Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gordon Smith Has a Boring Name

I've been trying hard lately to avoid writing about politics. It isn't proper, you know? One's opinions, generally, are dreadful things to converse about, and to talk openly about them shows a definite lack of good breeding.

Furthermore - at least as far as the presidential election goes - all of the states from which I'm from (Oregon, New York, and Illinois) are all pretty securely in the Obama column. This takes a little bit of the urgency out of getting out the vote. But this was all before I listened to this piece last night on NPR. It discusses our dear Senator Gordon Smith's (R-OR) attempts to distance himself from President Bush and to aggressively court what the reporter calls potential "Obama-Smith voters." In order to do so, Sen. Smith is spending a lot of time talking up his moderate credentials as being bi-partisan and supporting health care and immigration reform.

Is there any credibility to Smith's claims to be such a friendly, cooperative, "I like hope and change too" kind of guy? Yes, kind of. According to the Washington Post, Smith has voted with the Republican Party 72% of the time. However, over the last year and a half, he has broke with the GOP and has supported a phased withdrawal from Iraq (on 3/15/07), has sought to censure Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (6/11/07), and voted to expand children's health insurance (8/2/07).

On the other hand, Smith has been predictably pro-Bush on several other key issues: In 2007, he worked to prevent affordable access to birth control, and has voted to cut funding to organizations that provide abortions. He has been one of the most steadfast supporters of repealing the estate tax and for making Bush's tax cuts permanent. He also supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, which aims to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

So what does this all mean, Mr. Natural? Well, that Smith isn't as conservative as some members of Congress, but also that he definitely is not the buddy-buddy kind of guy with Kerry or Obama that he is trying to project in his recent ads. Most importantly, though, is that:

Smith is described as a rank-and-file Republican by,[16] and throughout 2006 Smith voted with Republican leader Bill Frist (TN) on 82% of contentious bills, in contrast to predecessor Mark Hatfield's 55% record of agreement with party leader Trent Lott (MS) in 1996.[17] Based on five senate votes in 2006, the abortion rights advocacy group NARAL gave Smith a score of 15% on abortion rights (100% being a complete pro-choice score.)[18] For votes cast in 2006, Smith received a 14% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (out of a possible 100%).[19] Smith's votes have run contrary to widespread public sentiment on several issues, notably minimum wage[20][21][22][23] and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.[24]
(That's all from Smith's Wikipedia page.) Basically, the truth is that, when the chips are down, Smith can be depended upon to be right there at his party's side. The way I see it is that President Obama (go ahead... say it to yourself a few times) is going to need exactly the same thing. More specifically, he is going to need as large of a Democratic majority in congress as possible in order to be able to avoid filibusters whenever possible and to make it as easy as possible for him to enact real change, such as tax reform, or appointing pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court, or say, raising the minimum wage.

So, yes, Obama has a 9-point lead over McCain in Oregon, making it definitely not a swing state this year. But that is even more reason for those who believe in Obama's agenda to get to the voting booths in November and to give him the support that he is going to need. And even though my pick this year for Senate - Steve "I-Have-A-Hook-For-A-Hand" Novick - isn't the Democratic nominee, I am sure that President Obama (see? feels good, right?) wouldn't mind having a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-workers politician in the Senate like Jeff Merkley, (who also supports ending the war in Iraq and providing universal health care) who is less likely to, say, block re-negotiating free trade agreements then Obama's fair-weather friend Gordon Smith is.

Plus, Smith is getting a little desperate in his advertising:

Ooooh!! I just hate that annual Senate Leather Sofa Tax, don't you? On the other hand, maybe Smith believes that he can trick some viewers into thinking that, if they vote for him,
they too can win this fabulous living room set!

Post-Script: Of course, my entire argument here is based on the assumption that Obama
doesn't lose the election to Paris Hilton:

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