Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Sunday, January 15, 2006
The swiftboating of Jack Murtha
The HuffPo has more on the Murtha smear campaign, and its apparent origins in the West Wing...

The Huffington Post has learned the Bush administration recently asked high ranking military leaders to denounce Congressman John Murtha. Congressman Murtha has called for the Bush Administration to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

The Bush Administration first attacked Rep. Murtha for his Iraq views by associating him with the filmmaker Michael Moore and Representative Jean Schmidt likened him to a coward on the floor of the House of Representatives. When those tactics backfired, Dick Cheney called Murtha "A good man, a marine, a patriot and he's taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

Though the White House has backed off publicly, administration officials have nevertheless recently made calls to military leaders to condemn the congressman. So far they have refused.
The obvious question here would be whether any of the military leaders in question is willing to come forward and say the got such a phonecall, and then from whom. If true, this is a pretty nasty scandal.

Just to back up a bit, here's a clip from the January 13 Murtha smears story from right-wing/Bushophilic "news" site CNS News:
Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam.

Murtha is a retired marine and was the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress. Since 1967, there have been at least three different accounts of the injuries that purportedly earned Murtha his Purple Hearts. Those accounts also appear to conflict with the limited military records that are available, and Murtha has thus far refused to release his own military records.

A Cybercast News Service investigation also reveals that one of Murtha's former Democratic congressional colleagues and a fellow decorated Vietnam veteran, Don Bailey of Pennsylvania, alleges that Murtha admitted during an emotional conversation on the floor of the U.S. House in the early 1980s that he did not deserve his Purple Hearts.

"[Murtha] is putting himself forward as some combat veteran with serious wounds and he's using that and it's dishonest and it's wrong," Bailey told Cybercast News Service on Jan. 9. Murtha served in the Marines on active duty and in the reserves from 1952 until his retirement as a colonel in 1990. He volunteered for service in Vietnam and was a First Marine Regiment intelligence officer in 1966 and 1967.

Murtha and Bailey, once allies, were forced to run against each other in a Democratic congressional primary in 1982 following redistricting. Murtha won the election.
And that election was bitterly fought, according to an exhaustive contemporaneous account in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Bailey's Wikipedia bio, which also stated that after a series of failed re-runs for office, Bailey came darned near being elected to office as a Republican -- so close, that it seems misleading to characterize him as some sort of sunny fellow Democrat.

And the Swiftboating isn't Bailey's first crack at taking down Murtha. The same day CNS ran the Murtha military service smear, Bailey was the source of a was the subject of a second story by the same writers -- Marc Morano and Randy Hall -- claiming Murtha was also hiding other scandals -- of a criminal nature:
CNSNews.com) - Members of the press have given extensive and glowing coverage to Rep. John Murtha's criticism of the war in Iraq, but have overlooked a number of other controversies the Pennsylvania Democrat has experienced over the past 25 years. This includes his reported role as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Murtha has denied any wrongdoing, but Cybercast News Service has learned that one of Murtha's former allies, a Democratic congressman who served on the House Ethics Committee in 1981 and says he lobbied colleagues not to censure Murtha, now believes Murtha lied to him about his role in Abscam. ...

... Since Murtha's Nov. 17, 2005, call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, one CNN anchor has called him "one of the most highly respected members of Congress," the Associated Press has referred to Murtha as "one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats," and ABC News has noted that he is "a decorated marine who served in Vietnam."

But a search of the Nexis online database by Cybercast News Service found only three newspaper articles over the past two months connecting Murtha with the FBI's Abscam (short for "Arab scam") sting operation that led to the arrest of several congressmen for accepting bribes.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Murtha was one of eight members of Congress lured to a Washington, D.C., townhouse by a team of FBI agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheik. They handed out briefcases filled with $50,000 in return for helping the sheik gain residency in the United States."

Noting that Murtha "is not squeaky clean," the Brattleboro, Vt., Reformer reported that the congressman "did not take the cash" offered by the agents. Instead, "he asked the fake sheik to consider investing some money in his struggling home town, Johnstown."

The Washington Post referred to the incident as "an ethical scrape" in which Murtha was "named as an unindicted co-conspirator and testified against two House colleagues."

But, a videotape of a Jan. 7, 1980 Abscam-related meeting involving Murtha shows that the congressman's rejection of the offered bribe was less than definite. "I'm not interested. I'm sorry," Murtha told the FBI agent, but added that he meant "at this point. See Video.

"You know, we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't," Murtha said on the FBI videotape.

The congressman told the undercover FBI agent that he was a member of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and acknowledged: "If you get into heat with politicians, there's no amount of money that can help."

In November 1980, the Justice Department announced that Murtha would not face prosecution for his part in the scandal. "I did not consider that any money was offered, and certainly none was taken," Murtha told reporters. "The FBI who taped the entire conversation knows damn well no money changed hands."

Eight months later, the House ethics panel also chose not to file charges against the Pennsylvania Democrat. ...
Bailey also claims that he "saved Murtha" from censure or worse at the hands of Congress...
"I worked hard, and I argued," and members of the committee "agreed with me," Bailey stated. "Part of my argument was that the FBI was overdoing it and there wasn't evidence that [Murtha] was doing anything wrong."

In 1982, as a result of congressional redistricting, Murtha and Bailey were forced to run against each other in a Democratic primary. Murtha emerged the winner.

In 2002, Murtha's ethics again became an issue in the congressional election. Bailey issued a public letter, the contents of which have been published on the Internet and confirmed by Bailey. In the letter, Bailey admits that his opinion about Murtha's involvement in Abscam had dramatically changed by 2002.

"I was, to be honest, critical about how you misled me about Abscam where you convinced me you had voluntarily told federal agents about the offer of money to you," Bailey wrote Murtha in the letter.

"I learned later, after I had successfully defeated the ethics charges against you, that you had merely manipulated the system to cooperate with federal agents to avoid prosecution," Bailey added.

On Jan. 9, Bailey told Cybercast News Service that he now believes Murtha was "pretty damn stupid" during the Abscam sting.

"The idea that somebody is going to trot out $50,000 in cash in front of you and you don't know that is wrong is pretty damn stupid to me," Bailey said. "What bankers or investors run around with $50,000 in cash?"

Just hours after the July 1981 House Ethic Committee vote sparing Murtha from charges, E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., special counsel for the panel's Abscam investigation, abruptly resigned. At the time, Prettyman refused to discuss with the press his reasons for stepping down.

When contacted by Cybercast News Service regarding the investigation, Prettyman called the Murtha situation "very interesting," but declined further comment, citing the need to maintain attorney-client privilege.
The CNS article then goes on to accuse Murtha of undercutting the power of federal law enforcement, and whines that opponents of the war are turned into "Instantaneous heroes" by the media...

Meanwhile, the inimitable Murray Waas writes about GOP ties of one of Murtha's accusers, and the sloppy reporting of the WaPo's Howard Kurtz and his writing partner for their version of the Murtha smear:
The Washington Post yesterday morning gives major play to an attack of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on the website of the (until now) obscure Cybercast News Service. It accuses Murtha -- who had won eight military awards, including a Bronze star, and a Distinguished Service Medal of the United States Marine Corps, for his 37 years of military service -- of purportedly saying that he had not deserved to win two Purple Hearts also awarded him for his service during the Vietnam war.

The Post story, by reporters Howard Kurtz and Shallagh Murray, quotes extensively David Thibault, the editor in chief of the (who ever heard of them before the Washington Post decided to give them such prominence?) Cybercast News Service, as saying that Murtha's medals from 1967 are relevant now "because the congressman has really put himself in the forefront of the antiwar movement."

But the article tells us very little about Thibault himself. Had the reporters done a simple Internet search, they would have discovered this biography of Thibault posted online which describes him as a "senior producer for a televised news magazine" broadcast and sponsored by the Republican National Committee. I dunno, but I for one, would have wanted to know that. ...
There's more. Read it all here.

And one more thing: Could the boys at CNS have been inspired to challenge Murtha's war hero status by a December 1 column by none other than Ann Coulter? Sure would shine an interesting light on their "journalism" (and Howard Kurtz's judgment) if they did...

Related: Murtha tells '60 Minutes' why and when we're getting out of Iraq... And the 'party of patriotism and the military" smears another veteran, says Bob Cesca.Link

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posted by JReid @ 11:59 PM  
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