57 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 27. Book Review - Against the Tide: How A Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President by Senator Lincoln Chafee.

AuthorAnthony F. Cottone, Esq.

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 57.

57 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 27.

Book Review - Against the Tide: How A Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President by Senator Lincoln Chafee

Rhode Island Bar Journal 57 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 27November/December 2008 Book Review - Against the Tide: How A Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President by Senator Lincoln ChafeeAnthony F. Cottone, Esq.Sole practitioner, Senior Assistant City Solicitor in Providence and Chair of the Rhode Island Disabilities Law Center*The throng greeting Barack Obama at Rhode Island College on the Saturday before the Rhode Island primary applauded wildly when the Illinois Senator, invoking Senator Hillary Clinton's explanation of her vote to authorize war in Iraq, stated that "real change isn't voting for George Bush's war in Iraq and then telling the American people it was actually [a vote] for more diplomacy. The title of the bill was 'a resolution authorizing the use of the United States armed forces against Iraq.'" The crowd got even louder when Obama, who of course was not a member of Congress when the crucial vote was taken, nonetheless bellowed that he "knew what [the bill] was." But the crowd saved its loudest response for Obama's exclamation that "Lincoln Chafee knew what it was. It was a vote for war!"

As even the most casual observer of Rhode Island politics now knows, Chafee, a Republican almost by birth and the only member of Congress from that party who opposed the bill to authorize war in Iraq, quietly disaffiliated from the G.O.P. and has enthusiastically endorsed Obama, largely on the basis of the Illinois Senator's early and prophetic statements against the war. At first blush it might seem that the two make odd political bedfellows. Chafee, a non-lawyer and son of the late John Chafee, a universally respected Republican Senator, Governor and Secretary of the Navy from one of Rhode Island's oldest families, was one of only five Republican moderates when he took over his father's Senate seat in 2000 and would not seem to have much in common with Obama, the self-made, former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review who some consider one of the most liberal members of Congress. Indeed, in the final chapter of his recently-published political memoir - Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President (St. Martin's 2008) - Chafee speculates that the many voters who are disenchanted with what he calls the "clashists," i.e., conservative Republicans who "have led poorly" and liberal Democrats who "have shown themselves unable to lead at all," eventually will "gather around a personality" and form a centrist third party, thereby preventing ideological extremists from winning the Electoral College and throwing presidential elections into the House of Representatives. See Against the Tide at 239-245. The conventionally liberal Obama does not seem the type to lead such a movement, at least not in this election cycle.

Yet, despite their obvious differences, these odd political bedfellows do have some significant things in common. For one thing, they both took less-traveled roads as young men, at least by the standards of most politicians: Chafee using his classics degree from Brown as a blacksmith, shoeing racehorses during his twenties; and the slightly younger Obama turning his back on lucrative financial opportunities to become a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. Perhaps more to the point, they both employ a political style which places an emphasis on civility and attempts to transcend ideological labels and they both believe passionately that, in recent years, the Bush Administration has employed heavy-handed and intentionally divisive political tactics at home while pursuing a foreign policy agenda that has made the world a more dangerous place while badly damaging America's standing in the international community in the process.

Thus, as Obama invoked Chafee's name at Rhode Island College...

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