|Lincoln Chafee has been one of the more tortured Republican souls in the Senate these days, seeming to undergo painful contractions over the Bolton nomination (he voted yes to get the vote out of committee and yes to cloture, but only after looking like a victim of acute irritable bowell syndrome throughout the hearings). But now, it appears that Chafee's reluctant soldiering for his party is doing little to keep him off the conservative shit list (where he's been many times before).
Today's harpoon comes from the National Review, which speculates that the GOP would be no worse off with a Democrat in Chafee's chair than with the son of a member of Bush I's wedding party (and fellow Bonesman, I believe) who handed the seat down to the agonizing moderate.
Chafee will likely pay for his apostasy on the abortion issue, and meanwhile, he's also got a target on his back from Democrats, who count him among a group of vulnerable Republicans highly desirable for ouster (the list also includes Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum. Here's a complete list from Mark the Pundit's archives).
If there was ever any doubt, Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s vote Wednesday against the nomination of Priscilla Owen has made it clear that, save for leadership numbers games, conservatives would not be any worse off with a Democrat than with Chafee (R., R.I.) in the Senate. Rhode Island Republicans will have a chance next year to avert that painful choice only if a serious primary challenger emerges — and it could happen as soon as next week.
Getting Priscilla Owen onto the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is a good thing, but all along the entire judicial battle has really been about the Supreme Court. Especially for the “values voters” who elected George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, this is the most important issue, as they see court after court impose its whim on American voters on issues such as homosexual marriage and abortion.
This is precisely where Chafee found Owen unacceptable. On Wednesday, Chafee’s office confirmed that it was Owen’s dissent in a 2000 parental-notification case that pushed Chafee to vote against her. In that Texas supreme-court case, the four-judge majority effectively nullified the state’s parental-notification requirement for minors seeking abortions.
If this is Chafee’s litmus test on appellate judges, what will be his test on Supreme Court nominees? It’s not just that Chafee has gone on the record repeatedly voting that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided and ought not be overturned. If Chafee’s litmus test won’t even abide parental notification, having him in the Senate undermines Bush’s stated goal of appointing justices like Scalia and Thomas. If Bush means what he says about the courts — if this hasn’t all been a show to mollify the religious Right — he’ll throw Chafee overboard.
Bottom line: There's no good reason to give Chafee a pass, despite his tendency to be helpful in situations requiring a moderate. Chafee has used the "Survivor" trick of flying quietly below the radar for years, but with issues like the makeup of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, Republicans have every interest in taking Chafee out in the primaries. So I guess it's time to move Link Chafee up on the hot '06 race list.