November 18, 2005

Who Is John Murtha?

Hatched by Dafydd

The fact that a man steps up, joins the Marines, and does his duty in Korea (one year) and Vietnam (one year) makes him a brave, resourceful, and responsible citizen.

It doesn't necessarily make him bright.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has a BA in economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania -- a minor degree from a minor university. He went into politics at age 36 and has been there ever since (he's 73 now). His seat appears to be totally safe: Wikipedia says his only two close electoral calls were both in primaries; he took the seat from the Republicans in 1974, but that was in the depths of Watergate... since then, it has been a totally safe Democratic seat.

Although he has been in Congress for thirty-one years, his highest rank has been chair/ranking member of an appropriations subcommittee; that is, his subcommittee votes on spending bills. He has never been in the House leadership, minority or majority.

For all of John Murtha's website boasts about his "first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues" that made him "a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties and one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in Washington," I don't see anything in his background that would mark him as particularly knowledgeable about high-level strategy: he seems never to have commanded any unit larger than a company; he doesn't claim to have been through the Naval War College; he has never been Secretary of Defense or a service secretary.

There are twenty-nine Democrats who are members of the House Armed Services Committee (including Loretta Sanchez and Cynthia McKinney), but John Murtha is not one of them.

John Murtha appears to be a reasonably well-respected back bencher, one of the innumerable nomenklatura that litter the halls of the Capitol.

His attack on Dick Cheney as a chickenhawk is fascinating from a psychological standpoint: it seems excessively defensive. In reality, Cheney has had a much more successful career at virtually every level, and in particular in military matters: he was White House Chief of Staff to Gerald Ford at age 34 (the youngest in history); in the House of Reps, he was chairman of the Republican Conference and then Minority Whip (same position as Tom DeLay, except the Republicans were then in the minority).

As Secretary of Defense under Bush-41, Cheney actually sat in the War Room in the Pentagon with the top flag officers, planning strategy for Operation Just Cause (Panama) and Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait). Murtha, of course, has never done this. In fact, Murtha never served in any administration, so he has no strategic command experience in any way or form.

During the Clinton years, Cheney headed one of the largest companies in the world, Halliburton (currently ranked 654th in the world on the Forbes 2000), market cap around $20 billion, revenues about $20 billion, nearly 100,000 employees under Cheney's management; Halliburton is primarily an energy-construction company, but they do a lot of military contracting... so Cheney saw that side of military strategy as well. And he has now been vice president for five years, intimately involved at every stage with both the Commander in Chief and the current SecDef, his old boss, Don Rumsfeld, during two significant wars and scores of U.S. military involvements around the world.

Murtha is not privy to any highly classified intelligence; Cheney of course sees virtually all of it.

Yes, true: Dick Cheney signed up for a draft reclassification to 3-A (married with children) in 1965, and he was not drafted into Vietnam. He was already twenty-four at the time, just two years from likely not being draftable anyway. BFD.

John Murtha's background -- even in military matters -- doesn't begin to approach Cheney's, and Murtha knows it. The fact that he spent two or three years on active duty (and thirty-five years in the reserves) doesn't alter that essential fact: Murtha has never had any experience with, let alone responsibility for, military strategy... he simply did what he was ordered to do, first as an enlisted Marine, then as a Captain. This is honorable, but it is not a qualification for passing judgment on the strategic progress of a war.

Rep. John Murtha has no qualification to judge whether a war is "unwinnable" or should be abandoned. Dick Cheney does. End of story.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 18, 2005, at the time of 5:01 AM

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The following hissed in response by: wfgn

As a green cars holder and future US citizen, I find blogs like yours most useful to help me understand American politics. Thank you.

The above hissed in response by: wfgn [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 6:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: john.cunningham

I thought Murtha's "chickenhawk" rant at Cheney was especially low and disgusting. No sign that Murtha is going to direct similar rants at Pelosi, Boxer, Bill or Hillary Clinton, none of whom served in the military. on Hugh Hewitt's show last night, an Army officer just back from Iraq noted that if Murtha's standard was accepted, then Murtha has to shut up about Iraq, since he has not served there. Only those who have served in Iraq would be allowed to opine, if Murtha's standard were followed. A couple of years service at low ranks does not make anyone a miltary expert.

The above hissed in response by: john.cunningham [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 6:54 AM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

There are some people--you might have one in your family--that need a little help to stay on the rails of sanity. If you let them push the throttle to where they'd like to, on their own, they'll very likely derail on the next curve. I think maybe ... one of Murtha's supervisors missed work this week.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 7:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tim Kyger

Years ago now -- '90 through '95 -- John Murtha was *the* Democrat who kept the DC-X program going and funded. FWIW.

I think he's dead wrong on his call to cut and run. But I nevertheless respect him immensely.

But he is nevertheless wrong.

In any case, he did his country (and dare I say Humanity?) a great good deed with his fighting to keep the DC-X program funded, which was a piddling-ass amount of money, for something that he actually believed in, and for which his district got nothing directly of any sort. He did it for his Country.

The above hissed in response by: Tim Kyger [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 9:23 AM

The following hissed in response by: senorlechero

If Murtha was a Republican the MSM would be digging through old Marine Reserve records to make sure he showed up for work each and every time he should have. You know, in 35 years of Reserve Duty they would probably find enough skipped weekends to brand him a deserter

The above hissed in response by: senorlechero [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 10:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Tim Kyger:

It is interesting how complex people can be. John Glenn served as a fighter pilot in both Korea and World War II; he was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth.

But he finished out his career desperately trying to run out the clock in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee so that time would expire, and it would not be able to determine whether massive infusions of campaign cash (millions of dollars) from Red China influenced the Clinton administration to change American foreign policy in ways favorable to China -- and bad for American national security.

In other words, Glenn's long, distinguished career and his patriotism just flew out the window when the Clinton tar-baby reached out and touched him. (He was of course also one of the Keating Five, but that didn't involve national security.)

People change, and not always for the better.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 1:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: Tim Kyger

Good point with respect to Glenn. Glenn did it, of course, to get another space flight. *sigh*

The above hissed in response by: Tim Kyger [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 1:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Dafydd, you'll enjoy the news release at The Republican leadership is bringing the Murtha resolution up for a vote. I gotta find me one of those crystal balls like you use.

Great info on Murtha. I've excerpted and linked from my "Hawkish" Dem: Time To Cut And Run post.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 2:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Tim Kyger:

Glenn did it, of course, to get another space flight.

Tim, I can't believe I actually forgot about that tawdry aspect of it. I think I found it so profoundly disturbing that I blocked it from my memory.

Bill Faith:

Hey, check out Denny Hastert Finds a Spine!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 3:40 PM

The following hissed in response by: Smitty

Murtha is the Left wingers Cindy Sheehan for this quarter.

Look for Maureen Dowd to write a column saying he has the moral authority to make war policy etc.

He'll be designated the Peace Congressman.

Look for Camp Murtha in Crawford, TX later this year.


The above hissed in response by: Smitty [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 8:18 PM

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