Tuesday, July 17, 2007

They Love Him, They Hate Him, They Can't Editorialize Without Him

Across America, John Murtha is a symbol of opposition to President Bush's Iraq policy. Here in southwestern Pennsylvania, particularly in his Johnstown-centered district, Murtha's reputation as the most shameless sort of pork-grubbing, earmarking Congressman is the stuff of legends. It's always interesting to see how the major papers in the Pittsburgh market respond to Murtha's words and actions, considering that we have a Democrat-leaning paper (the Post-Gazette) and a paper that favors a much more conservative approach to politics (the Tribune-Review). You'd think that the P-G would love Murtha, and that the Trib must loathe everything about the man.

You would, of course, be mistaken, as I have mentioned in these pages before: while the PG does indeed proudly support Murtha, the Trib is the gal who wants to dance the night away with the "Big Man". It's interesting to see, then, that the legendary Mr. Murtha has prompted an editorial in each of the two papers over the last three days, and our assumptions do indeed make an "ass" of "u" and "me", as the saying goes.

The Trib turned away from supporting the war effort several months ago, apparently under the influence of Murtha. Each editorial on the war sound like it could have been penned by John Murtha. Here's one from Sunday, July 15:

Perhaps Jack Murtha put it best: The Pennsylvania congressman, among the first to make the cogent argument that staying the course in Iraq was the exercise in futility that indeed the war has become, says President Bush is delusional.

Based on the president's recent performance, we could not agree more. "Staying the course" is not simply futile -- it is a prescription for American suicide.

We've urged for months to bring our troops home. Now is the time.

"Progress" has become such a nuanced, parsed and tortured term that it no longer has meaning.

The "fledgling" Iraqi government -- how long can it reasonably be called that? -- consistently has not stepped up to the plate.

President Bush warns that U.S. withdrawal would risk "mass killings on a horrific scale." What do we have today, sir?

And quite frankly, during last Thursday's news conference, when George Bush started blathering about "sometimes the decisions you make and the consequences don't enable you to be loved," we had to question his mental stability.

If the president won't do the right thing and end this war, the people must. The House has voted to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April. The Senate must follow suit.

Our brave troops should take great pride that they rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. And they should have no shame in leaving Iraq. For it will not be, in any way, an exercise in tail-tucking and running.

America has done its job.

It's time for the Iraqis to do theirs.

On the subject of the Bush Administration, I have long felt that the left has been too hard on the President, and the right has been far too easy on him. At no time did I ever consider questioning "his mental stability", as the Trib does at Murtha's behest. Is John Murtha qualified to make such a diagnosis? Can someone clarify this for me? Is there a professional psychologist in the house?

Fortunately, the Trib's readers tend to be more independent thinkers. A couple of letters in today's paper properly smack down the defeatitorialist. First, from a gentleman in Apollo, Washington County:

"Our job is done" in Iraq, you state in your Sunday editorial ("The war in Iraq," July 15 and PghTrib.com). You could not be more wrong. The question of whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place is moot and left to history. We invaded, then destroyed and disbanded both their government and their army.

We have a moral obligation to remain in Iraq until both the government and the living environment are once again stable. I do blame Bush for not adequately articulating this responsibility to the American people, because we instinctively understand it. Reagan's talent was not just his steadfastness in conservative principles, but his ability to communicate those principles to the people.

We made many mistakes after the fall of Saddam, the first of which was trying to organize a "democracy" from the top down. We should have started with the cities, tribal leaders and local governments, then the provinces. Only after those governments were working should we have worried about a central government.

But that's done now. We must correct what we can and make it work as best as we can.

The other issue is al-Qaida. It is also moot whether its members were in Iraq before the invasion. They are there now, keeping the insurgency going.

When things quiet down, they will blow up a Shiite mosque in a Sunni neighborhood or behead some Sunnis in a Shiite neighborhood. And things will get roiling again.

They know the media will beat up Bush with every act of violence and they are convinced that the American people don't have the stomach for a protracted fight. Judging from the position in your editorial, al-Qaida
may just be right.

More's the pity.

The people reading the paper make more sense than the people getting paid to write the paper. Here's another astute Trib reader, this one from Export in Westmoreland County:

How jarring it was to read your defeatist lead editorial praising Congressman John Murtha's cut-and-run policy after reading John Watson's dead-on letter wanting to unleash the military ("War politics," Letters, July 15 and PghTrib.com).
Whatever the congressman says regarding the war is only for political gain. He's shown that he is more than willing to bash our troops to win a leadership position.

Is there a true American who believes we can't win this war? I'm not talking about the war as we're fighting it now, but an all out FDR-style war where we round up our enemies both here and abroad and carpet-bomb whole cities. Whatever al-Qaida does to us we have to return 10-fold.

No doubt most reading this will be appalled at these suggestions, but why? It's called war and it's how you win. We celebrate Gen. Sherman's march to the sea during the Civil War because it helped end the war. President Truman ended World War II with the same resolve. Except for the Cold War, have we ever won a war by playing fair against a murderous enemy?

Although Democrats and the media ruthlessly attack President Bush for even the appearance of aggression toward our enemies, the president must take full blame for tying the hands of our military with rules of engagement, which certainly brings joy to Islamofacists. Until the president unleashes the full might of our military we will be saddled with this war -- and not just Iraq.

President Bush is the most hated man in the world and the U.S. is the most hated country. Nothing will change this. What have we got to lose? Win this darn war!

I like to call that kind of thinking "going Viking", and it's a better strategy than either "stay the course" or "cut and run". It's a realistic look at a viable option. Don't expect that from the editorialists of either the Trib or the Post-Gazette. Speaking of which...

Today's P-G editorial takes umbrage with the other side of John Murtha: the typical tax, spend and waste Democrat. The P-G rarely has issues with the left side of the aisle in Congress, but it does like to think of itself as an advocate of fiscal responsibility. The Democrat Congress, we are told, promised to do away with wasteful spending. They have not. Guess who is held forth as a leading example of waste?

One Democrat who knows how to work the system is Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown. A report in Sunday's Post-Gazette by Washington correspondent Jerome L. Sherman showed how Mr. Murtha, now in his 17th term and chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, has become a master at delivering military and other contracts to his district. Some of the spending brings jobs, while some of the job promises fall short. Sometimes old friends benefit from the work -- friends and contacts who contribute to the Murtha campaign war

While we have praised the Marine reservist for speaking out against the Iraq war, it's hard to heap accolades on someone who is not using his stature to reduce the number of earmarks and make the process transparent.

Dig deep enough, and even the Post-Gazette finds something to criticize Murtha for. The best way to battle Murtha politically may not be to stress his Iraq war opposition, but to challenge him on his penchant for pork. What resonates louder with the locals: "Peace in our time", or "big money comes into the district and goes right into Murtha's coffers"? The jobs in Johnstown come and go, but Murtha remains. That needs to end in 2008.

Just don't expect any help from the big market media in Pittsburgh.