Why spend money when you can earn media for yourself? And hey, while we’re at it, why earn media when it’s just handed to you for merely existing? The latter question frames the current puff parade for Gordon Smith, who’s riding a series of hollow news stories to keep his name in the press and in the public mind, all without doing anything particularly notable.
And now, for entry number 26 in the parade, we have the Oregonian’s Charles Pope on a typical new-guy assignment. In this hollow float of a report, we see Gordon Smith receiving an award in a star-studded reception for his fake leadership on gay rights. Cue Pope:
On Saturday Smith will be honored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation for his “longstanding leadership in replacing hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance” at a splashy dinner in Los Angeles.
The “Making a Difference” award will be presented to Smith at the group’s celebrity-tinged ceremony. Smith will accept the honor in person, his staff said, joining Cyndi and Elen Lauper, Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wi.
Also honored will be Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who co-sponsored the hate crimes bill with Smith.
Those who have been paying attention know Smith’s record on gay rights. He’s voted in favor of the federal marriage amendment, and he stayed silent this year when the Oregon Legislature narrowly passed anti-discrimination and domestic partnership laws for gay Oregonians. Most recently, he canceled out Sen. Ron Wyden’s vote by supporting the confirmation of Judge Leslie Southwick, who “found that a mother’s sexual orientation alone was grounds for denying her custody of her children”, to the federal bench.
When he could have made a difference in support of gay rights, he has cowered away from the spotlight. Yet, Smith gets his political cover by offering a bill that he knows that President Bush will veto–an anti-hate crimes bill. And, apparently, he’s relishing the chance to rub elbows with congressional Democrats and Hollywood personalities in an election year.
If there is a Grand Marshal of the Smith Puff Parade, it is the Oregonian. Pope’s article aides and abets Smith’s head-fake on gay rights leadership and lets him walk away with the illusion of bipartisanship.
There’s perhaps no better political contrast to Smith here in Oregon than House Speaker Jeff Merkley. In 2005, then-minority leader Merkley fought like hell against the anti-democratic and bigoted grip of the House Republicans on SB 1000, which would have created civil unions for Oregon’s gay couples. After session adjourned, he went hard to work to recruit candidates and win back the Oregon House. And, of course, after Democrats retook the majority, Merkley delivered, passing SB 2 and HB 2007.
Smith, supposedly a leader on gay rights, looked on from the sidelines, probably trying to figure out his multiple conflicting positions on the Iraq war.
Fight back at StopGordonSmith.com, who has a special Halloween poll up about Smith’s scary scorecard in Congress.