Today's Blogs

The Meaning of Murtha

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha called for a military withdrawal from Iraq; bloggers debate the significance of the statement. They also discuss protracted House fights over spending and continue to speculate about the recent revelation that Bob Woodward figures in the first act of the CIA leak scandal.

The meaning of Murtha: Rep. John Murtha called for a near-term military withdrawal from Iraq yesterday, suggesting that the presence of American troops in that country is fostering, rather than impeding, the resilient insurgency. 

“[A]s I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift,” writes Rod Dreher at National Review Online’s conservative scrum The Corner. “Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he’s a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. … If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to … then the president is in big trouble.”

Many on the left hope he’s right. Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum thinks the speech might be a tipping point. “Pressure is going to mount on the White House to use the December elections as an excuse to declare victory and go home,” he writes. “I also think the Rove/Cheney/Bush counterattack is going to backfire.” An effective strategy for Bush, suggests the American Prospect’s Matthew Yglesias, would be to actually follow Murtha’s advice. The congressman “points in the best direction for framing this in a politically viable way,” he writes at TAPPED. “The point that the military has accomplished the missions laid out for it at the beginning of the war is a key one.”

Nevertheless, many on the right remain unequivocal on the prosecution of the war. “Cutting and running is surrender, no matter who proposes it,” argues conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters. Morrissey abhors the politics of personality that he believes has brought Murtha center-stage. “I don’t care if Murtha has a chest full of medals – telling the national media that American troops can’t handle Islamofascist terrorists and must be withdrawn from their range of action is cowardice,” he writes.

Plenty of others are puzzled that the speech was front-page news. At InstaPundit, libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds points to a similar statement made by Murtha in 2004 and wonders why the speech is being described as turnabout. Conservative Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft tracks Murtha’s opposition to the war back to 2002.

Slate’s Mickey Kaus also thinks the beltway turbulence is much ado about nothing. “The press is pretending to be surprised by Murtha’s views … even though he’s been a known, public Iraq War skeptic since at least a year and a half ago,” he writes. “I’m ready to be convinced that U.S. troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq, but Murtha’s speech is not convincing. He doesn’t even try very hard. He seems primarily concerned with the health of our soldiers … and the military sector as a whole, which is fine. But there are also the Iraqis to worry about, not to mention the larger cause of democracy in the region.”  

Read more about John Murtha.

Spending compromise: House Republicans narrowly passed a five-year budget today after courting moderates in their own party by abandoning several unpopular programs favored by the Bush White House. The measure, which will reduce federal expenditures by $50 billion, passed 217 to 215. The Republican victory was seen as a rebound from the surprising bipartisan defeat Thursday of a larger planned budget cut that focused on health care and education programs.  

“I can understand why it was so difficult for the House to cut $50 billion; it is increasingly difficult to find programs that benefit the poor at all, let alone find ways to cut spending on them,” jokes Andrew Donaldson at Salonblog Bread and Circuses. “But if these cuts were extremely regressive in nature–and they are–they are also insignificant in the grand scheme of an overall budget of over $12.5 trillion over the next five years.”

Others say the vote is ideologically illuminating, reflecting more than a healthy congressional appetite for pork. Conservative Ace of Spades HQ notes that every Democrat voted against the bill. “Although a lot of fiscal conservatives damn the Republicans (as I’ve done), it’s important to remember that the Republicans may be bad, but the Democrats are worse,” he says.

Many on the left, however, see triumph in the Democratic unanimity. “Standing together, Democrats can stand for up for America,” proclaimsOliver Willis of Media Matters. “It’s painful they’ve taken too long to get here, but at least it seems like they’re there.” At Political Dissonance, beltway optimist Josh Craft agrees, kind of. “The Democratic moves in Congress do not resemble a plan for the future,” he writes. “But having the backbone in other areas shows perhaps that they are ready to do so.”

Read more about the spending bill.

What about Bob?: Veteran journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post revealed Wednesday that an administration official leaked him the identity of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame in mid-June 2003. That leak predates the leak attributed to Scooter Libby; the revelation has bloggers startled.

Blog magnate Arianna Huffington has 15 questions for Woodward. At conservative syndicate Power Line, Paul Mirengoff offers some hypothetical answers. “Woodward’s basic argument that Fitzgerald pushed the Plame case too hard represents the position taken by the MSM in court briefs at the time reporters were facing prison sentences for not cooperating. But the MSM has abandoned that view, and many of its members now deplore Woodward, in part, for not having ‘moved on’ as well,” he writes.

At Talking Points Memo, liberal Joshua Micah Marshall retires the notion that Woodward’s revelation exonerates Scooter Libby. So who was Woodward’s source? Eric Umansky puts 10 bucks on Dick Armitage; in a review of relevant speculation, David Corn of the Nation also singles out Armitage as the likeliest suspect.

Read more about the Woodward revelation.

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