Former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, explaining in 1998 why they didn't go on to Baghdad in 1991: "Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."Remember, this is a list of those who opposed the war from the beginning--and so spent (most of them anyway) three or four years being written off as "terrorist sympathizers," "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," "damned dirty hippies," and the like. Many others came over to the light, but did so only after being a supporter of Bush's war from the outset--such as John Murtha
Representative Ike Skelton, September 2002: "I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq's forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it."
Al Gore, September 2002: "I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century."
Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."
Representative John Spratt, October 2002: "The outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain."
Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: "When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited."
Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: "I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. ... When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration's motives."
Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: "I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. ... Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms."
We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage. We should also ask why anyone who didn't raise questions about the war - or, at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly - should be taken seriously when he or she talks about matters of national security.Which brings us to Gordon Smith, Oregon's junior senator and current object of intense media scrutiny for his speech on the Senate floor late Thursday night, in which he broke with the Bush administration over the Iraq war:
I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal.In New York, LA, and DC, the mainstream news media fell all over themselves. Keith Olbermann, scarcely able to contain his schadenfreude, gave the speech the tee-up spot on "Countdown" Friday. Questions abounded: Was this a start of mass defections by Bush supporters in Congress? Is Smith the first of many Republicans no longer willing to hitch their wagon to a star that's polling at 30%? Did Smith mean it when he used the world "criminal?" Which one is Oregon, again?
Here in Oregon, there really was only one question: Oh my--is the 2008 election season really underway already? Sadly for Smith, if his repositioning on Iraq is sincere, few out here will regard this as anything more than his regular attempt to burnish his largely-nonexistent "moderate" credentials, diverting attention from his staunchly pro-Bush voting record as he prepares to seek re-election to an increasingly vulnerable Blue state seat.
Expect to see a lot of Republicans distancing themselves from Mister Thirty Percent in the coming months. Some will be sincere. Some will be anything but. Most are probably concerned that unless they come in from the right fringe they will never get the chance to cast a meaningful congressional vote in the next two years. If they start voting for things that are supported by most Americans, rather than their GOP base, accept their vote. But don't trust them. Not yet. And that goes double for Senator Smith.