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.