THE CASE AGAINST GORDON SMITH
May 2, 2007
Gordon Smith, one of Oregon’s two United States Senators, is a Republican. You can tell he’s a Republican by checking his registration in the state’s voter files. Sure enough, there it is: Republican. The problem is, you can’t tell Gordon Smith is a Republican by his voting record. In fact, after examining his votes carefully, one can conclude that Republican or not, Gordon Smith is not a conservative.
Recently, the American Conservative Union released its annual scorecard for all members of the United States Congress, both House and Senate. Several of Gordon Smith’s Republican colleagues in the Senate scored a perfect 100 percent. The cut-off for what the American Conservative Union considers a conservative is 80 percent.
Gordon Smith has a lifetime score of only 74.5 percent, but his score for 2005 was a meager 58 percent. That means that in 2005 Gordon Smith did not vote conservatively nearly 50 percent of the time. That’s a lot of bad votes, making Smith one of the least conservative Republicans in the United States Senate. Let’s examine how his voting record fleshes out on specific issues.
First - hate crimes legislation. Oregon’s Gordon Smith has taken the lead in the U.S. Senate as a major driving force behind efforts to pass hate crimes legislation. Hate crimes legislation calls for increased criminal sentences based on what a person is thinking when he commits a crime. In other words, if you assault a gay person, it would be a worse crime than assaulting a straight person. You would get a harsher sentence, because of what you were thinking when you committed the assault. If you assaulted a little old lady, you would get off easier than if you assaulted a gay or lesbian, because a “hateful, (i.e. discriminating”) thought” would be assumed by the courts.
Senator Smith’s support for hate crime legislation has won him the endorsement of some of the national gay and lesbian organizations. It has not, however, won him many points with conservatives.
Another issue raising conservative brows is Smith’s support for light rail. I first crossed swords with the senator on this issue when he was the President of the Oregon State Senate back in the mid 1990s. At the time, Smith was twisting the arms of fellow Republicans, trying to get them to vote for several hundred million dollars in state money for a $3.4 billion light rail project for the Portland area. (The rest of the money was to come from a huge local property tax increase, federal money, and some money from a neighboring state.)
If you knew Oregon, you would be asking why a senator from Pendleton, a city on the east side of the state and 200 miles from Portland, would be twisting arms, wielding threats and offering political bribes to fellow Republicans for votes on a ridiculously expensive ($100 million per mile) mass transit project for Portland? How would that help his home district?
You see, Gordon Smith had decided at the time that he wanted to be a United States Senator, not a measly state senator. Gordon Smith wanted to join that elite Club of 100. He also knew that a Republican cannot win statewide in Oregon, unless he garners at least 33 or 34 percent of the vote in vote-rich Multnomah County where the City of Portland is located. A Republican can win every county in Oregon, except Multnomah County, and still lose the election unless he gets around 34 percent of the Portland vote.
Truth is, Gordon Smith was pushing a $3.4 billion light rail project in hopes that it would gain him enough votes in Portland to win him a seat in the United States Senate. As it turned out, a couple of friends and I stopped his North South Light Rail Project and come election day, Gordon Smith ended up with only 29 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and consequently lost that coveted senate seat to Congressman Ron Wyden, a liberal Democrat from Portland. A year or so later Gordon Smith ran for a newly vacated U.S. Senate seat and won the prize he had sought so fervently.
Moving quickly along - Recently, self-proclaimed “pro-life” Senator Gordon Smith voted for embryonic stem cell research, a type of research that knowingly results in killing human embryos. Meanwhile, adult stem cell research has proven to be far more valuable and useful than research using stem cells from human embryos. The embryonic stem cell vote should have been an automatic “No” for a pro-life conservative, but not for Gordon Smith.
Gordon Smith also joined a small handful of Republican Senators voting against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). There are reportedly billions of barrels of oil beneath the frozen tundra; all ours for the taking. The drilling process would affect less than one-hundredth of one percent of the total acreage of the reserve and would have almost zero impact on the local wildlife. Yet Gordon Smith, currying favor with the environmental crazies of the world, voted against drilling in ANWR, further subjecting America’s entire economy to dependence on oil from the Middle East, the most unstable, politically volatile region of the world.
Gas prices have now topped $3.00 a gallon (by a fair bit in some parts of the country) and the hotbed Middle East is once again the focal point of the world. But you need not worry. Thanks to the junior senator from Oregon, we won’t disturb the mating habits of Arctic caribou by drilling in a tiny fraction of their habitat. Remind yourself of that, the next time some gas station attendant explains that you will need a co-signer, if you want to fill your gas tank.
Recently, Gordon Smith was one of only two Republican senators to vote with the Democrats to set a time table for withdrawal from Iraq. Regardless of how one feels about the war or how we got into Iraq, al Qaeda has chosen to make Iraq their focal point for terrorism. Al Qaeda’s highest priority in all the world is to defeat the United States in Iraq and send us home with our tails between our legs. An American defeat in Iraq would inspire them to export terror to American cities, schools, shopping malls, and sports arenas. Volunteer suicide bombers would line up for “service,” gloating over the weakness of American resolve. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of thousands of human lives that will be lost when we exit the country and a very bloody civil way breaks out, as it surely will. Iran and al Qaeda will see to that.
Even if we should never have gone to Iraq in the first place, we “broke it” and we owe it to the good people of Iraq to fix it. And we owe it to the more than 3,000 Americans who have died there to insure that they did not die in vain.
Back to Gordon Smith. As if the “timetable vote” weren’t bad enough, Smith even commented publicly that our military presence in Iraq might be “criminal.” Yes, he actually used the word “criminal.” With American soldiers on the ground, risking and giving their lives everyday, this reckless comment was one of the most foolish statements I’ve ever heard from a Republican officeholder. That single remark made me ashamed that Gordon Smith represents my home state and the Oregon National Guard, and that he calls himself a Republican.
Can a greater case be made against Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon? Hate crimes legislation; boondoggle mass transit funding; voting against drilling in ANWR; voting for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and calling our troops’ presence in Iraq “criminal.” That ought to be enough of an indictment. But there’s more.
Gordon Smith recently stood proudly alongside Oregon’s liberal Democrat governor endorsing a huge increase in the state cigarette tax to fund more government health care. Since when is socialistic, government run health care a Republican mantra? Sure, such programs pull at the heart strings, but where do they ultimately lead us?
That’s not all. Gordon Smith also voted against funding for building a fence along our border with Mexico and wants to see a “path to citizenship” for the 10-12 million illegal aliens currently living in our country. In other words, Gordon Smith wants to provide legal amnesty for those who broke our laws and ignored our sovereign border. Gordon Smith wants to make them citizens. Gordon Smith wants to let them vote. Maybe he thinks they will be grateful for his support and vote Republican. Yeah, just like all of those Portland Democrats voted for him after he tried to deliver them billions in light rail funding.
We could go on ad nauseam about Gordon Smith’s non-conservative votes and positions, but let’s review just one more major issue to round out the indictment: Social Security.
For years, Gordon Smith has been sitting on the powerful Senate Revenue Committee, including when his own party was in the majority. The entire time, Smith did nothing to address the one fiscal issue that could sink the entire American ship: The looming social security crisis. Even after George W. Bush took the lead on the issue on national television, risking his political future, Gordon Smith, who was in a perfect position to address the looming crisis, chose to do nothing. He chickened out. He placed his own political future ahead of an entire generation of Americans.
The reality is, if we do not make meaningful progress towards social security reform; if we don't do something that protects those currently dependent on social security and also allows future generations the freedom to set up private retirement accounts and gain control of their own retirement destinies, this country will face a fiscal crisis unprecedented in American history, at least back to the Great Depression.
We face outright generational warfare. Young people will be forced to pay unconscionably high social security taxes to fund the pensions of millions of Baby Boomers, who are no longer working. Those young people will be understandably angry that so much of the money they earn each paycheck is absconded for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers understandably will demand the pensions promised to them from a Social Security trust fund that is trillions of dollars in the hole; a hole dug by Gordon Smith and countless other politicians who have spent other people’s pension money buying votes and winning elections.
The ugly truth about social security sounds more like one of those union pension fund scandals than the actions of the United States Congress, but the scandal is just as real because all that pension money is just as gone.
So where does all this leave us? At the national level, Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of defeating Gordon Smith. After all he has done for liberals in Oregon, they still want to take him out, simply because he is a Republican. To them, a Republican in name only is still a Republican. Smith’s political vulnerability is no secret. National pundits consider him the most vulnerable member of the U.S. Senate in 2008.
While the Democrats are planning and scheming to beat Gordon Smith in the 2008 General Election, I am wondering whether Smith ought to make it out of the Republican primary. With a 2005 score of only 58 percent from the American Conservative Union and a lifetime score of only 74.5 percent, with so many votes that read like the voting record of a left wing Democrat, a lot of conservatives will have a hard time voting for Gordon Smith again.
I, for one, am convinced that there has to be a better choice. The Republican primary is after all still a year away.
© 2007 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
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Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
Oregon’s Gordon Smith has taken the lead in the U.S. Senate as a major driving force behind efforts to pass hate crimes legislation.