Back in 2008, I was wrong about Jeff Merkley

By Bill Bodden of Redmond, Oregon. Bill is a long-time activist and commentator.

When I was a child, I learned from my grandfather that it takes a good man to admit to being wrong. In the seven decades since then, there have been countless instances when I was challenged by my grandfather’s dictum. My experiences in this regard taught me two additional lessons: One is that it is not only a sign of good character to admit to being wrong, it is also the wise and healthful thing to do. The other lesson is the obverse. It is not only a sign of a flawed character when failing to admit to being wrong, it is also the unwise and unhealthful thing to do.

In that spirit, let me admit that I was wrong in my opposition to Jeff Merkley on BlueOregon when he was running in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat he now occupies. I didn’t know that much about Merkley at the time, but the fact that he was being encouraged by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was more than enough to turn me off on anyone connected to that much-despised politician. I’m not about to admit to being wrong about Schumer, but I was certainly wrong about Merkley. I did vote for Merkley in the general election. There was no way I was going to vote for Smith. I figured, if nothing else, Merkley might prove to be the lesser evil.

In a remarkably short period after taking office, Merkley took positions that not only impressed me with his progressive and democratic (note the small d) qualities, but more impressive was the sense that he was a man who thought for himself and had the courage to show it.

Recently, I was watching the opening interchanges of the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing on Jamie Dimon and his fiasco at JP Morgan. Merkley and Schumer sit on that committee, but a few minutes of the more senior senators showing their deference to the banker who should have been treated like the accused in a crime was more than I could endure. Fortunately, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone who is very knowledgeable about Wall Street’s high crimes and the corruption in Congress toughed it out and wrote a very informative article for his magazine.

There are very few politicians who get favorable reviews from Matt Taibbi, but on this occasion he said of Merkley, "If not for Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, who was the only senator who understood the importance of taking the right tone with Dimon, the hearing would have been a total fiasco."

Unfortunately, Jeff is now halfway through his term and if he is planning to run for reelection, this is when he will be most vulnerable to the corrupting influence of soliciting funds for his reelection campaign. This sordid game got the better of many sterling people in the past and will do so again until we, as a nation, get the money out of politics. So now is the time to let Jeff know you like what he has done so far and to keep up the good work and when it comes time to run again he will have your support.

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    I like to think that Jeff is heir to that title that Paul Wellstone used to claim, that is "The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party".

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    I too was wrong about Jeff Merkley, though I was not wrong about Steve Novick.

    However, I would also point out that at the time, part of the rap in favor of Merkley has proven wrong.

    The claim went that Steve was too brash and would be out front too much, which was not an appropriate role for a first term senator, and would be ineffective; that the real task was building relationships and influence behind the scenes, which had been Jeff's forte in the Oregon legislature.

    All the information I have, which is not great, suggests that Jeff has indeed been building those relationships, and is building real influence and capacity to pull other legislators together.

    But in addition he has been out front and in public on key issues with strong, principled progressive positions. He has shown that the idea that playing such a role in the first term would amount to shallow ineffective posturing was wrong.

    We need to work hard to keep Jeff in the Senate because he is building himself as an effective progressive leader in both the public dimension and behind the scenes dimension of legislative work.

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    I was a Novick volunteer and I am very pleased with Senator Merkley's work for the good of the people in this state. I am not a democrat but he is one of the democrats I donate to. I am registered with the working families party.

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    The reason to support Jeff Merkley strongly is that he has emerged as a force against timidity and bloodless technocratic politics within the Democratic Party. The DP sorely needs that kind of leadership, which was why I supported Steve Novick.

    Now I support Merkley vigorously because he turns out to be a lot more like Steve than I understood, and ironically than some of his early supporters gave him credit for (others I think knew his mettle).

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    Jeff Merkley is doing a great job. If only he took a stronger stand in favor of Palestinian human and political rights, but then, this seems possible only for Senators not seeking another term.

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      I have to agree. I voted for him, but did not expect him to be the great progressive he has become. But I was shocked and saddened when he signed on to AIPAC's letter basically pushing for war with Iran.

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        AIPAC has a secure cinch on the gonads of US foreign policy. This is no better for the Israeli people than it is for the American people. It's the pits for Palestinians and not much better for Iranians.

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