April 12th, 2015
01:25 PM ET

Fmr. Gov. Chafee on if he will run for president: ". . .I want to be there November, December, and January on the stage debating these issues.”

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash about the expected announcement from Hillary Clinton on her candidacy for president and his own plans to run in 2016.

Text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

 TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Chafee on if he will definitely run for president in 2016: “Well, the process is to form the exploratory committee but, yes, I want to be there November, December, and January on the stage debating these issues.”

Chafee on why Hillary Clinton is not a good choice for president: “. . .But that vote for the Iraq war, that was a moment in time, Dana, where the Vietnam era had ended, the Berlin wall come down. There was lasting peace ahead of us if we made good decisions particularly after September 11th when people were angry and they were scared. And that was just a moment in time where the premise for going into Iraq was so false that there were weapons of mass destruction - she didn't do her homework and we live with the ramifications today. And so you may say that's 12 years ago, but we live with it today and it's a big motivator for why I'm running.”

Chafee on the evolution of his party affiliation: “As far as my evolution, certainly the Republican Party changed and I never changed. And as I became an independent and one governorship as an independent, my values never changed whether it's on fiscal responsibility or on environment issues or on using the tools of government to help the less fortunate, keeping us out of the quagmires we see overseas. I've never changed. Protecting civil liberties and now I'm a Democrat. I'm very comfortable as a Democrat and look forward to the primaries and the debate ahead.”

Chafee on Elizabeth Warren: “Yes, absolutely. There's no doubt that Senator Warren's absolutely right about what's happening to the middle class and she's just been a prophet about this for a number of years. And that's what makes any community, whether it's a state or a city or a country or anywhere around the world strong is having a robust middle class. And so she's right. I have a great record of voting against the Bush tax cuts which widened that disparity of wealth, that hurt the middle class, led to the great recession. And so I'm proud of my record and would like to have Senator Warren's support and her legion of followers.”

 

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

BASH: Hillary Clinton enters the 2016 presidential race as the clear favorite among Democrats, but she's still likely to face a primary challenge. In fact, the man who joins me now made a surprise announcement this week, that he's launching a presidential exploratory committee. It's former Rhode Island governor and former senator, Lincoln Chafee.

Governor, thank you so much for joining me.

You know, you have an unusual history when it comes to party affiliation. You were appointed to the Senate back in 1999 as a Republican to fill the seat of your late father. You lost to a Democrat then you ran for governor as an independent. Now, you're a Democrat considering a run for president. Why?

LINCOLN CHAFEE (D), FORMER RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR: Well, first of all, this is Senator Clinton's big day and I congratulate her on her entrance into the race. Voters should have choices in races and - so it's going to be a great debate I hope in the Democratic primaries.

As far as my evolution, certainly the Republican Party changed and I never changed. And as I became an independent and one governorship as an independent, my values never changed whether it's on fiscal responsibility or on environment issues or on using the tools of government to help the less fortunate, keeping us out of the quagmires we see overseas. I've never changed. Protecting civil liberties and now I'm a Democrat. I'm very comfortable as a Democrat and look forward to the primaries and the debate ahead.

BASH: And Governor, you said explicitly that you're challenging Hillary Clinton primarily because of her vote for the Iraq war. You famously were the only then Republican to vote against the Iraq war back in 2002. But do you really think there's still enough anger left, this was a long time ago, to propel your candidacy based on that?

CHAFEE: Well, I enjoyed working with Senator Clinton. We overlapped for six years and we served on the environment and public works committee together and we worked on some breast cancer issues. We worked on endangered species together. I enjoyed that.

But that vote for the Iraq war, that was a moment in time, Dana, where the Vietnam era had ended, the Berlin wall come down. There was lasting peace ahead of us if we made good decisions particularly after September 11th when people were angry and they were scared. And that was just a moment in time where the premise for going into Iraq was so false that there were weapons of mass destruction - she didn't do her homework and we live with the ramifications today. And so you may say that's 12 years ago, but we live with it today and it's a big motivator for why I'm running.

If you show lack of judgment, lack of doing your homework then, what can we expect in the future?

BASH: You have called Hillary Clinton a Democratic Bush enabler and you said that when you endorsed her opponent in 2008, Barack Obama.

What about now? Do you think that her foreign policy (INAUDIBLE) or appropriate maybe her ideals and her goals are appropriate looking at the world now?

CHAFEE: As I said, we're going to have a lot of areas of agreement domestically, but I have a lot of areas of disagreement internationally.

And yes, I would say even her tenure as secretary of state was kind of a muscular top down unilateral too close to the neocons, too Bush like. And you could say after her tenure as secretary of state, what kind of accomplishments did you have? And there were precious few.

BASH: Let's talk about domestic issues.

As you well know, there is a lot of enthusiasm out there for Elizabeth Warren because of her populous approach to economic issues.

Do you consider yourself somebody who wants to fill that void since she's saying she's not running?

CHAFEE: Yes, absolutely. There's no doubt that Senator Warren's absolutely right about what's happening to the middle class and she's just been a prophet about this for a number of years. And that's what makes any community, whether it's a state or a city or a country or anywhere around the world strong is having a robust middle class.

And so she's right. I have a great record of voting against the Bush tax cuts which widened that disparity of wealth, that hurt the middle class, led to the great recession. And so I'm proud of my record and would like to have Senator Warren's support and her legion of followers.

BASH: I'm sure you would.

You know, when you left the governor's mansion you're in - in your own state of Rhode Island, you left only one term - after only one term rather, and you had an approval of only 25 percent. So, if you, you know, kind of have that low standing in your own state how are you going to get support around the country?

CHAFEE: Well, I came in in a tough time.

Rhode Islanders had some of the highest foreclosures, highest unemployment, our cities and towns were going bankrupt. People were stressed out. They were angry. Every little thing was difficult as I tried to turn Rhode Island around and of course any time you're raising taxes you're making people angry. I had to do that, raise beach fees made people angry. But at the end, and that's why I'm running, Rhode Island is better off.

We had the biggest drop of unemployment, the rate of unemployment than all but four states. That's a great record of accomplishment and I'm proud of helping our cities and towns get out of bankruptcy. Even our capital city of providence was eligible. That's not true today.

BASH: You - a little known fact. You went to boarding school, high school with Jeb Bush back in the day. Were you friends and what do you know about him personally? Do you think he could make a good president?

CHAFEE: Yes, we were friends. We lived in the same dorm together and we've bumped into each other the same time since. And so we'll see what happens coming down the road.

BASH: Do you think he would make a good president? He's not his brother, obviously. He has got different views on things.

CHAFEE: So, now we have three Bushes to compare, the father, George W. and now Jeb. So, we'll see how it goes down in the campaign.

BASH: OK. Lastly, you sounded like you were pretty far in this morning in our discussion. Are you definitely going to run?

CHAFEE: Well, the process is to form the exploratory committee but, yes, I want to be there November, December, and January on the stage debating these issues.

BASH: OK. Certainly will make it interesting. Governor Lincoln Chafee, good to see you. Appreciate it.

END

 

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