Gordon Smith's path for Iraq
The Oregon Republican lights a "brush fire" in the Senate while pressuring the White House to alter its war strategy
H is detractors on the far right and far left will never give him credit for it, but Sen. Gordon Smith has pushed effectively in recent days to get the Bush administration's attention on the desperate need for change in U.S. policy on Iraq.That brush fire in the Republican conference may yet ignite but it won't be the result of anything Mr Smith did but what the Republicans hear when they go home in August. The fire has been started under Mr Smith because....
Last week the Oregon Republican also put to rest, or should have put to rest, any lingering skepticism about the sincerity of his change of heart on Iraq.
Smith launched his offensive July 11 in a Senate floor speech in which he hailed the Levin-Reed amendment as a "glide path home for U.S. troops." That Democratic proposal, ordering withdrawal of American military forces in Iraq, was blocked by his GOP colleagues, but Smith insists many of them will eagerly join him if the Bush administration doesn't act soon.
"What I have helped to light is a brush fire in the Republican conference," Smith said in an interview last week.
Smith, who is up for re-election next year, revealed his reversal on the war last December in the Senate when he assailed the president's Iraq policies as "absurd." Because of its timing, only a month after war-weary U.S. voters had removed Republicans from control of the House and Senate, the startling floor speech sparked inevitable criticism in Oregon.And the Oregonian give Mr Smith plenty of opportunity to blow his own horn>
After three years of steadfast support for the war, Smith's abrupt switch was derided back home as politically motivated. Then in the ensuing months he gave critics more fodder in a series of votes and statements on Iraq that struck many as contradictory or confusing.
Smith earnestly believes he has been consistent since his Dec. 7 bombshell, and he says he is receiving "overwhelming appreciation" back home from "the common-sense center of Oregon." Whatever the case, he has done much this month to demonstrate the sincerity of his views on getting out of what he declared on July 11 to be a "low-grade civil war that we cannot win, and which is not ours to win."Sorry, but Smith's change of heart is all about saving his own political hide. He may not be a moderate but he is a politician that knows which way the wind is blowing. He also knows that his friends at the Oregonian will be there to help him push his faux moderate credentials.
His actions resulted two weeks ago "in a long, heart-to-heart phone conversation with President Bush on Iraq," Smith says. And on Wednesday, after he tried to rally Senate Republicans to support the Democrats' troop-withdrawal amendment, he got an hourlong private visit from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Both Bush and Rice "listened and listened intently" to what he had to say about Iraq, he said Thursday.
"They're riding a tiger now, and they need to get off of it," he said. "They need to let the American people know they're listening and making adjustments."
Failure of the Levin-Reed amendment means no change in Iraq strategy is likely before Sept. 15, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is required to report to Congress on the war. Regardless of the content of that report, the prospects for a much-needed change in U.S. policy on Iraq appear to have been significantly improved by the fire Smith helped light within the Republican Party.
Thanks to Kari at Blue Oregon for the mention.