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Monday, November 21, 2005

Murtha Leads the Pack, Republicans Misfire, Again.

It seems the gloves have come off in Washington. Last week we saw for the first time the emergence of a hard opposition stance to the Iraq war, led mainly by Rep. Jack Murtha. Murtha, a Vietnam vet, multiple award recipient and long time member of Congress, very emotionally made his thoughts known to the public. The Republicans, reeling after Murtha's public call for withdrawal, mounted an attack on his integrity and service, much akin to what the Swiftboat Veterans did to John Kerry in 2004. This time, though, it backfired terribly. The White House had to pull back from its accusation that Murtha was along the same lines as Michael Moore, that he was unpatriotic, and the most ridiculous notion that he was a coward (offered by a punk of a freshman Representative, Ohio's Jean Schmidt. She was later forced to apologize for asinine comment). Those attempts by the White House and other Republicans to undermine Murtha's call backfired. Somewhere along the lines the Republican attack machine forgot about Murtha's military credentials and that he has always been a firm supporter of the military. His public outcry was a lot more resounding and more credible than any press conference or release given by the White House. The White House attempt to morph criticism and debate into unpatriotic and cowardly behavior did not work, mainly because, of all people, Murtha is not unpatriotic or a coward. It also did not help that the ones lounging these shameful statements had never worn the uniform and served, or even bled for their country. For them to level accusations at one of the most respected members of Congress is like Al Capone lecturing on taxes.

Friday night, the House of Representatives held a late night session in which they debated a resolution to withdraw troops immediately. It is important to point out that it was not the one pushed by Murtha. It was a Republican resolution that the Republican led House introduced. Murtha's was more elaborate and better crafted to redeploy the military outside Iraq in areas that it could keep a measured eye on the situation in Iraq, among other things. The Republican resolution was very reckless in the sense that it demanded an immediate withdrawal without a real exit strategy. It was defeated 403-3, not that it was a surprising outcome. What this debate served to do was to clearly outline the division in Congress over the war. The lines have been drawn and people are taking sides.

In an unprecedented act, Washington attacked the White House and President Bush while he was on foreign soil, usually something not done until the President is back in the country. From the other side of the world, President Bush ducked and avoided questions that trailed him his entire 8 day trip. Presidents will often go abroad amid heavy turmoil in Washington in an effort to stay away from the heat. This time it did not work. In fact, so heated was the Q&A that in one memorable instance, President Bush tried to escape a question by exiting the press conference to his right only to find himself trying to open a locked door. He then turned to face the flash bulbs and flashed his trademark smirk, and exited through the back as smoothly as possible (but hardly successful, as it has been broadcast all over the world). The mishap was reminiscent of how Bush feels right now, trying to duck attacks coming from everywhere only to find locked doors where they used to be open. It is really funny to watch on TV, but it is sad to see that the President is being reduced to a laughing stock and is dangerously close to becoming a second term lame duck. Whereas the White House used to be a well-oiled machine when it came to PR skills and the handling of critics, it has now come apart at the seams. They miscalculate fairly often, i.e. the attacks on Murtha, and sending the most disliked politician in the country to attack war critics (Dick Cheney). The White House soon realized its mistake with Murtha and tried to pull back from attacking, but the damage was already done. Cheney is still out there speaking his gibberish. Their confidence is shaken, in fact so shaken that unless they make some drastic staff changes, I believe they will not recover. Time will tell, but it will be soon enough.

US House votes down troop withdrawal, but war divisions widen
House defeats Iraq pullout in Republican tactic
Fineman: Iraq Debate Reaches a Turning Point

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