John Murtha seems to be in real danger of losing his seat. The problem, as best I can tell, was Murtha’s bold mavericky strategy of calling his constituents racists and rednecks. In my five years of blogging, I’m not sure I’ve ever endorsed a Republican over a Democrat. So what the hell — I hope Murtha gets beat.
The main reason I oppose Murtha is that he’s corrupt. CREW, for instance, includes him as one of the few Democrats on the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress” (and they have further details there). It’s not just that he loves him some pork though — lots of people love pork, and I frankly don’t care all that much about earmarks anyway.
The problem with Murtha is the type of pork he pushes for — namely, massive bloated defense spending. One of the longer-term challenges for progressive Democrats is to limit the criminally large and bloated defense budgets that are squeezing out other priorities — and creating incentives for more aggressive hawkish policies (e.g., escalating tensions with China).
Already, the Pentagon has announced plans to bully the next President into accepting an $450 billion spending increase. With Murtha in an important leadership position, it will be harder to fight back against these types of increases (much less challenge the status quo). In short, Murtha is part of the problem.
More generally, if we’re about to enter a new era of Democratic rule, I want it to be clean (or as clean as reasonably possible). I’m a huge Pelosi fan, but it sickens me when they hold votes open a la Tom DeLay. In fact, it'd be nice if (after the election) they ended the collective action problem once and for all and adopted the minority “Bill of Rights” that Pelosi pushed for back in darker times. No more holding votes open. Let the GOP have amendments, etc. These are good times and all, but there will be a day when the GOP is back in the majority. When that day comes, a minority Bill of Rights would come in handy (and would more likely be honored, given that it was adopted "against interest" by the majority party).
Anyway, back to Murtha, I also resented the way he needlessly dragged Pelosi into the Whip fight after the 2006 election. She’s done fine, but it was a wholly unnecessary fight that threatened to drive a wedge in the caucus at the very beginning of the term. He seems like a hothead with poor judgment.
My only — only — ambivalence is that Murtha showed some real courage on the war. Unlike a lot of other Dems, he stuck his neck out at a time when sticking his neck out mattered. And he’s become a hated figure on the conservative blogosphere for his efforts.
It’s certainly a tough pill to give that bunch a scalp, but it’s one I’m willing to swallow. I just don’t like the guy, and I think he’s corrupt. That’s not a huge deal for a rank-and-file House member with no power. But Dems should expect more from their leadership. When the leadership has bad traits, it’s more likely to lead to bad policy.