November 13, 2006

Murtha? Really?

I'm all for getting the United States out of Iraq, the sooner the better. And it's nice that an outspoken war opponent like Jack Murtha wants to become the House Majority Leader, it really is. But, you know, my antiwar heart isn't exactly swooning over statements like this one:
"The big problem in the Middle East is Iran," Murtha said. "We went to the wrong place."
That was less than a month ago. Maybe I'm misinterpreting him and he's not really saying that we ought to be attacking Iran instead, but it sure sounds like that. Murtha has, in the past, always planted both feet firmly in hawk territory, consistently voting yes on war and yes on outsized Pentagon budgets. More recently, a bunch of officers turned against the war in Iraq, so he turned against the war too. But his instincts are still very much militaristic. There's also his history of undermining Democrats, as seen in this New York Times profile :
As the top Democrat on the House military spending subcommittee, [Murtha] often delivers Democratic votes to Republican leaders in a tacit exchange for [defense] earmarks for himself and his allies.

In the last year, Democratic and Republican floor watchers say, Mr. Murtha has helped Republicans round up enough Democratic votes to narrowly block a host of Democratic proposals: to investigate federal contracting fraud in Iraq, to reform lobbying laws, to increase financing for flood control, to add $150 million for veterans’ health care and job training, and to exempt middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax.
So the House Majority Leader will either be Steny Hoyer, who plans to rekindle the long-lost love affair between the Democratic Party and corporate lobbyists, or Jack Murtha, whose foremost priority appears to be an expansion of the national-security state, at the expense of all else. Quite the choice!

Ezra Klein argues that liberals shouldn't worry too much about Murtha's conservative record—or his scandal-filled past—because he'll mostly take his marching orders from Nancy Pelosi. Ezra may be right, but that's not what the Times profile suggests. Now granted, many of Murtha's right-wing stances—say, his "F" rating from NARAL—while horrendous, might not matter much in practice, because Pelosi will set the domestic policy agenda in the House, not Murtha. But on national security, he likely would have inordinate influence, because of Pelosi's relative lack of experience there, and that, ironically, could be the most troublesome thing about him.
-- Brad Plumer 1:05 PM || ||