As you all know, I think Jack Murtha changed the narrative about the war in Iraq. When he spoke out, it shocked the nation and the Bush administration in his clarity and sincerity almost a year ago. He stepped up and articulated a clear vision of what we needed to do and admitted that he made a mistake with his vote. He went through the terrible swiftboating from the right for months and yet came out of it still breathing fire on the terrible situation in Iraq.
I know that he's from a very conservative district when it comes to social values, but I was able to talk to him for a few minutes Tuesday and he made it clear that his focus is on Iraq and he'll leave the rest up to Nancy Pelosi. I take him at his word. Jerome is reporting that Murtha has the lead in the voting at this point after Hoyer's crew went on a media blitz the last few days, but we'll know soon.
I do feel this election was a referendum on the Iraq war and the people deserve the face that speaks to their votes. Matt Stoller is on the same page.
Over the past five days, I've become both more positive on Murtha as majority leader and more convinced that this vote does matter. I can't effectively speak to the politics or the records of both men, and I'm not super-comfortable with our Democratic leaders, as you may have noticed. But the American people delivered a mandate on Iraq. And on that issue, Steny Hoyer just has no credibility, whereas Jack Murtha is a voice and a leader. We owe Murtha as much as anyone for our Democratic majorities. The public voted for change in Iraq. Only Jack Murtha represents that change...read on
But let's not pretend that Murtha isn't damaged, if not legally, then by the perception of corruption during the ABSCAM mess. And Murtha is an epic pork king, giving the likes of Bob Byrd and Ted Stevens a run for their money. Which is why I've sat this race out.
But the Pelosi-led House, including Murtha, has an expressed commitment to tackling corruption and reforming the earmarks process. So we'll have a chance to judge Murtha and other Democrats less by their history, and more by whether they take advantage of their newfound majority to fix the system.
Just as I was about to put this piece to bed, a friend in Oregon sent me a note from ex-Congressman Les AuCoin-- a man of impeccable progressive credentials. Let me share them with you:
Hoyer and his aides have consistently worked to undercut Nancy Pelosi since she defeated him to become minority leader. Now Nancy is backing Jack Murtha over Hoyer, the current Democratic whip. Why would a shrewd operater like Nancy take such a risk before even being sworn in as speaker? Simple: She thinks Hoyer, as majority leader, will work as hard to cut her throat as to perform his duties.
I read the NYT hit piece on Murtha. (W)rap your fish in it. I was an outspoken defense liberal when I was in Congress and Murtha was a hawk. But we trusted each other and worked beautifully together. Jack is tolerant of opposing views and would take the same approach as majority leader.
I had a friendly relationship with Hoyer, too, but all you need to know about Steny's politics you'll find in David Sirota's book, Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Captured Government--and How You Can take it Back. Better yet, go to Sirota's blog. He's a K Street Democrat.
We don't need K Street Democrats as part(y) leaders, we need progressive populists.
Them's my views.