1) The only Republican Senator to vote against the Iraq WarIn his remarks to the assembled guests, Chafee touched upon these issues. He said that his Republican opponent, whom he faces in a September 12 primary, has sought to discredit him by mentioning the vote against US sanctions on Syria, the effectiveness of which has been questioned. He told us how he went alone to the CIA in 2002 and asked to see the evidence for WMD in Iraq, which he believed to be insufficient. He spoke out strongly against the secretive manner in which the Bush Administration has conducted its Middle East policy - "Tell us what the plan is! Let's debate it!" - especially as it refers to "skittles" (breaking everything up into tiny pieces and scattering it around like the candy of that name). I do note, however, that the word "neo-conservatives" was not used even one time during the evening.
2) The only Republican Senator (only 3 Democrats joined him) to vote against the Syria Accountability Act
3) Did not vote for George W. Bush in the 2004 election (he cast a write-in ballot for George H.W. Bush, who spearheaded the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991)
Chafee was strongly critical of past rhetoric from the Administration and described at length his disappointment following the Aqaba summit of 2003, at which Bush made a strongly-worded speech suggesting American backing of the Road Map. Chafee showed us a picture of he and Ambassador John Wolf (does anybody remember this guy?) taken in Jerusalem around the time Wolf was hung out to dry.
As for Chafee's chances of re-election, well, he is descended from a long line of very influential Rhode Island politicians. Americans for Tax Reform head and GOP icon Grover Norquist has called Chafee a "gift from the Gods", referring to the difficulty of electing a Republican in a liberal state like Rhode Island, which, as Senator Chafee told us this evening, went stronger for Al Gore in 2000 than any other state, and second only to Massachusetts for Kerry in 2004. So perhaps it is not surprising that President Bush, despite the fact that Chafee did not even vote for his re-election, has been raising money to support Chafee - he is an integral part of Republican majority status in the Senate.
On a personal note, Senator Chafee was extremely down-to-earth, affable, good-humored, sensitive, and gracious. I am pleased to support him, and always admired his independent streak as a Republican, since I too encountered resistance from fellow Republicans who took umbrage with my opposition to the Iraq War in the 2004 campaign.