Several sharp-eyed readers caught an error of fact in my last column, Call the War Question. These politically astute persons spotted a glaring mistake when I noted the political affiliation of Congressman Jack Murtha. Probably a minority of News-Graphic readers would know the political affiliation of all members of Congress from Wisconsin, let alone their names. And even fewer would know the party of a Congressman from Pennsylvania. But if you write a column or a blog, it better be your business to dispense accurate information, or none at all. Guesswork and playing loose with the facts is maybe OK, and often done, across the fence line, or over a bump and a beer, or on shock talk radio and TV, but it has no place in a good newspaper or blog.
I mentioned Congressman Murtha in relation to a poll taken earlier this year, the first ever of American troops currently in Iraq, which found that 3 out of 4 American troops currently in Iraq thinks that the U.S. should exit Iraq before the end of this year. Jack Murtha had proposed this very time frame last fall in a bill he authored and introduced to the Congress. (The leadership in the House of Representatives refused to schedule hearings on Congressman Murtha’s bill, and refused to allow it to receive an up-or-down vote from the full House.)
Mr. Murtha had a 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve. He enlisted during the Korean War, was a D.I. at Parris Island, and was commissioned at Quantico. He was awarded the Bronze Star and two purple hearts for combat in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and retired as a colonel. Mr. Murtha has been a Congressman since 1974. I was mistaken in asserting in my column that Mr. Murtha is a Republican. He is a member of the Democratic Party and has been for many years.
I apologize to all readers for the misinformation in my last op-ed column that incorrectly asserted the political affiliation of Jack Murtha. I especially apologize to Congressman Murtha.
Congressman Murtha is a Vietnam combat vet who happens to be in the Democratic Party. Senator Max Cleland (triple amputee from wounds suffered in Vietnam) and Senator John Kerry (Silver Star) are among his fellow Democrats who have served their country, first in combat in Vietnam, and later in the U.S. Senate. Senator Daniel Inouye (Medal of Honor) and Senator George McGovern (Distinguished Flying Cross) are Democrats who served in combat during WWII while Ronald Reagan made movies in Hollywood. Some Republicans, of course, have also served in combat and in Congress.
There is always a difference between individuals. But is there a difference between Republicans who were combat vets and Democrats who were combat vets? There must be. Because I can’t think of a single Republican combat vet whose loyalty to America and whose combat service has EVER been questioned or besmirched by his political opponents in (or allied to) the Democratic Party. On the other hand, the loyalty, patriotism and courage of ALL the above named decorated combat vets (and others as well) who happen to be members of the Democratic Party has been viciously, scurrilously, shamefully attacked by political opponents with allegiance or alliance to the Republican party. Give me an instance where I’m wrong here.
John McCain, a combat vet and prisoner of war for 6 years, happens to be a Republican. Believe it or not, his patriotism has been questioned and he has been attacked for being soft on defense. But these attacks on Senator McCain did not come from the Democratic Party. They came from partisans within his own Party, and their media and think tank allies.
America, we’re overdue to put a stop to this dishonorable sleaze! How can we trust, or even listen to, anyone who claims to “support the troops” when they engage in this despicable slander of those who have served America under fire in the past? This slander shames us all, as much as it does those who engage in it.
Yeah, I was wrong. But what does it really matter whether Jack Murtha is a Republican or a Democrat? Do you think one party, any party, has a lock on the truth and all the right answers, and all the authentic heroes and leaders? Think again.
April 11, 2006