Sen. Smith Makes National Headlines

Oregon U.S. Senator Gordon Smith has made the news again today, with his whirlwind media interview tours regarding his floor speech on Iraq. Here is today’s Associated Press story snippet.

“I am not for being a street cop in a civil war, someone else’s civil war,” he said”¦.”I want to see what President Bush comes up with,” Smith said in the interview with the conservative Portland talk show host. Smith also appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” The day before, he was on the ABC News show “This Week.””¦ A few Republicans were unhappy that Smith, in his floor speech, used the word “criminal” in describing the war effort, Day said, but were mollified after getting some elaboration. Smith told Larson on Monday he meant the word in a rhetorical, rather than legal sense, and it wasn’t directed at U.S. troops. Day said he considers Smith an Oregon Republican in the tradition of former Sen. Mark Hatfield, loyal but a maverick who speaks up when he can have influence. “

In case you missed his floor speech, click here, or read some of the excerpts:

I can’t tell you how devastated I was to learn that in fact we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction. But remembering the words of the soldier–don’t tell me you support the troops but you don’t support my mission–I felt the duty to continue my support. Yet I believe the President is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East”¦.I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore. I believe we need to figure out how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build, or let’s go home. There are no good options, as the Iraq Study Group has mentioned in their report. I am not sure cutting and walking is any better.”

Some say it is a change to fit the electorate for his 2008 re-election bid, others hail the legacy of Mark Hatfield opposition to the vietnam war, others say his use of criminal was crossing the line, and still others seem to think the whole point is lost from his speech because Smith’s speech is being exploited and overblown.

This speech comes at a crossroads for the President and Congress on what direction to take in Iraq in ligth of three reports being issued this December.