Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gordon Smith and the Great Republican Pie Fight

Near the end of the 1974 classic "Blazing Saddles," when the film has boiled over into a crazed free-for-all ranging across several Warner Bros. back lots, "the great pie fight" breaks out in the studio commissary.

Dapper villain Headly Lamar emerges from the mens' room just as a pie narrowly misses his head and smacks into the wall inches away. Determined not to get anything on himself, and with a look that clearly says "screw this!", Lamar carefully steps back into the men's room and closes the door . . . only to re-emerge a moment later with pie all over his face, squarely nailed from the one direction he wasn't watching.


That's not a bad metaphor for how the final week before the election is starting off for Gordon Smith. Throughout this campaign the dapper right-wing Junior senator, determined to keep up appearances as a moderate (at least in Willamette Valley media), has carefully stepped back from the Republican brand, John McCain, President Bush, and the extremist wing of his own party. No right-wing custard on his suit for our Gordon!

Unfortunately for Smith, like that pie in the men's room, the extremists found him anyway.

National Right to Life began running a radio ad in Oregon that does something literally millions of dollars of advertising hasn't done before: mention Republican Sen. Gordon Smith and Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the same breath.

Smith, of course, has determinedly run away from the Republican brand, famously running ads featuring a gallery of Democrats from fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. While Smith supports McCain, he wouldn't even be the honorary chair of his campaign in Oregon this year.

His Democratic opponent, Jeff Merkley, has focused his firepower on tying Smith to President Bush. And the McCain campaign has been absent from the state and hasn't run anything at all here.

The right to life ad praises Smith and McCain for opposing public funding of abortion and for voting for legislation aimed at ending late-term "partial-birth" abortions - and it says Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Merkley and presidential candidate Barack Obama support "abortion on demand for any reason."

Merkley spokesman Matt Canter called the ad "disgusting and offensive" but said that his candidate welcomed a debate about the issue of abortion. He noted that Merkley has run advertising promoting a woman's right to choose but that Smith has not addressed the issue in his own advertising.


(The Oregonian story includes an audio link to the right-to-lifers' radio message.)

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