Bob Fete: Here are three non-print Woodward discussions in which I was involved over the past two days, in descending order of weediness (and ascending order of estimated overall coherence) on my part: bloggingheads.tv, Hugh Hewitt (transcript), Slate's political podcast. ... 1:15 A.M.
a) The press is pretending to be surprised by Murtha's views ("An Unlikely Lonesome Dove" ... "a fierce hawk") even though he's been a known, public Iraq War skeptic since at least a year and a half ago. NBC News, even more ludicrously, pretended to be surprised by professional GOP apostate Sen. Chuck Hagel's apostasy. ... Update: Most egregious was the LAT's Maura Reynolds who, in order to set up the "jolt" of Murtha's speech, wrote
And when President Bush decided to wage war on Saddam Hussein, perhaps no Democrat was a firmer ally.
Assuming Reynolds means the current President Bush and the current war (and shouldn't she have said if she didn't?) this is correction-worthy garbage. Murtha questioned the war in 2002, before it began.
b) I'm ready to be convinced that U.S. troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq, but Murtha's speech is not convincing. He doesn't even try very hard. He seems primarily concerned with the health of our soldiers ("[t]hey don't deserve to continue to suffer. They're the targets") and the military sector as a whole, which is fine. But there are also the Iraqis to worry about, not to mention the larger cause of democracy in the region. Murtha concludes: "We have become a catalyst for the violence." But increasingly we also seem to be the only thing standing in the way of wholesale violence against the Sunnis. (Does some portion of the Sunni leadership now secretly want us to stay?) ... Backfill: In Murtha's press conference he's forced into a more substantial defense, but he's still not close to convincing on the more-harm-than-good issue.
c) It's not clear Murtha's actually for a "withdrawal" of American troops. He speaks of "redeployment" calls for a "quick reaction force in the region" and "an over-the-horizon presence of Marines"--in Kuwait, he suggests. Murtha says he'd use it against threats like "a terrorist camp that may affect our national security or the security in the region." Well, they have those in Iraq! They're staffed by some of the same people who are planting bombs in Baghdad. If Murtha would attack them, and those in them, then we'll still be fighting a war in Iraq, no?
P.S.--Tomorrow's CW Today: Sullivan is surely right that the Bushies are over-obsessed with rebutting the retrospective, defamatory,** Hillary-excusing "Bush lied" meme rather than shoring up the voters' prospective confidence of eventual success in Iraq:
What we need now is a very clear indication that our effort to train the Iraqi military is progressing, that the troops are well-equipped and cared for and that the political process isn't degenerating into sectarianism.
The Dems have done the war effort the most damage by making their criticism personal, goading Bush and, especially, Cheney into defending themselves instead of defending in detail our continued presence in Iraq. But whose fault is that, ultimately? ...
Update: It depends on what the meaning of "practicable" is-- Juan Cole emphasizes that Murtha's resolution only called for troops to be "redeployed at the earliest practicable date," and notes that "practicable" would "involve considerations such as not having Iraq collapse altogether." *** But that cuts both ways, draining the resolution of much of its substantive effect, no? Indeed, the administration could plausibly claim it was already following Murtha's policy.
**--but not implausible ...
***--Maybe it depends on what the meaning of "altogether" is. 10:54 P.M. link