Follow the bouncing senator
U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith owes his Oregon constituents a better explanation of his contortions on the Iraq war
T his is a real challenge, writing about U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith's views on the war in Iraq.Before Monday we might have been able to give Gordon Smith the benefit of doubt and assume his new found objection to the debacle in Iraq came from the heart. But after his vote on Monday and his request for a do over on Wednesday we must assume his conversion is politically driven and not a change of heart. And by the way Senator Smith, where so you stand on the Invasion of Iran?
Because he's been here, there, everywhere on the war, on a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's troop escalation, even on the question of debating the issue in the Senate. Of course, Smith is far from alone in being confused and conflicted about the war, and about the best next course of action for the United States in Iraq.
But Smith represents the people of Oregon. And he owes his constituents a better and fuller explanation than he has given so far of his shifting views on the war and the role he intends to play among a group of Republican senators who have challenged President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
Late last year, Smith delivered a remarkable and blunt speech on the Senate floor describing how he had come to recognize that the war in Iraq, which he had supported, was now a failure. He said it was wrong, maybe even "criminal," to keep sending more and more soldiers into a losing battle. Then last month, after President Bush announced his plan for a surge in U.S. troops, Smith again spoke out in opposition.
But on Monday, Smith joined all but two other Republican senators in blocking deliberations on a resolution opposing Bush's new troop deployments in Iraq. Smith had openly announced his support for the resolution, yet when push came to shove, he joined the other GOP senators in blocking a vote on it. One of Smith's spokesmen claimed that Smith's stance was "an effort to expand, not restrict, debate on Iraq," since the senators were trying to force consideration of a third resolution that Democratic leaders would not allow onto the floor.
Then on Wednesday, Smith and five other Republican senators signed a letter to their leadership hurriedly distributed to reporters (who received copies before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom it was addressed to, saw theirs) vowing to force a debate and vote on the resolution opposing the troop buildup.
Follow all that? We don't. And we can't imagine that many of Smith's Oregon constituents have a clue about what their senator is now trying to accomplish on Iraq.