Smith's cowardice may yet pay off

T.A. Barnhart

For nearly four years, Sen Gordon Smith dutifully lined up behind whatever war stories President Bush was telling the world and said, "Me, too!" No one has been more steadfast in support of the war than Sen Smith; he's kept a low profile, but it's been a consistent stand: He's supported every Bush plan wholeheartedly. He never once spoke a word of doubt or caution.

And then, mere days after his party got drubbed in the 2006 elections, with his own re-election facing him, Sen Smith got religion. Or balls. Mostly, of course, he got a sniff of his political doom. He got scared, put down the koolaid, and began making what he hoped were the right noises about a war in which he found himself among the minority.

Thus did Senator Gordon Smith, brave defender of liberty, bail on his Commander-in-Chief. He abandoned his own years of commitment to sending other people's children to fight an immoral war. He did what any team member will do when facing adversity: Ran for his life and covered his ass.

If you're looking for cinematic allegories, and when do we not in America, don't think Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Think Beni, in The Mummy, deserting Brendan Fraser over and over. But at least in the movie, the weasely little coward gets what's coming to him: devoured by CGI beetles. Screaming. In the dark. Sen Gordon Smith, cut-and-runner of the right, gets the hero's treatment.

Holy crap, does this scene need a script doctor. Next thing you know, the bad guy in the black hat is going to shoot Tom Mix.

Oh wait, he did. In the back. Outside a little saloon known as "Kate Harris' Florida Bar". In 2000.

Gordon Smith keeps low national and in-state profiles. His election strategy — and everything he does is election strategy, of course — is to remain hidden for the first four years of his term, supporting whatever conservative, partisan policies GOP leadership orders of him. They, in return for his obedience, allow him to cast symbolic votes on issues of importance to Oregon — votes he can trot out during his campaign but which have zero effect on lawmaking. For the final two years of his term — aka "the re-election campaign" — He transforms into Gordon Smith, Moderate.

If it weren't so damn serious, it would be laughable.

The Oregonian, as ever, enjoys supporting Sen Shadow. The major paper in the state has yet to carry a major article examining Smith's actions. The national media, until Smith gave them a sound bite and a story, did not care. Smith has been able to keep up the charade because, in the eyes of the national media, he is so inconsequential.

Ah yes. The Pride of the Oregon GOP.

Now, however, with real danger facing him in 2008, Smith has to change his usual tactics. Desperate times, as the saying goes. Where a person of integrity and strong political values would stand up for his beliefs, Gordo chucked his to the prevailing lefterly winds and abandoned George Bush when his leader needed him more than ever.

One could argue that Smith was simply saying what needed to be said. That's the spin being sold by Smith and other terrified GOP bunnies. As quoted by David Sarasohn in The Sunday Oregonian, "My sense is that I broke the dam of Republican frustration."

Hooray! Sen Smith is a Hero! What we must understand is that for years now, moderate Republicans, of whom Gordo is a reknowned leader, have struggled to find a way out from under the cruel domination of Bush, Cheney and Rove, only to be stymied by their own votes, their own speeches, and their own flag-waving for "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

Oops, sorry. That was John Kerry, an actual war hero, who said that. Smith, an actual war monger, has yet to oppose the invasion of Iraq; he's just upset that it's become a political liability. Pay attention to his actual words from his speech in the Senate:

I have never worn the uniform of my country. I am not a soldier or a veteran.

Oops, sorry, not the quote I was looking for.

...believing that we would find weapons of mass destruction, I voted aye. I have been rather silent on this question ever since.

Dang, that's not it either.

We have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation by my estimation.

Ah, honesty. How refreshing. Still not what I'm looking for, however.

We were not prepared to win the peace by clearing, holding, and building. ... I believe now that we must either determine to do that , or we must redeploy in a way that allows us to continue to prosecute the larger war on terror.

Gordon Smith is not — not — against this war. He's against losing the war. There's a big difference. Were the president to dedicate more troops than he's done in his "surge", say another 50,000, then Smith would have quite a dilemma. His speech spoke of supporting the troops and their mission, and doing so by providing enough bodies and materiel. What if Bush actually did this? Provide the kind of resources Smith says would make the war winnable? Which words does Smith then retract? Support the troops, or this was is illegal?

On November 7, 2006, this became for Gordon Smith, not the wrong war, but the wrong political strategy. Until then, Sen Braveheart had nothing but big words for the big war. Until it became a liability, Iraq was Smith's funtime fantasy. Now it's the little red laser light aimed right between his eyes.

Listen to the subtext of Smith's abdication. Roughly translated, it's "Oh golly, I'm in trouble." That's right, Gordo, you are. Sadly, and with the help of an ignorant, story-hungry national media and your pals at the Big O, you might be able to spin your deception just enough to save your seat.

Your soul, however, is as lost as anything that might ever have been called the courage of your convictions. No matter the quotes, those are nowhere to be found.

  • Don Davenport (unverified)

    The author has hit the right words to tell the truth about Gordon Smith if you follow most of his vote he vote the same as Orin Hatch from Utah

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    Gordon Smith is not — not — against this war. He's against losing the war. There's a big difference.

    Yes, that's the big point here. TA, you've really managed to bury the lede this time!

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    this is why i need an editor, Kari! of course, my main point was his moral character, but politically, it's far more important to highlight what he is saying and not saying.

    hopefully more astute progressive writers can project the message better.

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    A fine bit of writing, tell it like it is preacher man!

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    I think a number of Sen. Chuck Hagel's comments against the way the war's been conducted have been stronger -- and came a lot earlier -- then Gordon Smith's.

    This is from a speech Hagel gave last summer:

    There is very little good news coming out of Iraq today. Increasingly vicious sectarian violence continues to propel Iraq toward civil war. The U.S. announcement this week to send additional U.S. troops and military police back into Baghdad reverses last month’s decision to have Iraqi forces take the lead in Baghdad...and represents a dramatic set back for the U.S and the Iraqi Government. The Iraqi Government has limited ability to enforce the rule of law in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. Green Zone politics appear to have little bearing or relation to the realities of the rest of Iraq.

    Now, I think Hagel can prevaricate and hedge as much as Smith can. But he's a lot better at it. And through the tapdancing moves he's made to position himself for 2008, he's been a lot closer to shutting the door to Iraq than Smith has. He compared Iraq to Vietnam back in 2005. So for Smith to think that he "broke the dam" sort of gives an insight into the very insular world he inhabits.

  • Mungen_Cakes (unverified)

    I'd vote for Tonya Harding before I'd vote for Smith. Is she running?

  • Michael M. (unverified)

    This, quite frankly, is the type of hopelessly partisan rant that makes me frustrated with BlueOregon, Democrats, and the so-called "progressive" movement as represented here and in places like DailyKos. Every time I get my hopes up that maybe we do have a genuine choice, maybe there really are people working for betterment rather than partisan gain, along comes something like this to remind me that, no, Democrats are just as bad as Republicans on this score. Why don't you just title it: "Gordon Smith -- Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn't," because that's exactly the kind of rant it is.

    I'll note also that, funnily enough, there has been no mention at BlueOregon of the earmarks vote in the Senate a few days ago -- the one in which Smith voted for transparency, along with most of his Republican colleagues and some brave Democrats who resisted Harry Reid's marching orders. Unfortunately, Ron Wyden was not one of these. It seems that folks at BlueOregon don't care if or when someone does the right thing, y'all only care about party affiliation. Disappointing and discouraging, to say the least -- and anything but progressive.

  • Liberte (unverified)

    Wow, Michael M., I want to thank you for your concern that BlueOregon may be too partisan! After all, how will we progressives/Democrats ever prove to the conservatives that we deserve their respect unless we forget the fact that they vote against our interests when we discuss them! Listen I've written 5 or six letters to Smith about the war, NAFTA, CAFTA, civil rights and other things and never once have I received an answer ( wrote many of the same letters to Wyden and Wu, which they answered and even though Wyden voted for CAFTA, he at least wrote me back and told me to fuck off) How about I write Smith a letter now, to tell him how cool I think he is? Do you think he'll answer me? The people of CT are learning the lesson with Lieberman that we better learn with Smith. They say what we want to hear for the campaign, but they vote the way they want the moment they're safe. Let Smith cut funding to the war, then maybe I'll beleive what he says.

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    Gordon Smith is not — not — against this war. He's against losing the war. There's a big difference.

    And the list of Democrats who are in FAVOR if losing the war is...where?

    I like rants as much as the next guy, but I fail to see what pissing on Smith for expressing whatever passes for his opposition to the war accomplishes. He's opportunist? Mon dieu...imagine that, coming from a politician?? (I've still got my Kerry for President in the living room sure doesn't say "End the War," and that WASN'T Kerry's platform. Or Clinton's for that matter. Obama, just this morning had his chance on Meet the Press...I didn;t hear no "End the War Now." I hear a lot of bs, from a lot of people...but I DON'T hear a lot about, well, y'know actually ENDING this miserable wasted enterprise.

    Let Smith cut funding to the war, then maybe I'll beleive what he says.

    I think there's a lot of folks on BOTH side of the aisle who need to be doing THAT!

  • Michael M. (unverified)

    Liberte: "After all, how will we progressives/Democrats ever prove to the conservatives that we deserve their respect unless we forget the fact that they vote against our interests when we discuss them!"

    One way to earn respect is to be consistent in how you treat politicians of either party when they do something you like. Sorry, unlike many here, I believe in the hope of bi-partisanship -- I believe Democrats and Republicans can work together for the betterment of all, not just for the aggrandizement of their respective parties. Republicans over the past several years have taken partisanship to new levels, sinking our political system into the mire of corruption and scandal. I voted at straight Democratic ticket this past election because I hope the Democrats can do better, but they won't do it if they mimic the partisanship of the Republicans. And offensively partisan rants like Mr. Barnhart's -- actually condemning a politician who switches his position to one the author agrees with, simply because that politician is a Republican -- don't help the situation.

    Actually, it does help in one respect -- it helps me see that so-called "progressives" are no better than so-called "conservatives" when it comes to throwing stones and trying to score political points at the expense of doing what's right or working for meaningful change. Really, you are two sides of the same coin, and it's my hope that your currency gets devalued. It makes me glad I registered as an independent instead of a Democrat. I am one liberal not afraid to say "bravo" to a Republican when he does the right thing, whatever else I might think of his poor record. Nor am I going to withhold criticism for a Democrat when he fails to do the right thing, as Wyden failed on the earmarks vote.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    Michael M, I'm willing to accept Smith as a dubious ally against the war. OK. Given his past behavior of talking moderate right before elections and going right back to the Party line (the obnoxious one) once elected I trust him as far as I can throw Portland. There is a significant difference between A vote 4 years ago and the ongoing committment Smith has made. No, I wouldn't back Hillary for dogcatcher, I like dogs. Is this place partisan? Some, yes, but then it advertises itself as progressive and the Republicans have shown themselves to be anything but. At his most liberal, Smith is a rightwing stooge and you expect somebody around here to like him? I'm glad to use him on this issue and toss him like a dirty snotrag after I'm done.

    You somehow expect his votes and his statements in the Senate (the few quiet ones) to just be forgotten? Why? Do we all sound really stupid? You do remember that this President ran as a "compassionate conservative" and a "uniter" don't you? You believe any of that anymore? No? Why then do you want this extended to Smith, he's been Bush's guy down the line?

    I'll give you politics. I sent Smith an email saying, "Good going," and I hope he keeps on going. Good for anti-war and better yet for 08. He'll antagonize the wingnuts into not voting for him and his record properly presented should keep the Indies out of his corner. That leaves him the "moderate" Republicans and boy is he welcome to that vote slice. Yep, I'm a DPO and I work to get Dems elected because the Republicans ALMOST universally suck and you proud as pie Indies don't have any candidates. The 2 Parties do all the work for you but you think we stink, that's nice. Thanks for your concern.

  • Mike (unverified)

    I saw Mr. Anonymous, er, Gordon Smith on CNN again the other day.

    Can we finally rid ourselves of this loser? He's an embarrassment who doesn't deserve the position he's in.

    Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Long Term Growth and DEBT Reduction? What a joke.

    The only other time I have EVER seen Smith on nat'l TV was when he was on a talk show in '04 saying that Kerry "looked French". Is that all he can come up with? It wasn't original and added nothing to the national dialogue. Why do we even pay someone like that a salary?

    He'll be forgotten as soon as he's kicked out of office and justifiably so.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    It would be nice to have a real live Democratic candidate so we could discuss candidates based on their positions on important national policy issues instead of what seems to be an endless string of negative rants against Smith. Last week he was criticized for being a Mormon, this week he is criticized for being a coward.

    Speaking of the non-existent Democratic candidate, what is going on? Seems like every elected Democrat above the level of dog catcher has refused to run against Smith the Mormon coward. If the Dems are going to run a candidate we have never heard of, which seems more likely with every passing day, it seems like it would be a good idea to begin getting his or her name out, not to mention start raising the 8 - 10 million dollars it will take to beat Smith.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    Agreed, Smith is a weasel and ought to be voted out. I doubt he will show any leadership on the Iraq War issue now, but in the unlikely event that he does, kindly don't kick him, send him a thank-you letter. (Barnhart would undoubtedly rather send anthrax.)

    One more thing about T.A. Barnhart. He's in the habit of writing splenetic, insult-laced, hateful "analysis" that Blue Oregon is inexplicably happy to publish. How Barnhart's verbiage raises the level of public discourse is a total mystery to me. It's probably not at all an accident that Barnhart is (as he has written here) an ex-fundamentalist Christian: he's shed the trappings of the religion, but retained the division of humanity into The Saved and The Damned. And even though he left the church, he's still certain that he's saved and, in the presence case, Gordon Smith is one of The Damned.

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    it's nice that lin pays such close attention to me. i'm flattered -- i think. i wonder why i make such an impression? it's always a bit wierd when the commenters take the writers so seriously they actually study them! seriously, i'm not worth that kind of an effort, lin. read William Connolly or JS Mill or Foucault, study the works of writers who matter.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    Why Barnhart is differentiating himself from "writers who matter" (his words, not mine) is interesting. Why does he write if he thinks what he writes is irrelevant?

    As for why Barnhart is such a problem, I would think that's obvious. He's not posting his hateful diatribes to his own blog (or JUST his own blog); he's publishing them here on a so-called progressive blog, with the acquiescence of the management.

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    Then there are the GOP realists -- a growing collection of Republican office holders who actually acknowledge reality. If there is indeed going to be a surge in the next few months, let's hope it's a surge in this group of realists.

    From today's Huffington Blog.

    To be encouraged...yes?

  • JCL (unverified)

    lets see how g. smith votes on the ethics issue. I'll be watching c-span.

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    Smith is only in trouble if someone credible and creative (as opposed the the usual cautious campaigners we get around here) decides to run and mount a captivating campaign.

  • libbie (unverified)

    Gordo should be toast if for nothing else than his negative votes on the environment. A true Oregonian would recognize his record of voting and for voting for drilling in Alaska after he said he would never vote for that. Check his voting and you will see that he and Sen. Frist were bosom to bosom on trying to defeat any environmental legislation. We need to replace this wishy washy jerk.

  • Louise (your D.L. pal) (unverified)

    Gorgeously written, T.A. (and tell Kari that should have been "berry the lede," methinks). Still waiting to see how Gordo voted on today's ethics bill -- I phoned his office and Gordo promised to personally send me a rationale for how he voted. Hopefully it'll be as eloquent as his impassioned speech about the history of habeas corpus, what a crucial underpinning it has been to Western civilization since 1215 and therefore that's why he was voting against it. (That was before Nov. 7). Keep up the good work -- Cheers from your D.L. pals.

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