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No honeymoon for Lincoln Chafee

November 28, 2010

POLITICS AS USUAL by Jim Baron

Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee has to be looking around at his closest advisors about now and saying: “I wanted this job, WHY?”
Chafee’s backside has yet to create a dent in the governor’s chair and already he is getting it from all sides.
He is getting whacked around on talk radio about his promise to overturn Governor Carcieri’s executive order on illegal immigration. He is getting hammered about his pledge to support same-sex marriage, even though that would take legislation that hasn’t been introduced yet and would probably have problems passing in the Senate.
Honeymoon? Fuhgeddaboutit!
The man is going to be governor for the next four years. We, the people elected him. And don’t start in with all that nonsense about how he won with 36 percent of the vote. We held an election and he got more votes than any other candidate for governor. He won. Learn to live with it.
Don’t worry, he is going to get enough things wrong over the next four years that there will be ample opportunity to beat him over the head about any number of issues, things we can already see coming down the road and things that are going to hit us seemingly from out of nowhere.
But let’s at least give him a chance to screw up, or at the very least, let him get inaugurated, before we all pile on him.
People tell pollsters they are sick and tired of the petty bickering between Republicans and Democrats and government operating on the basis of partisanship rather than for the good of the people.
Well, now we have an Independent in the State House, one who is demonstrating that he will pick people (and the ideas that come with them) from both Democratic and Republican backgrounds. He deserves a shot to see if he can make it work.

n However, on the rescission of the executive order, he is going to have to come up with a good answer (or at least a better one than he has supplied to date) about what he wants the State Police to do when they encounter an illegal alien in the course of an investigation or on patrol.
He has said the law must be obeyed, so that would mean turning all illegals over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), but that is exactly what the executive order does and that is what the Latino community was up in arms about, even more than they were about E-Verify.

n I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Chafee when he was mayor of Warwick, but I did follow him pretty closely when he got to the U.S. Senate. I really don’t see where he got this reputation as an ultra-leftist, an uber-liberal, a super-progressive.
Yes, he was a bit liberal for the national Republicans when he was in the Senate, but that barely qualifies him as the equivalent of a moderate Democrat. He is somewhat liberal on social issues like abortion and gay rights, but if you ask him, he will tell you he is a conservative on fiscal issues and a deficit hawk.
That could very well give him what I call a Barack Obama problem down the road.
The people who already don’t like him probably are never going to come around to his side — especially the people who seem to hate him with a white-hot passion that I just don’t understand, because to me he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to arouse radical emotions one way or the other. He is quiet, mild-mannered and his proposals are overall pretty modest and centrist.
By the same token, the people who bought, and liked, the idea that he is a wild-eyed leftist radical who is going to come in and set Rhode Island on fire, the people who WANT him to be the kind of governor that his detractors are afraid he is going to be, I believe are going to be bitterly disappointed.
As a result, he might not be able to please anybody, which is the position Obama seems to find himself in right now. Maybe he should get on the phone and talk with his buddy the president about what it is like to be in no-win political situations.
Chafee might not bash the state employee unions the way Carcieri made his Republican bones doing, but I don’t see him giving them the keys to the state treasury, either, no matter what picture of a union lackey his political foes try to paint.
Both his critics and his friends are going to find that Chafee will bend, but when you try to push him to the breaking point he will dip into reserves of Yankee stubbornness and start to push back. He is stronger than a lot of people give him credit for being.

n Speaking of no honeymoon, I don’t get why the Senate is coming in for a special session this week to confirm the nomination of seven judges that Governor Carcieri sent up almost as an afterthought on his way out the door.
Confirmation is a done deal. You know that once a nominee is posted for a committee hearing on advice and consent, their confirmation is automatic. The Judiciary Committee hearings are going to be what they always are for prospective judges: bum-kissing love fests. After that, the full Senate will be its usual rubber-stamp.
Why would the Democratic Senate do a Republican governor that kind of favor instead of letting the new governor make his own choices? Why not make Chafee owe them one right out of the box? He’s the guy who’s going to be there for the next four years,
Carcieri has already had more than an ample opportunity to put his stamp on the judiciary, why let him pick seven more judges virtually as a kiss goodbye?
Everybody on all sides always vociferously deny that deals are made in the selection of judges, but this kind of action makes you question that.
I tried to ask Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed about this last week, but my message was never returned.

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