What's the Deal With John Murtha?

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat calling for an end to U.S. troops being deployed in Iraq has long been critical of the war. His comments yesterday, though, took that dissent to a new level:

“It is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering; the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region.”

Murtha came close to calling Iraq a lost cause last year, before the election. At a press conference with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, he said of the war, “The direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable."

Republicans immediately said Murtha had been co-opted by Pelosi. She staged the event as part of her “movement,” charged California Republican congressman Jerry Lewis, "because it could have an impact on election time." The Democrats, said Texas Republican Michael Burgess, are "basically giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

At that press conference, Pelosi said she wanted to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but Murtha--a Vietnam veteran--wanted to keep him. And Murtha did not argue for actual withdrawal then, but rather that more troops and supplies be sent. For him, the final goal was looking more and more unreachable. "It would be devastating to pull out now, but it may be impossible to mobilize now that the public has turned against it," he said.

So who is this Murtha guy, anyway?

With the help of The Almanac of American Politics 2006, here are a few biographical details:

  • Born: June 17,1932,West Martinsville, West Virginia
  • Home: Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  • University: University of Pittsburgh
  • Religion: Catholic
  • Marital status: Married
  • Business: Owner of Johnstown Minute Car Wash, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  • Military: Marine colonel with a bronze star and two purple hearts, combat in Vietnam. Retired from Marine Corps Reserves in 1990 after 37 years of service
  • House of Representatives: First Vietnam veteran elected to the House, in 1974.
  • Second most powerful Democrat on House Defense Appropriations Committee, one of the most important positions in Congress because it votes military spending up or down.
  • Recent election results: Was unopposed in 2004; won 73 percent-27 percent in 2002
  • Constituency: Mostly Democratic steel heartland of Pennsylvania
  • Congressional success: Spearheading drive to have Nancy Pelosi elected House Democratic majority leader.
  • National politics: Supported Howard Dean for National Democratic Party chairman

  • Murtha has staked out a few key positions in the House:

  • For first Iraq war
  • For use of force in Iraq, 2002
  • Against using troops in Bosnia
  • Against using troops in Somalia
  • For re-instatement of the draft
  • For Alaska oil drilling
  • Against Bush tax cuts
  • Against human cloning
  • Against partial-birth abortion
  • For loosening gun restrictions

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