Slightly buried yesterday under the DADT news was this: “Murtha hospitalized after gallbladder surgery complications.” The news about the 77-year-old chairman of the Armed Services Committee, whose spokespeople were by this morning refusing to give updates, was regarded mostly as (sigh) political news, exemplified by the head given by Chris Cilizza at The Fix: John Murtha hospitalized, political future in doubt? noting that “Republicans believe Pennsylvania is shaping up as very friendly territory for them.” That’s a hell of a thing to bring up when the man’s not conscious yet.
And the NY Times’ Caucus blog, while playing the headline straight, ended with this odd hybrid sentenc: “The chairman of the House’s defense appropriations subcommittee, Mr. Murtha has been openly skeptical of President Obama’s plan to pour more troops into Afghanistan and is known to be close with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
Only CNN and Fox even mentioned, as one of Murtha’s attributes, that he was the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to Congress. That was back in the throw-the-bums-out election of 1974 — unlike John Kerry, he’d supported the war, though he soon joined forces with Kerry and the emerging veterans’ community by speaking out angrily when Congress denied former deserters the opportunity to upgrade their discharges to honorable. By then, he was already on the committee he now chairs: so that the speech that made him part of my book title came from thirty years of visiting Walter Reed and trying to judge when the price was worth it.
Godspeed and get well soon, Rep. Murtha.