Memories of Murtha: Abscam

Robert Novak reminds us that Rep. Jack Murtha created quite a bit of controversy 26 years ago when he was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam investigation:

Jack Murtha proves there are second acts in American politics. I had forgotten that federal prosecutors designated him an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam investigation 26 years ago. I was reminded of it after Murtha became a candidate for majority leader, not by a Republican hit man but a Democratic former colleague in the House. In a long political career, Murtha has made bitter enemies inside his party who are alarmed by his new stature.

Murtha got into politics in 1968 as a 36-year-old highly decorated Marine and in 1974 became the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress. By 1980, Murtha was a lieutenant of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill and was moving to the top in the House when the FBI named him as one of eight members of Congress videotaped being offered bribes by a phony Arab sheik.

The other seven congressional targets took cash and were convicted in federal court. The videotape showed Murtha declining to take cash but expressing interest in further negotiations, while bragging about his political influence. Murtha testified against the popular Rep. Frank Thompson in the Abscam case, which created lifelong enemies in the Democratic cloakroom. The House Ethics Committee exonerated Murtha of misconduct charges by a largely party-line vote, after which the committee’s special counsel resigned in protest.

That salvaged Murtha’s political career but limited his public exposure. The current Almanac of American Politics says: “He speaks for attribution to few national or local reporters, hardly ever appears on television and rarely speaks in the House chamber.” That reticence has disappeared the last seven months, as he became one of the party’s most visible faces.

Since Murtha is a darling of the MSM, it’s no surprise that they refuse to publish this information about Murtha’s background, which has got to be fairly easy for them to find. Instead they only focus on his military record, which Murtha uses to intimidate those who disagree with him into silence:

Murtha now wears his heroic combat record like a suit of armor. In recent House debate over the Iraq war resolution, Murtha dominated the Democratic side — compensating for a lack of articulation with vehemence. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a freshman Republican from Texas, had the temerity to suggest that had Murtha “prevailed after the bloodbaths in Normandy and in the Pacific … we would be here speaking Japanese or German.” Murtha pounced on Gohmert, asking whether he had been in Normandy, Vietnam or Iraq as a combat solider. The Republican had not, and he meekly thanked Murtha for “all that he has done with the wounded.”

Murtha disqualifies adversaries who have not tasted combat, which includes the vast majority in the Congress. He repeats the comparison between civilian officials in “air-conditioned chambers” and soldiers carrying “70 pounds every day facing IEDs.” On “Meet the Press,” Murtha referred to presidential adviser Karl Rove “sitting in his air conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, ‘Stay the course!'”

It’s ridiculous to argue that if someone hasn’t been in the military, he can’t comment on military issues. Murtha sullies his military record when he uses it as a club.

Update: It seems Murtha has a habit of directing earmarks to relatives of Democrat congresspeople. Betsy Newmark comments:

Just think of how the media would be yelping if a Republican congressman who was a fervent supporter of the administration’s efforts in Iraq had these questions raised about steering earmarks to relatives of Democratic congressmen. You just know that, in those multitudinous appearances all over the media that Jack Murtha has been making, reporters would be asking him about these stories from the L.A. Times and Roll Call (no conservative lapdogs) if Murtha were a Republican. Instead, these questions never seem to arise. It is time for the media to stop giving Murtha a pass.

Indeed.

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