Gist of it all? Evidently Murtha did the ultimate "no no" by not more fully consulting/yielding to his peers.
The story of Murtha's star-crossed plan illustrates the Democratic Party's deep divisions over the Iraq war and how the new House majority has yet to establish firm control over Congress. From the beginning, Murtha acted on his own to craft a complicated legislative strategy on the war, without consulting fellow Democrats. When he chose to roll out the details on a liberal, antiwar Web site on Feb. 15, he caught even Pelosi by surprise while infuriating Democrats from conservative districts.
Then for an entire week, as members of Congress returned home for a recess, Murtha refused to speak further. Democratic leaders failed to step into the vacuum, and Republicans relentlessly attacked a plan they called a strategy to slowly bleed the war of troops and funds. By the end of the recess, Murtha's once promising strategy was in tatters.
First of all, I don't think Murtha's strategy was *ever* "promising" because a voting public would never stand for a slow stranglehold on troop needs.
But what is more revealing: Murtha had the audacity to exhibit a character flaw all too reminiscent of the Dems complaint about the Bush WH... that the CIC never "listened" to Congress.
Personally I think they have a problem distinguishing between "listening" and "obeying", myself. Bush listened, and decided they were wrong. Simple as that. It is the option of any CIC. But in the eyes of the arrogant Dem leadership, not "obeying" is the same as not "listening".
But back to Murtha not "listening" to the new Dem powerhouses...
Murtha, 74, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, still holds a unique position on war policy, stemming from his roots as a veteran, his close ties to the uniformed military and his long-standing alliance with Pelosi. When he first publicly called for ending the war in 2005, he commanded the attention the party's left and right wings.
The strategy he would craft was designed to calm the nerves of the party's conservatives by fully funding the war, while placating the antiwar left by attaching so many strings to those funds that the president would not be able to deploy all the 21,500 additional combat troops he wanted.
To be sent to battle, troops would have to have had a year's rest between combat tours. Soldiers in Iraq could not have their tours extended beyond a year there. And the Pentagon's "stop-loss" policy, which prevents some officers from leaving the military when their service obligations are up, would end. Troops would have to be trained in counterinsurgency and urban warfare and be sent overseas with the equipment they used in training.
Pelosi endorsed the plan in concept but never the details. The plan surfaced Feb. 15 in an unorthodox Murtha appearance on MoveCongress.org, an antiwar Web site affiliated with the liberal activists of MoveOn.org.
It came the day before the House voted on a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush's additional troop deployments that Democratic leaders had been touting as a major rebuke. Murtha dismissed that vote as he promoted his coming plans regarding the war spending bill. "This vote will be the most important vote in changing the direction on this war," he said of his proposal. "This vote will limit the options of the president and should stop the surge."
To many Democrats, that was not only impolitic, it was disloyal.
"He stepped all over Speaker Pelosi's message of support for the troops," said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.). "That was not team play, to put it mildly."
DOH! Murtha out of favor already for "stepping all over Speaker Pelosi's message"?
Personally, I don't believe it was the messenger, but the message itself that really put this strategy out of play. Too many of the moderate left recognize this strategy as not only dangerous to the troops, but a future demise of Dem control - as happened after their Congressional orchestration of defeat in Vietnam.
UPDATE FEB 26th, 2007
Speaking of Congressional orchestration of defeat, at least Carl Levin admits the Dems' Vietnam policy games, using the troops as their sacrificial pawns. One of his many statements on Meet the Press yesterday included:
"We are not going to repeat the mistake of Vietnam where we took out on the troops our differences of policy with the administration."
Hummm... that, Mr. Levin, remains to be seen. There's always tomorrow, and the resurrection of Murtha's plan.
But scapegoats in politics are good. And for now, the heretofore highly touted warrior, Murtha, will be the Dems' sacrificial lamb for a far left turn in strategy crafted solely to thwart a sitting CIC's control over military performance. A strategy that resulted in a utter fatality before even hitting the floor of the Capitol dome.
But do set aside the flawed wisdom of playing politics with troop supplies for the moment. There's another lesson to the Dems not sitting at the top of the food chain... tiptoe around Nancy, or else.