August 4th, 2020


Game of Inches

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published June 8, 2015

Game of Inches

Mess with the metric system if you will, but hands off Al Pacino’s best speeches . . .

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee entered the Democratic side of the presidential sweepstakes last week.

About his candidacy:

Chafee’s also a former U.S. Senator and a former Republican. The niche he hopes the occupy: voting against Iraqi war authorization back in his days in Washington (at the time, the only Republican to do so), which Hillary Clinton obviously did not.

Many of Chafee’s positions are boiler-plate Democratic: he’s pro-choice, signed bills legalizing same-sex marriage and addressing climate change while he was the Ocean State’s governor, and he’s in favor of a higher minimum wage and minimal tinkering with Obamacare.

But there is one position where Chafee breaks with political orthodoxy: he wants to convert America to the metric system. In 1975, the federal government adopted metric as the nation’s “preferred measurement system” – at the time, establishing the United States Metric Board to manage the transition.

However, the movement metered, er petered out not long afterwards. To quote the fictional Dr. Sheldon Cooper: “Blame President James "Jimmy" Carter. He started America on a path to the metric system but then just gave up. He wonders why he was a one-term president.”

Today, the U.S., Liberia and Myanmar are the lone holdouts against the metric system. But not so, if Chafee shocks the world by winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency, and then shocks football fans everywhere by what to call “first in 10″ and “fastest time in the 40″.

Speaking of football, there’s other casualty awaiting should Chafee be given the chance to take new measure of the nation. And that would be this “inch by inch” pregame speech from 1999’s Any Given Sunday:

All of which suggests the possibility of a new third rail of presidential politics (let’s call it a Godfather/Dog Day Afternoon/Scent of a Woman crossover demographic: scenery-chewing Al Pacino soliloquies.

06/03/15: The Power Of Narrative Politics
06/01/15: Sorting The Republicans' 2016 Kingdom
05/28/15: To Command Without Having Served
05/21/15: 2016: Do Looks Matter?
05/15/15: John Bolton's Swan Song

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: “The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain.” During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.