AGAINST THE TIDE by Lincoln Chafee


How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President
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Former Senator Chafee (R-RI) recounts bitterly partisan politics and his disaffection from the GOP.

“If only they’d listened to me”—that classic lament of the ignored or spurned Washington politician—gets a full workout in this book likely to disappoint even Chafee’s admirers. Appointed from the Warwick mayoralty to fill the Senate seat left by his legendary father, Chafee was elected in his own right in 2000 and found himself immediately at odds with a bullying administration pushing for unprecedented tax cuts, starving social programs and weakening environmental regulations, all a prelude to the complete emasculation of Congress made possible by the events of 9/11. The lone Senate Republican to vote against the Iraq War, Chafee would later oppose the nominations of John Bolton to the United Nations and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, enraging the GOP base and guaranteeing a primary opponent in his 2006 reelection bid. Weakened by that battle, the pro-choice, antiwar and fiscally responsible Chafee, too Republican for Democrats, too Democrat for Republicans, lost the general election. The author wishes to be taken as a man of conscience, but he too often presents himself as the only wise man in the room, happy to throw even putative allies like Senators Olympia Snowe, Dick Lugar and Arlen Specter under the bus to sharpen his own profile in courage. Also on display are the author’s pettiness (he refuses to disclose the name of his primary opponent), lame self-justifications (he remained a Republican because of a thoughtful phone call from a powerful colleague and because of all the highway money and military jobs that might otherwise have been lost to his state) and outright silliness (his presidential protest vote in 2004 for George H.W. Bush and his characterization of ideological opponents as “clashists”). His shallow discussion of foreign affairs and his airy paean to the political center confirm the portrait of a lightweight who deserved defeat. Rebuking the 9/11 Commission for its truckling to the White House and for its “flawed and incomplete” report, Chafee revealingly refuses to pass “judgment on the infinite number of conspiracy theories that grew out of September 11.”

A political memoir characterized by unremitting self-regard and precious little self-awareness.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-38304-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2008