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June 22, 2006

Murray's Iraq speech echoes Darcy Burner

Posted by David Postman at 11:33 AM

The U.S. Senate, as expected, has rejected two Democratic resolutions calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Washington's Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray voted for the Levin amendment, a non-binding resolution that called on the Bush Administration to begin withdrawing troops but with no specific deadline for withdrawal. That failed on a 60-39 vote.

John Kerry's plan for a July 1, 2007 withdrawal failed 86-13.

As I watched the debate on C-Span Wednesday I was struck by these comments by Murray:

"The men and women of our military have done everything we have asked them to do. We've looked for weapons of mass destruction and found none. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. We helped the Iraqis hold elections and set up their government and security forces.

"So what is our mission today? Right now our nation's policy on Iraq is adrift. Instead of addressing this head on, the administration and this Congress continue to build on miscalculations and incompetence of the past and are dismissing any serious discussion of the challenge the American people now face."

That rang a bell. It sounded similar to what Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner says. I heard Burner at the Democratic State Convention earlier this month and was struck by the cogent summary that allowed her to criticize the Republican leadership of the war while at the same time showing support for the troops.

Here's what Burner said in Yakima:

"We asked our men and women to go take out this government that we told them was a threat to us. And they did it in less than three weeks. We asked them to ensure that there were no weapons of mass destruction and they did that. We asked them to maintain stability in the region while the Iraqis adopted a constitution and elected a new government and they did that. "And now they are sitting over there getting shot at because the Republicans in control in Washington, D.C., cannot figure out what their plan is to finish the job and bring them home and that has got to stop."

I am not suggesting plagiarism here. It's not anywhere close enough for that. But was Murray influenced by Burner's take on Iraq, was Burner influenced by someone else, or was this a passage from a Democratic talking point?

Burner's spokeswoman, Jaime Smith, said Burner has always used that approach in talking about Iraq and it did not come in some Democratic guide for talking about the war. "We were not fed that by anybody," Smith said. "It is probably a good way to communicate the frustration people are feeling," she said, adding that Murray and others may have found that it "is an effective message to pick up."

"We're happy to share with Patty," Smith said.

Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass said the senator focused on the theme of the troops having accomplished their goals by going back and looking at the original 2002 Iraq war vote that laid out what Congress was authorizing. It was clear, she said, that what the troops had been authorized to do had been done and the question became, "did we authorize them to do what they're doing there right now?"

UPDATE: I just spoke with Murray. After reading what I wrote above she said I should have been listening more carefully as she's traveled around the state in recent months.

"You have not been with me. I have been saying that for some time now," she said. Murray said she's met Burner but has not seen her speak. "I don't think it's surprising that we are saying something very similar. ... I think that's a reflection of what a lot of people are saying."

Murray said people tell her, "I don't understand why we are there now."

Murray voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq in 2002. But she has supported the supplemental appropriations for the war and occupation. While she was an early, and somewhat lonely at the time, Democratic voice against the war, she says the Kerry plan for a specific withdrawal date is the wrong approach.

"I had to work my way through that. I clearly understood that a date-certain could put our troops in jeopardy, simply by telling our enemy 'hold your breath we'll be out of there.' "

UPDATE UPDATE: You know, in the state House at least sometimes great minds just think alike.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: An alert reader with a better memory than mine just reminded me about something I wrote in 1999.

On Jan. 6, Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, introduced a minor bill to rename the federal courthouse in Spokane after Foley. Here is what he said in remarks printed in the Congressional Record:

"Mr. Foley personified the high ideals to which all of us aspire as members of Congress. First and foremost he was a gentleman who sought consensus. . . . He loved Congress, believing it to be the best forum for democracy in the world."

What a speech! The words were so inspiring, apparently, that a month later, when Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the companion bill in the Senate, here is what she said:

"Mr. Foley personified the high ideal to which all of us aspire as public servants and members of Congress. First and foremost he was a gentleman who sought consensus. . . . He loved Congress, and believed it to be the best forum for democracy in the world."

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