Olbermann: Funny, how when Trent Lott defeated Lamar Alexander by one vote for the Senate minority leadership yesterday, it was characterized in the media as a remarkable comeback story, with the random kidding reference to that ironical word “minority.” But when Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha both stood for the House majority leadership today, that was characterized in the media as Democratic infighting, with frequent implications that the Dems were already coming apart at the seams.
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As a result, largely lost in today‘s coverage, that in selecting Pelosi today, the Democrats have elected the nation‘s first female speaker of the House, and that as a reward for having taken a stand against the war in Iraq before taking such a stand was the cool thing to do, Mr. Murtha will chair the powerful defense subcommittee charged with setting the budget for the war in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Do the Democrats view this as some great internal rift that‘s going to last forever? Or is there more story than fact here?
SHUSTER: I‘d say the latter. I mean, we can‘t find a single Democrat tonight who says that there is any lasting impact. They are saying that, yes, there were some strongarm tactics, perhaps even a little bit of backstabbing. But the damage does not appear to be permanent at all.
I mean, Nancy Pelosi‘s being given a lot of credit for taking a risk, for showing loyalty to John Murtha. Murtha got what he wanted. He had never run for the leadership before, but he wanted to run, and he got Nancy Pelosi‘s support.
And then you look at Steny Hoyer throughout all of this. Hoyer was telling colleagues he understood why Nancy Pelosi was doing this. He didn‘t have a problem with it, because he felt he had the votes. And again tonight, Hoyer is the one who‘s telling everybody there should be no lasting impact, this is over, we move forward.
OLBERMANN: Why did the Democrats choose Hoyer over Murtha? Was there possibly a concern that, should it have been Mr. Murtha on the winning side, that the media might have been relentless in reexamining alleged ethics violations from his past?
SHUSTER: No, not at all, especially when you consider that Hoyer has his own ties to lobbyists. In the end, because Steny Hoyer had gone through the leadership ranks, he had a lot of chips that he had accumulated. He had worked for the freshmen. A lot of people owed him favors. Whereas Jack Murtha simply wanted to run, to run on the issue of Iraq.
And in the end, a lot of Democrats said tonight they felt that even though Jack Murtha might have a slight advantage in negotiating with the White House over Iraq than Steny Hoyer, the advantage was not so significant that it was worth pushing aside all of the favors that Steny Hoyer had built up, and the fact that Steny Hoyer is much more in line with most Democrats when it comes to fiscal policy and social issues.
And so in the end, it was just a feeling of, We know Steny Hoyer as a leader, we‘ve worked with him before as a leader. Jack Murtha‘s something of a known unquantity (ph) in this position. We‘re still going to keep Jack Murtha as the voice of Iraq, but he‘s just not going to have this position.
OLBERMANN: And the assessment within the Democratic Party? Is Congressman Murtha really being shortchanged regarding his contributions to the Democrats‘ victory? I mean, it could be argued that as Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, he‘ll actually have more influence about what happens next in Iraq than he would have been as majority leader.
SHUSTER: Yes, he‘s not being shortchanged at all. I mean, first and foremost, he was able to run, he got the green light to run from Nancy Pelosi. He is now extremely loyal to Nancy Pelosi, if there was any doubt.
The Democrats have agreed that Jack Murtha should continue to be their leading voice as far as pressuring the Bush administration to get out of Iraq. And furthermore, Steny Hoyer has been praising Jack Murtha, and their relationship already appears to have been fixed.
Yes, this was not a great day for Nancy Pelosi to lose one, but everyone says that if you look at this in the big picture, Jack Murtha will continue to speak out on Iraq and be a leading voice. Steny Hoyer has the loyalty of his supporters. And Nancy Pelosi is now seen as somebody who is willing to take a risk and willing to put the focus on getting out of Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Now, and clearly it was not her first choice, but on the other hand, she gets maybe something close to the best of all possible worlds for herself here. I mean, she thanks Mr. Murtha for making the victory possible at the elections. She—the caucus gets what it wants. She does not seem to be iron-handed. Is that, I mean, does that—this might work out as a total plus in the end for the Democrats?
SHUSTER: Yes, and when you ask Democrats about the big picture, they believe that in the big picture, this is just a blip, that this is not going to be such a big defeat for Nancy Pelosi, even though anytime a speaker goes in and loses one, obviously, that‘s something of an embarrassment.
But in the big picture, she has pleased John Murtha with her support for him. Murtha‘s pleased because he was able to get his election out there. Steny Hoyer was pleased because he felt that even though there were some strongarm tactic, he understood that Nancy Pelosi was showing loyalty, Hoyer still won. He‘s telling everybody, Don‘t worry about this.
And so in a way, in the end, I mean, all the Democrats are walking away from this united. They‘re moving forward. And a lot of them feel that this has been certainly overplayed by many people who‘ve been covering this.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC‘s David Shuster in Washington. David, as always, great thanks.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.