We remarked after Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's December 7 speech on Iraq - which had a very anti-Bush policy tone to it, and which dropped the word "criminal" - that it didn't scan, didn't cohere, didn't add up to anything specific in particular. That's in considerable contrast to the mass of reviewers who ran with Smith's tone and declared him an anti-Bush Republican.
The speech was nothing of the kind. It may have been an attempt at nuance, it may have been simply confusing, but it was not a declaration of on which side of the Iraq ramparts he stood.
Which is why, after his recent talk of supporting a resolution (the bi-partisan one, crafted by Virginia Republican Senator John Warner) critical of the administration's Iraq policy, we are unsurprised that he wound up today voting for a filibuster to oppose even discussing it. (The other filibusterers, almost all Republicans, not only included Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo - no great surprise, since they'd not been central to the resolution discussions - but also - wait for it - Warner, whose proposal ostensibly it was.)
The degree of fallout always depends, of course, on the extent to which people pay attention, and we'll find out about that in the next few days. But it could be considerable: This vote could do Smith a great deal of damage in 2008. For all meaningful purposes, the vote for a filibuster (as Smith's was, and which Senator Ron Wyden opposed) was a vote in favor of, an endorsement of, President George Bush's escalation of American troop levels in Iraq.
Democratic blogs from Loaded Orygun to the national Daily Kos have brought up the four-day-old quote in an Associated Press story (that ran widely across the state) saying: "Smith's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said the senator 'has been helping forge a middle ground in the Senate, and he believes this resolution sends a strong and responsible message that the status quo in Iraq is unacceptable.'” So why, one might ask, vote against even debating it?
Leading Kos to opine, "Smith is a coward and a puppet of Mitch McConnel and George Bush and the extreme right-wing of the GOP." And a bunch of commenters to that post, quite a few of them from Oregon, unleashing anti-Smith vitriol well beyond what we've seen before.
Facing election from a state that really doesn't much like either President Bush or the Iraq war, Gordon Smith has entered dangerous territory.
NUANCING A comment on Blue Oregon's piece about this adds transcript from a recent interview of Smith by Portland conservative talker Lars Larson. Toward the end of the interview, the point was put with precision:
Larson: Just so I understand, you don’t oppose sending the additional troops in, but you don’t believe it is going to do what the President believes it will do?
Smith: That’s correct. I mean, I would not do it…uh, I don’t think it gets him where…see, to really fight an insurgency, you have to take the entire city of Baghdad and make it a Green Zone. That takes a lot more than 160,000 of our folks. That takes more like a half a million. That’s my guess…
One wonders how many troops it would take to secure Iraq. Not to mention why Smith supports (or will not stand in the way of) something he believes will not work.