Let’s face it: the Republican brand is sucking harder these days than a Hoover with black-hole power settings. The war, the economy, the environment, immigration — you name the issue, the GOP position is the losing one. As Howie says, there is no safe Republican seat this year.

Especially not Gordon Smith’s. While a number of candidates are running right this year as their means of escaping the Bush legacy (because Bush, you know, wasn’t a reeeeal conservative) (yuh, right), the Oregon Republican is working hard to portray himself as an honest-to-gosh moderate. This is in large part because Oregon has been trending leftward in recent years, and the movement-conservative brand is in wide disrepute anyway.

And like other Northwest faux moderates (see, e.g., Dave Reichert), Smith’s "moderation" is of a distinct variety: run against Bush policy at certain convenient moments, but the rest of the time you’re a reliable GOP company guy. In other words, he’s a phony.

Take, for instance, his recent attempts to court the gay community, making hay of his support for bias-crimes legislation. However, a number of gays are questioning his commitment to their civil rights, especially given his votes against recognizing gay marriage. In recent weeks, he’s become simply incoherent on the issue: watch the video above and see if you can decipher what the hell he’s saying.

It’s clear, in fact, that Smith’s posture on gay rights is the kind of "moderation" that would simply sell gays and lesbians down the river in the name of pacifying the bellicose defenders of "tradition." As Carla Axtman at the NPIBlog notes, back in 1996 he was clear that discrimination against gays and lesbians should be permitted:

In 1996 during a very heated and intense run for the U.S. Senate against Ron Wyden, Smith came clean on his position allowing for discrimination against gays and lesbians:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Smith said Friday that he believes it is okay in some circumstances to discriminate against homosexuals.

At a news conference at his campaign headquarters, Smith was asked whether it was all right for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to a gay person simply because the person is gay.

"There may be circumstances where someone for religious reasons would not want to "rent to a gay person" and I would not want to compel them to do so", Smith said.

Those of us who were around during the civil-rights era remember hearing this rationale before — namely, that religious beliefs about black people’s racial inferiority should confer a right to discriminate (in jobs, housing, etc.). Indeed, there is no shortage of movement conservatives who still spout such nonsense, in truth. And of course, it’s a big favorite of the Christian Identity set.

Smith confers fresh life to the same logic when he when applies it to gay people’s civil rights: "It’s OK to discriminate against gay people if your pastor told you to do it. Oh, and you shouldn’t push too hard on changing the definition of marriage because that just gets everyone all worked up." (The latter, I’m pretty sure, being the upshot of Smith’s babble in that video.)

See, I never knew "moderate" meant "pay lots of lip service at election time but when push comes to shove will still sell your sorry ass down the river." Guess that must be in the GOP dictionary — the one that fewer people are using these days, especially in Oregon. No wonder.

Fortunately, Jeff Merkley makes the choice easy for Oregonians — both gays and lesbians as well as the straight folks who don’t believe it’s right to discriminate against them for any reason. You can help here.

David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.

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