[Marxism] Murtha as a reflection of mainstream opinion

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sat Nov 26 05:50:46 MST 2005

(Interesting profile of John Murtha in the Washington Post. Murtha, whose
"central Pennsylvania district is a union stronghold" is in the old Scoop
Jackson mold  - liberal on economic issues, conservative on social and
foreign policy. His evolution on Iraq reflects that of his working class
constituents, as well as military families and the US command. "What sets
Murtha apart from most fellow Democrats", the Post notes, "is his close
connection to different layers of the armed services. The congressman
regularly visits with wounded troops, but he also talks to battle
commanders..." Although they took their distance from his resolution during
the congressional debate, Pelosi's remarks suggest that the Democrats viewed
his speech as a trial balloon. Murtha is reportedly "close" to the
Democratic House Leader, and vetted his remarks through her.)
The About-Face of a Hawkish Democrat
Murtha, With Many Military Connections, Moves From Voting for War to Urging
Troop Withdrawal
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 25, 2005; A02

Of all the Democrats calling for an end to the Iraq war, Rep. John P. Murtha
is an anomaly. Unlike Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Russell Feingold
(Wis.), he doesn't want to be president. He's no liberal, like his House
colleagues Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) and Maxine Waters (Calif.). He's
certainly the only one to call Vice President Cheney a friend.

A man of gruff familiarity -- most colleagues find it more natural to call
him "Murtha" than "Jack" -- has been representing his Pennsylvania district
for 16 terms, rising to become the senior Democrat on the House
Appropriations panel's defense subcommittee. For that perch, he became known
for his opposition to defense cuts and his willingness to send troops into
battle -- and even to draft them, if necessary. He was the first Vietnam
veteran elected to Congress, and has fashioned a reputation as the
Democrats' soldier-legislator -- a John McCain type without swagger or
upward ambition. He generally prefers the shadows of Capitol Hill to the
spotlight -- though that changed dramatically in recent days.

Last week, as Congress was preparing to leave town for a two-week
Thanksgiving break, Murtha told a gathering of colleagues and, later,
reporters that -- although he had voted in favor of the resolution
authorizing the Iraq invasion -- he now wants American troops withdrawn
immediately. "The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq
militarily," Murtha said. "It is time to bring them home."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted that Murtha's
statement would become a "watershed event for our caucus, for our Congress
and for our country." The burly 73-year-old lawmaker ignited a news blitz,
and Republicans scrambled to respond. House GOP leaders hastily drew up a
watered-down version of Murtha's withdrawal resolution, and made Republican
lawmakers remain in town for a bitter and emotional Friday night session to
vote it down.

It's hard to imagine any other Democrat causing such a stir. Republicans
privately acknowledge that Murtha is a worrisome opponent because he can
hardly be portrayed as a liberal of the Michael Moore stripe.

What sets Murtha apart from most fellow Democrats is his close connection to
different layers of the armed services. The congressman regularly visits
with wounded troops, but he also talks to battle commanders. "Jack Murtha is
one of a kind," said Rep. Curt Weldon (Pa.), one of the few Republicans who
rose in Murtha's defense during the Friday night House debate. "He is an
example for all us in this body, and none of us should ever think of
questioning his motives, his desires or support for our American troops."

Other Republicans depicted Murtha's call for withdrawal as irresponsible and
even dangerous. On Nov. 18, White House spokesman Scott McClellan described
Murtha as "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme
liberal wing of the Democratic Party" and suggested he was advocating a
"surrender to the terrorists."

In the House debate Friday night, several Republicans suggested that Murtha
is a coward who was proposing to "cut and run." But then the rhetoric
started to cool. On Sunday, while traveling in Asia, President Bush called
Murtha "a fine man, a good man who served our country with honor and
distinction," who came to his Iraq position "in a careful and thoughtful

Democrats suspect that Republicans dialed back their criticisms after taking
into account Murtha's hawkish track record. Judging from his history and
close relationships at the Pentagon, Murtha probably was echoing a belief
that runs deep within the ranks of senior officers. "He's someone who's a
strong supporter of the military," said Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point
graduate and one of his party's leading Senate spokesmen on the military.
"People will recognize that he's got their best interests at heart."

Murtha joined the Marines in 1952, and served in active duty or in the
reserves until he retired in 1990. He volunteered for active Vietnam service
and received the Bronze Star with Combat "V," two Purple Hearts and the
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He was elected to the House in a 1974 special
election, after a five-year stint as a Pennsylvania state legislator.

His hawk credentials were burnished early on. "He was one of our strongest
supporters when I worked for Reagan," said Lawrence Korb, an assistant
secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985, and now a senior fellow at the
left-leaning Center for American Progress. Murtha shared President Ronald
Reagan's anti-communist views, supporting the military buildup against the
then-Soviet Union along with covert aid to the Nicaraguan contras. "I
supported Reagan all through the Central American thing," Murtha reminded
reporters during his Nov. 17 news conference.

He was a strong supporter of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and today regards
it as a model for international cooperation, both diplomatically and
financially. He noted in an Oct. 2 C-SPAN interview that Bush's father,
President George H.W. Bush, also kept Congress well informed throughout the
conflict. "President Bush One really did it exactly right," Murtha said.

Despite disagreements over defense spending, Murtha also forged a close
relationship with President Bill Clinton. At the 1999 signing of a defense
authorization bill, Clinton credited Murtha for pay and retirement
provisions that Clinton called the biggest increase in military compensation
in a generation. USA Today reported Monday that Clinton said in an interview
he would reconsider his opposition to a withdrawal timetable in the
aftermath of Murtha's proposal. "He's a really good man," Clinton told USA
Today. "I'm going to have to think about it because I respect him so much."

Murtha leans conservative on social matters such as abortion and gun
control, but his central Pennsylvania district is a union stronghold, and he
tends to vote liberal on economic and workers' rights issues. He criticizes
Bush's tax cuts as helping the rich at the expense of other needs --
including defense. He had an ethical scrape in 1979, when he was named as an
unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal and testified
against two House colleagues.

After a 1990 primary scare, Murtha spent more time tending to parochial
interests. Of the 58 news releases posted on his Web site since August,
three are about Iraq, one is about Hurricane Katrina, and the remainder
address local concerns, including military contracts Murtha helped to secure
and money he lined up for local dams and schools.

For the past few months, Murtha had dropped hints to colleagues that he
would soon make a major announcement about the war. Although he supported
the initial invasion, he soon came to believe that troop levels weren't
adequate and that soldiers weren't properly equipped. He was one of the few
Democrats to publicly advocate the reinstatement of the draft. In a CNN
interview in May 2004, Murtha said that although "it would be an
international disaster I think if we pulled out . . . the alternative is,
we're going to struggle along, get more and more young people killed."

Last week, as Murtha prepared for his speech, he spoke to Pelosi, to whom he
is close. According to aides who were privy to the conversation, she warned
Murtha that "this is going to be a huge deal" and that people would "come
after him." His reply: "I can handle it. I'm ready for anything."

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