wider array of choices is possible.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I don't care how Anthony, et al spin this, a political candidate does not go nuclear negative like Chafee has with this new ad if he is ahead. It's politics 101.

Posted by: Leon Berg at August 15, 2006 12:51 PM

Ahead or not, Chafee's campaign has demonstrated that he lacks a message, a platform, and possibly even a set of core beliefs beyond what his handlers write down on his 3x5 cards.

Ultimately, I perceive his beliefs to be "Whatever it takes to get re-elected" and that makes me ill.

And his failure to support Bush's Supreme Court nominees tells me that he's far more supportive of a big, powerful goverment and a court that supports that big government, takes away constitutionally granted rights and legistates from the bench. Ergo, he's no less liberal that Teddy Kennedy.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 12:57 PM

Sure, the new Chafee ad is negative. But when Chafee saw what he was up against at the start of his campaign, he adjusted his tactics. Winning politicians all over the political spectrum do that. What was he supposed to do, stand there and let Laffey and the CFG crowd trash him?
Due to the lack of GOP primary polling, we don't really know who's leading. Both candidates have to assume it could go either way.

Posted by: Rhody at August 15, 2006 1:02 PM

A confident, secure candidate would have publicly pronounced that he would 'take the high road' and not go negative and make his opponent look like a scumbag. Instead Chafee climbed right in the gutter with the CFG crowd. Which, really, is exactly what they wanted.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 1:07 PM

I think Chafee did a lot more than match the CFG's ads. At least the CFG made an effort to focus on Chafee's RECORD in office, based on his actual votes; not taking what are essentially personality ant hills, and trying to fabricate them into mountains.

I agree with Leon: if you think you're ahead, you don't pull out the nukes, when a few scuds might do.

As for liberal Republican control of our state party, it is only inevitable, if we fulfill the prophecy ourselves, by our actions for it, or lack of action against it. Liberalism is not in our water (I hope)!

Posted by: Will at August 15, 2006 1:59 PM

My wife is a Dem and she was also disgusted at the latest Chafee ad. If the onscreen pull quote is accurate - "Luckily, they're old and they're dying" - then why does the audio snippet not include the damning "Luckily"? If Laffee did express himself insensitively, Chafee has shot himself in the foot trying to capitalize on it. He comes off smelling like a desperate hack, or worse.

Posted by: rhodeymark at August 15, 2006 1:59 PM

I was out of town when debate #1 took place, so I was happy to sit down today and listen (rewinding several times) to what Laffey and Chafee had to say.

What I heard was Chafee whining over Laffey calling him out over issues that Chafee thinks will eventually change and become irrelevant (taxes, immigration, terrorism, pork, etc.) while trying to portray himself as the guy with the character necessary to get things done (go along to get along.)

I also heard Laffey answering questions directly, providing his vision for addressing the issues of today and tomorrow, and just plain acting like a man with character shaped by hard knocks and hard work.

Then the day after the debates, Chafee and his team of hacks launch the most negative and fallacious ad to date.

I ask you this - Is this the action of a man with a strong character?

Posted by: oz at August 15, 2006 2:02 PM

I volunteered for Chafee in 2000.

Here's a little insight into his character from my perspective.

With just two other guys, I built all the large signs he used that year.

I spent countless nights, and some afternoons stuffing envelopes for him.

I translated campaign materials into spanish for him.

I translated some materials for his website for him.

I was present at every pre-debate rally holding a sign and making noise for him.

I loaned my tools to his campaign. A cordless drill, a heavy duty stapler, a box of staples and a post hole digger. (The spiffy preppy crowd may not get it, but when a man lends his tools, it means something)

I inflated baloons and decorated venues for fund raisers.

I gave voters rides to the polls on election day for him.

I spent 10 hours holding signs in front of several polling places for him(never got a sandwich or a drink).

I contributed some of my hard earned money to his campaign.

He lost me long before he voted against the Bush Tax Cuts. He lost me at a volunteer appreciation party after the election when I realized he had no idea who I was. He had shaken my hand at each debate rally and had to ask who I was each time.

Trust me, I don't need a huge display of reassurance for volunteer work. I've only recently thought back on how much I did because, in retrospect, it was a huge waste of time.

But, Chafee just never seemed to care about anyone outside his inner circle, of people who are just like him.

That would have been the end of political activism for me had I not met the future Mayor of Cranston a little over a year later. It never ceases to amaze me how well Steve Laffey connects with people. While campaigning with him this week, two weathered and grizzly looking old buys told him, "we've been Democrats all our lives, but we're voting for you"!

It is just Laffey's nature to tell people the truth about what is going on in Government, whether it be state, local or federal. If taking strong positions on the issues makes Mr. Chafee uncomfortable. If he cannot defend his record in the Senate and if he can only resort to personal attacks, perhaps he should re-weigh his resume back towards the line of horse shoeing. He's going to need it soon.

Posted by: Harry Frazee at August 15, 2006 3:04 PM

And there you have it, folks.

Bravo, Mr. Frazee. And thank you.

Posted by: oz at August 15, 2006 3:31 PM


Let's get the record straight...

9/8/05 6:00 PM: Laffey Announces Candidacy

9/8/05 11:00 PM: Chafee says he "looks forward to ending Laffey's career" on Ch. 10.

Late September: Laffey runs 'gov't dropped the ball on energy policy' ad

October: NRSC runs negative Laffey ad for Chafee

Everything else came later.

There it is, Chafee has gone negative first and often, so much for "character".

Posted by: Carl Elliott at August 15, 2006 4:40 PM

I just returned from my phony republican campaign in south county. Looks like Linc and his negative ads are his swan song. He is desperate. Two months of polls heading south for Linc. Time to move back to virginia Linc.


Posted by: Rino Cooke at August 15, 2006 6:38 PM

I think Rino better check the kool aid he has been chugging. Laffey is the one trailing Sheldon by over 20 points not Linc. If we want a Republican Senator from Rhode Island, we probably should elect one who has a chance at winning the general.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 6:56 PM

If we want a Republican senator from Rhode Island, I can't see how we can vote to re-elect Chafee. I'd rather the Republican Party lose the seat than continue to be infected by RINOs like him.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 7:21 PM

Greg--Are you saying that you'd rather see the Republican Party's downfall, rather than a party with moderates instead of religous extremists?

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 7:26 PM

A point I would like to make about the Chafee ads is at least the campaign actually pays for them.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 7:42 PM

"Greg--Are you saying that you'd rather see the Republican Party's downfall, rather than a party with moderates instead of religous extremists?"

I would rather see no party at all than a party that no longer adheres to the ideas of state's rights and the Constitution. Right now the only choice this race is giving us is between a big government Republican, a big government Democrat and the man they say can't win.

All of you hypocrites on the Chafee bandwagon; will you be yelling "Support Laffey to maintain the seat!" if he wins the primary? Or will you support the OTHER big government candidate, as I suspect will truly be the case?

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 9:03 PM

Dear Spodorf,

What do you mean "the campaign pays for them?"

Regardless of where the $$ come from, the campaign pays for them. The Chaffe campaign isn't secretly running a hot dog stand somewhere. Nobody is washing cars, maintaining a dry cleaning business, or spinning records.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at August 15, 2006 9:05 PM

Dear Bobby,
As required by federal law, there must be a statement on who pays for an advertisement at the end of each commercial. "Chafee for Senate" pays for Lincs', while the Club for Growth pays for Laffeys. My point was that at least Chafee is having some in-state money pay for his advertising rather than the Mayor whose ads are payed for by a large, national right wing orginization.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 9:08 PM

Yeah, and all of Chafee's 'in-state' money is coming from the Democrats and the Newport bluebloods.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 9:12 PM

Dear Greg,
In answer to you question: Yes I will support Laffey if he wins the nomination, however I think that not be best for the Republican Party due to his slim chance at beating Shelly. I am in fact not a big government Republican but rather just a Republican who enjoys winning and maintaining the chairmanships we currently hold. It is my belief along with the pollsters that Mayor Laffey simply cannot win a Senate seat in a state like Rhode Island.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 9:13 PM

So, winning at the cost of your soul is okay, right?

Why not just have a 2-party system of Democrats and Democrats?

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 9:16 PM

I would take umbrage at that remark Greg. My collegues and I are neither blue-blooded Newporters or Democrats. Greg, I have a feeling that you are the reason the Republican party is going down the drain. This is politics, not the church. You demagogues at the far right need to realize that compromise not partisanship is what this country needs most.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 9:18 PM

No, the Republican Party is going down the tubes because they've turned their backs on the conservatives that put them in power by growing government, taking away home ownership rights, poorly executing the war on terror and failing to secure our national security.

"Republicans" like Chafee are largely responsible for that and they have to go.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 9:21 PM

You are right Greg. They will go because of wasted votes such as yours. Ohh, and then they will be replaced with people like Sheldon Whitehouse and Ned Lamont

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 9:22 PM

If your boy Chafee wins re-election, what do we really win? We send the message that the wishy-washy center is where we want the party? We proclaim that high taxes and poor national security is the way of the 21st century?

What kind of conservative believes in such things?

Oh, I forgot. The New England Republican. The type of person who's brain has been poisoned by living here in the Northeast all their life and has no perspective of what America is REALLY like except to look down your nose at the 'hicks' that live in the area between CA and NY.

What the Republican Party needs are FEWER votes from people like you, not more.

Is Laffey a great choice? Hell no. But Chafee is a choice no different than voting for Shelly. All we retain is another (R) that will quickly flip and become a (D) if it will be politically advantageous to him.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2006 9:27 PM

I find it egregious that you would say Lincoln Chafee would switch parties simply because it would be politically advantageous. He has said from the start that he is and will remain a committed Republican and will not even switch that "R" to an "I". Second, I do not look down at Midwestern Republicans, in fact I share many or my opinions with them, It is just I am sick of the constant fighting that plagues the two parties and would wish the country could just move on, which it can't, with people in office such as Steve Laffey. Third you do not seem to understand the importance of maintaining the majority in Congress. Not only will it allow President Bush to better to his job, but it will also prevent the Judiciary from turning into a bunch of Green Party nutjobs.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 15, 2006 9:50 PM

Club for Growth wanted a jihad against Chafee. Anybody who accepts CFG's backing knows they're supporting a jihad.
Why are Laffey backers so upset that Chafee dared bring something a little more substantial than a derringer to this fight when he has a virtual AK-47 aimed at his skull?
Face it, these days, politics is war, as we learned in Connecticut last week and we now know in Rhode Island. The Marquis of Queensbury rules have long since been thrown out the window. That's okay, as long as BOTH sides realize that.

Posted by: Rhody at August 15, 2006 10:58 PM

>> As required by federal law, there must be a statement on who pays for an advertisement at the end of each commercial. "Chafee for Senate" pays for Lincs', while the Club for Growth pays for Laffeys. My point was that at least Chafee is having some in-state money pay for his advertising rather than the Mayor whose ads are payed for by a large, national right wing orginization.

Spodorf –

I suppose that you consider all of that Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee money to be “in state?”

In the end the source(s) of money are a sideshow - it is positions that matter.

Chafee is a moderate liberal. Whitehouse is a doctrinaire liberal. Not much difference. A vote for Chafee is a vote for the proposition that political parties should be “Coke” and “Pepsi” – much ado and advertising dollars expended to promote the fallacy that two fundamentally similar products are substantially different … that one is superior to the other … that drinking one makes one cool, while the other is for dorks, etc.

The political direction of this country is too critical to allow to be taken over by two generic parties peddling the liberal nostrums of big government and de facto destruction of the Constitution … notwithstanding their self-serving portrayal of same as “moderation” and “compromise.”

Though Laffey is not prize, I’d rather cast my vote for someone who at least partially symbolizes the “brand characteristics” that the Republican Party espouses, rather than one like Chafee who openly – and by his actions – disdains them.

And if RI ends up with Senator Whitehouse – and if the “Republicans” lose control of the Senate - so be it. It’ll serve as a much needed wake-up call to the national GOP / Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2006 12:12 AM

Great points, Tom. I couldn't state it better.

I'm curious if anyone else noticed that our new friend "spodorf" seems to have something against the religious being involed in politics, because in more than one of his/her/its postings, there have been some mocking and other untrue assertions, bringing religion into the debate where it simply does not belong (thought we'd settled that with JFK). I guess your definition of "religious extremist" is someone who takes their faith seriously, or would that be a weekly church attendee, perhaps?

And as for this precious gem: "I find it egregious that you would say Lincoln Chafee would switch parties simply because it would be politically advantageous."

[Trying to stop laughing -- ha, ha, ha, seriously now ...]
LINCOLN CHAFEE said that he would consider switching party affiliation HIMSELF -- on the record -- if the Democrats took control of the Senate, less than two years ago (at about the same time he said he wasn't voting for President Bush)! This is not classified information! It's been in the Providence Journal, repeatedly. Look it up. Tell the other interns at Chafee HQ to do a little more research before making fools out of yourselves, please!

Posted by: Will at August 16, 2006 1:16 AM

Rhody, I agree. Virtually every race in which CFg becomes involved turns openly hostile. They welcome the hostility and believe that such controversial campaigns help their efforts. This has become modern politics, for better or worse.

Everyone should take a deep breath.

Arguing over who is ahead in the primary is like arguing over who will win next year's Super Bowl. Nobody knows for sure.

As for the arguments about negative campaigning, it reminds of two prostitutes arguing over who is more virtuous. Both sides have gone negative for awhile (I seem to recall predicting this would happen months ago).

It will all be over in a matter of days.

Posted by: Anthony at August 16, 2006 1:42 AM

The CFG, of which I am a recent member, is a purely economic issues based 527 group. While they are economically (not socially) conservative, I don't even consider them to be all that right-wing -- that is, unless lower taxes across the board, and a smaller, more limited government, is restricted only to "the right." They oppose Chafee, because of his views on issues, which in many respects, are what one would expect from a Democrat. They also want to make an example out of him. They understand the power of symbolism. The CFG is not a party organization like the NRSC. CFG works for advancement of their stated principles. The NRSC works to retain power, regardless of it. Therefore, they do not put partisanship ahead of adherence to them.

Hostility (I would call it "providing voters with a real choice"), is not necessarily a bad thing, when it is actually based in the truth. It serves to illustratate the differences between candidates and parties. When you have to distort the truth or lie to make your opponent sound bad, then yes, I do find it to be a problem. The problem with Chafee, is that that he is for all intents and purposes, Sheldon's twin. Other than nominal party affiliation, and voting for party leader every few years, even you would have trouble finding an issue where they actually differ.

Only 27 more days to go...

Posted by: Will at August 16, 2006 2:21 AM

A question I have to pose is: When Laffey loses what are all of you Laffey-Lovers going to do?

Posted by: Spodorf at August 16, 2006 8:34 AM

Vote for Whitehouse. I've openly said repeatedly that I'll vote for anyone but Chafee.

Posted by: Greg at August 16, 2006 8:43 AM

What the Chafee stooges omit in their anti-CFG (hence anti-economic growth, hence pro-pork, pro-big government, pro-high taxes) spin is that the CFG has a spectacular record of WINNING! Sure Toomey lost by a nose, but there are a lot of lessons learned from that. The Club is 8 for 10 in its efforts to replace RINO's with fiscally conservative candidates in Republican primaries THIS YEAR!

Another convenient omission for Anthony and his minions is that the Club sticks exclusively to ECONOMIC issues. I was fortunate to attend a Club conference last fall where many club-endorsed candidates spoke. The ground rule for the candidates' speeches and for questions from the conference participants was that everyone stick to economic issues.

For the program that began at 8:30 am and concluded with a speach by Sen. George Allan at around 8:00 PM, the focus was entirely on wasteful pork-barrel spending, the burden big Government places on economic freedom and personal liberty, tax cuts and tax reform.

It is a open display of ignorance to say the Club for Growth is right-wing or even a "special interest group". The clubs goals like Steve Laffey's are for the benefit of all americans.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at August 16, 2006 8:51 AM

Stretch, you're right that the Club has a great record of winning primaries in Republican-dominated areas. But their general election record doesn't match their primary track record.

This race is Toomey's attempt to get back at Karl Rove and to distinguish himself from Stephen Moore who founded the Club.

By the way, when Moore was asked about Chafee, he was quoted as saying, "A Republican Senate seat from Rhode Island should be looked at as a gift from the gods."

And Stretch, the Club is the very definition of a special interest group--concerned about a single issue without considering or caring how their actions impact the broader political scene so long as "they get 'their's'" (just fill in the applicable agenda for "their's").

Posted by: Anthony at August 16, 2006 10:53 AM

Dear Spodorf,

So, according to you, only the rich need apply?

Money is money. Most in-state money is made out of state.

I have also contributed, in a small way, to 10 out of state candidates this cycle. Are you saying I should be barred from doing so?

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at August 16, 2006 11:02 AM

Anthony, the point is that the club is doing well helping pro-growth/limited government republicans defeat liberals. Some of them liberal incumbents.

Second point on CFG and special interests: How can any authentic republican argue that economic freedom and economic growth are not good for everyone?

NARAL is out for its own interest, as is Sierra as well as the PACs/lobbyists for huge corporations are out for their own interest.

Laffey will continue to fight for the good of all people. Chafee has proven he hasn't got the mettle.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at August 16, 2006 11:33 AM

>>A question I have to pose is: When Laffey loses what are all of you Laffey-Lovers going to do?

I will vote in the general election.

But I won't vote for Whitehouse.

Neither will I vote for Chafee.

I'll just "sit out" that race.

Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2006 3:43 PM

Special interest groups come in all shapes and sizes from all across the political spectrum. However, it's is not a good thing for an elected official to be beholden to ANY one group.

The Club has done well in helping more conservative candidates beat moderate candidates in primaries. For all their money and bluster, they have done remarkably little to actually defeat liberal Democrats.

I'm in general agreement with most of the Club's issue positions. I disagree with their tactics and believe their efforts would best be directed in "swing" areas against Democrats, not against other Republicans and most definitely not against Republican incumbents in Democrat-dominated areas.

Posted by: Anthony at August 16, 2006 3:53 PM

I will vote in the general election.
But I won't vote for Whitehouse.
Neither will I vote for Chafee.
I'll just "sit out" that race.

x2 - Let those who read the tea leaves of vote totals discern the imbalance. I could vote for someone I had (some) policy disagreements with - if I respected them.

Posted by: rhodeymark at August 16, 2006 4:26 PM

Gentlemen--Your decision not to vote will only help the Democrats; it will in no way help reform the Republican Party.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 16, 2006 7:07 PM

>>"The Club is the very definition of a special interest group--concerned about a single issue without considering or caring how their actions impact the broader political scene so long as "they get 'their's'" (just fill in the applicable agenda for "their's"). "

Anthony's point pretty much sums up my arguement. Although I happen to be in agreement with many of the CFG policies. Anthony is 100 percent right in saying they care only about their goals and do not think about what political implications their actions could cause (such as the Republican Party losing their majority in Congree) Instead of trying to upset the political balence in Washington, the club should act like other special interests and hire a lobbying firm to promote this agenda. Ohh wait--Steven Laffey is against all kinds of special interest earmarks, even ones that could further the Club's agenda

Posted by: Spodorf at August 16, 2006 8:28 PM

Regarding the question: what will Laffey voters do,...

I'm thinking I might write in JOHN Chafee in the General Election, if, by some quirk, Linc were to win the primary. That way I vote at least for a moderate Republican, not to mention emulate the Senator himself in terms of making a statement.

Posted by: Chuck at August 16, 2006 9:42 PM

>>Gentlemen--Your decision not to vote will only help the Democrats; it will in no way help reform the Republican Party.

I respectfully, but vehemently, disagree.

Supporting RINO's will only further the decline of the Republican Party.

Look at RI - the RIGOP is essentially a RINO institution, and "enjoys" perma-minority status. As it should. Why vote for quasi-Democrats when you can have the real thing?

Having a "majority status" in Congress of people who spend and vote like Democrats is no victory.

RINO's are like a cancer in the Republican Party, destroying it from within.


Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2006 9:52 PM


Adolescents on the blog like you need a little discipline. Where are the blog police when we need them.

Take some honest advise and stop making a fool of yourself and embarrassing Chafee.

Those of us who actually think about what we write and actually believe we have an honest position with a rationale to back it up (on both sides of the debate) really don’t care about your juvenile, baseless and uninteresting (not to mention boring) attacks.

Get real, grow up, and maybe we’ll let you be a man some day. Maybe.

Until then please go away. Your clogging the blogway.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at August 16, 2006 11:00 PM

I may attack the foundation of many of yours and your colleague's beliefs, but I do not personally attack you or your friends as you have just done. Everyone should find your personal attacks and lies about me ironic considering your recent post was about baseless attacks. Most reasonable people would agree that it is rude and damaging language such as yours that is clogging the blogway and taking away from the purpose of this site.

Posted by: Spodorf at August 16, 2006 11:14 PM

I've been on the receiving end of personal attacks too, Spoldorf.
Just think of it this way. The school bully really, really hates it when somebody stands up to him. If he's going to smack you down anyway, might as well give him something to get angry about.

Posted by: Rhody at August 19, 2006 9:25 PM