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Anatomy of a Smear


Taylor Marsh has a fantastic piece today on the right wing attempts to smear Jack Murtha.  It is a must read — and I mean that in the strongest possible terms.  Taylor did a previous piece for us on the Murtha smear, and she has done some fabulous digging on this story and come up with a LOT of information on the right wing smear machine in action.  Valuable stuff — and something that needs a lot more exposure, or they are just going to keep using the same old plays.

Taylor has detailed every play in this nasty game by the wingnut wurlitzer, and turned over some nasty, infested rocks in the process.

Once called one of the most hawkish members of Congress, Rep. John Murtha is now being presented as some anti war coward. His remarks about Haditha have unleashed just the latest salvo in the swiftboating strategy invented by conservatives, which they are now being forced to defend and explain.

Prior to 2005, The Cybercast News Service (CNS), purveyor of all things conservative and run by L. Brent Bozell III, had only one article about Rep. John Murtha. The headline was laudatory: Congressional Bill Would Establish Memorial for Victims of 9/11 (March 8, 2002). But on November 18, 2005, Bozell’s team shot into action and hasn’t stopped attacking Rep. Murtha since.

What happened to release the cascade of conservative vitriol now directed at Democratic Congressman and respected war veteran Jack Murtha?

”You can’t fire the president unless you’re in California,” Mr. Murtha said. ”But somebody recommended this policy to him, and he took the recommendation. Somebody has to be held responsible, and he’s got to make the decision who it was.” … Mr. Murtha is regarded by both parties as a respected voice on military matters. Citing poor supplies and support for the troops, he said he favored quick approval of the $87 billion Mr. Bush requested for Iraq but said the leaders needed to be replaced. He did not specify which. …

THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: CONGRESS; Democratic Hawk Urges Firing of Bush Aides (Times Select, September 17, 2003)

In September 2003, Iraq Toll Hits a Nerve With Murtha obviously resounded across red and blue states, as well as north and south boundaries. However, with John Murtha considered a hawk by anyone’s standards, the conservatives had to change his legendary biography, but how?

Those who have read FDL for a while know that we’ve been trying to follow this story as it has unfolded.  Jane did a fantastic series on the smear as it rolled out last year (See "This is How It’s Done" here, here, here and here), that is still instructive as a "how they do it" deconstruction for anyone combatting a right-wing smear campaign. 

Murtha was honored earlier this year as a Profile in Courage award recipient by the Kennedy family, and the speech given in his honor is worth revisiting:

John Murtha is a vivid example of the words of President Kennedy in “Profiles in Courage,” “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.”

His family has a long tradition of military service. One of his mother’s ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. Another served in the Union Army in the Civil War and actually guarded the Capitol Building where John Murtha serves today. The widow of that Union soldier lived to be 96, and John remembers her telling him as a child, “One person can make a difference.”

The attempt to smear Jack Murtha is reprehensible — but no more so than all of the other attempted smears of the past few years under the tutelage of Lee Atwater and his malignant acolyte, Karl Rove, and all their dirty political one trick cronies.

Speaking of political dirty tricks, enter Rep. Duncan Hunter.  Taylor did a piece about Hunter for us not to long ago, on his role in this mess.  But in her article today, she fleshes out much more detail and background — and it is ugly.

That fight began on November 17, 2005, the day Murtha presented his plan for redeployment from Iraq, which called for a "change in direction." After trying for years to get President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and the administration to change course, through letters and public pleas, the 37-year Marine veteran realized it wasn’t going to happen. To say Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, didn’t take Murtha’s challenge lightly is an understatement.

Murtha’s resolution included language the Republicans wanted to avoid, such as "the American people have not been shown clear, measurable progress" toward stability in Iraq. It also said troops should be withdrawn "at the earliest practicable date," although Murtha said in statements and interviews Thursday that the drawdown should begin now.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) drafted a simpler resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops, saying it was a fair interpretation of Murtha’s intent. Members were heatedly debating a procedural rule concerning the Hunter resolution when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) was recognized at 5:20 p.m. Schmidt won a special election in August, defeating Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, and is so new to Congress that some colleagues do not know her name.


It was past 10 p.m. when Murtha addressed a relatively subdued House. Hunter’s resolution "is not what I envisioned" because it avoids a broader debate of the war, which "is not going as advertised," Murtha said. "The American people are way ahead of us" in wanting a strategy to bring the troops home, he added. "It’s easy to sit in your air-conditioned offices and send them into battle."


Top Democrats attacked the GOP tactic. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Republicans "engaged in an act of deception that undermines any shred of dignity that might be left in this Republican Congress." She called Hunter’s resolution "a political stunt" and "a disservice to our country and to our men and women in uniform."

House Rejects Iraq Pullout After GOP Forces a Vote
Democrats Enraged By Personal Attack

This was the day Rep. Jean Schmidt basically called Murtha a coward, and then was made to apologize for her remarks because she didn’t have the evidence to back it up.

One of the oddest headlines of November 18th, however, was when NPR ran Long-time War Hawk, Murtha Is An Angry Dove. After decades of being a military hawk, because Murtha couldn’t get a response from President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, after years of trying, Rep. John Murtha was now not just angry, but an "Angry Dove."

Murtha’s "dark night of the soul" had reached a moment where he had to speak out. George W. Bush pitted against the 37-year Marine veteran was no contest and the Republicans knew it. Murtha had become a "one man tipping point" for President Bush. The "war room" was back.

It is time to draw a line in the sand and say no more. Read Taylor’s piece, and see if you don’t agree with me. 

And bravo to Taylor for putting all of this together in one place — what an amazing accomplishment, a huge piece of work, and a service to the rest of us who spend our days tracking this entire nasty mess of malignancy.  Well done.  I just can’t say that enough.

(The next time some ignoramus says that bloggers only sit around and give opinions in their jammies, I’m going to force them to sit down and read this fantastic piece of investigative reporting.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com