Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why Murtha? Why now?

I sat pondering for a long time why Rep. Murtha of Pennsylvania would come out so strongly against our mission in Iraq. Some things didn't make a lot of sense. It took a while but the pieces have started to come together.

The bells first started going off when I started seeing more stories like this one from the Investor's Business Daily:

Ashdown and his nonpartisan watchdog group criticized Murtha for using the $417 billion fiscal 2005 Pentagon spending bill to give business to his lobbyist brother. The Los Angeles Times in June reported that Murtha funneled nearly $21 million to 10 or more corporate clients of KSA Consulting, where Robert "Kit" Murtha is a senior partner. Carmen Scialabba, a Murtha congressional aide for 27 years, is also a high-ranking official at KSA.

In one case, a small Arkansas manufacturer of military vehicles who was a KSA client was awarded $1.7 million — triple its total sales for 2004. One defense contractor based in Murtha's home state of Pennsylvania even told the Times he hired KSA on the recommendation of a top Murtha aide.

The newspaper Roll Call reported that there might be a House ethics committee investigation of Murtha's apparent improprieties. But is that possible now that Murtha has become the media's "hawk with a conscience?" Come to think of it, could Murtha have been thinking about a possible ethics investigation when he decided to throw himself into the public limelight last week?

So Murtha has been under scrutiny since before June (assuming that people were looking into the situation before the LA Times reported on it in June) for funneling defense money to his brother's consulting firm and customers. There is also some talk about Pelosi herself might have had a crucial hand in getting some of this money spread around. So then the question becomes "How do I effectively block an investigation without making it look like I am blocking an investigation". The answer is to wait until the administration was getting hammered by ethics problems (Plame Game, DeLay's issues, etc) and then come out as a flaming critic of the administration's policy. The idea is to not only disagree, but to propose a dramatic reversal. Immediate withdrawal would do it. That shines a VERY bright spotlight on Murtha and gives him a certain amount of Teflon. Should there be an ethics investigation launched now, it would appear to be retaliation.

The reason you wait until the President's approval numbers are low is because coming out so forcefully for such a cowardly policy change risks boosting the President's approval numbers (as actually happened). So you wait until the numbers are low so any boost is minimized. Had Murtha waited until after the Iraqi elections and if those elections go well, he would look foolish. As it was, he let loose with this smokescreen just as US forces were embarking on the most critical mission yet: sweeping the towns in western al Anbar province. This would result in higher allied casualties. What better time to announce such a thing than just as US casualties would be expected to spike because of combat operations in the core of the militant areas? Had he waited till after the elections he also risked coming out with his withdrawal demand just as we would be announcing troop draw-downs anyway. In other words, if he waited until after the Christmas recess, he could have looked very stupid making the speech he made in November.

So here we have it. Timed to create maximum criticism, draw maximum attention, propose a plan that not even the Democrats would support (and didn't in a House vote) in order to make any ethics investigation of him and his brother look like political revenge. Brilliant. And one more reason to add to the pile why I really don't care much for post politicians in general and Democrats in particular.

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