On Iraq, Murtha is the congressional leader most responsible for shifting the national conversation on the war. As a Marine, Vietnam War hero and longtime hawk who supported the invasion of Iraq, he shocked Washington last year with a call to begin withdrawing American troops from the increasingly chaotic quagmire. As Pelosi said in supporting Murtha, the announcement “changed the debate” on Iraq, with various Democrats, military leaders, media pundits and candidates soon following him.
Hoyer’s reaction to Murtha’s Iraq announcement was telling. He ran to the Washington Post, not to praise Murtha for his courageous leadership in shifting the debate on the most important national security issue in a generation, but instead to say Murtha’s announcement “could lead to disaster.” Days later, he tried to publicly humiliate Pelosi for supporting Murtha’s withdrawal idea, with the Post reporting that Hoyer “told colleagues that Pelosi’s recent endorsement of a [Murtha’s plan for] speedy withdrawal [from Iraq] combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party.”
Shades of disowning Lieberman all over again. You don’t toe the cut and run line on Iraq, and you’re on the outs with the party, pal!
Here’s another thing I found interesting about what Sirota wrote, and I figured it would happen eventually: Dems feeling like, with exit polls showing dissatisfaction with the way Iraq was being handled, people elected them in order to give them a mandate on cutting and running from Iraq. We know that’s not true, but they don’t. Case in point (emphasis added):
Exit polls showed that opposition to the war in Iraq was a major factor across the country on election day.
But after a mandate election like this year’s, Democrats do not have to settle. They have a rare opportunity to define themselves for the long-term on the crucial national security and economic issues key to changing our country and keeping control of Congress. They must find the courage to choose not a follower, but a majority leader. His name is Jack Murtha.
Got that? Sirota – and other Dems, no doubt- believes that the American people gave the Dems – who incidentally did not and do not have a plan for Iraq – a “mandate” to go forth with the Murtha wing’s “plan” of cutting and running from Iraq. They actually think that just because the American people said ‘we don’t like the direction the war is headed’ that that translates into: we want the Dems to withdraw within the year from Iraq rather than we hope you’ll be able to turn the war in a more positive direction! The arrogance of such a belief is astounding.
Jules Crittenden sums up all of this well:
Today offers the kind of spectacle that is a small consolation prize for a party out of power: the victors pummeling each other over the spoils. The election having been lost, today’s majority leadership race is a win-win.
If Pelosi and Murtha lose, and Steny Hoyer wins, that will mean … Pelosi has lost. Not a great kickoff to the speakership that a lot of people seem to assume is her license to lead President Bush around by the nose.
Then, we get to see if Bush is adept enough to exploit the gap. Hoyer, while his backers include Out of Iraqis, has at least publicly recognized an unprincipled and precipitous withdrawal would be a “disaster.”
Sit back and enjoy. As political theater, it promises to be a great show. And I want to be enthusiastic about it.
There’s just one thing.
It isn’t theater. Lives hang in the balance. Possibly thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. None of what I’ve described above, if you care about the future of America and American values in the world, is much good. All of it carries the threat of grave consequences.
We’ve entered strange territory since last week’s election. We are waiting to see where power will reside and how it will be exercised. What vision will emerge and whether it has a prayer. We can only pray our leaders summon up the will to push forward a robust plan to destroy the militias and stabilize Iraq. But it may be that the best we can hope for is a bloody holding action at the White House and, along the 2008 election track, a Democratic leadership trainwreck.