December 28, 2005

Kaus, Cook, and “JPo” Credit Murtha for Turning the War Debate Around

Filed under: OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:08 pm

or, “Yes, This Horse Deserves Just One More Beating Before It’s Laid to Rest”

Charlie Cook of National Journal (link not available) via Kaus (HT Instapundit, whose characterizes what has occurred as “John Murtha Saved George Bush’s Presidency”):

Prior to Murtha’s well-publicized speech advocating an early withdrawal, the spotlight had been on the Bush administration’s use of intelligence that led to the decision to go to war, with some questioning whether the administration either lied, fabricated or exaggerated evidence used to justify the United States’ action.

Murtha’s speech changed the debate, away from whether we should have invaded Iraq and whether the use of intelligence to make that decision was flawed toward the more problematic issue of “what do we do now?”

This echoes John Podhoretz (“JPo”) of the New York Post at the beginning of the month (registration required). JPo goes further, and credits Murtha with forcing George Bush to state his case, something his supporters have been begging for since (it seems) his reelection:

GOD bless Jack Murtha. Yesterday we saw how this old patriot, ex-Marine and current Democratic congressman once again came to the aid of his country as he did 40 years ago in Vietnam. Thanks to Jack, President Bush — in a speech at the Naval Academy (link added-Ed.) yesterday morning — spent 40 minutes explaining to the American people that our goal in Iraq is nothing less than “unconditional victory” against the forces of reaction, rejection and Islamic fascism.

“To achieve victory over such enemies,” he said, “we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy — how we look at the war, how we see the enemy, how we define victory and what we’re doing to achieve it.” And in painstaking detail, he explained it all.

….. These were words this country and the world desperately needed to hear, and chances are they would never have been spoken were it not for Jack Murtha. And so what if that isn’t what Jack Murtha wanted? So what if the Bush speech propounds an approach and a vision exactly the opposite of what Murtha wants?

Life is just chock full of delicious little ironies like this.

….. Murtha took his party’s anti-war position and codified it. He was instantly greeted as a prophet, a savior, a noble man, a hero and a visionary. To speak a critical word of Jack Murtha was the moral equivalent of spitting on Mother Teresa. He was beyond reproach, his critics beneath contempt.

And so, in what may stand as the most important legislative act of the last three years, Republicans in the House decided they would stand together, hold hands and sing, “All We Are Saying Is Give Murtha a Chance.”

After a year in which Democrats grew progressively more aggressive, nasty and hysterical about the war in Iraq and how it began, House Republicans decided their colleagues across the aisle should put their money where their mouths were. Just 36 hours after Murtha became an instant national icon, House Republicans put forward a resolution for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

“Immediate withdrawal” was the essence of the Murtha position, though Democrats screamed and yelled and hollered bitterly that Murtha’s own proposal was just so much more nuanced than that.

The House GOP gambit was a pivotal moment because, in the end, Democrats just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t bring themselves to embrace the logic of their own position. Only three of them — out of 202 — voted for immediate withdrawal.

Almost instantly, you could feel the nature of the debate shift, and the political crisis over Iraq start to quiet a bit. Presented with the irresponsible and defeatist option advocated by Murtha, even Murtha himself couldn’t cast a vote for it.

Suddenly, withdrawal was off the table.

Someone else we know is associated with this turnaround. Her clumsy delivery, and all the ridicule in the world, won’t change that.

UPDATE, Jan. 3, 2006: More Murtha off-the-rails remarks (including that he wouldn’t join today’s military) are noted by S.O.B. Alliance member Project Logic.



  1. It wasn’t until Murtha made his 2nd wacky remark that things turned around. All Schmidt accomplished was making him the victim for 3 weeks instead of the jester. It took a 2nd screwup from Murtha, thanks to Schmidt, for him to take his rightful place as Congressional jester.

    Comment by CincyJeff — December 28, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

  2. #1, CJ – Did it ever occur to you that Schmidt’s statement and the follow-up encouraged Murtha to go off the rails and dig his grave because they thought they had some kind of politicial advantage, when they really had none?

    Like JPo said (and this is from Jean Schmidt’s perspective): “Life is just chock full of delicious little ironies like this.”

    I’m not saying I like it or dislike it, it’s how I see that it has worked out.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 28, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

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