There appears to be two US Representative Chris Smiths (NJ 4th District) much like there are two Mitt Romneys. There is the responsive and the non-responsive Chris Smith and there is the privately extreme and the publicly moderate Mitt Romney.
In a letter last week a writer, apparently a Republican, wrote about Chris Smith responding to her request while she was visiting the Republican Headquarters. From that incident she extrapolated that he had a world of wonderful characteristics. Other people (and the press) have made similar extrapolations based on Smith’s involvement in a few high profile cases (e.g. the Goldman matter.)
Of course then there is the non-responsive Chris Smith. Obviously, as a Democratic candidate, I have heard hundreds of stories from unhappy constituents about Smith’s lack of responsiveness to their issues and communications. But there are many more public examples. You can go online to Youtube and find a video of people visiting his office after having been frustrated with his complete lack of responsiveness to their inquiries. An obvious and very public example was Smith’s feigned ignorance about the biggest publication in his district writing stories about the biggest problem (education) in the biggest town (Lakewood) in his district.
He then further claimed that he didn’t get the phone calls from the publication about the story. Similarly there was a story last week in another publication about their great difficulty in contacting and arranging an interview with Rep Smith which, after it had finally been arranged, he then no-showed for. And, despite being publicly criticized in previous campaigns for not participating in any public forums or debates, he has no-showed for all of the town hall meetings that he has been invited to so far in this campaign. Apparently responding to the public or media generally is not one of his wonderful characteristics.
On other issues two Smiths also appear. Rep Smith publicly proclaims his interest in overall human rights, not just abortion. But a look at the specifics of his words and actions seem to belie that protestation. In the 1980s Smith (and Rep Dick Cheney) voted against a Congressional resolution to free Nelson Mandela from prison. In the 1990s he voted against the Women’s Equal Rights amendment specifically because of its effect on abortion. In the 2000s Kenya spent extensive efforts and several years revising their 1969 Constitution to include freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, a permanent human rights commission, and other important safeguards.
The Constitution was approved by 70% of the people and the process was almost unanimously acclaimed as a model for the rest of the world. Yet Rep Smith accused President Obama and his administration of criminal activity for supporting that process since the Constitution contained a woman’s right to abortion in the case of rape, incest, or health. Most recently he has been very public about China human rights. But his principle and very specific concern has been the Chinese abortion policy. Most of his other rights activities revolve around this same abortion issue.
Similarly Gov Romney expresses public affection for all people and private disdain for many. He has publicly espoused his support for, and the importance of, education and privately said he intends to eliminate the entire US Department of Education. His different positions on topics as varied as the Blunt Amendment (contraception) and gun control leave people scratching their heads. On some issues Romney has had so many different positions you wonder if he is a victim of multiple personality disorder. Even his home based Salt Lake City Tribune said there was too many Mitts and endorsed President Obama.
Smith’s public relations issues might not be so bad if they didn’t come at the cost of even worse public policy. He opposed Obamacare, voted for the Ryan Plan (privatizing Social Security, voucherizing Medicare, and devastating Medicaid), supported still more tax cuts for the wealthy, and made the Norquist pledge never to raise those taxes. Since those are similar to the Bush era polices that he supported (and that got us into this great recession) perhaps that is the one area where he has, unfortunately, been singularly consistent.
In any event, we certainly have at least one too many Rep Chris Smiths.