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Chafee Rues Elusive Peace While Announcing Exit From Presidential Race

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Former governor Lincoln Chafee announced his departure from the presidential race Friday morning, six months after he launched what proved to be a...

Former governor Lincoln Chafee announced his departure from the presidential race Friday morning, six months after he launched what proved to be a quixotic bid for the nation's top office.

"As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace," Chafee said, in prepared remarks for an address to a group of Democratic women in Washington. "But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today.  I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace."

Chafee struggled to attract support in polls and he emerged as the butt of jokes after a nationally televised Democratic debate on CNN last week. He didn't assemble a traditional campaign organization or focus on fundraising.

In his exit speech, Chafee's rues the elusiveness of finding peace in a violent world, even in the face of staggering US military strength.

"We make Virginia class submarines in Rhode Island and I’ve been on an overnight patrol," he said. "What a phenomenal piece of technology and craftsmanship – a machine bristling with the most advanced power imaginable.  Submarines are just one instrument in our staggeringly efficient arsenal of war.  And yet we are sinking ever deeper and deeper into an endless morass in the Middle East and North Africa. People keep dying, and peace seems further and further away. It’s evident that all this military power isn’t working for us right now."

Chafee, the son of the revered former governor and US senator John Chafee, had a promising start in Rhode Island politics, as a well-liked mayor in Warwick. Chafee was appointed to succeed his father when John Chafee died in 1999, and the then-Republican won the seat in his own right a year later. Chafee remained popular in 2006, even when he was defeated for re-election by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

Yet after squeaking into office as an independent in a tight gubernatorial race in 2010, Chafee's approval rating slipped -- and it never really recovered, as he governed in the aftermath of the recession, and later became a Democrat. That's why it took Rhode Islanders and political observers by surprise when Chafee announced a presidential run in April.

 

Here's the full text of Chafee's exit speech:

Once again it is a pleasure to join so many Democrats including my fellow candidates who are so dedicated to keeping the presidency and winning back the House and the Senate.  We all know that the Republican agenda sets back women’s rights and I pledge all my energy towards a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country. 

We have a winning message of building a strong middle class, investing in education and infrastructure, extending health coverage to more and more Americans, granting a path to citizenship to those who have lived in the shadows for too long, accepting the science of climate change and having the leadership to cut back on our fossil fuel consumption with sound policy, We defend our civil liberties and women’s reproductive freedoms, respect the rights of our L-G-B-T friends, understand that black lives matter and that we need to do more for Native Americans.  And you can be sure that Democrats will make good appointments to the Supreme Court, something this country needs and deserves.

As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace.  But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today.  I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace. 

Since today is all about women’s leadership it reminds me of one of my favorite Greek plays; Lysistrata, a comedy from about 400 BCE by Aristophanes.  In that play, a group of women, fed up with the war mongering of their husbands, agree to withhold their favors until peace returns.  And it worked! 

Anyway, let’s talk about the present.

Studies show that women tend to lead differently than men, in that women are more likely to be collaborative and team oriented.  It is undeniable the benefits women provide to the pursuit of peace. 

When I was a senator, a general from the Pentagon testified before the Foreign Relations Committee on global military powers.  I asked him who was second to the U.S. in military might?  He thought for a bit and said, “probably the U.K.”  Yes that was a few years ago but the point remains true: no real rival to the United States exists when it comes to total weaponry and deployment potential. 

We make Virginia class submarines in Rhode Island and I’ve been on an overnight patrol.  What a phenomenal piece of technology and craftsmanship – a machine bristling with the most advanced power imaginable.  Submarines are just one instrument in our staggeringly efficient arsenal of war.  And yet we are sinking ever deeper and deeper into an endless morass in the Middle East and North Africa. People keep dying, and peace seems further and further away. It’s evident that all this military power isn’t working for us right now. 

Let me share a story from DaNang, Viet Nam.  DaNang - that city has so many memories for my generation.  But just this summer, former Viet Cong and ex-American G.I.’s were laughing, eating, drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July together. The article quoted Pete Peterson, a former Air Force pilot who spent six and a half years in a Hanoi prison camp after he was shot down.  Later he served as Ambassador to Viet Nam in the 1990’s.  

He said now Viet Nam and the United States have so much in common.  After all the death and devastation during that horrible war, why did we do it, he was asked.  He said, “I have thought about this for a long time.  I’m convinced that the war could have been averted had we made the effort to understand the politics of the place. … had we made the effort to understand the politics of the place.”

Ladies and gentleman, from what I’ve heard none of the Republicans running for president want to understand anything about the Middle East and North Africa .  Instead they prefer to espouse more bellicosity, more saber rattling and more blind macho posturing.

When I hear all their tough talk I have déjà vu about the “evil” Viet Cong.  We should be different.  Democrats should insist on learning from the lessons of Viet Nam.  “It all could have been averted.”

Now, I’m not saying that all countries are right in any particular thing they do. We must hold them accountable, but we can’t do that if we don’t hold ourselves accountable and change our entire paradigm.

The United States of America is so strong militarily, economically and culturally that we can take chances for peace. In fact, as a strong mature world leader, we must take chances for peace.  If we have courage, if we take risks, we can have Prosperity through Peace, not just in the United States, but all over the world.

Do we want to be remembered as a bomber of weddings and hospitals? Or do we want to be remembered as Peacemakers, as pioneers of a more harmonious world?

If American war veterans and Vietcong fighters can laugh together on the Fourth of July, then I know so too can Iranians and Israelis, Shias and Sunnis, Turks and Kurds.

A wise man, President Eisenhower counseled us that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” could ensure the meshing of both security and liberty.  It is up to you as women, as citizens, and as humans to demand from your leaders an end to the endless wars and the beginning of a new era for the United States and humanity.

Thank You!  Go Democrats in 2016!

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This post has been updated.

Former Governor Lincoln Chafee
Former Governor Lincoln Chafee