Lincoln Davenport Chafee (/ˈtʃeɪfiː/; born March 26, 1953) is an American politician and diplomat from Rhode Island, currently serving as the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States. He previously served as the Mayor of Warwick, a United States Senator, and as the 74th Governor of Rhode Island from 2011 to 2017. Chafee is a member of the Democratic Party, having previously been a Republican until 2007 and an independent from 2007 to 2012.
Chafee's tenure in the United States Senate, as a Republican, was characterized by his support for policies often in opposition to those of his own party. Following the defeat of his re-election bid in 2006, Chafee's political affiliations began to shift: in 2008 he served as co-chair of Independents and Republicans for Obama, and he served as co-chair of his 2012 re-election bid, where he announced his formal switch to the Democratic Party. He was first elected to the Governorship of Rhode Island in 2010 as an independent, and was re-elected in 2014 in a three-way contest as a Democrat.
In 2015, he sought nomination to be the Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election, and received over 2.3 million votes, coming in fourth place. His dovish candidacy, founded on the twin promises of "waging peace" and election reform, was supported by fervent grassroots support, making him a key figure in recent American populism. In 2016 Chafee formed a political organization, Not by a Mile, to educate voters about issues, get people involved in the political process, and work to organize and elect other pro-peace and pro-reform candidates.
On February 13th, 2017, Chafee was nominated by President Hillary Clinton to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States. On March 20th, formal diplomatic recognition of the appointment was received from the administration of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Early Life and Education
Lincoln Davenport Chafee was born on March 26, 1953 in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Virginia (née Coates) and John Chafee.
Chafee is a 1975 graduate of Brown University, earning a degree in the Classics. After graduation, Chafee attended Montana State University’s Horseshoeing School and for the next seven years he worked as a blacksmith at harness racetracks throughout the United States and Canada.
Describing how his time as working with horses affected him, Chafee has stated: "when you’re around horses, you tend to be a quieter person."
Chafee's first foray into politics came in 1985, when he became a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention; a year later he was elected to the Warwick City Council. He was defeated in his 1990 bid for Mayor of Warwick, but won the subsequent elections in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1998 - in the last of which he carried all nine wards of the city.
Chafee worked with the Democratic-majority City Council to manage the City’s finances from a fiscally conservative approach; as Mayor, he strengthened Warwick's bond rating and paid down the city's pension liability. He also earned accolades from the municipal unions. He inherited a labor dispute with the teachers' union when he took office, and later negotiated a settlement by bypassing the committee tasked with negotiating an end to the dispute and offered raises to the teachers, totaling a $1.5 million payout.
As Mayor, Chafee economic and environmental development top priorities for his administration. His achievements include the purchase of over 130 acres of space for parks and recreation, the creation of new historic districts to foster tourism, and an "intermodal" district at T. F. Green airport. His Greenwich Bay Initiative extended sewer service across Warwick and earned the city accolades from the Environmental Protection Agency.
United States Senate
Chafee's father, John Chafee, had served as the senior United States Senator from Rhode Island since 1976; he had intended to retire in 2000 and encourage his son to run for the seat. The elder Chafee died in October of 1999, and Governor Lincoln Almond appointed Lincoln to the seat. Since the 2000 Senate election was set to occur just over a year from John Chafee's passing, Almond decided against calling for a special election.
While in the Senate, Chafee was a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works and he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East Subcommittee.
Chafee was a member of the "Gang of 14," a bipartisan group of Senators who successfully negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called nuclear option over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate majority leaders. Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against authorizing the use of military force in Iraq.
Chafee was elected to his seat outright with a 57% majority against his Democratic opponent, U.S. Representative Robert Weygand.
In September 2005, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, candidacy for Chafee's Senate seat in the Republican primary. More in line with his party's stances - and in opposition to those of the more liberal Chafee - Laffey opposed access to abortion, stem cell research, and was supported by the state's conservative advocacy groups.
Chafee went on to defeat Laffey in the primary on September 12th by a margin of 53%–47%. The turnout for the Republican primary was the largest in Rhode Island history. Chafee's victory was supported by Democrats and independents who had crossed party lines to vote for him.
However, the Democratic nominee, former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse successfully attacked Chafee by tying him to the increasingly unpopular George W. Bush administration and Congressional Republicans.
Whitehouse defeated Chafee in the general election by a 52%–48% margin. The following day, Chafee publicly stated that he was unsure whether or not he would remain a registered Republican, which would break with his longstanding family political affiliation.
During his tenure in the United States Senate, Chafee's policy positions became increasingly liberal as the Republican Party as a whole shifted towards conservatism. He was consistently ranked the most liberal member of his party in the Senate.
Senator Chafee authored the Brownfields Act, which enabled thousands of older properties to be returned to the tax rolls or converted to green space here in Rhode Island and across the United States. Six million USD was allocated to clean up and redevelop the former Louttit Laundry site in Providence's west end and at Johnson and Wales' Harborside Campus among others.
Additionally, Chafee voted against allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Criticism of George W. Bush
Chafee was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush, opposing his refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the administration's hawkish and neoconservative foreign policy. He also gained a measure of notoriety in Republican circles for being the the lone Senator of his party to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in 2002.
Prior to the capture of Saddam Hussein, Chafee considered launching a bid to challenge Bush for the Republican nomination. In the general election, he revealed that he had cast his ballot for former President George H.W. Bush instead of the younger Bush.
In December 2006, Chafee accepted a fellowship at Brown University's Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, where he led a student group focused of foreign policy of the United States.
On September 17th, 2007, the Providence Journal reported that Chafee had left the GOP and became an independent over the summer, saying “It’s not my party anymore.” When asked why he hadn't announced the change in affiliation, he replied "No one's asked me about it." Three weeks prior to his state's Democratic presidential primary in 2007, Chafee officially endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama. While Obama lost the state's primary, he would go on to win the nomination and was elected President in November. In 2012, he became a co-chair for Obama's re-election campaign and formally joined the Democratic Party.
Chafee joined the advisory board of J Street in 2008; the think tank and lobbying group promotes diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors and supports an independent Palestinian state. In this capacity, he worked with Debra DeLee, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee and who would later serve as a close advisor to his presidential campaign.
Governor of Rhode Island
2010 Gubernatorial Election
On January 4th, 2010 Chafee formally declared candidacy for the Governorship of Rhode Island as an independent. Due to his large war chest, name recognition, and high approval ratings when he was in the Senate, he became the early front runner. in addition, President Obama's refusal to endorse the Democratic nominee, state Treasurer Frank Capiro, was widely seen as a tacit endorsement of Chafee.
On September 16th, 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - who had also switched from Republican to Independent - traveled to Rhode Island to campaign for Chafee, praising his "experience and integrity," as well as his time spent as Mayor and Senator.
Due to no small part of his favorable relations with teachers as Mayor of Warwick, Chafee was endorsed by each of the state's teachers unions, as well as Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.
Chafee won the gubernatorial election with 36% of the vote, beating six other candidates.
2014 Gubernatorial Election
Chafee chose to run for re-election in 2014, and faced a tough primary fight against Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. After winning the primary, he won the general election with just over 45% of the vote against the Republican nominee, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and Moderate Party nominee Robert J. Healy.
Chafee had campaigned on a platform that included lowering the state sales tax by creating a 1% tax on 59 tax exempt commodities and services, to address the state's annual budget deficit.
Some of Chafee's proposed tax increases, intended to move the state from budget deficit to surplus status, polled negatively among Rhode Island residents. However, Chafee came to office in the middle of the Great Recession, with unemployment peaking at 11.4% in the early in his tenure. By the start of his second term, the rate dropped to 5.9%, second best in the country. As Governor, Chafee received grades of D in 2012 and B in 2014 and 2016 from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, in their biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors.
In six of his eight budgets, there were no tax increases. At the same time, he restored 26% funding to local education and higher education cut by his predecessor, Don Carcieri.
In May 2012, Chafee refused on principle to release a prisoner charged with murder to federal custody, since Rhode Island hadn't had an execution since 1842 and the US Attorney refused to guarantee that the prisoner would not face a death penalty, arguing instead for a maximum life imprisonment without parole if convicted. Chafee said:
"The State of Rhode Island must seek to protect both the strong states' rights issues at stake, and the legitimacy of its longstanding public policy against the death penalty."
During his tenure, Chafee opposed strict "War on Drugs" policies, in favor of alternative approaches to America's drug-crime problem. Chafee signed legislation that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, making possession of any amount lower than an ounce punishable by a fine instead of as a criminal charge, and instructed state law enforcement to consider marijuana posession as "lowest-priority." By his second term, Chafee stated that he admired the example set by Uruguay, and supported full legalization.
Tourism and International Issues
As a Governor with previous experience in foreign affairs, Chafee sought expand Rhode Island's impact on the global stage. In his second term, he created the Governor's Office of International Partnerships, appointing Brown University Senior Fellow Stephen Kinzer as its first Director. Through this office, Chafee and Rhode Island businesses conducted trade missions across the globe, in Canada, Portugal, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Russia, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria. As Governor, a Liberian Consulate was opened in Providence.
Proposed Russian Consulate
On November 29th, 2018, the Boston Globe published an exposé detailing previously undisclosed efforts by the Kremlin to establish a Russian consulate in Providence, Rhode Island, from 2014-2016, including while then-Governor Chafee was running for President. Russian officials and nationals had made contact with several members of the Chafee campaign team, its informal advisors, and employees and officeholders of the Rhode Island state government. This stood in clear contrast with Chafee's statement that "[t]here was no open line of communication between my campaign and the Russian government."
Prior to the planning of upcoming trade missions, Director of International Partnerships Stephen Kinzer met with Russian nationals and officials, to discuss the possibility of opening a Russian consulate in Providence, Rhode Island's capital and largest city, or in Warwick, the second-largest city in the state and where Chafee had previously served as Mayor.
In November 2019, Kinzer was fined the maximum penalty of $25,000 each for two violations by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission; the Commission additionally referred his case to both the state Attorney General and the FBI.
Switch to the Democratic Party
In August 2012, he was appointed co-chair of Obama's re-election campaign and formally switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party. In his address before the Democratic National Convention, Chafee stated:
"There are a lot of us all over the country, and in November we will once again help elect Barack Obama President of the United States. We are, at our core, conservatives, in the best sense of the word: Thoughtful, responsible with public resources, and respectful of personal freedom. And we are liberal in the best sense of the word: We believe that government can and should be an instrument for the greater good."
2016 Presidential Campaign
Chafee formally launched his 2016 presidential campaign on June 3rd, 2015, at a speech at the George Mason Center for Politics & Foreign Relations in Arlington, Virginia. His campaign marked the first time a candidate from Rhode Island had sought the nomination of a major party.
Although Chafee failed to secure the Democratic nomination and finished in fourth place, he earned over 2.4 million votes. His dovish candidacy, founded on the twin promises of "waging peace" and election reform, was supported by fervent grassroots support, making him a key figure in recent American populism.
Central to Chafee's foreign policy was what he termed "waging peace." Among his proposals were calling for a moratorium on the use of drones in combat, as well as rebuilding relations with countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, and Russia.
In his campaign launch, Chafee said:
"For me waging peace includes negotiating fair trade agreements that set standards for labor practices, environmental protections, preventing currency manipulation, protection of intellectual property, and campaign ethics reform, among others."
Throughout the campaign, Chafee pursued a strategy of focusing on small towns and cities, particularly those dependent on waterways. Senior campaign strategist Bill Fischer coined the phrase "small town strategy" - alternately dubbed the "seaside strategy" by Politico - to describe Chafee's focus on and eventual wins in Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Following the suspension of his campaign, Chafee endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic nominee.
Chafee joined the board at Honesty PAC - later renamed Not by a Mile - which aims to bring together advocacy groups for the issues he raised during his campaign, focusing on environmentalism and pro-peace candidates and initiatives.
Ambassador to the Organization of American States
Governor Chafee was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States on February 13th, 2017. He has served in that capacity since March 20th, 2017, when Lt. Governor Clay Pell succeeded him as Governor.
In his acceptance speech, Chafee said:
"What our hemisphere needs is the people who had the courage, under moments of high pressure, to make good decisions; to advance the causes of individual liberty and social justice enshrined in our charter."
Dale Eppler, who formerly served as Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy in Chile, was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission to the OAS in 2017, before being succeeded by Michelle Getchell the following year. Jessaca Leinaweaver, who served as the Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University, assumed the position of Assistant Deputy Chief of Mission and Alternate Representative. Additionally, Alexander Watson - a former diplomat who had served as a key foreign policy advisor to Chafee during his presidential campaign - has taken a position as Special Advisor to the Ambassador.
Debbie Rich, who has served as Chafee's spokesperson since his time as Mayor of Warwick, continues to serve in that capacity for the Ambassador.
In 2018, on the advice of Robert Legvold - National Coordinator for Strategic Diplomacy and chief architect of the administration's policies towards Russia - President Clinton appointed Michelle Getchell to succeed Eppler as Deputy Chief of Mission. Getchell had previously served as Deputy Assistant for External Affairs for Vice President Luis Gutiérrez. Several news outlets later reported that Chafee was displeased with the staff change, feeling that Getchell was appointed to serve as Legvold's "eyes and ears" at the OAS.
|Deputy Chief of Mission|| Dale Eppler (2017-2018)|
Michelle Getchell (2018-Present)
|Assistant Deputy Chief of Mission||Jessaca Leinaweaver (2017-Present)|
|Special Advisor||Alexander Watson (2017-Present)|
|Director of Communications||Debbie Rich (2017-Present)|
|Counselor and Alternative Representative||Genevieve Libonati (2014-Present)|
|Counselor and Alternative Representative|| Margarita Riva-Geoghegan (2015-2018)|
Cory Andrews (2018-Present)
Transparency and Privacy
In his first official act as Ambassador to the OAS, Chafee has added "Transparency and Privacy" as a fourth core mission of the United States delegation, alongside Human Rights, Human Development, and Human Security.
Resolutions 2917 and 2976
During the June 2017 session of the OAS General Assembly, held in Mexico City, Chafee proposed Resolution 2917, calling for greater transparency and privacy standards across the hemisphere. Under his proposal, countries would submit voluntary reports on progress made in transparency and privacy rights, which would be published and subject to review by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Resolution 2917 failed to pass the General Assembly.
The same resolution, with minor textual changes, passed the General Assembly in June 2019 as Resolution 2976 - A Resolution on Privacy, Transparency, and Information Rights in the Americas.
Chafee has credited the former General Chairman of his 2016 campaign, Lawrence Lessig, as well as Columbia professor and current Commissioner and Chair of the Federal Trade Commission Tim Wu, with advising him in developing the resolution.
In February 2016, the OAS launched an initiative to promote implementation of environmental law through the judiciaries of the Americas; as part of the initiative, four high court judges from South and Central America were named Goodwill Ambassadors for Environmental Justice in the Americas.
In April 2017, a leak of 39,596 gallons (942 barrels) of petroleum from the Bakken Pipeline contaminated groundwater in five watersheds centered on Spink County, South Dakota. At the invitation of Chafee, Goodwill Ambassador Antonio Benjamin, of Brazil, met with local judges, activists, and representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss strategies to prevent further disasters and provide just compensation to those affected by the spill. Representatives from Bakken LLC were invited but did not attend, due to an ongoing lawsuit involving the leak.
Natural Disaster Relief
Following the extensive destruction of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Katia in the Caribbean, Chafee has pushed for a "Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan," also echoed by British billionaire Richard Branson and U.S. Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI). Chafee has stated that he was authoring a Declaration on the disasters.
Due to the damage to his Siren's Song Villa on St. Thomas, Chafee has suspended talks hosted there for the time being, hosting diplomats and other individuals either in Washington, D.C. hotels, or at his family's home in Warwick. He also donated $250,000 of his personal fortune towards relief efforts in the Virgin Islands, and has encouraged supporters to donate aid to the territory, alongside Puerto Rico.
Venezuelan Constitutional and Diplomatic Crises
Main Article: 2017-2018 Venezuelan Crisis (The More Things Changed)
On March 29th, 2017, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) of Venezuela took over legislative powers of the National Assembly. The Tribunal, mainly comprised of President Nicolás Maduro's United Socialist Party, also restricted the immunity granted to the Assembly's members, who mostly belonged to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable.
The dissolution immediately condemned by the opposition and termed a coup. On April 1st, the TSJ reviewed its decision, but refused to reinstate the powers of the National Assembly. Public dissatisfaction with the decision boiled over, with protests strengthening into the most combative since the initial wave of unrest in 2014. The protests of April 19th, which brought together over 6 million people across the country, has been called the Mother of all Marches.
On April 26th, President Maduro announced that his country would withdraw from the Organization of American States; Chafee criticized the move and expressed his hope that the decision would be reversed.
On May 16th, Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a press release condemning the actions of Maduro's government, calling it a self-coup. Ambassador Chafee released a concurrent statement the same day, stating:
“It is incumbent upon us, the international community, to show leadership in seeking areas of common ground. The United States of America will strive to find common ground and build on that to achieve a peaceful solution for the people of Venezuela.”
Foreign Policy reported in May of 2017 that Chafee had initiated talks with the OAS Ambassadors of Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, and other allies of Venezuela in he hemisphere, as well as meeting with representatives of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), which had been founded by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The effort has been part of a larger strategy by certain counties - informally dubbed the "Continuación Caucus" - to bring a diplomatic solution to the crises.
From May 12th, 2017 through the 2018 coup, Chafee hosted informal meetings at his Siren's Song villa on St. Thomas, one of the United States Virgin Islands.
In May of 2017, Goldman Sachs bought 2.7 billion USD worth of bonds from Petróleos de Venezuela, a state-owned petroleum company for only 865 million USD in securities - a near-70% markdown from face value, with 19% annual interest. This sparked the "hunger bonds" movement, which seeks to shame potential foreign investors from pumping money into the Maduro regime. By January 2018, Venezuela had lost over 1.3 billion USD in estimated foreign investment as a result of the movement.
On July 10th, 2017, The New York Times reported that its servers had been hacked and several hundred documents had been stolen. At 9:06 AM EST on the 11th, Wikileaks announced that it had obtained copies of the documents and published them online.
Among the documents were communications between Goldman Sachs staff showed the creation of Paxehaknik Management - a front corporation - in Wilmington, Delaware in 2014. Alongside the initial bonds purchase, Goldman Sachs invested a further 900 million USD into the Maduro government through Paxehaknik, further intensifying protests.
Responding to the developments, Chafee largely deferred, saying:
"I'm troubled by Goldman Sachs injecting itself into such a turbulent region without running it past the State Department. I am going to keep pushing for a diplomatic solution for the people of Venezuela, and that's all I have to say about that."
On October 30th, 2017, a preliminary agreement - Parameters for a Plan for Lasting Peace in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - was reached in the multilateral talks in Ottawa. The agreement was signed in Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General of Canada.
Following the Ottawa Agreement, further talks took place in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as in Cayenne, French Guyana; on April 6th, 2018, an agreement was announced in Port-of-Spain, officially titled The Multilateral Agreement for Lasting Peace in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Among the provisions of the Port of Spain Agreement, in addition to the provisions of the previous agreement:
- Venezuela's continued participation in the OAS
- Further encouragement of the Inter-American Development Bank's support to Venezuela
- Further development of the Bank of the South
- Granting ALBA an observer seat in the OAS
- Permitting OAS election monitoring in Venezuela
- Implementing a 12,000:1 Venezuelan bolivars per U.S. dollar (USD) ratio
- Permitting limited use of USD as currency in Venezuela through 2018 (later extended through 2019)
The agreement was contingent on support from the Organization of American States, which convened the 53rd Special Session of the General Assembly. Chafee stated that he was "in constant communication" with other OAS Ambassadors and principal players of all parties involved to draft a resolutions supporting the agreement.
53rd and 54th Special Sessions of the OAS
On April 11th, 2018, three resolutions were adopted by the OAS General Assembly, held in Washington, DC:
- AG/RES. 1 (LIII-E/18)
- Condemns violence in Venezuela and authorizes OAS election monitoring
- AG/RES. 2 (LIII-E/18)
- Grants ALBA an observer seat in the OAS
- AG/RES. 3 (LIII-E/18)
- Approves of the peace plan reached in Port of Spain
Chafee co-authored and co-sponsored each of the resolutions, and rallied support in favor of all three.
Following the passage of special resolutions by the Organization of American States and President Nicolás Maduro's signing of the accords reached in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the Venezuelan military seized control of Caracas. Having concluded its 53rd Special Session on April 11th, the Organization of American States convened another special session beginning April 13th, also in Washington, DC.
During the session, a resolution establishing an Inter-American Peace Force - AG/RES. 3 (LIV-E/19) - was considered by the General Assembly. It would have been modeled after the Inter-American Peace Force established by the OAS in May of 1965, after the United States' intervention in the Dominican Republic to restore order in the country's civil war. Although initially favored to pass, Ambassador Chafee and delegations from allied countries - including as Canada, Mexico, and Argentina - tabled the resolution as further negotiations progressed.
Following the March on Caracas and collapse of the junta, the 54th Session passed a resolution offering logistics and personnel support in the 2018 Venezuelan general election.
Honduras and the Bay Islands
In November 2017, the people of Hondouras voted in the first elections after the constitution was amended to allow for a President to seek re-election; the sitting president, Juan Orlando Hernández, chose to do so. The OAS found widespread irregularities in the conduct of the voting and doubted the validity of the official results, and soon called for fresh elections.
Among parts of the country, protests led to uprisings against Hernández. The Bay Islands Department, led by Roatán Mayor Carson Dilbert, appealed to the United Kingdom for assistance, recalling historical and cultural ties. On January 2nd, 2018, the Bay Islands declared independence from Honduras and requested annexation. The following week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the charge to officially annex the Bay Islands as a British Overseas Territory, marking the first expansion of British territory since the 19th century.
The annexation was met with sharp criticism from the OAS and the United States, with Chafee denouncing it as "pure colonialism" and reaching out directly to the Johnson ministry to express his opposition. Chafee later met with both the British Permanent Observer and the OAS Ambassador from Hondouras at his Siren's Song villa, marking the beginning of an informal dialogue.
While serving in the U.S. Senate, Lincoln Chafee was characterized as a "Rockefeller Republican." As governor of Rhode Island, he pursued a centrist agenda with pragmatic fiscal conservatism, and liberal social policies. As United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States, he has called for cooperation, deescalation, and "waging peace" in U.S. foreign policy. Throughout his career in public service, Chafee has consistently held anti-war, pro-peace policies. He has often been described as a libertarian Democrat.
Cultural and Public Image
Chafee's 2016 presidential campaign catapulted him to greater national prominence than ever before. His campaign was championed by fervent grassroots support. Journalist Margaret Talbot, in a profile for the New Yorker, writes:
"There is something admirable about Chafee's quiet earnestness and sincerity for the issues he believes in: he doesn’t want voters thinking that his commitment to peace stems from anything other than a deep-seated sense of fairness. ... Whimsical buttons feature the slogan “Prince of Peace” and Tumblr is full of memes that play up the contrast between Chafee’s homeliness and his popularity with his fans."
However, Chafee's heterodox views have drawn criticism from both his former party and his current party, including his support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden and his support for "rapprochement" with the terrorist group ISIL.
Chafee's tenure as Ambassador has been noted for its high degree of visibility, unusual for an Ambassador to the Organization of American States, with some outlets speculating on Chafee as a potential future Secretary of State, a return to the United States Senate, or a second run for President of the United States.
Proponent of the "Reed" Faction
The Oak and the Reed is a fable by Aesop, comparing an oak tree to a reed; while the oak tree broke during a storm, the more pliable reed was able to bend with the wind. With the establishment of the Strategic Diplomacy Council in May 2018, detractors of SDC Vice Chair Robert Legvold adopted the moniker of "reeds" for themselves. In contrast to the SDC's focus on Russia and terminology of a "new Cold War," the reeds have expressed skepticism of what they see as unnecessary escalation.
Chafee has emerged as a key proponent of the reed point of view within the administration, alongside Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Mickiewicz and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Mark Penn.
in July 2018, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a prominent supporter of Chafee's 2016 campaign, formed the 13-member House Reeds Caucus, a group of Democratic Representatives concerned with the role of the SDC in U.S.-Russian relations, and seeking alternate diplomatic strategies.