Friday, November 18, 2005

Is Anyone Credible Anymore?

While there are several of good, interesting columns in the paper this morning (see both Charles Krauthammer on intelligent design, and Michael Kinsley on abortion and the Supreme Court), the story I want to talk about is John Murtha’s (D-Pa) speech on the House floor on Iraq and the responses to it by people who disagree.

The title of my post should give a clue as to where I’m going to go with this, but to get there I have to first lay out the respective positions that people took. Starting with Murtha, who I don’t think anyone could label a “bleeding heart liberal.” Here is a large excerpt from Murtha’s speech yesterday on the House floor:

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are
united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence.
U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign
jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security
forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently
conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of
coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against
American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid
December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice
that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know
that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe
this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good
of a “free” Iraq.

My plan calls:
To immediately redeploy
U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces. To create a quick
reaction force in the region.To create an over- the- horizon presence of
Marines. To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited
with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.
Because we
in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is
our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am
speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked
of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.

Click below to continue ... And here is a bit about Murtha’s personal history:

Simply put the guy is over 70 years old, has no aspirations for higher political office, no axe to grind, a safe congressional district with no real opposition for reelection, known universally as a “pro-military democrat” who has strongly supported this war, and its expenses. In other words, what possible motivation other than sincere belief in what he is saying could reasonably be assigned to this man? If there is anyone credible to speak out against the U.S.’s policy here I would think almost anyone would agree that Murtha is qualified. But wait, here are the counters from those on the other side:

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared: "Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the president is on foreign soil." Moreover, the White House issued a statement from South Korea saying Mr. Murtha "has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of [filmmaker] Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."

It’s almost as if there is a pre-programmed formulaic approach to attacking people who speak out against the war itself, its execution, or anything that might be construed as anti-America. Note that none of the responses actually offer any reasons why Murtha is wrong, or any thoughtful positions on why he’s not accurate in his allegations. No, they simply characterize what he says as another extreme “liberal” advocating a “cut and run” policy in Iraq. I’m sorry, but I think there was a bit more substance to Murtha’s statement and I have a hard time characterizing it as “cut and run.” He calls for a quick strike force in the region, a redeployment “consistent with the safety of the troops” which I take to mean a slow safe withdrawal commensurate with the need to protect the safety and security of the remaining troops in the region. In other words, I don’t see this as a cut and run, immediate pull out suggestion.

Murtha hasn’t been the only victim of the anti-credibility wars recently. One could also cite John McCain (R-Az) and his anti-torture language as another example of someone eminently qualified to have an opinion on a subject being raked over the coals for their honest beliefs. Look, don’t misunderstand my point; one doesn’t have to agree with Murtha or McCain to find them creditable. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, Democrats are no better on this issue; we blindly attack creditable Republicans all the time on issues like the Courts and Economics. I think this is part of the problem with American politics right now. Too much, far too much emphasis is placed on the R or the D that follows a politician’s name. There is too much opposition research; a person who donated to one party can’t be trusted by the other, ever, regardless of the issue. Public servants who have dedicated their lives to noble tasks like prosecuting criminals are skewered by the opposition for being tied to the opposition party. Simply put, there are a lot of creditable Republicans out there that I happen to strongly disagree with, but I won’t simply dismiss their statements as party rhetoric out of hand. For me personally, both George Will and Charles Krauthammer fall into this category, as does John McCain on certain issues. There are others, many others in many different fields. I think that many of my fellow conservative TPS members can do the same with persons in the opposition party that they find credible and therefore worthy of respect and argumentation.

Too often, however, the slash and burn formula gets imposed on the national level and it bleeds into the discussion far too easily. I can’t recall how many people on the call in radio shows I listen too, both last night and this morning, simply dismissed Murtha’s comments for no other reason than he was a member of the Democratic Party. This is sad and it needs to stop. We don’t have to always agree, but we can surely admit when someone is doing something for reasons that are not political or not to get their mug on TV. Sure there are those that say things simply for the political points (Chuck Schumer more often than not, and Tom DeLay on the other side), but there are just as many who speak from their convictions and based on their experiences. The sooner we’re able to tell the difference, the better our discussions, debates, and ultimately our policies will become.


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