2016 could be the election year of political straight talk that Americans have been longing for since John Nance Garner, who became FDR’s vice president in 1932, described his then largely ceremonial office as “not worth a bucket of warm piss.”
GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (KY) likes to speak his mind even when it may be impolitic or even self-defeating to do so. And Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is running for the Democratic nomination, isn’t one to sugar-coat his many opinions.
But judging by Lincoln Chafee’s speech declaring on Thursday that he, too, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Paul, Sanders and any of the other umpteen hopefuls vying for the Oval Office will have to go a country mile to out-straight-talk the former Rhode Island governor and senator.
Chafee, whose Marine father fought on Guadalcanal and went on to become a senator and Secretary of the Navy under President Nixon, was the only Republican senator to vote against going to war in Iraq. And he continues to march to his own drummer.
Here are edited excerpts from Chafee’s prepared remarks announcing his candidacy at George Mason University in Virginia:
On why he voted against going to war in Iraq in 2002
The first reason is that the long painful chapter of the Viet Nam era was finally ending…and the very last thing I wanted was any return to the horrific bungling of events into which we put our brave fighting men and women. Too many senators forgot too quickly about the tragedy of Viet Nam.
A second reason was that I had learned in the nine months of the Bush/Cheney administration, prior to September 11th, not to trust them at their word. Sadly, the lies never stopped. This was an administration not to be trusted.
On the neocons who pushed for an invasion of Iraq
Many of the cheerleaders for the Iraq war in the Bush administration had been writing about regime change in Iraq and American unilateralism for years.
It’s bad enough that the so-called neocons, most of whom had never experienced the horror of war, were so gung ho. But worse yet, was that they didn’t have the guts to argue their points straight up to the American people. They knew there were no weapons of mass destruction but wanted their war badly enough to purposely deceive us.
I asked for a briefing from the CIA. I said, “I have to vote on this war resolution in a few weeks, show me everything you have on Weapons of Mass Destruction”. The answer, after an hour-long presentation out at CIA headquarters in Langley, was: not much. “Flawed intelligence” is completely inaccurate. There was NO intelligence. Believe me I saw “everything they had”.
It’s heartbreaking that more of my colleagues failed to do their homework. And incredibly, the neocon proponents of the war who sold us on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction are still key advisors to a number of presidential candidates today.
I want America to be a leader and inspiration for civilized behavior in this new century. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions, which means we will not torture prisoners.
On Snowden and domestic spying
Our sacred Constitution requires a warrant before unreasonable searches, which includes our phone records. Let’s enforce that, and while we’re at it allow Edward Snowden to come home.
On drone strikes
Extra judicial assassinations by drone strikes are not working. Many blame them for the upheaval in Yemen. And Pakistan is far too important a player for us to antagonize with these nefarious activities. They are not worth the collateral damage and toxic hatred they spread – let’s stop them.
On the TPP
For me, waging peace includes negotiating fair trade agreements that set standards for labor practices, environmental protections, preventing currency manipulation and protection of intellectual property among others. The Trans Pacific Partnership has the potential to set fair guidelines for the robust commerce-taking place in the Pacific Rim.
On tensions with Russia
I believe stronger efforts should be made to encourage Russian integration into the family of advanced industrial nations with the objective of reducing tensions between Russia and its neighbors.
On the war on drugs
To wage peace in our own hemisphere, I would repair relations with Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. As part of that rapprochement, let’s unite with all our experience to rethink the war on drugs. Obviously eradication, substitution and interdiction aren’t working.
On capital punishment
In this New American Century, let’s join the many countries who have banned capital punishment. Congratulations Nebraska for your leadership here!
On paying back political donors
As president, I would institute a ban on ambassadorships for sale. That means no more of these posts going to big political donors. I want the best-trained people doing this important work. And it is critical that the integrity of the office of Secretary of State never be questioned.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: