Gordon Smith Caves, Blocks Iraq Debate

Jon Perr

Republican Senator Gordon Smith once again tried to have it all ways in the debate over Iraq. On the Senate floor today, Smith added his voice to the Republican obstructionists blocking debate over the Warner-Levin nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's troop escalation in Iraq.

As BlueOregon readers will recall, Smith on January 8th used an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball to announce his opposition to the Bush surge. Just a month earlier, Smith melodramatically shared his pain over Iraq on the Senate floor:

"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."

As it turns out, no sot much. Facing a seemingly difficult choice between principal and providing political air cover for the President, himself and other endangered species among the GOP incumbents due up in 2008, Smith chose the latter. The Washington Post described Smith's latest bout with his inner demons:

"It's inevitable that people want to ascribe political motives to this, but I just hope a majority of Oregonians understand when it comes to issues of war and peace, there's no issue of greater gravity on your heart and mind," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who must stand for reelection next year in a swing state.

"Oregonians are patriots and want to fight the war on terror, but they don't like the way this war has mutated," added Smith, once a war supporter but now an anguished foe.

Next year, Oregon voters may well recall that Smith never met a fence he couldn't sit on.

Comments

  • Bill (unverified)
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    And OPB, in the midst of their winter pledge drive, doesn't even mention Gordon Smith's flip flop vote to bury debate on Iraq in their coverage of this story. The New York Times at least lists the roll call vote on their website - but where's our local press?

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    As I said in an earlier thread, when Smith showed what a puke he is on the issue by his sustaining the filibuster today—we need a real candidate to run against him and take him out. So I again ask... who?

  • Kelly Steele (unverified)
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    I was about to throw up a similar post... I'll add this:

    Chris Matthews, who has been more than willing to give Smith airtime with out asking any of the tough questions he's known for, summed it up best in the lede to tonight's Hardball:

    "They can run but they can't hide. President Bush and his allies kill a vote on the Iraq War. How long can they keep America from speaking its mind? How can they keeps saying they're pushing democracy in Baghdad, but won't let the Senators vote in Washington? Let's play Hardball...

    ...Republicans in the US Senate have blocked the vote over a resolution that would have chastised President Bush’s plan to escalate troop levels in Iraq. And now Democrats are vowing to find another way to force the President to change course.

    Again, it simply depends on the audience. On the same day that he was pressed by the Oregonian's Jeff Kosseff over his waffling on the escalation, he was telling Lars Larson and his conservative, pro-surge audience he wouldn't oppose it. (That's right Mr. Kosseff -- not only did Gordon Smith say you were using politically charged language that was "demeaning" to the President in your story, but he turned around and gave a completely different answer to a different audience within a matter of hours.)

    THE SKINNY: At the tail end (7:18 on the tape) of an 8 minute interview with Smith in which Larson asked questions like "But Senator, you believe the President is wrong to put another 20,000 troops in Iraq?" (Hint: the answer didn't start with a "yes, Lars…"), Lars pulled together all of Smith's "nuance" and put the final question of the interview to him pointedly and directly:

    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…

    Wouldn't do it myself…not enough troops. Do I oppose it? Nope, I don't.

    Is a worse position imaginable? Smith says Bush's escalation is destined to fail, and yet he explicitly states he doesn’t oppose it.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    Kelly,

    Thanks for all the additional background on Smith's contortionist act on Iraq.

    Loaded Orygun also has more here.

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    It must hurt to be sitting on that fence so much.

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    Thanks, Jon. My particular take on it is that Wyden just got bailed out for supporting Warner when Smith voted no. If that bill had passed, Smith would have had the vote--plus Wyden's validational Yea--as a stick against his complicity in 2008. Wyden had the tougher, more meaningful Feingold bill to choose as an alternative to Warner, but then Warner failed anyway--a bout of needless centrism by Wyden, I thought.

    I bet you only about 10 of those Republicans will sleep well tonight. (Lieberman will be snoring like a caveman by 10pm, I'm sure). The rest will toss and turn wondering if they just signed their political death warrant by sticking with the President for the surge. The time for jumping off the train is getting short, and if as everyone expects the war is still going on in 2008, there's going to be trouble for those who pushed it through.

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    Is it too much to ask that our timid Congressional Democrats grow a spine and stop triangulating and just call for a straight up or down vote on funding the Iraq War? We may lose loyal Democrats who are close to fed up because of the lack of back bone.

    Smith...no surprise..his latest move is his MO. How many times will he try to sucker Oregonians until his finally pinned to the mat?

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    Wyden had the tougher, more meaningful Feingold bill to choose as an alternative to Warner, but then Warner failed anyway--a bout of needless centrism by Wyden, I thought.

    Let me know when Wyden stops hugging the center, TJ. Sherrod Brown, he is not.

  • mkultra (unverified)
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    How much time do you think Smith spent wrapping the gift he just delivered to the Dem nominee in '08?

    This is the best thing that could have happened. Legally speaking, any non-binding resolution would have had no real effect and, worse, would have made the Dems look weak.

    Politically speaking, this was an idiotic move on Smith's part. He should have voted for cloture, and abstained on the actual vote.

    Since it seems so patently stupid, I have to ask, what angle is Smith playing here? Since he cares only about re-election, what's the strategy?

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    Let me know when Wyden stops hugging the center, TJ. Sherrod Brown, he is not.

    For what it's worth, Sal, Senator Wyden cast more anti-Bush votes in 2005 than any other US Senator - according to CQ. I don't believe the 2006 numbers are out yet. That's more anti-Bush votes than Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, etc.

    (And as usual, I speak only for myself.)

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    Next year, Oregon voters may well recall that Smith never met a fence he couldn't sit on.

    I think it's well past time to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt. His own choices prove that he is not and has not been on a fence.

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    Only two Republicans voted yes on the proposal to debate only the Levin and Warner proposals. Even John Warner voted no.

    So it's possible that the analyses here are correct, and Smith is a craven, cowardly, and Janus faced. As are Hagel, Warner, Brownback, and every other Republican who has spoken out against the war yet voted no on this proposal.

    Or this is just the first skirmish in a party fight over which proposals will be debated on the floor.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Seems to me everyone who voted no on ending the filibuster should be required to show cause that they are not putting party loyalty over concern for what voters want.

    Interesting to note that the Minn. National Guard was held over in Iraq longer than first scheduled, there was a local outcry, Norm Coleman is from Minn. and is running for re-election.

    Seems to me this was a "which side are you on?" vote and time will tell if it is as historic as Gulf of Tonkin.

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    How much time do you think Smith spent wrapping the gift he just delivered to the Dem nominee in '08?

    This is the best thing that could have happened...

    Wow. It's not about ending the war. It's about positioning Democrats in '08?

    As much as I dislike Lieberman, I have to agree with his quote reported in this morning's NY Times:

    Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the independent who sided with Republicans in agreeing not to take up the resolution, called the proposal “a resolution of irresolution,” saying it criticized the president’s plan but did nothing concrete to stop it. He goaded colleagues who opposed the buildup to take more definitive action if that was their view. “Have the courage of your convictions to accept the consequences of your convictions,” he said.

    How do we goad Democrats into "definitive action?" Americans have made it clear they hate this war and Democrats need to provide the leadership to end it.

  • Zak J. (unverified)
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    I'm not sure which is worse: Smith voting to block a non-binding resolution or that the only resolution Congress has put up so far was non-binding in the first place.

    George W. Bush could find a way to lose a coin toss with a two-headed nickel. The War on Terror will not be won with him calling the shots. While he and Congress fritter away precious lives and treasure in Iraq, nuclear-armed Pakistan is teetering on the brink of an all-out fundamentalist take-over. But the most Congress can do for "oversight" is investigate steroids in baseball and cable TV rates. To call them clowns would be an insult to the fine people in the Shriners.

  • auntiwarantie (unverified)
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    Sorry, but I have a big spitball still to throw at Mr. Smith. On 2/11/04 at 19 years old, my nephew, PFC William Ramirez of Portland was blown up by an IED in Baghdad. He was the 538th American troop to die there. It was wrong before it started, it was wrong when William died and it has continued to be wrong as 2500+ have followed him. It is hard to respect Smith's change of heart when my nephew no longer has a chance to change his mind about dying in an illegal war. This teenager who was asked to sacrifice all had more bravery in his little finger than Smith will ever find in a whole wardrobe of designer gray suits. Brave words to an empty chamber are hot air -- Smith cannot bring himself to put his vote on the line even as our children are dying for his mistakes. This war is no longer just W's war, it is the responsibility of ANY official who continues to support and fund it!!

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    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Feb 5, 2007 9:05:31 PM

    Let me know when Wyden stops hugging the center, TJ. Sherrod Brown, he is not.

    For what it's worth, Sal, Senator Wyden cast more anti-Bush votes in 2005 than any other US Senator - according to CQ.

    Got a link for that?

    Not saying you are BSing here, but I find that claim by CQ to be quite surprising to say the least.

    OT: by the way, and chance you can fiddle with Blue Oregon's feature set a little to allow using the blockquote tag? Would make discussions here a little easier to follow and compose if you could more clearly quote someone in replying to another post (or the article) by using the blockquote HTML tags and have the site format it indented and with faded box around it or something. Just a suggestion.

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    Posted by: Frank Dufay | Feb 6, 2007 2:41:38 AM

    But the rub is, that if there is a binding resolution or any legislative vehicle crafted as bill status, it goes to the Presidents desk, where he can veto (outright or pocket) and you would need not just 60, but 67 votes to overturn.

    Personally I think that the Dems should push a binding de-funding resolution and/or bill, let the GOP take sides and force the President to veto it, then beat the living shit out of the GOP en masse over it. The nation is (as it is on almost every issue) overwhelmingly on our side of the issue. Yet the "third-way" crappola mode of thinking in the D.C. Dem establishment still seems to have sway.

    Any person who knows the basics of communication and marketing will tell you, differentiation is a huge component to effect communication. And no, I am not talking about sloganeering or advertising, which may lead some to dismiss what I am talking about as just being "marketing" mumbo-jumbo... communication, effective communication, is absolutely vital and at the very core of what political discourse is about. Winning hearts and minds, changing people's thinking requires being able to clearly communicate, and yes—differentiate—yourself, from the opposition within the minds of the people.

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    Update... I feel stupid, seems you CAN use the blockquote tag. Must have been pilot error before. Mea culpa Kari.

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    Wyden's fairly liberal on the Senate spectrum to be sure, but I'd be wary of accepting CQ's conception of "anti-Bush" votes--not least because it's absurd to think that a vote against escalation is "anti-Bush."

    My favorite ranking system, which analyzes almost every roll call vote, places Wyden 19th most liberal Senator in the 109th Congress. (Who's #1? Russ Feingold, followed by Harkin, Leahy, Boxer and Ted Kennedy.) I think he has a solidly liberal heart, but sometimes he tends to vote with his leadership-pleasing head, as I believe he did in backing the Warner bill instead of Feingold's.

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    This war is no longer just W's war, it is the responsibility of ANY official who continues to support and fund it!!

    Exactly. And I believe the American people have spoken at the last election...we just need the leadership to keep pushing at this.

    The GOP won't "allow" a "debate" on the war? Make 'em...

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