The GOP's escalating war on Jack Murtha took an ugly -- and pathetic -- turn on Sunday morning when Brit Hume launched a vicious attack on Murtha's mental acuity.
During a panel discussion on Fox News Sunday, the normally expression-challenged Hume slapped on his finest sneer and said of Murtha: "It's time a few things be said about him. Even the Washington Post noted he didn't seem particularly well-informed about what's going on over there, to say the least... This guy is long past the day when he had anything but the foggiest awareness of what the heck is going on in the world." He went on to call Murtha "dotty" and "an absolute fountain" of "naiveté."
That's right, unable to win the fight against Murtha's ideas -- and not content to swiftboat his war record -- the GOP hit squad is now making the desperate play of raising the notion that the 17-term congressman may not be playing with a full deck. Call it the Senility Surge. Classy.
Ever since Murtha first stepped forward back in November '05 and courageously called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the pro-war rhetorical thugs have been after him. But Hume's on-air mugging is an all-time low.
I'm curious, Brit. As you look out over the political landscape, ready to heap your scorn on a political leader who might not be "well-informed" about Iraq and who doesn't seem to have the "foggiest awareness of what the heck is going on in the world," does your eye really settle on Jack Murtha? Not the guy who says he can't judge whether Iraq is in a civil war while "living in this beautiful White House"? Just asking.
And while Hume's portrayal of Murtha as ready for a drool bib and the old age home was in a malicious league of its own, the hatchet job performed later on Fox News by Sean Hannity on his new show was equally repugnant. Knowing Hume had already mined the depths of character assassination, Hannity went right for bald-faced distortion -- throwing any vestige of truth out the window and portraying Murtha's latest Iraq proposal as the exact opposite of what it actually is.
Here is Murtha on the troops: "They must have the equipment and the training and they must be certified by the Chiefs of the various services before they can go back..."
And here is how Hannity described Murtha's position in a question to one of his panelists: "Do you support the idea of taking away the equipment of troops in harm's way the way John Murtha just described?"
So, in Hannity's hands, making sure our troops are properly equipped becomes taking equipment out of the hands of soldiers in harm's way. Utterly shameless.
The reason for the increasingly hysterical targeting of Murtha is very simple: his proposals are quickly gaining traction among politicians on both sides of the aisle.
There was Chuck Hagel on Meet the Press, saying he was "open" to Murtha's plans to attach conditions to war funding, and saying, "Congressman Murtha makes some very valid points... This debate, partly, is not about supporting the troops there. Now, of course we're going to support the troops. There isn't anybody in the House or Senate that would vote otherwise. What this debate is about right now is a continuation and an escalation of American military involvement in Iraq, putting young men and women in the middle of a sectarian, an intra-sectarian civil war. That's what this debate is really about. So, yes, I'm going to look very carefully at Congressman Murtha's points."
Got that, Sean?
And while unable to resist throwing a few haymakers of his own at Murtha, Bob Novak correctly assesses that "blunt and brassy, Jack Murtha is moving close to command over U.S. policy on Iraq."
In the meantime, the White House is adopting its standard operating procedure: farm out the really vile stuff to surrogate sleaze peddlers while dispatching Tony Snow to Meet the Press to take high road: "We're not in the business of trying to pick personal fights with members of Congress." C'mon, Tony, do you really expect us to buy that "golly gee willickers" routine? Thankfully for you, you made that ludicrous claim on Meet the Press. So, instead of challenging you, Tim Russert didn't blink an eye -- proving once again why he's your "best format."
Someone in the White House press room needs to ask Tony Snow whether he condemns Brit Hume. And Hume needs to be taken to the media woodshed and spanked raw for his Murtha mudslinging.
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