Last week it was Ted Cruz. On Wednesday it was Rand Paul. And now, meet your newest presidential candidate: former Rhode Island Republican senator turned former Rhode Island Democratic governor Lincoln Chafee! Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Chafee said the launch of his exploratory committee will be made via videos posted on his website, Chafee2016.com.
"Throughout my career, I exercised good judgment on a wide range of high-pressure decisions, decisions that require level-headedness and careful foresight," said Chafee. "Often these decisions came in the face of political adversity. During the next weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts about the future of our great country."
Lincoln Chafee, of the Rhode Island Chafees, won't be the next president, although he does enter the Democratic primary with strong name recognition among people who use "summer" as a verb. Chafee's father, great-great grandfather, and great-great uncle all previously served as governor of the state. Lincoln ran for the family seat only after losing his spot in the Senate in 2006 to Sheldon Whitehouse (of the Rhode Island Whitehouses), whose father had roomed with Chafee's father at some college in New Haven before entering the diplomatic corps (like his father before him).
But there is something worth highlighting in his announcement interview:
Chafee said his focus will be on building a strong middle class coupled with environmental stewardship. Chafee, who voted against former President George W. Bush's Iraq War, noted that Mrs. Clinton voted for it. He said he aims to send a clear message that "unilateral military intervention has damaged American interests around the world."
Did you catch that? It's easy to forget now that she's the email-destroying, dictator-courting villain of Benghazi, but there was a time when Hillary Clinton's biggest weakness was something else entirely: Iraq. Clinton's support for that war (and her inability to assuage its opponents) was the fuel for Sen. Barack Obama's rise in the polls in 2007. Eight years later, the issue has been all but erased from the political debate.
Don't bet on Chafee being the man who brings it back.
Jeb Bush isn't the only likely presidential candidate with a brother problem.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general revealed that an agency official had intervened in 2014 to help longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe, now the governor of Virginia, obtain EB-5 visas (a steppingstone toward a green card) for employees of his electric-car company. Also named in the report was Tony Rodham, the youngest of Hillary Clinton's two brothers, whose company McAuliffe enlisted to secure those visas.
The inspector general chided the DHS official who oversaw the visa program for pressuring his staff to process the request from Gulf Coast Funds Management, where Rodham serves as CEO, despite an "incomplete business plan, insufficient economic impact analysis, and lack of support for estimating direct employment." Watergate it wasn't—McAuliffe and Rodham had just asked for a favor. But for Hillary Clinton, the news may have evoked a familiar dread.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors indicted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, and making false statements. Salomon Melgen, a top Menendez benefactor and Florida opthalmologist, was named as a co-conspirator in the 22-count indictment. The feds allege that Melgen provided Menendez with private airfare and free accommodations at the donor's luxury resort in the Dominican Republic. In exchange, Menendez helped "influence the immigration visa proceedings of Melgen's foreign girlfriends" and pressured the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to protect the doctor's business interests.
Menendez will hold a press conference in Newark on Wednesday night to address the allegations.
The black box recovered from flight Germanwings 9525.
An international airliner falls out of the sky, seemingly for no reason. A cryptic recording from the cockpit voice recorder. The crash of Germanwings flight 9525 on Tuesday has, at least in the early going, left investigators with a lot of puzzling questions. It's also drawn obvious parallels to an earlier incident—the 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990 off the coast of Massachusetts.
That crash, which killed 217 people, was ultimately chalked up to "manipulation of the airplane controls," according to the National Transporation Safety Board. But that euphemism left a lot unsaid. In a masterful piece in the Atlantic in 2001, reporter William Langewiesche sought to piece together the mystery of what actually happened:
I remember first hearing about the accident early in the morning after the airplane went down. It was October 31, 1999, Halloween morning. I was in my office when a fellow pilot, a former flying companion, phoned with the news: It was EgyptAir Flight 990, a giant twin-engine Boeing 767 on the way from New York to Cairo, with 217 people aboard. It had taken off from Kennedy Airport in the middle of the night, climbed to 33,000 feet, and flown normally for half an hour before mysteriously plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean sixty miles south of Nantucket. Rumor had it that the crew had said nothing to air-traffic control, that the flight had simply dropped off the New York radar screens. Soon afterward an outbound Air France flight had swung over the area, and had reported no fires in sight—only a dim and empty ocean far below. It was remotely possible that Flight 990 was still in the air somewhere, diverting toward a safe landing. But sometime around daybreak a Merchant Marine training ship spotted debris floating on the waves—aluminum scraps, cushions and clothing, some human remains. The midshipmen on board gagged from the stench of jet fuel—a planeload of unburned kerosene rising from shattered tanks on the ocean floor, about 250 feet below. By the time rescue ships and helicopters arrived, it was obvious that there would be no survivors. I remember reacting to the news with regret for the dead, followed by a thought for the complexity of the investigation that now lay ahead. This accident had the markings of a tough case. The problem was not so much the scale of the carnage—a terrible consequence of the 767's size—but, rather, the still-sketchy profile of the upset that preceded it, this bewildering fall out of the sky on a calm night, without explanation, during an utterly uncritical phase of the flight.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will visit the US-Mexico border on Friday with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Walker, who is considering a run for president, is aiming to bolster his credentials as a critic of President Obama's immigration policies. A photo wouldn't hurt either.
The Mexican border is now an almost mandatory pit stop for Republican politicians (especially presidential aspirants) looking for the aura of on-the-ground experience on immigration. Sure, talking to a rancher, staring across a river, and visiting a detention facility in McAllen for 30 minutes might not offer much of a big-picture perspective. But that hasn't stopped lawmakers from surveying the region in gunboats, ATVs, helicopters, and jeeps—invariably with camera crews in tow. Here's a roundup:
Former Gov. Rick Perry: As governor of Texas for 14 years, Perry had plenty of opportunities to work on his border game face, and it shows:
Sen. Marco Rubio: The Florida senator may take a hit from some conservatives for his support for a path to citizenship for some undocumented residents, but he demonstrated his ability to look stern while gazing into the great unknown on this visit to El Paso in 2011:
Gov. Bobby Jindal: Last November, Louisiana's chief executive toured the Mexican border by boat and helicopter in the hopes of better understanding the child migrant crisis, which by that point had already subsided. Jindal's entourage didn't come away empty-handed: "In at least three locations, we saw where people were trying to make their way into Texas in an unimpeded manner," boasted one member of Jindal's group.
Sen. Ted Cruz: Texas' junior senator has made more visits to Iowa than he has to South Texas, his state's poorest region (much to locals' chagrin). But last year, as media interest in the child migrant crisis peaked, he took the time to visit the border and tour a migrant processing facility in McAllen with former Fox News personality Glenn Beck:
For now, the rest of the field is playing catch-up. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee visited the border in Texas during his 2008 campaign (joined at the Rio Grande by action star Chuck Norris) but has not been back since. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has not visited the border, although he did propose building a fence along New Hampshire's southern border to keep out people from Massachusetts. Acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson recently visited the Israeli border, where he mistook construction equipment for machine gun fire.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be the only potential candidate who has avoided the border on principle. Although he visited Mexico City on a trade mission in 2014, he balked at extending his trip to the Rio Grande—which is very far from both Mexico City and New Jersey. "This is silliness," he told NJ.com. "If I went down there and looked at it, what steps am I supposed to take exactly? Send the New Jersey National Guard there?"
It's not just potential Republican candidates getting in on the action. In recent years, the Rio Grande has been a frequent destination for DC's finest. In 2013, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—who is not running for president—watched law enforcement apprehend a woman who had scaled the 18-foot border fence in Nogales. That same year, while aboard a speed boat with two Republican colleagues, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) found a body floating in the Rio Grande. ("It was a vivid reminder that we have to secure our border and do it as quickly as possible," he told Roll Call.) Last year, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) traveled to McAllen accompanied by writer (and birther) Jerome Corsi and a film crew from conspiracy website WorldNetDaily. The crew showed up unannounced at a DHS detention center at midnight and was not allowed in.
Still, Walker is smart to get his border-fence photo-op out of the way early—it may not be there much longer. If elected president, real-estate mogul Donald Trump (who has not visited the border) has pledged to personally supervise the construction of a new barrier along the southern border that will permanently end illegal immigration. "A wall," he told Iowa voters last week. "A real wall...not a wall that people walk over."
President Trump's 2020 challengers may have to visit the Canadian border instead.