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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The political career of former Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chafee tells a story of the Republican Party: How it swerved so far right that to remain sane he finally had to switch sides, in a transition completed Wednesday evening at George Mason University, where he announced his run for the Democratic nomination for president with the rallying themes of “waging peace” and “future ideas.”

Once a “liberal Republican” (two words that simply do not appear together anymore), Chafee has taken stances not only to the left of many in his former party, but even occasionally to the left of the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. He even says he wants to bring Edward Snowden home.

Here are five things you should know about this idiosyncratic candidate.

1. He voted against the Iraq War.

Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against authorization for the Iraq War in 2002. He has not hesitated to bring attention to the fact that Clinton failed to do the same when she was a senator from New York. “I don’t think anybody should be president of the United States that made that mistake,” Chafee told the Washington Post.

“They knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, but they wanted their war badly enough that they were willing to deceive us,” Chafee said in his announcement speech Wednesday night. “There was no intelligence. Believe me. I saw everything they had.”

2. He has supported marriage equality for a while.

Rhode Island became the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage after Chafee signed a marriage equality bill into law in 2013.

He published an op-ed in the New York Times at the time, defending his decision as both a deeply moral and eminently practical one, enjoining other state governors to recognize that marriage equality would be a boost for their state’s economy. In the same op-ed, he expressed his desire for the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which it did one month later. 

3. He’s cautiously supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Splitting ranks with heavy-hitting progressives, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chafee said he was supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, asserting Wednesday night that the trade deal “has the potential to set fair guidelines for the robust commerce taking place in the Pacific Rim,” according to his prepared remarks.

4. He isn’t what conservatives would call “tough on crime.”

In his speech he spoke of the need to “wage peace” in our own hemisphere, by rethinking the country’s destructive, ineffective War on Drugs. “Obviously, eradication, substitution and interdiction aren’t working. Let’s have an active, open-minded approach to drug trafficking,” he said.

On domestic policing, he was unequivocal, saying in response to a student’s question: “Zero tolerance doesn’t work,” citing “police brutality” and the lack of available education.

5. He wants America to use the metric system.

Near the end of his announcement speech, at the bottom of a long list of “many and formidable” challenges, Chafee said he wanted to move the U.S. toward the metric system, also called the International System, since basically everyone except us uses it.

Far from a frivolous move, Chafee said it was part of a “bold embrace of internationalism.” After all, the U.S. is one of only three countries that doesn’t use metric; the other two are Liberia and Burma.

“It’s not that hard” to use Celsius, he said.

Photo: Governor Lincoln Chafee (RI), September 19, 2011, via Facebook

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    I agree with Gov. Chafee on the need to switch to the metric system, a more accurate and internationally acceptable measurement system, and on the futility of pursuing ridiculous wars, from real wars to the War on Drugs, to the War on Poverty, and all the other endeavors that seldom produce anything positive and eventually become a huge waste of time and money. However, like O’Malley, Chafee is an unknown who I doubt will get the financial backing to become a realistic challenger to Hillary or anyone else. His contribution to the 2016 campaign is likely to be limited to the introduction of challenging ideas or proposals worth considering.

    • FireBaron

      Somehow, I don’t think the Metric System will loom large in the Democratic Presidential debates this year. I do believe Gov. Chafee does have more items to bring to the table, in order to force Hillary to open up about what she actually believes in.

      • Allan Richardson

        I hope his “qualified” support of the TPP is “qualified” as follows: if it is still secret when the vote comes up, vote NO; if the secrets are revealed and debated, and the bad stuff comes out, THEN vote yes. All the good parts put together (and I assume there are SOME) are NOT WORTH THE RISK OF ENACTING THE RUMORED BAD STUFF, because that bad stuff puts both American and FOREIGN corporate bosses ABOVE THE LAWS OF ANY NATION in which they do business.

    • johninPCFL

      The metric system is no more accurate that the English system today. The English components of length, mass and volume are now defined from the metric equivalents, rather than “three barleycorns laid end to end” and “a pint’s a pound the world around”.

      • Dominick Vila

        As you probably already know, the metric system is widely used in the science world, and by institutions such as NASA, who rely on accuracy to achieve its goals. We use to call trajectory/ephemeris data, metric data, and used it continuously since the early Project MERCURY days for all our missions. Many years ago, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the entity responsible for deep space missions, made a mistake and used the English system during a spacecraft final approach to Mars. The probe crashed due to the inaccuracy of that archaic system.
        Interestingly, even the UK embraced the metric system years ago. In any case, I doubt any of the politicians running for office will address this issue, not only because it does not resonate among the public, but because many fellow Americans find it too difficult. I suspect the latter is due to the fact that we did not retool or change our containers when we tried to switch to the metric system, making the latter look like a convoluted system. Needless to say, what looks weird is when we see the English measurement in a one-liter bottle, for example.

        • johninPCFL

          It wasn’t the “inaccuracy of that archaic system” that caused the crash, it was not converting the calculated values from one system of units to the other. Essentially, the computed units of miles were used numerically as kilometers, or pounds were used as Newtons, or pounds(mass) were used as kilograms.

          Had the values been converted from the English system to the metric system, the computed values would have worked just fine. Three sigs accuracy carries across unit changes because the conversion factors are defined values and have no inherent accuracy limits.

          First-year physics students who have to deal with the English system (pounds(mass), pounds(force), slugs(mass), etc.) all breathe a sigh of relief when the metric system is used, even if they hail from Oklahoma.

  • The lucky one

    He had me going until the part about supporting the TPP. That alone disqualifies a candidate for me.

  • Bruce Ackman

    I don’t know if his support of the metric system is a good political idea or not. On the one hand, the oligarchs in the NFL will be able to demand new stadiums to accommodate the longer 100 meter playing field. I just don’t know how the rest of the population will feel. Will they object to the change in the size of the field? Will they balk at their tax dollars going to billionaires? Or will they knuckle under so they can “enjoy” a new stadium, even though they can’t afford the new amenities?

    • Dominick Vila

      Hopefully they will learn that the metric system is a simpler and more accurate measurement system, and that eliminating the need to retool would make our products more competitive overseas. In any case, this is not going to be a topic of debate during the upcoming campaign.
      The most interesting part of international agreements, is that people in the countries we trade with – there are agreements similar to the TPP being negotiated with the EU – are protesting because those agreements are likely to cost jobs in their countries, and because some of the clauses include American labor practices that are unacceptable to people in other countries.

    • Allan Richardson

      I don’t think so, because it would invalidate comparisons between old and new statistics. Much easier to keep the yards and, to explain it to foreigners, call them “short meters,” which is close enough.

      • ralphkr

        Speaking of yards & meters, Allan, I still have a wooden yardstick given out by a Midwestern lumberyard in the early 1930s that is 39 3/8″ long. It bears the legend “We go the extra inch to please” but that sure looks like a meter stick marked in inches to me.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    This has been tried before. Americans do not think in metrics. We were not born or educated with metrics. Metrics may be fine in the sciences and math fields but any woman who cooks doesn’t want to have to follow directions in recipes in metrics. It’s a royal pain in the butt.
    Why should a tiny minority of control freaks start demanding the already educated go back and relearn what we were taught in school for generations?

    Don’t these politicians have more pressing issues to concern themselves with?

    • johninPCFL

      The British were not born or educated “in metrics” either until the 1990s. One generation of teaching is all it took for the children to learn the new system and then teach the rest of the country.

      Additionally, there’s the precise way and the “homemaker’s” way to do the conversions. For most people, a quart and a liter are the same. A gallon is four liters. A pound is a half-kilo. A half pound is a quarter kilo. Those are pretty easy. The only issues I see are the liquids (soy sauce, extracts, etc.) where an ounce is 28ccs. Saving grace: drops are still drops and a teaspoon is still a teaspoon.

      Past that, a pat of butter is a pat of butter, an hour is an hour, a tablespoon is a tablespoon. Unless a scientist (or an engineer) has converted your recipe, it shouldn’t really change that much.

      The only reason a politician should pay attention to which system of units is used is that using standard hardware to build American products makes them uncompetitive on the world market. We already have the situation where car parts from Canada, Mexico, and Japan use metric hardware, so American made cars now have a mix of both and you need the mechanic’s shop manual to know which wrench to use. And holy crap! Don’t drop a bolt or you’ll have no idea what to replace it with!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        You are preaching to the choir. I worked in 2 international chemical companies, AKZO and CPS, constantly converting metric back to US weights and measures.

        I also finished my employment history for 24+ years in environmental engineering where no metrics are used.

        It is bad enough that born and bred Americans are barraged every with every language but our own American English. Now, we are supposed to go back and relearn metrics so that the glut of foreigners all hustling to live in the US can go right back to their old country metric measures?

        Your post proves you know zero about recipes. When a recipe calls for a tablespoon of sugar…or 3/4 cups of flour or 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of salt…Ditch the glib “you can learn metrics” BS. I am not interested in spending 10 minutes rewriting recipes to meet some lunatic foreigner’s need to tell born and bred Americans what we should or shouldn’t do.

        AS for your silly bloated ego about dropping a bolt. I worked with a PhD from MIT in engineering. I know all about bolts, couplers, valves, AutoCad dimensions and none of them are in metric. I also ordered enough parts for industrial equipment to know they are in US weights and measures…not metrics.

        As for you bolt remark, if you are such a genius, why do engineers design equipment using screw threads in micro sizes and then measure in cuft per sqft of the ctrln? Get off the Mr. Smartass attitude. I am not impressed.

        • johninPCFL

          What I tried to say in my post is that if your current recipe calls for a cup of flour, unless an engineer or scientist translated the recipe, the “metric” recipe will also call for a cup of flour. At least that’s the way it works for bread and beer.

          I build products for the semiconductor industry and use both metric and standard fasteners depending on the customer. Plasma Therm uses standard threads, Applied Materials uses metric. M3 screws are almost the same as #4-40 and have the same strength specs. Dropping the male screw (or bolt) and having to peer into the nut (or socket) and guess as to whether the thread is metric or standard would take some talent. Maintaining both types of fasteners costs me a few $thousand per year.

      • dpaano

        I’m just too damn old to learn new tricks….that’ s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

    • Allan Richardson

      Conservatives are getting 40 degree fevers over this! Look, W could have led the conversion; he spend a lot of time in college buying things in grams and liters!

      Oh, whatever will we do if our measurements aren’t compatible for trade with Liberia (principal industry: maritime licensing as a flag of convenience) and Burma (principal industry: cracking down on people who still don’t call it Myanmar)!

      BTW, regarding body temperature: the first studies to determine the average or “norm” body temperature were done in Europe, and they determined that the average to the nearest WHOLE DEGREE was 37 Celsius (or Centigrade). When American and (back then) other English speaking doctors got the figures, they assumed it was 37.0 to the nearest tenth of a degree Celsius, and converted it as if it were an exact measurement, to 98.6 Fahrenheit. Good scientific practice would have rounded it to 99 Fahrenheit.

      Likewise, we can continue to play sports on the same field, but just “pretend” that the football field is in meters for conversation and reporting purposes. For baseball, the 90 foot sides of the diamond can be called 27 meters. Anyone who used to buy wine or liquor in “fifts” (4/5 quart or 1/5 gallon) have been buying it in 750ml (3/4 liter) bottles. A 200 pound man weighs a bit less than 100 kilograms, and his dainty wife of 110 pounds weighs almost exactly 50 kilograms. A horsepower is 746 watts, so your 100 horsepower engine is puttling out about 75 kilowatts. And your electric bill is already computed from kilowatt-hour readings.

      As for Celsius (formerly called Centigrade, from the Latin for “100 steps” [between freezing and boiling points of water], renamed to honor Anders Celsius): zero freezes water, 10 is just barely enough to keep milk, 20 is a mild spring day, 30 is nice, 40 is sweltering, 50 is Death Vally, 100 is boiling water. What’s so hard about that?

  • Bosda

    The politics of the 70s.
    And yet, we need them today.

  • dpaano

    Are the Democrats starting their own clown train? I hope not!