When I worked on the House Appropriations Committee, I worked around Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) a lot. He's a really intimidating, no-nonsense kind of guy (he was the guy that I always worried would scream at me a la Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann in Full Metal Jacket if I screwed anything up).
And when it comes to defense-related issues, there literally is no member of Congress more informed and more pro-military than Murtha. That's why his announcement yesterday demanding an immediate withdrawal from Iraq was so important: because if someone like Murtha says its time for a withdrawal, then any Democrat in America should be able to say its time for a withdrawal.
Yet, in response to Murtha's announcement, some Democrats seemed to leap at the chance to embarrass themselves, and publicly flaunt just how nauseatingly spineless they are. And there is no better example of this than Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) in today's Washington Post. Here is the excerpt - try not to projectile vomit all over your computer screen when you read it:
"Murtha's Democratic colleagues reacted warily to his remarks, while Republicans pounced. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), head of the House Democrats' campaign effort, said, 'Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha.' As for Iraq policy, Emanuel added: 'At the right time, we will have a position.'"
Remember, this is the same Rahm Emanuel who likes to talk about how tough he is, and who likes to have his friends go out and talk about the hardness of his testicles. His comment is not tough - it is classic try-to-have-it-both-ways prevarication that reinforces the image of Democrats as governed only by crass political tactics and not conviction. And worse, it is a total insult to America's troops.
When, Rahm, is the "right time?" Is it closer to the election when you think it suits your own personal political ambition better, even though hundreds - if not thousands - of more American troops will have been killed? How many more people have to die or be maimed, Rahm, before it is "the right time?" And are you really so arrogant and out-of-touch to believe voters will swallow this kind of cynical politics as genuine on election day?
Make no mistake about it - Emanuel's comment perfectly captures exactly the problem for Democrats both in 2006 and beyond, even though he probably is so self-absorbed, he has no idea how destructive his behavior is. He shows how some Democrats (but, as I wrote earlier this week, certainly not all) really are willing to put their own crass political ambitions over absolutely everything else.
That trait, beyond any single issue, has been the downfall of the Democratic Party in recent years. People go to the polls to vote for political leaders with guts like Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) - not connivers, prevaricators, or cowering, weak-kneed wimps who are willing to make public political calculations while Americans die overseas. Until the party shuts up those in its midst who have no moral compass and who are willing to use their prominence to reinforce a soulless image, Democrats will always face a nagging credibility gap with the American people.
David Sirota is a veteran campaign strategist and writer. He is currently a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, and a regular contributor to The Nation magazine. He has just completed a book entitled "Hostile Takeover" about how corporate interests and politicians have conspired to squeeze America's middle class as never before. The book will be released in the Spring of 2006.
© 2005 Huffington Post