View Full Version : Challenger: Murtha is "dead wrong" about Iraq

11-07-06, 08:35 AM
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 — Time: 9:33:15 AM EST

Challenger: Murtha is "dead wrong" about Iraq

By David Hurst, dhurst@altoonamirror.com

JOHNSTOWN — A few years ago, the thought of another serious challenge to John P. Murtha’s 12th District seat would have seemed unlikely at best.

But since the 74-year-old Democrat stepped into the national spotlight last year and called for an immediate withdraw from Iraq, he has been under fire.

Murtha says he’s fine with it. He maintains his redeployment plan is the right one and that the majority of the American people agree.

Enter stage right, Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey. She says Murtha is “dead wrong” and that his words will haunt him on Election Day.

“It’s going to be a very close race, but I’ll beat him,” she said confidently.

The race for the sprawling 12th District has become a war over the war, and Murtha and Irey believe it’s to their advantage.

“I won’t stand by and let Mr. Murtha’s comments make America lose this war,” said Irey, 44, contending that victory is a must.

Victory, she said, means Iraq must be stable enough that its government and army can fight its own battles.

“There are soldiers making incredible sacrifices,” she said. “To withdraw would be viewed as surrendering. The world wouldn’t see us as a dependable ally.”

That’s Bush administration rhetoric, Murtha says.

“They have no clear plan for Iraq. We’re going backwards,” he said. “And what solutions has she offered?”

Murtha, 74, served in the Marine Corps for 37 years before retiring as a colonel in 1990.

He has been in Congress for 32 years, the first Vietnam veteran to serve. Since 1974, he has made a name for himself as a defense hawk who historically has been a staunch supporter of the nation’s troops.

“Who is he serving now?” Irey asked, blasting the Johnstown congressman for his statements about Marines under investigation for the alleged Haditha massacre. “A lot of people I meet on the campaign trail tell me he’s not the same Jack Murtha they voted for back then.”

Murtha points to his track record of bringing jobs — many defense-related — and hundreds of millions in federal dollars into the region.

Murtha says he’s the guy he always has been but with one glaring difference: “I’m out front now. I’m speaking out,” Murtha said, adding that he always preferred to solve problems behind the scenes.

He’s usually quick to point out that during the Persian Gulf War 15 years ago, he staunchly supported the Republican president behind it: George H.W. Bush.

“The difference is, this administration doesn’t listen,” he said. “I had no choice but to speak out.”

Irey contends that Murtha has a personal agenda, noting that he has expressed interest in the House majority leader post if the Democrats win control of Congress.

The disagreements don’t end there. Irey supports continuing the Bush administration’s tax cuts, while Murtha calls them a mistake.”

They also disagree on the Patriot Act — Irey for and Murtha against.

Irey also points to “career politicians” like Murtha as a reason why she supports term limits in Congress.

“I think 12 years is fine,” she said. “If you can’t accomplish what you wanted by then, step aside.”

Mirror Staff Writer David Hurst is at 946-7457.