Sunday, April 08, 2007

Support Representative Patrick Murphy of PA; He actually served in the Military Unlike the Repugs in Chief

The only Iraq War vet currently in Congress has been targeted by KKKarl Rove and the repugneocons for speaking truth to power. Support Murphy Now.

Back From Iraq at the Great American Diner

Editorial Observer
NYTimes April 8, 2007

As the only Iraq war veteran in Congress, Representative Patrick Murphy has his own way of fact-finding when he travels back there these days.

“When I was there in ’03, I had a gunner — Pvt. First Class Juan Santiago — and he’s now Sgt. Juan Santiago, still with the 82nd Airborne Division, on his third deployment, away from his wife and two children,” said the Pennsylvania Democrat, a former paratrooper captain. “Sure, I met with General Petraeus, but I had lunch with Santiago and checked with the other guys who could give me the straight story on what they’re seeing out there.”

Mr. Murphy, a 33-year-old Congressional freshman, paused amid the jukebox boom at the Great American Diner and Pub, a roadhouse where he likes to meet with constituents. “The guys said it’s like Groundhog Day all over, four years later.”

That is the message Mr. Murphy is pressing on voters as they hear each other out in his suburban Philadelphia district during Congress’s two-week break. He cites a tearful female sergeant who sought him out to deliver a three-page plea to “speak truth to power” in Washington.

It was his honor to be a junior House whip — a point man, in Army lingo — in the Democrats’ recent passage of a war budget that included timelines for an exit from Iraq. But that’s hardly enough in the lawmaker’s speaking to power.

“President Bush and Vice President Cheney have called me and my colleagues unpatriotic for that vote,” Mr. Murphy said, admitting this still had his Irish up. “With all due respect to Mr. Cheney who had — what was it? — ‘better things to do’ during Vietnam and got four deferments, I don’t think he’s in a position to question my patriotism.”

Mr. Murphy journeyed from a blue-collar upbringing in Philadelphia, where his father was a cop, to enlistment as a teenager in the military. He eventually flourished to become an officer who studied law, and was promoted to Army prosecutor and then to the faculty at West Point. “I’m a guy from Bucks County Community College who wound up at West Point when they needed someone to teach constitutional law!” he summarized, grinning as the epitome of the patriot’s dream.

The day after 9/11, Mr. Murphy volunteered for combat with the 82nd Airborne. In Iraq, he discovered the real war alongside Private Santiago and his other buddies. “Nineteen were killed in my combat brigade; I carry all their names in my pocket,” the congressman said.

In the buzz of the roadhouse, the scene suggested a mini-America: There were more drinkers at the bar ignoring the congressman and watching a ballgame than constituents buttonholing this curious representative who used to lead convoys down Ambush Alley in Baghdad. This day, Mr. Murphy was all diligence, listening to old-timers describe Medicare snafus in tedious detail over beers. “You have my word I’ll try and help,” he promised as his aides took notes.

He did discover a few things from Robin Stelly, a constituent who grilled him on his vote against the domestic budget, which he cast as the newest Blue Dog Democrat, part of the caucus that aims to cut spending.

“I learned the lessons of the ’60s, where I saw the domestic program torpedoed by foreign entanglements,” said Ms. Stelly, a field organizer for PA Action, a nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to protecting social welfare programs.

“He is The Guy in Congress on the war,” Ms. Stelly conceded. She happens to run weekly vigils against the war but thinks her congressman better keep an eye out for the government basics that national recovery will eventually require.

The constituent chats at the diner topped off a good week for Mr. Murphy. His new daughter was due for Easter Sunday baptism, with one of his old combat pals among the guests. “And did you see? I’m on Karl Rove’s top 20 list of targeted Democrats,” he exulted above the bar noise, eager to spread the word to Sergeant Santiago and beyond.

Recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer

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