Congressman John Murtha dead at 77

Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha died today from complications following gall bladder surgery. He was 77.

Murtha, the unofficial "King of Pork," became a controversial figure following his switch from war supporter to war critic in 2005. I wrote this today about him at PJ Media:

It was his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq and subsequent libels against Marines who fought a confusing engagement in Haditha that riled war supporters and caused many in the military to despise him. Some saw his opposition to the war as a political ploy to gain favor with liberals in Congress to buttress his failed campaign for majority leader. Others believe he saw the effect of the war on the nation's readiness, and the toll it was taking on individual soldiers who repeatedly went back to Iraq or were prevented from coming home due to the "stop-loss" policy. Either reason is plausible given Murtha's history.His criticism of the Marine action at Haditha is less justifiable. Murtha took to the floor of Congress to angrily denounce the Marines involved in the incident, saying that they had killed the civilians in "cold blood." He based this conclusion not on any official report on the incident from the military, but on an article in Time.

Charges were eventually dropped against seven of the eight Marines, one of whom sued Murtha for defamation. The suit was dismissed because of Murtha's congressional immunity.

This was a curious attitude from Murtha, the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to Congress.

It was his shameless earmarking that made him a poster boy for term limits. That and a veneer of arrogance about it that angered those seeking to reform the practice. He thought it his mission in life to bring as much pork home to Pennsylvania that could be wheeled and dealed away from Congress. And he didn't care what anyone thought about it.

From his last interview, printed in the Pittsburgh Tribune:

Murtha said earmarks "are what I am here about."

"I am here to help take care of the district," Murtha said. "I represent it, and I don't apologize for it."

The state will miss him when he's gone, said former Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Everett.

"He will go down in history as the most effective congressman that this state has ever seen," said Shuster, whose fondness for earmarks earned him many of the same critics as Murtha.

Colleagues credit Murtha with being one of the most adept at reaching across party lines. In an increasingly-polarized capital, Murtha's bills typically pass with bipartisan support.

"He sticks up for people. He works with them. He's the quintessential chairman of a committee," said Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut. "He's a member's member."

He was a gruff, impatient man but one apparently capable of enormous kindnesses. I met him several times back in the day and worked with his staff on military construction issues. I'd say he was one of the last of a dying breed - and perhaps we'll be the better for it when his kind finally leaves Congress.



Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha died today from complications following gall bladder surgery. He was 77.

Murtha, the unofficial "King of Pork," became a controversial figure following his switch from war supporter to war critic in 2005. I wrote this today about him at PJ Media:

It was his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq and subsequent libels against Marines who fought a confusing engagement in Haditha that riled war supporters and caused many in the military to despise him. Some saw his opposition to the war as a political ploy to gain favor with liberals in Congress to buttress his failed campaign for majority leader. Others believe he saw the effect of the war on the nation's readiness, and the toll it was taking on individual soldiers who repeatedly went back to Iraq or were prevented from coming home due to the "stop-loss" policy. Either reason is plausible given Murtha's history.

His criticism of the Marine action at Haditha is less justifiable. Murtha took to the floor of Congress to angrily denounce the Marines involved in the incident, saying that they had killed the civilians in "cold blood." He based this conclusion not on any official report on the incident from the military, but on an article in Time.

Charges were eventually dropped against seven of the eight Marines, one of whom sued Murtha for defamation. The suit was dismissed because of Murtha's congressional immunity.

This was a curious attitude from Murtha, the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to Congress.

It was his shameless earmarking that made him a poster boy for term limits. That and a veneer of arrogance about it that angered those seeking to reform the practice. He thought it his mission in life to bring as much pork home to Pennsylvania that could be wheeled and dealed away from Congress. And he didn't care what anyone thought about it.

From his last interview, printed in the Pittsburgh Tribune:

Murtha said earmarks "are what I am here about."

"I am here to help take care of the district," Murtha said. "I represent it, and I don't apologize for it."

The state will miss him when he's gone, said former Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Everett.

"He will go down in history as the most effective congressman that this state has ever seen," said Shuster, whose fondness for earmarks earned him many of the same critics as Murtha.

Colleagues credit Murtha with being one of the most adept at reaching across party lines. In an increasingly-polarized capital, Murtha's bills typically pass with bipartisan support.

"He sticks up for people. He works with them. He's the quintessential chairman of a committee," said Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut. "He's a member's member."

He was a gruff, impatient man but one apparently capable of enormous kindnesses. I met him several times back in the day and worked with his staff on military construction issues. I'd say he was one of the last of a dying breed - and perhaps we'll be the better for it when his kind finally leaves Congress.