Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oregonian Runs Outlandish Fluff Piece on Gordon Smith

The Oregonian runs a silly fluff piece about how "bipartison" and "middle of the road" Gordon Smith is, with a press corps like this its no wonder its hard to convince people of the fact that Gordon Smith is little different than any other Republican. There are even little pieces in the article that demonstrate that Smith is in fact very Conservative, but the author merely brushes over them ignoring the implication. The article seems to make the claim that because every once in a while Gordon Smith breaks ranks with the Republican Party, he is therefore a moderate. But the rarity of Smith breaking ranks pretty much decimates the argument that Smith is a moderate. Furthermore, the article uses contrasting votes to demonstrate this when they don't demonstrate moderation at all, but rather a bad sense of public policy.
Additionally, Smith has been an adamant defender of Medicaid. The Pendleton millionaire whose high-end pin-striped suits earned him the "best dressed" senator award in a survey of congressional aides in Washingtonian magazine has earned praise nationally as an advocate for the poor.

Last year, amid escalating war costs and a growing federal deficit, Republican congressional leaders and the Bush administration planned massive cuts to Medicaid. Smith balked, leading a fight to reduce the cuts in the health care program.

Health care advocate Ron Pollack calls Smith "the most significant legislator" guarding the Medicaid safety net.

"Senator Smith has become the leading, and most effective, member in the Senate protecting low-income children, seniors and families needing health care," Pollack, executive director of national advocacy group Families USA, says in an e-mail.

But Smith also has supported tax cuts that opponents say help mainly the wealthy. For Chuck Sheketoff, an advocate for low-income Oregonians, Smith's positions are difficult to reconcile.

"He on the one hand very truly wants to protect Medicaid," says Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "I've sat in his office and talked with him. He's totally sincere about that. . . . On the other hand, it is unbelievably frustrating that he is so fiscally irresponsible when it comes to budget rules and budget process and taxes.

Supporting the tax cuts that put Medicaid in danger and then opposing cuts to medicaid is not moderate, it is just flatly stupid. Sheketoff is correct, that set of policy positions is not moderate, it is just fiscally irresponsible. If you're going to vote tax cuts for the insanely wealthy, sane public policy suggests that you should then support the spending cuts that go with it, otherwise you're just running up a massive deficit in order to give rich people a tax cut. Either way I think the policy is deplorable, but that demonstrates not moderation, but an attempt to have it both ways that simple cannot exist in good governance, Smith should either oppose the tax cuts or support the spending cuts that they cause.

The author goes on to claim that "the National Journal ranked Smith the most moderate member of the U.S. Senate [in 2005]." I can't find National Journal's rankings right now, but I'll take the claim at face value and disect it from there. The Republican Party has astounding Party loyalty, and the difference between the 10th most conservative Senator and the 50th most conservative Senator may not be very great. National Journal is not the only group that does in depth analysis of voting records. does this too. Progressive punch too finds Smith to be almost in the dead center of the body of the Senate ranking #52. But a closer look at the actual scores that Senator's recieve shows us that this is not a product of Gordon Smith being a moderate, but rather an astounding Party loyalty on the part of the Republicans. Progressive punch gives Smith a score of 14.8, meaning that Smith votes with the progressive wing of the Senate 14.8% of the time, or to put it the other way, he votes with the most conservative wing of the Senate 85.2% of the time. This is consistent with the author's own analysis of Smith's voting record, determing that:
Most Smith votes have toed the party line. Of about 200 votes this year that were not unanimous, Smith voted the same way as Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist 170 times.

170 of 200, that comes out to 85%, so the two approaches to analyzing Smith's voting record yielded nearly the exact same result. This separates Smith from the Senate's two most moderate members (proximity to a progressive score of 50) by 35, that same range which encompasses only 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat, can be equated to the +35 range over a progressive score of 50. While comparing Smith's voting record to Democrats with the inverse (Democrats who vote with the liberal wing 85% are the inverse of Republicans who vote with the conservative wing 85% as Smith does), we find that 20 Democrats fall within the same proximity to the middle point of the Senate as 3 Republicans So Joseph Biden of Delaware who ranks #25 in the Senate votes with the liberal wing the same amount of the time that Gordon Smith (who ranks 52 in the Senate) votes with the conservative wing. When one party has such astounding loyalty as the Republicans do, some members are made to appear far more moderate than they are, especially in studies like the National Journal's (I actually like National Journal in terms of methodology, they just don't show enough info) that don't show actual scoring only a comparison with the rest of the Senate.

In the most important cases, Smith has sided with the far right, he voted for the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, he voted for the confirmation of right wing ideologue, Anthony Scalia's mini-me, Samuel Alito, and the article points out a number of other votes he has cast with the far right fringe of America.
On several recent controversial issues, Smith voted with Republicans. For instance, he supported the constitutional amendment to prevent flag desecration. Smith says all rights -- including freedom of expression -- have limits.

"I promised our veterans I would vote for it," he says.

Smith, who campaigned in 2002 as an advocate of gay rights, also has supported a federal amendment to prohibit gay marriage.

Finally, I'll leave you with a nice gem quote at the end of the article showing Sen. Smith's general mindset demonstrating without a shadow of doubt that Smith is no moderate.
The senator quickly dismisses Democratic criticism of his votes.

"I've beaten them more than they've beaten me," he says. "The Democratic Party is not my constituency. These are people that believe in socialism. I don't."

That is a mindset that opposes any kind of pragmatism or compromise, it labels the opposition inaccurately in a way that sets them up as an ultimate evil to be opposed. If I were to adopt Mr. Smith's mindset I would call him a fascist to reciprocate, but I won't, because Smith's attitude does nothing for the country, and a reciprocation is just as bad as his initial remark.

Gordon Smith is not a moderate, he doesn't act like a moderate, he doesn't vote like a moderate. The Oregonian should stop running these kinds of fluff pieces that make incumbent Senator's nearly impossible to defeat. If the Oregonian is going to be fair they should run a feature on how moderate Ron Wyden is next week, after all, his progressive score is 88, only 3% more liberal than Smith is conservative. Smith can pretend to be a moderate all he wants, and he can run for reelection in 2008 that way if he wants, but he doesn't need any help from the press to spread his lie.


Abe said...

Did you call Smith and McMcain members of the noble opposition and different from Bush, Frist, and the other far right Republicans. As for flag burning ban that is supported by 2/3 of the country so he not in the fringe on that. Doesn't make it right but he not in the fringe.

Cwech said...

1) the "noble opposition" argument admits that they are quite conservative individuals, something that this article never admitted and which I was breaking down.

2) the quote at the end about "socialism" makes me want to rethink that

3) I was making the point that he consistently votes with the farthest right portion of the Republican Party, he has much more in common with Larry Craig than Lincoln Chafee, that's what I was saying with the "fringe" argument, certainly a single one of those issues when viewed in and of himself would not place him in that "fringe" but the fact that he votes that way consistently places him there. If he were different on the other issues and voted in favor of the flag burning amendment, I still wouldn't be happy with him, but I would accept the argument, when you consistently rubber stamp right wing judges, consistently vote for radical constitutional amendments, and consistently vote for tax cuts for the wealthy there's a pattern that justifies the sentence in which I said that.

This post was about exposing the fact that Gordon Smith is not a moderate, and this piece in the Oregonian was barely worth reading it was so shallow in its love affair of Smith.

Torrid said...

supported by 2/3 of which country? Not ours...

USAToday/Gallup, 6/06:
"Some people feel that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to make it illegal to burn or desecrate the American flag as a form of political dissent. Others say that the U.S. Constitution should not be amended to specifically prohibit flag burning or desecration. Do you think the U.S. Constitution should or should not be amended to prohibit burning or desecrating the American flag?" N=516, MoE ± 5 (Form B)
Should be amended 45
Should not be amended 54
Unsure 2


Abe said...


thats interesting cause i saw a poll that showed that 2/3 of the country did not want to allow flg burning. I'll try and find it. No matter let not let that be a sticking point.