- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The sound you hear is the sound of election-conscious Democrats tiptoeing away from Rep. John Murtha. As they once did with Cindy Sheehan, whose own Democratic-orchestrated popularity peaked when she demanded U.S. troops leave “occupied New Orleans,” Democrats perhaps are realizing their mistake in pumping Mr. Murtha’s antiwar views all over the televisions of ordinary Americans who now associate him with their party.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, at a panel discussion in Miami on Saturday, Mr. Murtha said that the “American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran.” No matter which way you view the Iraq war, that’s a pretty spectacular claim to make, not to mention spectacularly silly. No offense to the terrorists in Iraq, but one well-placed nuclear warhead in Tel Aviv or Tokyo and suddenly their three-year guerrilla war against U.S. troops and innocent Iraqis looks amateur in comparison. Yet such is the fate of media-made politicians who must ever up the ante of their rhetoric in order to stay in the headlines.

This has led not a few to wonder if Mr. Murtha’s antiwar extremism isn’t entirely selfless. Last week, we mentioned his involvement in the Abscam scandal 25 years ago, when the Pennsylvania Democrat escaped prosecution while still being identified as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” That apparently led to the House Ethics Committee’s special counsel in the case, E. Barrett Prettyman, resigning in protest. Although Mr. Prettyman never said one led to the other, he did tell Roll Call a decade later that to make that assumption would be “a logical conclusion.”

The facts speak for themselves. According to FBI tapes, Mr. Murtha is seen talking with undercover agents about taking a bribe to help expedite the immigration process of a phony Arab sheik. Saying he didn’t want to get involved “at this point,” Mr. Murtha declined the bribe, which was about $50,000. But according to a story in The Washington Post at the time, Mr. Murtha “did say he might be interested after he got to know the would-be givers better.”

The Post’s 1981 story, which tells how Mr. Prettyman resigned within hours of the committee’s exoneration of Mr. Murtha, also reported that “sources said Prettyman had prepared several charges of ethical misconduct against Murtha, but all were rejected” on a party-line vote.

Combined with suspicious appropriations dealings, this is the history Mr. Murtha wants the media to forget. Once a Los Angeles Times story about Mr. Murtha’s appropriations panel’s deliverance of $20 million to his brother’s defense firm began to gain traction last year, suddenly Mr. Murtha, who voted for the Iraq war, reinvented himself as an antiwar partisan.

Now Mr. Murtha has discovered that extremism can be successfully traded for power — a bribe of a different sort. We wonder if Democrats, however, especially their public-relations people, aren’t regretting having pushed television networks to air that extremism for all Americans to hear.

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