US Senator Linc Chafee — in the ideological hot seat, as always — has had to make another tough strategic decision, deciding to vote against confirming Judge Samuel Alito. There’s certainly political calculation in this, although your superior correspondents have no doubt that Chafee’s decision was primarily based on his core belief in abortion rights, the limits of presidential power, and the other issues he mentioned.
The Lincster was quoted in the Other Paper as saying, “I am a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican, and I will be voting against this nomination.” In the rest of the country, of course, there’s some question of whether being “pro-choice, pro-environment [and] pro-Bill of Rights” means you’re a Republican at all.
Chafee has decided that his liberal side is most in need of protection. The question now becomes, how reactionary will Republican primary voters be in September? Everybody knows that GOP primaries in the Biggest Little are usually sparsely attended affairs. Democratic candidates in the US Senate primary (Whitehouse, Brown, and Sheeler) are uniformly pro-choice, and Chafee has long been a proponent of a woman’s right to choose. He sees the danger in Alito’s ascension to the court — and we believe he’s spot-on. Chafee primary opponent, Steve Laffey, has been coy about his stance on abortion rights, and while proclaiming himself “pro-life,” he has refused to discuss his position in any detail.
In his analysis in Tuesday’s BeloJo, Scott MacKay suggested that Chafee’s thumbs-down vote on Alito could bring the abortion issue front and center in the Republican primary. Chafee’s calculation is that moderate Republicans will vote in larger numbers (and perhaps independents and some switch-hitting Democrats), and that it is more important to protect his left than his right. Our guess is that he’s right, and that he will squeak by in a very close primary contest.
Although he usually defers to presidential prerogative on nominees, Chafee is being true to his moderate/liberal self by voting against Alito, even if waited until his decision was politically moot. Meanwhile, the Democrat challengers can sit back and watch the carnage sure to be stirred up by an even more heated Chafee-Laffey death match. The local conventional wisdom has been that a GOP primary victory for a right-winger like Laffey spells success for the eventual Democratic opponent. Could this year be the exception to the rule? Time will tell, but in the meantime, P&J see Linc as a profile in courage.
Bringing it all home
An alert and concerned P&J reader sends this missive: “There's a story I stumbled across today which appeared on the Soldiers for the Truth (the late Col. David Hackworth's organization) Web site about soldiers who have been ordered to stop using privately purchased body armor or face a loss of their death benefits.”
As the letter about the site points out, “There’s a mother from Providence, RI, mentioned in this story as someone who is upset that her son cannot use the body armor she bought for him for Christmas”:
One of the soldiers who lost his coveted Dragon Skin is a veteran operator. He reported that his commander expressed deep regret upon issuing his orders directing him to leave his Dragon Skin body armor behind. The commander reportedly told his subordinates that he “had no choice because the orders came from very high up” and had to be enforced, the soldier said.