OR-Sen: Senator Smith Jumps the Shark

It’s official!  Gordon Smith (R-OR) planning to run for reelection as a panderer and opportunist.

Editor & Publisher

In a major speech in Congress on Thursday night, Sen. Gordon Smith called the current U.S. war effort “absurd,” perhaps even “criminal” and called for rapid pullouts.  He added that he would have never voted for the conflict if he had reason to believe the intelligence the president gave the American people was inaccurate.

Citing the hundreds of billions of dollars spent and 2900 Americans deaths — and saying he needed to “speak from the heart” — Smith said, “I for one am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. So either we clear and hold and build or let’s go home.”

Gordon Smith is only now at the end of his rope?  Has he not been paying attention for the last three years?  How is it possible that anyone with so much as a subscription to the Des Moines Register can only just now realize that U.S. intelligence was accurate?  Is there something particularly magical about the number 2,899 – the number of casualties Smith cites as provoking his change of heart – that 1,000 or 2,000 doesn’t really move the soul?  $100 Billion, $200 Billion: all acceptable appropriations for a failed policy, but now that we’ve hit $290 Billion, Smith has to speak out. 

How absolutely convenient that Smith has a change of heart just when it’s time to run again, exactly when the Iraq Study Group and Bob Gates announcement that we’re not winning has given him cover to do so.  How convenient that he can now point to another example of principled moderation to appeal to the independent voters of Oregon.

Read Smith’s whole speech in the Congressional Record.  It’s like discovering a whole new senator we never knew we had.

Campaign Against Gordon Smith Needs to Start Today

(I couldn’t agree more. Smith is one of the few GOPer senators to represent a blue state, and he has got to be a prime target. And if you want a good example of how to defeat a conservative with a faux-moderate record, just take a look at how my man Paul Hodes demolished Charlie Bass. – promoted by DavidNYC)

Oregon has, encouragingly, been trending blue for two decades.  20 years ago, the state had a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and a congressional delegation split 2R-3D.

Since then, we’ve seen 20 years of Democratic governors, a Democratic Senator, no Republican has been elected to state office since an election for Labor Commissioner in 1994, and the Democrats just this month took control of both chambers of the statehouse.  The only Republican congressman left is in the Eastern half of the state, which isn’t going to elect a Democrat anyway.  But why, then, can’t Oregon seem to shake off our last Republican holdout, Senator Gordon Smith?

Gordon Smith was first elected in 1996, and has spent the last ten years portraying himself in the mold of moderate Republicans who can actually get elected statewide here.  Problem: There are no more Republicans like that in Oregon.  Gordon Smith replaced the last of ’em!  (Mark Hatfield)  Since then, the Oregon Republican Party has been increasingly dominated by right wing anti-tax, anti-choice zealots who play well to their primary base, but can’t win statewide.  But I digress.

Smith wants, even needs, to be seen like a moderate, sensible Republican in order to get elected, and every now and then drops a position so the mainstream press in Oregon can wax poetic about their dying breed of moderate Republican.  Holding out on a budget bill because of excessive Medicaid cuts (although he ended up voting for it), adding Gays and Lesbians to the Hate Crimes Statute (although voting for the Federal Marriage Ammendment), Smith is a die hard social conservative with a knack for knowing just how much he needs to feint to the left in order to preserve the moderate image.

My point is this: the electorate in Oregon wants to believe that moderates of both parties can exist.  After the Hatfields and McCalls and even Packwoods of a generation ago, there is a deep seated desire for pragmatic, bipartisan leadership.  Gordon Smith looks like he fits this model, and unless the people of Oregon can be shown that he is like every other social conservative they’ve spent 20 years rejecting, he will continue to be re-elected.  The only way this is going to happen is with a coordinated, effective campaign by the blogosphere and activist class to show who Smith really is and that campaign needs to start today.  Oregon is still a blue state, Gordon Smith is not wildly popular and he can be made to be vulnerable, but his vulnerability will only come about if we make it.