Tuesday, November 14, 2006

HOYER FOR LEADER I don't know that much about Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) or Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA). But I've seen enough of Murtha to know that Hoyer would be a better choice for Majority Leader.

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.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.