Lincoln Chafee targets Hillary Clinton on Iraq War vote

Lincoln Chafee was the only Republican in the US Senate to vote against the Iraq War. Now running for president as a Democrat, he calls Hillary Clinton's vote for the war in 2002 'a colossal lapse in judgment.'

Michael Bonfigli/Staff
Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee speaks at the St. Regis Hotel on July 28, 2015, in Washington.

Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee targeted Hillary Clinton in comments to reporters Tuesday, arguing that Democrats should not pick a candidate for president who, like Mrs. Clinton, voted in favor of the Iraq War in 2002.

At a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters, Mr. Chafee rejected the argument that Clinton’s overwhelming lead in the polls shows that voters don’t agree with him on the importance of the war vote. The RealClearPolitics average of Democratic polls shows Clinton as the choice of 57.5 percent of those surveyed, while Chafee comes in fifth among the five declared candidates at 0.7 percent.

“Polls are one thing,” Chafee said but added, “politically speaking, I think it is important for the Democratic Party to make this chaos in the Middle East and North Africa a Republican chaos. They are the ones who invaded Iraq and created all the problems that we live with now [with the Islamic State and Boko Haram]."  

“To get us back into another quagmire,” Chafee said, was “a colossal lapse in judgment” by Clinton.

Chafee, who like Clinton was a senator at the time of the Iraq War debate, was the only Republican to vote against the war. He was elected governor of Rhode Island as an Independent in 2010 and switched to the Democratic Party in 2013. 

"I did my homework, I looked carefully to see if there were weapons of mass destruction. I didn't see it," he said. Clinton has said since that her Iraq War vote was a mistake. 

When asked about polls showing voter concerns about Clinton’s honesty and credibility, Chafee said she had suffered “a lot of self-inflicted wounds, unfortunately.” But, he added, after the primary season is over, he and the other Democratic candidates would “certainly unite as Democrats to win in 2016.”

While speaking sharply about Clinton, Chafee had a warmer tone when discussing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who is running second to Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. Chafee said the issue of income inequality would be his top domestic policy issue, and he noted that Senator Sanders had shown “lifelong devotion to these issues.... There is nothing phony about what he is saying.”

Chafee also discussed his friendship with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. They were both students at the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and lived together in a small dorm that housed 11 students. “We know each other well, played ping-pong in the basement” of the dorm, Chafee said.

Did they talk politics? They shared a dorm in 1968-69. “National politics were on many students’ minds at the time,” he said.

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