Monday, February 05, 2007

Return of Old Faithful: Smith 180s on Iraq Vote--AGAIN

Is this comedy so funny it hurts, or tragedy so painful it's funny? There are several potential ramifications from the failed cloture vote on Warner's Iraq resolution this afternoon, not least of which may be the 47-vote butcher's bill that Democrats can wave as evidence of who's really out of step with mainstream America, or Ron Wyden's (and Oregon's) saved bacon in not getting caught giving cover to Gordon Smith on the war-- since the two ended up once again on safely opposite sides of the issue.

Those notions will play themselves out as Congress moves on to other, more-binding attempts to rein in the Bush administration, but in the meantime the most (un)startling thing about the vote is that Gordon Smith has completely reversed himself in the space of 4 days. Let's recap from Friday's Statesman-Journal:
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murray of Washington state said Thursday they would back a measure advanced by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and a group of lawmakers from both parties. It says the Senate "disagrees with the 'plan' to augment our forces by 21,500," and urges the president instead to consider all options and alternatives.

Smith's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said the senator "has been helping forge a middle ground in the Senate, and he believes this resolution sends a strong and responsible message that the status quo in Iraq is unacceptable." [emphs me]
Well blow me down--funny way to show your support, by voting against giving yourself the opportunity to vote. I suspect that as on the minimum wage bill, Smith will seek some way to pretend that he really DID support the bill...but there was some more talking he wanted to do on it, and just couldn't see his way clear to shutting down debate and actually answering the main question. Which is of course a giant font of spraying, splattering bullshit that Gordon is raining down upon us, but up 'til recently we haven't held him accountable for such nonsense, so maybe he sees no downside to his cloture two-step.

As I've hinted, I actually think this is a great outcome for the Democrats. The twisted logic of hardcore Republicans suggested that dallying with a non-binding resolution doesn't make you a cautious patriot, it makes you a pussy. Whatever--but what opposing it looks like is that Republicans want more war, more surge--they can't even bring themselves to vote on the mere idea that they're opposed to it. This was easily the mildest of the anti-surge bills; they're only going to get more specific and binding from here. So to have 46 Republicans (and Lapdog Lieberman) already on record as afraid to do the electorate's bidding could turn out to be a handy weapon indeed.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are in pretty good shape caucus-wise. Notice that the champions of the much more philosophically stringent Feingold bill voted for cloture on Warner, despite their concerns that it was too weak and even might be used by the President as some kind of tacit reauthorization. People like Feingold didn't have to hold their noses and vote Yea on a final bill, humbling themselves like Wyden to feed some notion of bipartisan sentiment. Wyden gets another chance to recover from his apparent delusion that Republicans are just itching to break away from the President, if only Democrats show deference and reach out to the other party, weakening their massively popular stance in order to beg for a few more votes.

So as the saying goes, the more things change...Democrats now will continue to dither between competing versions of the correct strategy, while Republicans will continue to quiver before the Vice President and do whatever it takes to nominally support a failed President and a failed war. It's not the ideal situation, but at least it's recognizable--and in the wake of his endlessly discussed come-to-Jesus moments on Iraq over the last couple months, how can it not give you the warm fuzzies to realize that Gordo is the same old dishonest weasel he always was?