The Meaning of Murtha

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Nov. 18 2005 6:23 PM

The Meaning of Murtha

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha called for a military withdrawal from Iraq; bloggers debate the significance of the statement. They also discuss protracted House fights over spending and continue to speculate about the recent revelation that Bob Woodward figures in the first act of the CIA leak scandal.

The meaning of Murtha: Rep. John Murtha called for a near-term military withdrawal from Iraq yesterday, suggesting that the presence of American troops in that country is fostering, rather than impeding, the resilient insurgency. 

"[A]s I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift," writes Rod Dreher at National Review Online's conservative scrum The Corner. "Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he's a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. … If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to … then the president is in big trouble."

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Many on the left hope he's right. Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum thinks the speech might be a tipping point. "Pressure is going to mount on the White House to use the December elections as an excuse to declare victory and go home," he writes. "I also think the Rove/Cheney/Bush counterattack is going to backfire." An effective strategy for Bush, suggests the American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias, would be to actually follow Murtha's advice. The congressman "points in the best direction for framing this in a politically viable way," he writes at TAPPED. "The point that the military has accomplished the missions laid out for it at the beginning of the war is a key one."

Nevertheless, many on the right remain unequivocal on the prosecution of the war. "Cutting and running is surrender, no matter who proposes it," argues conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters. Morrissey abhors the politics of personality that he believes has brought Murtha center-stage. "I don't care if Murtha has a chest full of medals -- telling the national media that American troops can't handle Islamofascist terrorists and must be withdrawn from their range of action is cowardice," he writes.

Plenty of others are puzzled that the speech was front-page news. At InstaPundit, libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds points to a similar statement made by Murtha in 2004 and wonders why the speech is being described as turnabout. Conservative Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft tracks Murtha's opposition to the war back to 2002.

Slate's Mickey Kaus also thinks the beltway turbulence is much ado about nothing. "The press is pretending to be surprised by Murtha's views … even though he's been a known, public Iraq War skeptic since at least a year and a half ago," he writes. "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 … 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."  

Read more about John Murtha.

Spending compromise: House Republicans narrowly passed a five-year budget today after courting moderates in their own party by abandoning several unpopular programs favored by the Bush White House. The measure, which will reduce federal expenditures by $50 billion, passed 217 to 215. The Republican victory was seen as a rebound from the surprising bipartisan defeat Thursday of a larger planned budget cut that focused on health care and education programs.  

"I can understand why it was so difficult for the House to cut $50 billion; it is increasingly difficult to find programs that benefit the poor at all, let alone find ways to cut spending on them," jokes Andrew Donaldson at Salonblog Bread and Circuses. "But if these cuts were extremely regressive in nature--and they are--they are also insignificant in the grand scheme of an overall budget of over $12.5 trillion over the next five years."

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