I can be as amused by a theatrical political stunt as the next guy. You want to call the Senate into closed session? Close down the government for a bit? Be my guest. (Although, as Newt Gingrich will testify, sometimes stunts can backfire.)
But then there are stunts that are so fundamentally dishonest that they make your skin crawl, and it’s hard to understand how even people who agree on the politics can ever excuse the tactics. We were just handed a classic example by House Republicans. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Democratic Representative John Murtha, an ex-Marine and noted hawk, recently came out in favor of withdrawal from Iraq. Originally a supporter of the war, Murtha gave an impassioned speech decrying the casualties and the lack of support for our troops within Iraq itself; see video of his speech at Crooks and Liars, read the text at firedoglake. He did not shy away from pointing out that many of the architects of the conflict had managed to avoid military service in their own day.
Here is the text of the resolution sponsored by Murtha:
Whereas, Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to “promote the emergence of a democratic government”;
Whereas, additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;
Whereas, more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;
Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;
Whereas, U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency,
Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80 percent of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;
Whereas, polls also indicate that 45 percent of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;
Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;
Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that:
Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.
Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Even if you weren’t in favor of the war originally, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you support withdrawal at this point. My own attitude is that we have completely turned Iraq upside down, and have some responsibility to help the country get back on its feet — maybe the way to do that is to remove our troops and let them sort things out for themselves, maybe it’s to stay in there and help out how we can. I honestly don’t know. But at least it’s worth some reasonable consideration, by people on either side of the issue.
House Republicans, needless to say, don’t agree. They were scared to death that a pro-war conservative Democrat would come out in favor of withdrawal, as they see poll numbers for the war plummeting. The last thing they want is an actual debate on the merits. But, rather than just ignoring the resolution, they resorted to an incredibly dishonest tactic: they had California Republican Duncan Hunter propose a new (and stupid) resolution calling for withdrawal, and then debated against it, referring to it repeatedly as “the Murtha resolution” or “the Democratic proposal.” A starkly blatant lie, meant only to discredit the Democrats as soft-headed and unpatriotic.
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
1 Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
Notice any differences between this one and the one Murtha actually proposed? No justification, “immediate” withdrawal instead of “earliest practicable date,” no talk of quick-reaction forces. It’s a farce, and Nancy Pelosi was exactly correct when she called it “a new low, even for them.”
Of course the GOP didn’t stop there; predictably, they launched an immediate ethics investigation against Murtha. If I were a principled conservative who believed in good faith that the invasion and subsequent nation-building exercise in Iraq was the best way to spread democracy and stability in the region, it would make me feel sick that these were the people representing my views in the government. As it is, I simply feel sick that these are the people running my country.
As one tiny footnote, thank goodness for blogs. Although the Murtha controversy is all over the media, nine stories out of ten are completely confused about what happened with the competing resolutions — it takes some work to find out that the resolution was proposed by Republican Hunter. (And would be nearly impossible to find the text of the resolutions if you relied on newspaper stories.) Who knows, maybe this particular cheap stunt actually had the desired effect.