beaver boundary

place, politics and power in oregon

Merkley stands by troop support resolution, continues Iraq war opposition August 27, 2007

Filed under: U.S. Senate — taoiseach @ 7:22 pm

It’s getting nasty out there in the comments field of BlueOregon posts. Steve Novick‘s use of the GOP talking point that U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Merkley supported HR 2, a non-binding resolution in support of troops involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, has generated a lot of frank discussion about what it means to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in representative government.

Many in the comments field, a couple of them non-affiliated Novick supporters who threaten to enter the Democratic party just to vote Novick, claim to speak for Merkley or the five Democrats who opposed HR 2 in 2003. They can stop now, because the candidate has spoken for himself:

“I wanted to stand up and say I disagree completely with the decision to go to this war, but I honor the sacrifice and the dedication and the courage of our troops,” Merkley said Monday.

The Portland Democrat also said that having U.S. troops in Iraq “is not helping” that country and he would advocate bringing the troops home, “starting immediately.”

“I don’t think our troops will or should have a significant role in the country,” Merkley said. “Our troops need to get out.”

Merkley noted that even though he voted “yes” on the House resolution, he gave a floor speech that day in which he said he was “not persuaded” by the Bush administration’s arguments that Iraq was a threat to the U.S. or that invading Iraq was the best way to fight terrorism.

In Monday’s interview, Merkley said his decision to back the resolution stemmed in part from his experience as a Pentagon analyst in the Reagan administration, a job he said brought him into contact with a lot of Vietnam war veterans.

“I knew how deeply troubling it was to them to come back from that war and not have the strong support of the American population,” he said.

With the 2003 Iraq resolution, he said, “we were recognizing that our men and women had just been sent into harm’s way and were facing something very difficult, and I thought it was important to recognize that.”

His explanation makes sense. And because it didn’t authorize the war–which had already begun at the time of the vote–a ‘yes’ vote in support of recently-deployed soldiers did not unleash any unintended consequences. This is precisely because the Oregon House of Representatives does not have any foreign policy jurisdiction outside of trade and naming sister states.

The five Democrats who opposed HR 2 were not necessarily any more against the war at the time of the vote than those who spoke against the war but voted yes on the resolution (a category that also includes Rep. Bob Ackerman and Rep. Phil Barnhart, just to get started). Because so many commenters at other blogs have spoken for them already, the Boundary suspects that these five, four of whom are still in office, will issue similar statements of their opposition to the war and their particular reason for voting no.

The Boundary would think that it may have something to do with the fact that Rep. Mitch Greenlick represents Northwest Portland, Rep. Jackie Dingfelder represents Northeast Portland, Rep. Diane Rosenbaum serves Southeast Portland, Rep. Mary Nolan serves Southwest Portland, and former Rep. Deborah Kafoury at the time served North and Northeast Portland. In other words, the five most liberal districts in the state.  If any districts are impervious to political tides such as the 2002 thumping of Congressional Democrats in the midterms, it’s these districts.

In any case, it’s time to let the elected officials have their say. If the non-affiliated voters supporting Novick are still upset at Merkley after that, then they can change their registration and participate.


11 Responses to “Merkley stands by troop support resolution, continues Iraq war opposition”

  1. Liz Says:

    Really like this quote:
    >>In Monday’s interview, Merkley said his decision to back the resolution stemmed in part from his experience as a Pentagon analyst in the Reagan administration, a job he said brought him into contact with a lot of Vietnam war veterans.

    “I knew how deeply troubling it was to them to come back from that war and not have the strong support of the American population,” he said.

    This whole episode just confirms my original thought that an elected official generally does a better job running for US Senate (except for Les AuCoin who ran such a nasty campaign some people just avoided the whole thing) than someone who never before was elected to public office.

    But then, what do I know. I am only the daughter of a WWII vet, granddaughter of a WWI vet, high school friend of a permanently disabled Vietnam vet.

    Not only that, but regardless of “Vietnam vets were not welcomed home” (treatment varied, some were treated poorly or ignored) our family can claim to have given a welcome home to a Vietnam vet because a college friend of ours stayed at our home for a few days between when he left Ft. Lewis and his return home to family in S. California. It was a time of decompression for him (we went to a movie and watched a lot of TV) and for me a realization that this was not the same person I had known before he was drafted, although we had been corresponding while he was in the service.

    By all means the Novick fans who are upset about this resolution vote should re-register Dem. and get active in Steve’s campaign. It would be a good experience for them to have to talk to actual voters face to face about why their guy deserves the nomination.
    And in the process, they might even meet some veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, or earlier wars. That would be a good education for them.

  2. torridjoe Says:

    Merkley’s district is generally as safe as any of those five, I’d think. My view would be that the explanation only makes sense to suggest that he took the resolution seriously, as opposed to recognizing and calling out a trap set by the Republicans. He thought it was actually about the troops, or that the troops would really care in the end about the nonbinding resolution in Oregon? That seems odd.

  3. James Frye Says:

    Sorry, but no – I don’t see this as the GOP setting it up so they get Novick, who they think would be easier to beat. I see this as setting up Merkley for the nomination because HE would be easier to beat – this vote is his “I was for it before I was against it” moment, now matter how he says it was “just supporting the troops.” I can see the Smith ads now, driving home how Jeff Merkley voted to commend “the courage of President George W. Bush” then, but now….well, you remember the 2004 campaign too. Sorry Jeff, but that vote just locked in mine for Novick.

  4. taoiseach Says:


    It’s not as safe. In 2004, each of the 5 earned at least 20,000. Merkley had a fairly competitive GOP challenger and earned 14,670. It’s a moderate area, for sure.

    Greenlick: 25,416
    Nolan: 25,876
    Rosenbaum: 27,327
    Shields (elected after Kafoury): 26,285
    Dingfelder: 23,561
    Merkley: 14,670 (with considerable GOP opponent)

    Greenlick: 14,173 (with considerable GOP opponent)
    Nolan: 16,092
    Rosenbaum: 18,087
    Kafoury: 16,918
    Dingfelder: 17,294
    Merkley: 10,497 (no GOP opponent)

    Clearly, based on the results of the two most recent elections to the vote on HR 2, Merkley’s seat was in a tier that was considerably less safe than inner-Portland seats.

  5. Stephanie V Says:

    “Less safe” doesn’t mean “not safe.”

    And if it really was an act of political triangulation, well, that’s pretty regrettable.

  6. taoiseach Says:

    “Well, that’s pretty regrettable.”

    It’s the case with every representative in Oregon government today. And you can bet that if you don’t have political instinct in the Oregon House, you ain’t gonna have it in the U.S. Senate.

    If Jeff Merkley wins the primary, I’m sure he’ll earn your support. And that will be a political decision on your part.

  7. taoiseach Says:

    And when I say “It’s the case”, I’m not talking about the regrettable part…(whoops!). No, we have many fine official in the legislature.

    What I meant to say was that every vote on the House floor is a political movement.

  8. darrelplant Says:

    “Congressional thumping of Democrats in 2002” Are you talking about the Congress or the Legislature?

    In Congress, the Democrats who lost their seats in 2002 and 2004 were the ones who had voted for the Iraq AUMF. None of the Democratic US Representatives or Senators who voted against the AUMF has lost their seat in a general election.

  9. taoiseach Says:

    “Are you talking about the Congress or the Legislature?”

    The Congress.

    Similarly, Representatives probably anticipated the political consequences of the October 2002 Congressional vote.

    The Congressional thumping happened because of the national poisoning of the Democratic brand by the GOP.

  10. taoiseach Says:

    I would also like to say that Merkley’s district is definitely safer than Washington County seats, Salem-area seats, Clackamas County seats and districts along the Coast and the Springfield area.

    What matters for Merkley is his explanation:

    ‘In Monday’s interview, Merkley said his decision to back the resolution stemmed in part from his experience as a Pentagon analyst in the Reagan administration, a job he said brought him into contact with a lot of Vietnam war veterans.’

    I would bet that other 2003 representatives will explain why they voted the way they did.

  11. James Frye Says:

    And Hillary and Edwards believed Bush would never invade so they voted for his war, and, and, and….

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