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Murtha: A Congressional Dinosaur Close to Extinction?

As a congressman, Murtha has specialized in bringing the defense-spending bacon home to his constituents in southwestern Pennsylvania. In a 2005 report, NewsBusters.org compiled a detailed report on Murtha's pork barrel ways. I tried to total up all the millions, but my calculator ran out of digits. Even the Washington Post was forced to conclude that

Like some of his colleagues, Murtha demonstrates his effectiveness in press releases touting new money for local enterprises. And the publicity helps come election time. A power in military spending, Murtha garners his largest chunk of campaign donations from the defense industry, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

TheHill.com recently reported that in 2008 defense spending, Murtha "has secured the most earmarked dollars in the 2008 military spending bill," worth over 150 million dollars.

And in a story filed last week, the Seattle Times notes that the new House ethics rules on pork barrel spending are, in the words of Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), "a sham." Although required by their own rules to reveal all earmarks, Murtha and his Democratic buddies in Congress still manage to hide 155 earmarks worth $3.5 billion in this year's Defense spending.

More recently -- and perhaps most famously -- Murtha also devoted some pretty serious time to insulting his constituents, and even his fellow Marines serving on the front lines. While trying to defend Barack Obama's famous assertion that certain Pennsylvanians get bitter and cling to their guns and religion, Murtha had this to say: "What I mean is there's still folks that have a problem voting for someone because they are black." He added: "This whole area, years ago, was really redneck." Oh, that's all right then -- at least the rednecks can't complain about any potholes while Murtha keeps getting himself reelected.

And his fellow Marines? When Time magazine claimed that Marines had killed innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, Murtha leapt to their defense at a press conference:

It's much worse than reported in Time magazine. There was no fire fight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. And that's what the report is going to tell…

Semper Fidelis, my ass.

The Marines were cleared of all charges. Marine SSG Frank D. Wuterich has filed suit against Murtha for defamation.

And then there are Murtha's just-plain-nutty moments, such as when he suggested "redeploying" our troops in Iraq back to... Okinawa. For, uh, rapid response against yellowfin tuna or something, I guess.

But there is some good news to be found in all this. Murtha's comments have so flustered Pennsylvanians, that the state -- once a lock for Obama -- might, might just be back in play again. And in even better news, Murtha's challenger is within the margin of error, according to the most recent poll conducted in his district. The best news? Murtha's challenger is himself a retired officer, Army LTC William Russell, a veteran of the Iraq War.

Sixty-five million years ago, Murtha was first elected to Congress. Er, excuse me, that was when the dinosaurs went extinct, probably after a meteor strike. If Murtha goes out into the dark on election day, it won't be by accident. It will be because he's spent his entire career tempting fate, throwing rocks into the air -- and having them barely miss.

Maybe this time, he's thrown one stone too many.