Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Don't get me wrong: Murtha deserves a lot of credit for focusing the Iraq debate and for enunciating a position that many elected officials favored but few were ready to support publicly.
Putting Murtha in a leadership role would also have the benefit of underscoring just how much Democrats continue to differ with the Bush administration on Iraq--at a time when the Bushies are eager to blur the differences.
But the qualities that led Murtha to lead on Iraq--the willingness to buck his peers; his use of headline-grabbing language--are the same qualities that would make him a weak leader. The leader's role, after all, is to cobble together a consensus within his caucus, and to smooth out differences. A majority leader needs to be a bridge-builder, not a crusader.
(Murtha has also come under fire for unseemly behavior--and Democrats can ill-afford ethical lapses from the incoming leadership.)
It's becoming increasingly clear that a loss for Murtha will be interpreted as a significant setback for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). That's unfortunate. But it's not so unfortunate that the likely media reaction ought to be a central issue in the leadership election.