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.

  • sherman

    I was most worried about the “criminal” reference. That was clearly over the line, but it seems that Gordon has put it all in a better context. I can’t fault Gordon for his yen to see things change. We need more solutions at this point than calls for change. I hope this juncture will reinforce our committment to win by not avoiding the tougher questions, and not giving up on the mission.

  • David G.

    I think newspaper reports distorted what Senator Smith said about the Iraq war. I think he made some contradictory statements, but ultimately came out in total support of the the John McCain position. Basically he said: escalate the war or get out.

    In order to decide for yourself what he actually said, you can read his speech at his website:

    Here are what I view as the contradictory parts of his speech:

    Near the end of the speech he says he never would have voted for the war if he had realized that the US intelligence going in was so mistaken. Yet now he is willing to escalate the war. I don’t think it makes any sense to advocate to escalate a war you would never have voted for in the first place.

    At one point in the speech he says that the whole situation is a civil war which we have no business trying to police. At another point he calls Iraq a battlefield in the war on terror. Well, which is it?

    Press reports erroneously portrayed his speech as his coming out in opposition to the war. I think his speech means he wants to escalate the war. But I think it is reasonable to say that he really is just trying to advocate whatever anyone wants to hear – he is taking both sides of the issue. This makes it just a typical polititian’s speech where no one can tell what he is trying to say, because he is trying to satisfy everyone. I am sure if he is defeated in 2008 he will still have a great future ahead of him as a career diplomat.

  • Jerry

    Fortunately, no matter what Smith said or what he thinks he means will have any effect whatsoever on anything we are doing in Iraq.

    • Prior to Sen. Smith statement, the President only recognized two solutions for “winning” the war in Iraq: cut & run or stay the course. Sen. Smith offered a third solution which includes finding a plan for success and today we are seeing the acceptance of this escalation by the white house with the joint chiefs of staff asking to place more troops on the ground.

      Sen. Smith’s conversion to the McCain platform will act as a broken floodgate to support for that strategy for Republicans.

  • sherman

    Making too much of the ordeal can be distracting, which is why we need to be asking what can I do, or what can we do different to help.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t make a public statement like this on the floor of the senate for any reason other than to pander to the electorate. If he wanted to tell the President this he could have just picked up the phone. Senator Smith has clearly started his reelction campaign.

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