January 13, 2006

Yorke Interviews Sen. Chafee

Marc Comtois

Dan Yorke interviewed Senator Chafee for the first time in 4-5 years on his radio show yesterday afternoon. Yorke has not been easy on Sen. Chafee over the last few years--it was he who dubbed him "the Senator from Virginia"--and I thought it worth the time to listen and pass along a summary of the conversation. For those of you who don't want to read the extended summary, here are the major points I took away from the interview:

1) Senator Chafee doesn't regret voting for former President George H.W. Bush instead of his son, President George W. Bush, who was actually running for office in 2004. He also seemed to imply that he showed more party loyalty by doing this than did Zell Miller, who crossed the line to vote for a Republican. And isn't it neat that the current President is still supporting Senator Chafee? My quick take: Sen. Chafee held party loyalty higher than personal ideals during the 2004 election. He has been rewarded with support from the national GOP.

2) He's opposed to the policy in Iraq. WMD was a false premise. The WMD used by Saddam on the Kurds was WWI technology and wasn't "real" WMD. There's was no link between Al Queda and Saddam. (Though maybe there was...) Thinks we're in "another Vietnam" and that Iraq is a quagmire. My quick take: Sen. Chafee holds personal ideals higher than loyalty to a President of his own party on this point. Nonetheless, he still has the support from the National GOP.

3) Still unwilling to announce whether he is going to vote for Judge Alito's confirmation or not. My quick take: Finger is in the wind.

4) Thinks Mayor Laffey showed disrespect by not telling him personally that he was going to run against him for Senate. Hinted that the Mayor was also ungrateful given the help Sen. Chafee gave him when he first came to RI. Also still thinks that Mayor Laffey should have run for some other office to help the RI GOP. Finally, thinks that Mayor Laffey has shown a retributive character and gave the example of the Jackvony pixelization episode. My quick take: Senator Chafee thinks Mayor Laffey has shown no party loyalty by not following the advice of the RI GOP leadership and he has also not shown Sen. Chafee proper respect. Sen. Chafee won't be mean in the campaign except when he says that Mayor Laffey is mean.

Now, here's the extended summary--and please remember that this is a summary, not a transcript. (I've quoted some lines when confident I got it right). I've put the topical headings in bold. I'll leave the rest of the opining to the commenters:

Discussion of Yorke/Chafee "Relationship"

Yorke first broached the subject of how Senator Chafee felt about the sobriquet "Senator from Virgina" and tried to make clear that the reason behind it was that Senator Chafee had run for Senate in RI and shortly after winning moved his whole family to Virginia. Senator Chafee responded that while running for election in 2000 he had no plans to move to Virginia. It was something he and his wife talked about over Christmas that year and then they made the move. He reiterated that there was no plan.

Diverting to some inside baseball, they also talked about the Senator's absence from Yorke's show for 4-5 years and Senator Chafee thought he hadn't been invited. To this, Yorke answered that he stopped inviting him after he kept getting no reaction from Chafee's camp. In reply, Senator Chafee said he didn't recall being invited and went on to say that he calls into shows on different issues all the time. Yorke then asked if--after over 4 yrs of not being on the show--wouldn't you have asked the staff why? Chafee responded that he supposed that both he and Yorke both got on different tracks and their relationship just got a bit harsh. Yorke responded that he had no personal ax to grind and that no matter their difference on issues, Senator Chafee can always call and debate him. Senator Chafee responded the he was glad the bridge had been rebuilt. Finally, Yorke concluded that he realized that it's 2006 and an election was coming up [which may be the acute cause for Senator Chafee's visit], nonetheless, he hoped their newfound relationship could continue after
the election.

Voting against the President who now supports Sen. Chafee

After a break, Yorke asked Senator Chafee what was he thinking when he voted for George H.W. Bush instead of the current President Bush in 2004? Would he do it again or take it back? Sen. Chafee responded that no he wouldn't. He had thought about it a lot and is always honest with himself. The war was a big issue and he thinks we're in another Vietnam like era, Iraq is becoming a quagmire. The President led the country into Iraq under a false premise--WMD--and there were no WMD. The father had such a different outlook--one which Sen. Chafee agreed with. The cost of the war is staggering. In the end, at least he [Sen. Chafee] was not hypocritical by not voting for the current President.

Following up, Yorke asked if Sen. Chafee then thought we have a President who he didn't think should be there. To this, Sen. Chafee responded that, no, he won fair and square. When asked if he felt that the country was set back by the re-election of President Bush, Sen. Chafee responded that the main fact is to have respect. He then mentioned that they [the Bush Administration] were supporting him for re-election in both the primary and general election and he mentioned that Presidential Chief of Staff Andy Card had visited Rhode Island a few times on Chafee's behalf.

Yorke then asked Sen. Chafee to be honest: did the President and his people call Sen. Chafee in? Were there any repercussions? Sen. Chafee indicated that there weren't, they he was sure they were unhappy. He then offered that "this is Rhode Island" and it wasn't in flux: it wasn't a swing state in 2004. Further, he met both President Bush's and they smiled at each other. He concluded, "Victory wipes away pain."

Yorke then noted that now this same President is concerned about Sen. Chafee's re-election and that "politics makes strange bedfellows." Yorke also offered that if he were the President he wouldn't support Sen. Chafee. He then asked , "Why do they?" Sen. Chafee responded that he supposed it was because even though he voted for the father, he hadn't betrayed the Republican party. He contrasted this with the actions of Democrat Zell Miller, who was very public in his support for the Republican George W. Bush and crossed party lines. Thus, according to Senator Chafee, he thinks the White House respects that they have differences and that Sen. Chafee isn't a hypocrite.

The Iraq War

Yorke then brought the conversation back to the War in Iraq and asked if Sen. Chafee thought that "we screwed up." Sen. Chafee responded that the premise was that Saddam was a threat, but he didn't see the evidence for it. He looked at things himself and wasn't convinced. He visited various agenicies--he even examined the aluminum tubes--and thought that they looked like something he could buy that at Mancini's Hardware. He said that even the Kuwaitis were saying don't attack and that Europe said don't, too. Thus, if they didn't think he [Saddam] was a threat, why should we? If we're going to say democracy
is good for war on terror, let's have that debate, but we never did at that time.

Yorke reminded Sen. Chafee that President Bush had admitted problems with the intelligence. Yorke also recalled the President's UN speech where he gave Saddam a last warning. [Yorke also offered that our intelligence wasn't so good then, it is better now.] The UN resolution was a last demand to come clean. People seem to forget that Saddam was our worst enemy. Yorke opined that Secretary of State Powell's presentation was poor in hindsight, but Saddam was forwarned. Doesn't that matter?

Chafee responded that he "never understood the drumbeat for war in Iraq." He stated that there was no connection between Al Queda and Iraq. He also worried over where we [the United States] gets this appetite for war.

Yorke responded that "the appetite came with 9/11." He also clarified that there's never been a heavy line drawn between Al Queda and Iraq. That Saddam had a past of using WMD in iraq, a decade of him not
cooperating, and he was warned. What else was there to do? Continue offering a veiled threat without backing it up, which would lead to a credibility issue?

Sen. Chafee responded that he never understood why we got ourselves in that position with Iraq in the first place. Further, he asked what constitutes a WMD? The stuff used on the Kurds was World War I technology. Nuclear weapons are WMD. This guy [Saddam] was nowhere near a real threat.

Alito Confirmation

Yorke then shifted the conversation to the Alito hearings. Sen. Chafee explained that he watched what he could and that he had someone in Washington, D.C. watching every minute and reporting back to him. Sen. Chafee believed that it would be a partisan vote in favor of Judge Alito and that he'd win confirmation, "but its early."

Yorke asked if he was supporting the Alito nomination and Sen. Chafee responded that he hadn't decided. He wants the hearings to conclude as there are still more witnesses.

Yorke asked if he'd seen the part of the hearings when Mrs. Alito left in tears. Sen. Chafee said he hadn't, but that he did see the Kennedy/Spectre argument over the CAP papers.

Yorke believed that Judge Alito had offered concise and surprisingly specific answers, but Sen. Chafee thought he'd been very careful in his parsing because he didn't want to upset either half of committee which would automatically vote for or against him if he were to offer an overt statement on Roe v. Wade.

Yorke agreed that Roe v. Wade was "the lightening rod," but aside from that, he [Alito] has been good. He's been challenged on acute things and the Princeton stuff was ridiculous. Hasn't he been classy? Sen. Chafee responded, "yes," and that his answers on the Princeton things have been good. Additionally, Alito's other comments on such things as the Commerce Clause and the 14th ammendment have been good, but there still hasn't been enough such exposition.

Yorke responded, "So he hasn't given you anything yet." He queried Sen. Chafee if he wasn't leaning one way or another: how could he be neutral? Sen. Chafee responded that, since President Bush won election and he told us the type he'd nominate for Supreme Court [like Judge Scalia]...now that nominee is here.

Yorke offered the aside that Harriet Miers was a mistake, and asked if Sen. Chafee thought that the Democrats were going to hold up Alito to which the Senator said it didn't look like it. He also said that the Gang of 14 hadn't talked yet and that they were letting the hearings go on.

The 2006 Senate Race

Yorke then broached the topic of the Senate election. Yorke asked if Mayor Laffey did the classy thing and told Sen. Chafee personally that he was running against him in the Republican primary. Sen. Chafee said that he didn't. Yorke asked what he thought of that and Sen. Chafee pointed out that, while he didn't want to cast aspersions, he worked with Steve Laffey when he first came to Rhode Island and ran for Mayor in Cranston. Sen. Chafee also said that he worked closely with Mr. Jackvony on the Cranston Town council and that since then they [Laffey and Jackvony] have had a well-publicized falling out.

Yorke explained that Mayor Laffey and Senator Chafee represented two parts of the already small RI GOP and asked for Sen. Chafee's take on having that split in a small party. Sen. Chafee said that Mayor Laffey had every right to run, but that Republicans in RI have plenty of vacant seats statewide--as well as both congressional seats--that the RI GOP needs to find candidates for.

Yorke continues, summarizing that Mayor Laffey decides to run, he doesn't call you and the party is fractious. This is going to be a WWF pay-per-view event. One of the things Mayor Laffey did was challenge you to debates. Have you reacted to this? Sen. Chafee said that he said that there's a time and place and he won't duck debating Mayor Laffey. Yorke asked how many debates would be appropriate and Sen. Chafee stated he'd have to think about it, but recalled that he had 8 against Robert Weygand in 2000.

Yorke stated that "I had to laugh at his call for debates," and said there were two schools of thought on how an incumbent like Sen. Chafee should react. The first was that he rope-a-dope Mayor Laffey, the other was that he burn him out and people get sick of it. Had Sen. Chafee thought of how to handle it? Sen. Chafee said that he had and that there are sharp differences and debates at proper time would be to his advantage.

Yorke conveyed that he thought that Mayor Laffey "thinks he can eat your lunch." Yorke reasoned that this was because Sen. Chafee comes across as the nice guy, but Mayor Laffey is a pit bull. According to Yorke, Mayor Laffey is dying to get you and kick your ass. Yorke asked if Mayor Laffey was underestimating Sen. Chafee in this, to which the Senator responded that--"if that's his point of view--absolutely."

Yorked stated that he had heard the Senator was competitive and wanted some evidence. Sen. Chafee responded by reciting his political career, of running for office as a Republican in a Democrat dominated city [Warwick] and winning when people said he couldn't.

From this, Yorke observed that some say the legacy of Sen. John Chafee is a buoy to his son and that that may have worn off a bit. Sen. Chafee stated that he didn't think it helped him in Warwick, but it was a factor in his first senate run in 2000. It was probably unfair to Weygand to be caught in that, but this time Sen. Chafee is on his own.

Yorke asked if--other than political races--if there was anything else that showed his mettle. Sen. Chafee then talked about going and working at race tracks, working as a blacksmith and going to Alberta Canada on his own with no family support. He got to know people and made his own business.

Yorke then asked if Sen. Chafee visualized this race getting personal. Yorke couldn't see Sen. Chafee doing that, and asked if Mayor Laffey risks a boomerang if he does go down that road. Sen. Chafee offered that he thought that the whole pixel-picture story showed a different side of Mayor Laffey, "Why not just take picture off is obvious question?"

Yorke asked if this was some insight into Mayor Laffey's character and Sen. Chafee it shows that it shows a retributive character. Yorke then asked if he thought Mayor Laffey was "a good guy." Senator Chafee explained that he didn't think Mayor Laffey was a good guy for running against him since we're [the RI GOP] looking for candidates for office in other areas. "I don't think he's a good guy for doing that."

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.

Quality: This is an awesome synopsis of the interview.

Quantity: Writing this up was huge waste of time.

Volume: I turned up the volume as high as it would go and I still couldn't hear Chafee say anything.

Relevance: N/A

Senatorial Comportment (1 to 10 scale):

1 Forgets 9/11
1 Indecisive on Alito
-5 Mentions pixel man
1 General

Score = -2 out a possible 40.

Consensus: He isn't really a Senator

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 13, 2006 11:45 AM

Quantity: Okay, so it wasn't brief, but I missed the show so I was interested to read it. It doesn't change my opinion of the Senator, but sound bites like this make good fodder for debates when the election gets closer...
One could waste their time on worse things.

Posted by: Rebekah at January 13, 2006 1:21 PM

I could not believe my ears yesterday when Senator Chafee admitted to not watching the Alito hearings and then commented that confirming Supreme Court nominees is one of the 2 most important things a Senator does? Then he had the audacity to say that someone in DC is watching the hearings for him!!! I sure that most Senators watch tapes of the hearings, or Chafee could do what I do, which is watch the replays on C-Span at night. What a joke.


Posted by: Bosco "BA" Baracus at January 13, 2006 5:18 PM

I could not believe my ears yesterday when Senator Chafee admitted to not watching the Alito hearings and then commented that confirming Supreme Court nominees is one of the 2 most important things a Senator does? Then he had the audacity to say that someone in DC is watching the hearings for him!!! I sure that most Senators watch tapes of the hearings, or Chafee could do what I do, which is watch the replays on C-Span at night. What a joke.


Posted by: Bosco "BA" Baracus at January 13, 2006 5:18 PM

Yep, Chafee's main issue in the campaign with Laffey is pixelation...so sad that's all he has after six years. Then there is the usual Chafee attitude, Laffey should run for something meaningless...anything, but don't run for the seat that I am entitled to.

Good job Marc with the summary. I always get a laugh reading Chafee explaining himself. It's almost as funny as anything you can watch on TV land.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 13, 2006 5:18 PM

Young men and lady. I remember the father, good man. But this conversation with york was just awful. At one point york asked chafee about being tough, since laffey is tough. Chafee could only cite that he moved away from Rhode Island and got a job shoing horses for 7 years. That's it.... Most pathetic thing I ever heard on the radio.

I felt sorry for Mr. Chafee right then. Laffey is a fighter, he had a tough life and made something of himself.

The only thing sadder for me to watch is a debate between laffey and chafee as laffey destroys him.

I have been around a long time. Mr. chafee needs to run for Lt. Gov. not laffey.

Posted by: ivan the elder at January 13, 2006 5:30 PM

It was a pretty silly interview by almost any measure, and at the RI Boat Show no less (really helps Chafee get rid of that elitist "yacht club" persona). And that horseshoeing thing lost whatever endearing quality it had about 6 years ago.

For nearly five years in the making, perhaps I set my expectations too high about the interview -- like that he might take questions from the radio audience! That'd be way too spontaneous though. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Dan Yorke submitted his questions to the senator's team in advance. There certainly weren't any hardballs thrown, that's for sure. At minimum, I'm sure they made the senator's appearance contingent on him not having to take caller questions.

As for his admission that he has "someone in DC" listening to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for him, can anyone say "former Chief of Staff of his RI office"? I won't name names, but most Republicans in the loop know exactly who I'm talking about.

Part of me genuinely feels bad for Linc Chafee. He's a nice guy, but he's just in over his head. The other part of me is looking forward to September and beyond.

Posted by: Will at January 14, 2006 12:34 AM

I thought that Sen. Chafee was excellent. He answered tough questions honestly and showed a lot of sensitivity to all sides of the issue. Not an easy interview with Dan Yorke making slaqnderous comments about him being the Senator from VA (a ridiculous point since he's the only member of the delegation with children).

Loved his answer on Iraq, but wish the guy would shelve the modesty and brag for once. He's done ALOT! unlike Laffey whose negligence almost caused cranston residents to meet a fiery death.

Posted by: James at January 14, 2006 4:06 PM

Is there more than one james?

Chafee lives in VA. Has for the past four years. What did his father do? Did Pell live in VA? Did Pastore? Where does Reed live? Whatever.

Either way Yorke's remark isn't slander. It's the truth. Slander is when you make false and malicious statements about someone. Like you did in your post about Laffey. That is slanderous.

Also, make sure to spell check your posts. You will fool more people into thinking you have a brain with a quick spell check.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 14, 2006 4:38 PM

1, Cranston had until 6/30/06 to bring the ice rink up to code, therefore the city was not negligent.

2, Chafee's Iraq posiiton is popular with liberals and Democrats, not with Republicans and conservatives.

3, Ice rink is a non-issue, but Iraq is a big issue in a Republican primary.

4, After primary loss, Chafee will return home to Virginia.

Return to Chafee base and try again.

Posted by: The Red Baron at January 14, 2006 5:04 PM

Sally Mae, or should I say Murdock, the only place Laffey is going after winning the GOP Primary in September is back to campaigning for the General Election, then on to DC. But unlike the Senator from VA, Laffey will gut out the 2 hour long round trip commute from TF Green each week. I'm sure, however, that will not be as tough a hardship for Laffey as moving from RI to Canada and having to make new friends was for Chafee.


Posted by: Bosco "BA" Baracus at January 14, 2006 5:39 PM

Sally, dearest -

Laffey's in RI to stay. Chafee though---after the inevitable election blow---will be returning to Alberta, Canada to revitalize his stamina.

Posted by: Yolanda at January 14, 2006 5:46 PM

Great job Marc, we mentioned the interview on the Senescent Man.

The part of the interview that I am still boled over by is his thinking his most stressful non-political experience was horseshoeing. Ahem.

The man is in deep trouble come September.

Posted by: Chuck Nevola at January 14, 2006 8:10 PM

Are you people for real!!! You are such obvious Laffey plants. Chafee was thoughtful and beheaved like a Senator. Laffey only yells and scares people.

Posted by: Samuel at January 14, 2006 8:42 PM

Look forward to September because it's a month closer to Columbus Day.
Forget "beyond" unless that means helping Laffey pack to move back to Tennessee.

Posted by: Sally Mae at January 14, 2006 9:15 PM

The thing that was the most impressive to me about Senator Chafee was his kindness and his character. He made it clear that he always does what he believes in and prizes his integrity above all. Not bad for a politician. And he states his beliefs. Unlike Laffey, who keeps twisting in the wind on important issues.

Posted by: muddy waters at January 14, 2006 10:09 PM

Um, muddy water, Chafee does not believe in anything until he takes a poll, or talks with his handlers. Are you so shallow that you can't see this?

What's his stand on Alito? Oh, that's right, he doesn't know. Hmm, but we know where Laffey stands.

Now, who twists in the wind on important issues?

Wake up sweetheart!

Posted by: Kramer at January 14, 2006 11:37 PM

Samuel (aka. obvious Chafee plant), Laffey scares the special interests---and yells at them with his bullhorn.

Posted by: Yolanda at January 14, 2006 11:44 PM

Next thing you'll say is that Mayor Laffey set the ice rink on fire! But how could he? He was taking lollipops out of the hands of orphans at the time! You are at minimum a poor victim of wishful thinking, and at most, just intellectually dishonest.

Senator Chafee came off much as we expected he would: he gave simplistic, generally evasive, and occassionally forced answers to very predictable questions. More notably, he also didn't come off as one might expect: "a nice guy." If anything, he showed something of a mean streak towards the end. Sounded scripted. Poor guy.

By the way, does Senator Chafee's office have a bunch of college students posting stuff in here for him (I've noticed Brown, UMass-Amherst, and the University of Michigan so far)? Glad they let you out of the communes long enough to do the posts. Try to be a little more imaginative with the talking points - you aren't supposed to quote them verbatim! That's called plagarism (might want to ask your pal Ted Kennedy what that is!).

Posted by: Republican in RI at January 15, 2006 1:32 AM

Now I know where Linc initially met that Toby the Grizzly Bear - in Alberta of course! He should have said that in the interview, to make this 7-year horseshoeing "finding myself" stint seem a little more manly than not having to get financial support from Mommy and Daddy.

Posted by: bountyhunter at January 15, 2006 1:33 AM

RepublicaninRI said:"By the way, does Senator Chafee's office have a bunch of college students posting stuff in here for him (I've noticed Brown, UMass-Amherst, and the University of Michigan so far)?"

Well, considering that two of the first 3 phone calls that Yorke took on the air after the interview with Sen. Chafee were female students from Providence College, I'd say that there is probably a group of young collegians who have been asked to carry the Chafee standard in the "new media" venues of talk radio and blogs.

As noted, though, it takes more than talking points, kids. ("he's just wicked awesome" isn't going to cut it....) Even if many of the commenters are "Laffey plants", then Chafee supporters need to bone up on the issues and come with more than general platitudes for Sen. Chafee or hyperbolic accusations against Mayor Laffey (c'mon, the ice rink?) A genuine debate will serve both candidates better and will help set the lines of demarcation for those who still haven't made up their minds.

Finally, thanks to all the new kids for stopping by and I hope you keep coming back. Anchor Rising is more than Chafee/Laffey, it also presents a conservative (which is different than Republican, btw) take on many issues facing Rhode Islanders and our nation.

Posted by: Marc at January 16, 2006 8:06 AM

That was very funny about the Chafee kids stopping by. I agree very strongly about your point. The Chafee gang can't talk about substantive issues, they can only make absurd accusations or make character attacks. The reason they can't talk about real issues is because Chafee doesn't want to take a stand on substantive issues because he is afraid of aleinating some group (remember the write in vote for President), and the issues he does feel strongly about ie (bush tax cuts, Iraq, or abortion) he is a liberal. There is no other way to descirbe it. Keep up the good work. Back to my junk business.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 16, 2006 10:27 AM

I recently had the opportunity to speak with both Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey. At the time, I was unsure who I would support. I spoke with both candiates about the issues and confronted them on positions they had taken (Chafee with his vote for George HW Bush, against the Iraq war, against the tax cuts; Laffey on potentially losing the Republican Senatorial Seat, trying to prevent the state party from receiving support from the national party). After listening to their responses I knew I would vote for Senator Chafee. I tend to conservative in my personal views which conflicts with the Senator on some issues. However he HONESTLY and sincerely explained how and why he voted as he did. Mr. Laffey seemed more inclined to attack and ridicule the question than give an answer. That is NOT someone I want in the Senate. I want someone who I know where he stands and will not create a smoke and mirror show to get a view votes. Linc votes with the President almost 80% of the time and is a staunch supporter of the environment.

For these reasons I support Lincoln Chafee.

Posted by: Kevin at January 17, 2006 11:31 AM

Kevin, ever hear of the 80-20 rule.

First of all his 80% is ranked at the bottom of all Republicans in the senate, yes he is the worst republican in the U.S. Senate. Second, 80% of the bills and resolutions are worthless activities about naming a building or proclaming "Kevin" day. (You have a little less than a year to get that one in.) On the important votes, taxes, protecting America, pork, he's with the democrats all the way. And, by the way, Kevin, who are you and what powers do you have where you can actually get answers out of Chafee? Come on, we're dying to know. Is he going to vote to confirm Alito or not? When is he going to go independent? We'll look to you for the answers from now on Kevin since you have that special relationship with Linc.

Posted by: roadrunner at January 17, 2006 1:41 PM

Sorry Kev, I'm not buying this:

"I want someone who I know where he stands and will not create a smoke and mirror show to get a view votes. Linc votes with the President almost 80% of the time and is a staunch supporter of the environment. For these reasons I support Lincoln Chafee."

Perhaps you are a conservative leftist, but Reagan as my witness, you are no Republican!

Posted by: Republican in RI at January 18, 2006 2:06 AM