Murthquake

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 18 2005 4:04 AM

Murthquake

The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with a hawkish senior Democrat congressman calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq within six months. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, who is a Marine combat vet and supported the war, said the current strategy is "flawed policy wrapped in an illusion." The Los Angeles Timesalso leads with Murtha but goes feature-y, focusing on just how hawkish Murtha has historically been and what a shock his call was. "John is one of the most respected members of the body and certainly the most respected member of the Democratic Party on national security matters, so judgments of his should never be taken lightly," said one Republican rep. The only other national pol who has previously called for the U.S. to withdraw pronto: liberal Sen. Russ Feingold, and his plan has a longer time frame. USA Todayfronts Murtha but leads with many states considering small tax cuts since revenues are soaring.

Murtha's proposal was promptly denounced by the GOP leadership, including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who called it "a policy of cut and run." Hastert continued, "To add insult to injury, this is done while the president is on foreign soil."

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While the papers' leads all play up Republican leadership having a conniption, it falls to the Post's Dana Milbank, writing inside, to point out that Democratic leaders didn't exactly start high-fiving Murtha. "Mr. Murtha speaks for himself," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "I don't support immediate withdrawal," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. 

The Wall Street Journal goes high with and others front the House, in a surprise, defeating a Republican-sponsored $142 billion bill on health and education programs. The 224-to-209 takedown marks the first time in a decade the Republicans have lost such a vote. Most of the GOP defectors were moderate Republicans who objected to the proposed cuts in social programs. Some Republicans were also ticked off after GOP leadership, trying to placate fiscal conservatives, cut local earmarks (often pork) from the bill.

The Post sets the scene of the (latest) GOP defeat:

Once voting got underway yesterday, House leaders and whips engaged in arm twisting that usually works. After about 30 minutes—twice as long as the vote was scheduled to last—Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) drew a finger across his throat, and the defeat was official.

According to early morning reports, caught by the LAT, the House early this morning passed $50 billion in spending cuts, which will take small slices from farm subsidies, student loans, and a few other domestic programs. A proposal that would have cut some school lunches for low-income kids was removed to make the bill palatable to moderates.

According to early morning reports, two car bombs in Baghdad targeted the Interior Ministry building at the center of the latest torture scandal. BBC says just six Iraqis were killed but also says the blasts "brought down residential buildings." Reuters says the blasts happened next to a hotel used by foreign journalists.

The LAT fronts the Iraqi interior minister's tepid response to the discovery of the torture center. "There has been much exaggeration about this issue," he said. "Nobody was beheaded or killed." Earlier this week, the NYT quoted a source saying the units in charge of the center directly to the interior minister. And indeed, as the papers have mentioned in passing, the minister is a "former" top member of the same Shiite militia that now makes up those units.

Also, the papers play up the U.S. Embassy saying, "We have made clear to the Iraqi government there must not be militia or sectarian control or direction of Iraqi Security Forces, facilities or ministries." Which is very nice and very misleading. The reality seems to be that the U.S. long ago acceded to such control.