Mr. Smith faces re-election in 2008, and some Democrats in Oregon have suggested that his break with the White House was timed to aid his coming campaign, an accusation he adamantly denies.
Oregon’s Democratic governor dismisses talk that the speech was politically motivated. Instead, the governor, Theodore R. Kulongoski, said he believed that the suicide of Mr. Smith’s son had had a large effect on Mr. Smith’s thinking on a wide variety of issues.
"I think the loss of his son has dramatically changed his view," Mr. Kulongoski said in an interview. "He understands the loss of a child. I think he’s gotten tired of reading about these kids dying."
"I think he has been struggling through this for a long time," he added. "I think the trauma in him has been his loyalty to his party and to his president, at the same time this gut-wrenching thing in him."
Mr. Smith said he recognized that his words upset the White House and some fellow Republicans.
"It is not easy to stand up to the president of your own party to say you are unhappy with the way this has been managed," he said. "But if you can’t speak up, then you should go home."
I prefer to think that Kulongoski’s remark is a bit of "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" maneuvering, but either way, the list of "go home" enthusiasts gets a little longer every day. We can now add Steve Benen at Political Animal, who notes:
I can't help but notice that there are a handful of Republican senators, all of whom have been at least somewhat supportive of the president's policy over the last several years, who are now expressing fairly strong criticisms.
Just in the last few weeks, Sens. Smith, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), and John Sununu (R-N.H.) made the transition from public support of the White House's approach, to public criticism of existing Bush policy.
And all of them, coincidentally, are Senate Republicans who are up for re-election in 2008. Too cynical?