Thursday, December 28, 2006

HOW MANY SENATORS BESIDES GORDON SMITH THINK BUSH'S IRAQ WAR IS "CRIMINAL?"

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While I was out of the country, Oregon Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, denounced the Bush Regime's Iraq policies, calling them "absurd" and possibly "criminal." I doubt anyone in Buenos Aires had ever heard of Gordon Smith before that. By December 8, Portenos, along with Americans who live neither in Oregon nor in DC, heard quite a lot about Senator Smith. Today's New York Times described him as a rather colorless Republican backbencher who had voted for the war and then shut up about it-- until December 7.

In a state that has been turning bluer and bluer, the 2-term Senator Smith is up for re-election in 2008. Bush only managed to get 47% of Oregonians to vote for him in 2000 and again in 2004. Distancing oneself from him and his unpopular war is not politically heroic back home. I'm not claiming Charlie Cook is a negative indicator of future results but Cook's current rating of the Oregon Senate race as "Solid Republican" is premature, naive and, as usual, based on an old and thoroughly outdated analytical perspective. This year all of the Republican senators up for relection with lower approval ratings than Smith's tepid 54% were defeated-- DeWine, Talent, Santorum, Burns, Macacawitz, and Chafee and one, Doctorbill Frist, resigned. With an average approval rating across the Senate of 57%, Smith looks like he's in trouble, or at least in enough trouble to have a more careful prognosticator than Cook downgrade that "solid" to maybe a "likely" (like Susan Collins, Libby Dole, John Sununu and Crazy James Inhofe") or a "leans" (like Wayne "Walking Dead" Allard or Norm Coleman).

The Beltway Republican Establishment was furious. Smith says he sensed "a cold shoulder or two." He also says many of his colleagues came up to him-- surreptitiously-- and said "Boy, you spoke for me." Judd Gregg (R-NH) isn't up for re-election in 2008. "I don't believe it's true that a lot of Republican senators are ready to break with the White House on Iraq. I don't think the views he expressed represent a significant number of senators in the Republican caucus." (New Hampshire voters, who Gregg won't be facing any time soon, just made it clear-- by unceremoniously dumping two GOP House incumbents for two outspoken, grassroots, anti-war Democrats, and by voting against Republicans in every race they could-- that Gregg and the dominant reactionary elements of the GOP are out of step with voters, not Gordon Smith.)

"Smith's attitude began to change over the past year, particularly after he visited Iraq in May. In an interview, the senator recalled two occurrences in Baghdad during his visit, one in which a massive bomb killed about 70 people and a second in which some American troops were killed on patrol." Smith purposely used the word "criminal" to describe Bush's Iraq policies because of a history text he's been reading and mulling over-- something virtually no higher ups in the Regime ever do. It's a book on World War I by British military historian John Keegan. Smith has been haunted by the book, which explains the "practice of British generals, sending a whole generation of British men running into machine guns, despite memos back to London saying, in effect, machine guns work." Smith, like Keegan, has concluded that Rumsfeld's strategies are "needlessly getting kids killed." Rumsfeld's sunny day stay the course blatherings started getting Smith sick-- and angry.

Smith says he "had decided not to speak out before the midterm elections, both out of political loyalty and a fear that his words would be drowned out by partisan attacks." (See my comments earlier this morning about ex-President Jerry Ford's fear of the Bush Hate Machine, amply illustrated within hours of his death and the printing of his anti-Iraq opinions, by right wing hack Bill Bennett.) "Then we were back in Washington for the lame-duck session," he said, "and I woke up one morning and turned on the news and another 10 soldiers had been killed. And I went from steaming to boiled. And then I went to the floor... It is not easy to stand up to the president of your own party to say you are unhappy with the way this has been managed," Smith told The Times. "But if you can't speak up, then you should go home."

Judd Gregg will be able to avoid that for a few more years. His colleagues John Sununu, Susan Collins, Pete Domenici, Elizabeth Dole, Norm Coleman and Wayne Allard won't. These are Republican senators who will have to face angry voters in November, 2008 and if this crew doesn't get behind Smith fast they can all expect to go the way of DeWine, Santorum, Talent, Burns and Macacawitz.

(Photo above shows Senator Smith on the right.)

3 Comments:

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Charlie Cook said...

With no significant opposition to Smith even rumored at this point, a Solid Republican rating seems right to us. We change our ratings regularly, as the situation changes. If a member of the state's Congressional delegation were to get in, or even seriously look at running, or a statewide elected official, or the mayor of a reasonably sized city or district attorney or any one of dozens of people were to show real interest in running, we change the rating. People who have watched our ratings closely over the last 22 years know such things.

 
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