John Murtha, Soft Underbellies, and Other Pleasant Imagery

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We can argue about the importance of earmark transparency or porkbusting, but we don't need to argue about Rep. John Murtha's (D-Penn.) tact. He doesn't have any.

"After a recent House vote, [Murtha] stopped for a moment in the lobby adjacent to the House floor, just steps from his corner, to take a question from a reporter about the difficulty of piecing together which members got how much money for which projects in his bill."

"Murtha answered abruptly before walking away. 'So, you have to work,' he said. 'Tough [expletive].'"

I asked Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex., profiled briefly but glowingly here) what he thought of this. "My mother doesn't permit me to use the language that Congressman Murtha uses," he said. But he could see what made him Hulk out: "Transparency is his worst nightmare."

Hensarling, who's lost a number of floor fights on earmarks (see here), argued that Democratic reforms have been weaker and more loophole-ridden than the 11th hour GOP reforms of 2006, which is different than what Rep. Jeff Flake told me earlier this year. The new majority had a short honeymoon with reform and then lurched back into Murthaism. "I really think that this is the soft underbelly of the Democratic party," Hensarling said. "I hope our own party will be smart enough to realize that."

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who isn't as averse to earmarking as Hensarling, said Democratic earmark reforms are, indeed, crafted to obfuscate where the pork is. "You'll see the names in one part, the recipients in another part. If you put the earmark in you should be proud enough to put your name next to it. Hide and seek is not what we're supposed to do here."

(I asked my question in a rolling conference call with GOP leaders: They're happening all day and there's a liveblog here.)

NEXT: Attn, DC Reasonoids: Memorial Services for National Taxpayer Union's John Berthoud Today

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  1. Ask about Ron Paul! See if they hang up on you!

  2. Doesn’t clear the Cheney Bar

  3. cue the wingnutarians condeming a patriotic war hero like Murtha for rightfully calling the troops babykillers for their crimes and atrocities at Haditha

  4. “If you put the earmark in you should be proud enough to put your name next to it.”

    Don’t worry, they’re plenty proud, and perfectly happy to claim credit when they get home.

  5. Ignore the troll and maybe he’ll go away!

  6. Anyone who actually uses the terms “Wingnutter”, “moonbat”, or any of their derivatives should be never be taken seriously.

  7. Alex,

    A politician can be both a hero and a piggy little money grubber at the same time.

    Big ups to Murtha on the Haditha issue. Many folks wouldn’t have had the balls to do what he did. He was treated pretty horribly by a lot of the punditocracy.

    But he’s still a money grubbing little piggy too.

  8. The Boston Globe ran a story, and AP story I think, two Sundays ago about earmarking and the Democrats’ reforms.

    Both the total number of earmarks, and the dollar value of earmarks, are down by about 1/4 to 1/2 in the major spending bills, compared to the same bills passed by the Republican Congress.

  9. “My mother doesn’t permit me to use the language that Congressman Murtha uses,”

    Is that the type of person that others really want to vote for? If he can’t do things without his mommy’s permission, fuck him!

    How’s that for tact?

  10. He’s the perfect congressman for the horrible little town he represents, Johnstown. Loud, dumb, greedy, and without tact. I “worked” briefly at a defense-pork place in his district a few years ago, and thus found out about UPUD contracts(or something like that…Undefined Production Undefined Duration, or something). Basically, free money. He can’t die soon enough.

  11. BTW, some reporting from Reason on what has happened with earmarks under this Congress would be much appreciated. That was one of the most important promises the Democrats made coming in; it was one of the reasons so many libertarians voted D in 2006; and a supposed backtracking on this promise has often been asserted by conservatives on this site. To a significant degree, this issue will decide whether those libertarians were correct in their assessment, or whether their opponents, who have been flogging the wisdom of libertarians remaining part of the GOP “fusionist” alliance, were correct in their judgement about 2006, and about the oft-theorized “liberaltarian” alliance of the 21st century.

    There used to be stories about this Democratic reform not going far enough, or that amendment to the reform bills being better, and process stories like that.

    Now, a number of bills have actually been passed by the new Congress. We don’t have to guess what the outcome has been based on our guts, or on our reading of tea-leaves, or on the changes that have been made to the budget process (although that hasn’t stopped many of us from making lots of predictions). The data is now there, for some enterprising writer to go over and tell us about.

    Can I expect to see such a story at some point in the near future?

  12. He’s the perfect congressman for the horrible little town he represents, Johnstown.

    That place is the armpit of America.

  13. “”My mother doesn’t permit me to use the language that Congressman Murtha uses,”

    Ok, that had me laughing, but does that really mean anything unless we ask how he feels When George of Dick use colorful imagery, things like fu?

    But seriously…you then report his quote “Transparency is his worst nightmare.”

    Are we really at the stage where we are still going to allow any member of either party pretend that this is not a truism of 95% (a liberal estimate, I put it at 99%) that can be said of any federal politician of either party?

    We have some potentially terminal problems with transparency in our government, and one of the few things the two party’s really seem to agree on is that. Keep transparency to a minimum.

    He could have been speaking about almost any elected official.

    We need to stop letting all politicians off the hook for this one.

  14. He’s the perfect congressman for the horrible little town he represents, Johnstown.

    I tried, I really tried.

  15. Big ups to Murtha on the Haditha issue.

    Funny… I would’ve pegged you guys as a big fan of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ (By the way, almost all of those charges have been dismissed)

  16. Johnstown…proof that God can play a cruel joke every now and then.

  17. Hensarling, who’s lost a number of floor fights on earmarks (see here), argued that Democratic reforms have been weaker and more loophole-ridden than the 11th hour GOP reforms of 2006

    Democrats go from zero to corrupt in less then a year…while it took Republicans 10.

    Why am I not surprised?

    Hey for all those who wanted split government, how is that working out for you?

  18. Thanks for asking, joshua.

    Earmarks are down between 1/4 and 1/2, in both numbers and dollars, under this Congress compared to the last one.

    In other words, those of us who predicted that the Democratic Congress would make significant improvements in this area have been proven correct.

    And, as usual, you have been proven completely fucking wrong.

    Neener. Neener. Neener.

  19. Joshua,

    Dude, you really think that a significant number of politicians, of either party, but for arguments sake the republicans, are non-“corrupt”? Against the evidence of the last 40 years? (I’m 43, and that’s about the far edge of my memory)

    Wow.

    Pretty much the same wow I give anyone who “believes” in the democratic party.

    Just plain wow.

    I was 4 when I stopped believing in the tooth fairy, it’s hard for me to conceive of an adult that still does.

    The bridge to no-where didn’t take 10 years to appear, it was always there, for both parties, and getting bigger every day.

  20. From The Hill, September 26: One, there are fewer earmarks these days. While most spending bills are not yet completed, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has promised to halve the number this year.

    Senators may want more, but lobbyists think the final tally will be significantly less than it was in fiscal 2005, when lawmakers earmarked more than 15,000 projects in appropriations bills, according to the spending watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

    From The Hill, July 14:

    Business & Lobbying

    Fewer earmarks from House defense approps
    By Roxana Tiron
    June 14, 2006
    The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s version of the 2007 Pentagon spending bill contains $1 billion less in earmarks than last year.

    Here’s a great quote for your, joshua: “At the beginning of this year I told members I wanted to cut the total dollar amount of earmarks in half for appropriate accounts,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis. “A lot of folks are unhappy about it, but over the summer we passed every appropriations bill and I’m proud to say we met that goal.” Cut in half.

  21. We don’t have to base this on our feelings.

    There is actual, objective evidence out there, in the form of the text of the federal budgets, by which we can judge whether the Democrats have been better, worse, or the same as the Republicans.

    And the evidence is pretty one-sided: better. Much, much better.

  22. He’s a bad Murtha–

  23. Shut your mouth!

  24. de stijl | October 3, 2007, 11:47am | #
    Alex,

    A politician can be both a hero and a piggy little money grubber at the same time.

    Big ups to Murtha on the Haditha issue. Many folks wouldn’t have had the balls to do what he did. He was treated pretty horribly by a lot of the punditocracy.

    But he’s still a money grubbing little piggy too.

    You have got to be kidding, right????

    It is now a proven fact that the Marines at Haditha were following the Rules of Engagement, and did not, as Murtha quipped, “kill civilians in cold blood.” Murtha shot off his fat mouth without any official briefings on the matter. He totally denied the presumption of innocence of the Marines (which they were) and then you go and celebrate his throwing due process and the Constitution out the window???

    Crawl out from under your rock and read something other than the Daily Kos and D.U. once in awhile. Your ignorance of the real facts is very unbecoming of you.

  25. cue the wingnutarians condeming a patriotic war hero like Murtha for rightfully calling the troops babykillers for their crimes and atrocities at Haditha

    Way to assume the conclusion. Its far from clear there were any crimes or atrocities at Haditha. Investigations to date have pretty much cleared American troops. Google is your friend!

  26. Earmarks are down between 1/4 and 1/2, in both numbers and dollars, under this Congress compared to the last one.

    I’d like to see the definition of earmarks, and maybe hear from someone who is intimately familiar with the plumbing of funding and appropriations.

    After all, if we’ve gotten rid of all the earmarking, budgets should be coming down, right? I don’t see that happening.

  27. RC Dean,

    I haven’t been able to find it, but there was a detailed story in the Boston Globe within the past two weeks on exactly that issue.

    But I agree – I’d like to hear something about this from someone who knows the budget plumbing and has gone through the record.

    You know, like someone at Reason.

  28. Leo Pusateri,

    Sorry, missed your comment earlier. I don’t understand how Murtha deprived the Marines of due process or their rights as guaranteed under the Constitution with his comments. Since he is not involved with the court martial of any of the accused I don’t really see how that is possible.

    The Haditha story had not been widely reported in the mainstream press until he spoke about it. And here was his comment:

    “There was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

    The story initially reported by the Marines engaged and killed the five men and the taxi in a firefight, and that the people in the houses had been killed by an IED. They lied.

    How did they die? From fragmentation grenades and rifle fire.

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