Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Tuesday he’s seeking the Democratic nomination to keep the question of the Iraq War alive, one which implicitly haunts Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Democrats need to point out that the problems with ISIS and other instability in the Middle East started with the Iraq War and should not be afraid to tag Republicans on the issue, Chafee, who was a senator at that time of the vote in 2002, said during a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in Washington.
“They were the ones who invaded Iraq and created all the problems,” said Chafee, who was a Republican at the time and the only Republican senator to vote against the war. “Just politically speaking, it’s important for the Democrat Party to say that’s a Republican mistake that we now have to fix.”
Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq War in 2002, as did the 2004 Democratic nominee then-Sen. John Kerry. At the time, the war was very popular, but public opinion shifted greatly between then and 2006. Clinton has said since then that the Iraq vote was a mistake.
Chafee recounted how, in the middle of the 2002 Iraq War debate, he sat down with 20 CIA analysts and asked them to present the evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction.
“I did my homework, I looked carefully to see if there were weapons of mass destruction, I didn’t see it,” he said. “It was their body language as much as anything that told me this was a false premise for going to war.”
The war itself has not been much of an issue during the 2016 primaries, so far, but Chafee said voters need to know that much of the trouble in the Middle East began with this entry into another “endless quagmire” reminiscent of the Vietnam War.
The central focus of Chafee’s long-shot bid at the presidency has been his stance against the war in Iraq, a point he’s repeated throughout his campaign. But it’s not clear how well the message is resonating – in this past weekend’s CNN/ORC poll, Chafee netted under one 1% of Democrats polled. Clinton had 57%.