“I have had no scandals,” the ostrich man kept saying. If you angled your head just right, you could hear ... Y’know, in case you had me mixed up with that hiking-the-Appalachian-Trail fella wafting along on the breeze of his breath.
It’s true! He never had any scandals, and also ... [checks Wikipedia] ... yep, he almost certainly is not Mark Sanford. He almost certainly is not the tall guy from Whose Line Is It Anyway too. Possibly he is not even an ostrich or any other kind of ratite at all! He is Lincoln Chafee: Man Of No Scandals. He dropped out of the Democratic presidential nomination race today. That choice will not be his first scandal; nobody wanted to vote for him.
Flogging his Man Of No Scandals identity was an odd choice for Chafee, who came into the campaign essentially unknown except as the dude who switched parties. Perversely, his zeal for talking up his clean record made him come off weird and slightly sketchy. He said “I have had no scandals” and you thought, I would not take a lollipop from this hobo.
This is human nature, and Lincoln Chafee misplayed the absolute hell out of it. When you’re making chit-chat with a stranger and ask him, for example, “What’d you do after you finished school?” the very most suspicious answer he can give is You can bet I didn’t get busted with my dick in a meatloaf, that’s for sure! I mean, okay, man, but now all I can think about is you with your dick in a meatloaf. Aren’t you picturing Lincoln Chafee with his dick in a meatloaf? I definitely am! Gotta say, that’s pretty messed up, Lincoln. Fuck’s wrong with you. Why would you do that to a meatloaf?
Who knows why Lincoln Chafee thought running on a record of not violating anybody’s dinner in public was a good idea. If it sprang from a grievous miscalculation—that Americans knew him well enough to go Wow, with all Lincoln Chafee has accomplished, his lack of scandals is impressive—then that’s of a piece with how he came off throughout the campaign: As a clueless, concussed doofus whose homemade gyrocopter happened to have crashed near a stage.
The sad thing here is, the senile-old-vaudevillian-flubbin’-card-tricks-at-the-bus-stop presentation isn’t so much a caricature of Chafee’s willful creation as it just sorta is how he comes across, completely separate from how effective or capable a public servant he has been or could be. Contrast him with Jim Webb, who likewise came out of the campaign more punchline than man: Webb aggressively reduced his own worthwhile policy concerns and personal heroism to a whiny, aggrieved, race-baiting Wyatt Earp caricature; it’s somewhat tragic, but he was pandering, playing himself, reaching for a demographic he hoped to leverage. Lincoln Chafee was not pandering! He just kinda is your gummy, always slightly drunk-seeming great uncle who borrowed his hairdo from 1978. What demographic would that even resonate with? People who like perfectly serviceable, credibly experienced politicians with mostly admirable track records and voting histories, but like them even better if they seem incomplete without a bindle and a harmonica?
Lincoln Chafee argued for sane policies and did credible work on matters of substance through the darkest days of the Bush administration. His legislative record—which includes a lonely vote against Bush’s tax cuts for wealthy elites, a lonely vote against oil drilling in ANWR, a lonely vote against the Iraq war, and a lonely vote against the confirmation of right-wing ideologue Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, among other things—resonates more strongly with the Democratic base’s positions than Hillary Clinton’s does. When this put him at such extreme odds with the Republican Party that he had to leave it altogether, he reincarnated his career as an independent and won a term as Rhode Island’s governor against candidates from both parties. He co-chaired Barack Obama’s fantastically successful re-election campaign. In other words, he has at least as strong a basis as any other candidate for claiming to be a person of integrity; a wise and conscientious legislator; an experienced executive; a skilled campaigner; and a bridger of partisan divides in a political landscape where everyone claims to want exactly that. He brought all of that shit to the national stage, looked you dead in the eye on CNN, opened his mouth, and said:
I’ve never been caught with my dick in a meatloaf. I voted to empower big banks because my dad died.
That is some Thomas Hardy shit. Put a rose in Lincoln Chafee’s lonely lapel, if you see him.
What’s next for ol’ Lincoln?
If he knows what is good for him, what’s next will not be another presidential run. Then again if he knew what is good for him, he would not have done it this time, either. Go have a scandal, Lincoln. I’ll cook it myself.