Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not The Coverage of Smith I Had in Mind, Oregonian

Back in July when the reworking of Gordon Smith, Ignoregonian was published as a guest commentary in The Oregonian, I didn't really expect the paper to suddenly discover that they'd been giving our junior Senator a free pass for most of the 109th session, and begin more ardently scrutinizing the relationship between his public statements and his votes on the floor. Despite it being well-received as far away as inside the DC Beltway (or so one such insider told me yesterday), one lousy article wasn't going to actually make the editorial board seriously rethink their practice of pretending that Smith walks some kind of moderate tightrope.

That pragmatic realization didn't keep me from retching into my coffee yesterday, as I read the front-page headline Smith Stands for Beliefs on Middle Ground. Are you trying to taunt me, Oregonian? The piece opens with a supposedly deep conversation about the pros and cons of net neutrality (none of which we were actually made privy to), a concept Smith rejected in his capacity on the Commerce committee. There was one GOP defector, but otherwise Republicans voted in lockstep to prevent legislation that would keep all internet traffic on an even delivery footing. Part of the rationale, as Ted "series of tubes" Stevens indicated, was a desire not to mess up the chance for passage of the broader telecommunications bill the net neutrality provision was to be a part of. All right, fair enough I suppose--Smith didn't want to be in the position of voting yes on a bill that contained something he opposed.

I can only assume The O's fawning reporter failed to do any research on Smith's voting history regarding netneut ANWR, or he wouldn't have let Smith get away with utter claptrap like this:
[Smith] says every vote is guided by core stances that haven't changed since he was first elected in 1996.

"I call them as I see them as they come up for votes," Smith says, "and hope that on balance I'm making a majority of Oregonians happy a majority of the time."
During his 2002 campaign, Smith sided with environmentalists and opposed drilling there. And whenever the Senate voted specifically on drilling in the refuge, Smith voted against it. That angered Republican supporters of drilling.

But last year, Smith voted for a budget bill that contained a provision to allow drilling. That enraged environmentalists.

Smith says the budget bill contained his provision to prevent drastic Medicaid cuts and to provide much-needed funding to the military.

"Every time drilling has come up stand-alone, I have voted against it or to pull it out of the bill," Smith says. "But when it came up last time, it was attached to the reconciliation bill in which I had fought very hard for my view of Medicaid reform."

The vote represents Smith's philosophy on legislating.

"I will not govern on the basis of a single issue," he says. "I'm not an ideologue. You have to weigh the good and the bad in each bill and find out where the scales bring you out."
So when it came to netneut, it was too unpalatable to vote yes on a bill that might contain something he didn't necessarily want. But for ANWR, something he had promised Oregonians he would vote against, suddenly it became OK to suffer a poison pill? And what does "governing on the basis of a single issue" have to do with breaking his promise? I don't recall him saying "I'll vote against drilling...unless it's tied to something else that I want, in which case fuck Alaska."

The reporter also finds a way to make fighting for smaller Medicaid cuts (so he could help retain tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy) sound like a principled stand to save the program. But the most galling part of the story was the feeble attempt to point out what I noted in the op-ed: when it came time to vote on a number of bills designed entirely to excite the conservative base, Smith tossed his moderation away like a peach pit and voted just like Rick Santorum and Ted Stevens. The reporter calls the votes "controversial," but makes no effort to place them in their proper context--they were show votes everyone knew from the jump had no chance of passing.

What were Smith's excuses? "I promised the veterans I'd vote for" banning flag desecration. (No comment on whether he'd have voted for it if it were part of a bill cutting Medicaid). But what really bugged me was his ridiculous spin on the vote to place discrimination into the federal Constitution by banning same-sex marriage:
"I'm the sponsor of more gay-rights legislation in the Senate than any other Republican, but I have always told Oregon where I draw the line, and that's at marriage," Smith says. "And guess what: that's where Oregon draws the line, too."
You insufferable ass, Oregon drew the line for OREGON. Not only would a federal amendment have zero effect on Oregon's ban already in place, it would theoretically invalidate the will of voters in other states such as Massachusetts. There's absolutely no evidence that Oregonians wanted what Smith was doing, which was to ban it for everyone, everywhere--and for him to suggest that he was doing his constituency's bidding is a total crock of butter-like spread. And then he calls a majority of Oregonians believers in "socialism." Yeah, nothing says you're a fighter against socialism like deciding for an entire country which behaviors are good and proper--and nothing screams "moderate" like distorting the debate by tossing around words like socialism. As if!

So thanks for printing my piece, Oregonian--next time when you're typesetting a guest commentary, you might want to READ the fucking thing, too.

(Kudos to Ron at Middle Earth Journal, and the relatively new Cwech Blug for calling BS on The O's piece as well. Cwech does a nice job explaining the idea that Smith's purported moderacy is mostly a mask for how monolithic the Republican vote actually is.)