Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean was angry about Republicans rejecting Congressman John Murtha’s call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Dean asked, “What did Murtha, a decorated combat veteran, do to draw fire from a White House led by a President and Vice President who evaded service in Vietnam?” Dean also griped that White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who attacked Murtha as a Michael Moore-fellow traveler, “has also never worn the uniform.” Dean, who never wore the uniform and in fact avoided the Vietnam War with a medical deferment, was wrong about Bush. As a member of the Texas Air National Guard, he volunteered to go to Vietnam as a pilot. That was one of those inconvenient facts that got left out of the 60 Minutes hatchet-job story on Bush’s National Guard service.
Another inconvenient fact?Dean’s medical deferment didn’t stop him from going skiing on the slopes of Vermont.
But the big story wasn’t the hypocrisy of Howard Dean but the lies?yes, the lies?of John Murtha, who became a media sensation for attacking the Iraq War.
On the ratings-challenged MSNBC Hardball show, it was expected that Democrat-partisan host Chris Matthews would give Murtha plenty of air time for moving from a hawk on the war to a dove. Tragically, Matthews wasn’t too well prepared for the exchange. Perhaps he didn’t think Murtha would lie.
On his website, Murtha had said his plan included the following provision: “To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.” But when he went on the Matthews show, he attacked the Republicans for offering a test resolution urging an immediate pullout. “This resolution they’re going to introduce today calls for immediate withdrawal,” Murtha said. “That’s not what anybody is saying.”
Murtha went on to say about the Republican resolution: “It’s ridiculous.” When Matthews asked Murtha what he meant by immediate redeployment of U.S. troops, Murtha was clear: “What I’m saying is redeploy them outside Iraq.” So he was, in fact, urging an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That was the basic form of the Republican resolution that was intended to copy his position and force an up-or-down vote on the issue.
But if Matthews had called Murtha a liar, Howard Dean might have pointed out that Matthews avoided the Vietnam War by enlisting in the Peace Corps and getting a draft deferment.
Murtha may be a great Congressman, veteran and former Marine, but he lied about the specific position he was taking. But he got away with it because the media like what he has to say. He compounded his deception by voting against the resolution that was based on his position.
Murtha’s behavior reminds us of Senator Joseph Biden, who repeatedly has urged the administration to “level with the American people” about Iraq policy. Biden should know; he was drummed out of the 1988 presidential race when he was caught plagiarizing from the speech of a British politician.