As George W. Bush and Dick Cheney slipped into the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mode on Jack Murtha over the weekend, somebody forgot to get the talking points to Rush Limbaugh. On his show Monday, Limbaugh dismissed Murtha -- a Vietnam veteran who spent 37 years in the Marine Corps -- as the "useful idiot of the moment."
"Murtha's irrelevant in all this," Limbaugh said, according to a transcript posted by Media Matters. "This is about our troops and our national security. Murtha's just getting his 15 minutes of fame like Cindy Sheehan got, and like Bill Burkett got ... the Jersey Girls, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson, you name it -- just the latest member of the endless parade of personalities around whom the Democrats can circle and support. "
Whoa there, Rushbo. The story that you're supposed to be spinning is that even the Democrats don't support Murtha's plan for Iraq. That was the whole point of the Republicans' parliamentary exercise Friday night. They threw before the House a resolution proclaiming that the "deployment of United States forces in Iraq" should be "terminated immediately." And when virtually everyone voted against it, all the Republican talking heads could proclaim that nobody in Congress thinks like Murtha does. "We had Democrats and Republicans alike pressing that button, saying basically, 'Don't pull out,'" Jean "I called him a 'coward' but I didn't mean to imply that he was a coward" Schmidt explained in a statement yesterday.
There's a problem with that spin, however: Even Murtha voted against the resolution the Republicans put before the House Friday. And that gets to the point that Slate's Fred Kaplan made the other day. With the help of some sloppy media coverage, the Republicans have been able to caricature Murtha's view as something that it isn't. Murtha didn't suggest that the United States simply pull its troops out of Iraq and send them back home to their families. Rather, in his talk with reporters, he said his plan was to "redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces," creating a "quick reaction force in the region" and an "over-the-horizon presence of Marines."
We don't pretend to know what all that means, but, as Kaplan explains, it plainly means something other than "cutting and running." "True," Kaplan says, "his final line reads, 'It is time to bring them home,' but his plan suggests he wants to bring, at most, only some of them home. The others are to be 'redeployed' in the quick-reaction forces hovering just offshore."
If that sounds a little familiar, it should. As we noted earlier today, senior military officers are telling the Washington Post that the Pentagon may reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq early next year, at least in part by shifting some of those troops to "on call" status across the border in Kuwait.