Chafee withdraws from 2016 presidential race

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee speaks in Minneapolis. The Republican presidential contest has been aflutter for months, with all that preening and cackling from an overcrowded colony of rivals. Now it’s time for the Democrats to spread their wings before a big national audience, with their first debate, Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

WASHINGTON (WPRI) — Governor Lincoln Chafee announced today he is withdrawing from the 2016 Democratic Presidential race during a speech delivered at the 22nd Annual National Issues Conference of the Women’s Leadership Forum.

Chafee sent out a vague tweet late Thursday, saying he would make an announcement about his “future in the campaign” on Friday during an appearance at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington.

Chafee had been widely panned for his performance in the recent Democratic debate. He has also struggled with poor showings in the polls and practically nonexistent campaign fundraising, but nevertheless maintained he would not drop out of the race.

Text of Governor Chafee’s speech:

Once again it is a pleasure to join so many Democrats including my fellow candidates who are so dedicated to keeping the presidency and winning back the House and the Senate.  We all know that the Republican agenda sets back women’s rights and I pledge all my energy towards a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country.

We have a winning message of building a strong middle class, investing in education and infrastructure, extending health coverage to more and more Americans, granting a path to citizenship to those who have lived in the shadows for too long, accepting the science of climate change and having the leadership to cut back on our fossil fuel consumption with sound policy, We defend our civil liberties and women’s reproductive freedoms, respect the rights of our L-G-B-T friends, understand that black lives matter and that we need to do more for Native Americans.  And you can be sure that Democrats will make good appointments to the Supreme Court, something this country needs and deserves.

As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace.  But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today.  I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace.

Since today is all about women’s leadership it reminds me of one of my favorite Greek plays; Lysistrata, a comedy from about 400 BCE by Aristophanes.  In that play, a group of women, fed up with the war mongering of their husbands, agree to withhold their favors until peace returns.  And it worked!

Anyway, let’s talk about the present.

Studies show that women tend to lead differently than men, in that women are more likely to be collaborative and team oriented.  It is undeniable the benefits women provide to the pursuit of peace.

When I was a senator, a general from the Pentagon testified before the Foreign Relations Committee on global military powers.  I asked him who was second to the U.S. in military might?  He thought for a bit and said, “probably the U.K.”  Yes that was a few years ago but the point remains true: no real rival to the United States exists when it comes to total weaponry and deployment potential.

We make Virginia class submarines in Rhode Island and I’ve been on an overnight patrol.  What a phenomenal piece of technology and craftsmanship – a machine bristling with the most advanced power imaginable.  Submarines are just one instrument in our staggeringly efficient arsenal of war.  And yet we are sinking ever deeper and deeper into an endless morass in the Middle East and North Africa. People keep dying, and peace seems further and further away. It’s evident that all this military power isn’t working for us right now.

Let me share a story from DaNang, Viet Nam.  DaNang – that city has so many memories for my generation.  But just this summer, former Viet Cong and ex-American G.I.’s were laughing, eating, drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July together. The article quoted Pete Peterson, a former Air Force pilot who spent six and a half years in a Hanoi prison camp after he was shot down.  Later he served as Ambassador to Viet Nam in the 1990’s.

He said now Viet Nam and the United States have so much in common.  After all the death and devastation during that horrible war, why did we do it, he was asked.  He said, “I have thought about this for a long time.  I’m convinced that the war could have been averted had we made the effort to understand the politics of the place. … had we made the effort to understand the politics of the place.”

Ladies and gentleman, from what I’ve heard none of the Republicans running for president want to understand anything about the Middle East and North Africa .  Instead they prefer to espouse more bellicosity, more saber rattling and more blind macho posturing.

When I hear all their tough talk I have déjà vu about the “evil” Viet Cong.  We should be different.  Democrats should insist on learning from the lessons of Viet Nam.  “It all could have been averted.”

Now, I’m not saying that all countries are right in any particular thing they do. We must hold them accountable, but we can’t do that if we don’t hold ourselves accountable and change our entire paradigm.

The United States of America is so strong militarily, economically and culturally that we can take chances for peace. In fact, as a strong mature world leader, we must take chances for peace.  If we have courage, if we take risks, we can have Prosperity through Peace, not just in the United States, but all over the world.

Do we want to be remembered as a bomber of weddings and hospitals? Or do we want to be remembered as Peacemakers, as pioneers of a more harmonious world?

If American war veterans and Vietcong fighters can laugh together on the Fourth of July, then I know so too can Iranians and Israelis, Shias and Sunnis, Turks and Kurds.

A wise man, President Eisenhower counseled us that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” could ensure the meshing of both security and liberty.  It is up to you as women, as citizens, and as humans to demand from your leaders an end to the endless wars and the beginning of a new era for the United States and humanity.

Thank You!  Go Democrats in 2016!

Copyright 2015 WPRI. All rights reserved.

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