Presidential races

Lincoln Chafee calls for change to metric system in launching White House bid

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Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee officially jumped into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, launching an uphill battle against Hillary Clinton and better-known Democratic rivals.

“I enjoy challenges, and certainly we have many facing America,” Chafee said at a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Va.

{mosads}“Today, I’m formally entering the race.”

Chafee, who served two terms in the Senate as a Republican, immediately gave an explanation of his 2003 vote against the Iraq War — a clear dig against Clinton, who voted for the war as a New York senator.

Since the surprise announcement of his exploratory committee back in April, Chafee’s national media appearances have largely focused on rebuking Clinton’s vote to authorize the War in Iraq.

Chafee, the only GOP senator to vote against the war, called Clinton’s vote a “disqualifier” in a previous interview with The Hill and said it helped lead to the rise of Islamic militants in the Middle East.

Chafee’s broad announcement speech ticked through a number of positions, including ending “extra-judicial assassinations” by drones, halting the death penalty, and changing America over to the metric system.

“Earlier I said, ‘Let’s be bold,’ ” Chafee said. “Here’s a bold embrace of internationalism: let’s join the rest of the world and go metric.
“I happened to live in Canada as they completed the process. Believe me it is easy,” Chafee said. “It doesn’t take long before 34 degrees is hot. Only Myanmar, Liberia and the United States aren’t metric and it will help our economy.”
During a question-and-answer session, he briefly touched on the questions dogging Clinton about her family foundation and her use of a private email address at State.

“It’s regrettable to me what’s happening with the emails, the foundation,” he said.

“We just can’t have that, we have to repair our credibility.”

Chafee faces long odds of defeating Clinton, and may also have trouble surpassing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), who are also running.

Clinton has a commanding lead over the field, while Chafee failed to register a single percentage point in Tuesday’s CNN/ORC poll. Brad Bannon, a national Democratic strategist, told The Hill that O’Malley and Sanders “stole the spotlight” from Chafee.

“I’m sorry to say this because I am a native Rhode Islander and I would love to have a Rhode Islander in the White House for the first time,” he said.

“Once Sanders and O’Malley got in, that was the curtain call for the Chafee campaign.”

A majority of his remarks dealt with foreign policy.

He declared a “New American Century” where America can “wage peace,” and called for banning the recent practice of presidents giving ambassadorships to donors.

“As president, I would institute a ban on ambassadorships for sale. That means no more of these posts going to big political donors,” he said.

“I want the best-trained people doing this important work.  And it is critical that the integrity of the office of secretary of State never be questioned.”

He also called for NSA leaker Edward Snowden to be allowed to return from Russia and not face charges for leaking a slew of internal government documents that detailed government surveillance programs.

While he’s looking to run to Clinton’s left on foreign policy, he declared a measured endorsement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Obama’s trade deal that’s caused a rift within the Democratic Party.

“Waging peace includes negotiating fair trade agreements that set standards for labor practices, environmental protections, preventing currency manipulation and protection of intellectual property among others,” he said.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership has the potential to set fair guidelines for the robust commerce taking place in the Pacific Rim.”

Chafee left the Republican Party to become an independent and later endorsed Obama during both presidential elections. While he won the 2010 governor’s race as an independent, he switched to the Democratic Party in 2013, a year before deciding not to run again.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, applauded Chafee’s announcement by calling him a “welcome addition to the race” and praising his party switch as indicative of a failure within the GOP. 

“Throughout his career, he has consistently demonstrated the conviction to do what he felt was best for the people he represents,” she said. 

“As a former Republican, Lincoln Chafee can help make the case that his old party no longer represents the best interests of the American people.”

—This story was updated at 6:57 p.m. 

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