Steve Novik absolutely nails Smith's mea (non) culpa and spells out why it shouldn't be taken very seriously on its merits: Smith rehearses the main objections to the war, but offers no explanation as to why those objections didn't mean anything to him until after the midterms landed him and his fellow Senate Republicans squarely in the minority.
With 71% of Americans disapproving President Bush's handling of the war, Smith decided to join their ranks. But Smith took no responsibility for his vote for the war. He took no responsibility for his four-year history of supporting the war. He falsely stated that he has been "silent" on the war, when in fact, as Steve Duin explains in his column today, as recently as June of this year Smith was on the Senate floor, arguing that anyone who would set a timetable for redeployment would be giving in to Al-Queda and abandoning the fight for "freedom."The problem with bouncing Smith in 2008 isn't so much his Red base in Bend; even the reddest areas of the state are getting tinged with a little purple these days. The problem was that the state Dems (partly because they've lacked a decent farm club in Salem for some years) had few good names to run at him. When Kitzhaber pulled his hat out of the ring last month, that left a big empty-looking ring.
Which makes it all the more interesting to read that State Senator Ben Westlund (former Republican who switched to Independent for his gubernatorial run last spring) has now thrown his lot in with the Democrats. And the "will he challenge Gordon?" rumors are already starting, barely 24 hours later.
It's not hard to think he could go the distance. He's on the right (but not the Right) side of issues dear to Oregonians, including health care and education. He can put his eastern-Oregon credentials on the table next to Smith's any day. And the state Republicans haven't trusted him in years--and if being called a "RINO" by that crowd isn't street cred for a challenger to Smith's seat, I don't know what is.