With the exception of former Vietnam War POW John McCain, Murtha is the last man in Congress whose love of country should be suspect. Over a 37-year Marine Corps career, the Pennsylvania Democrat won eight military awards, including a Bronze star, the Corp's Distinguished Service Medal and two Purple Hearts, the latter two from combat in Vietnam.
Now comes the hitherto obscure Cybercast News Service, which claims that Murtha has said he did not deserve the win the Purple Hearts, a fiction that it declares is relevant "because the congressman has really put himself in the forefront of the antiwar movement."
The source of this whopper apparently is Harry Fox, an aide to John Saylor, a former U.S. representative. Fox came out on the losing end of an 1974 election battle with Murtha and was quoted in 1996 as stating that he was "pretending to be a big war hero" and had to get help from Saylor to get the Purple Hearts. Saylor ain't talking. In fact, he conveniently died in 1973.
You'll recall that Murtha, an avowed hawk, stunned House colleagues last Nov. 17 by calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Murtha responded to the allegation thusly:
Questions about my record are clearly an attempt to distract attention from the real issue, which is that our brave men and women in uniform are dying and being injured every day in the middle of a civil war that can be resolved only by the Iraqis themselves.
I volunteered for a year's duty in Vietnam. I was out in the field almost every single day. We took heavy casualties in my regiment the year that I was there. In my fitness reports, I was rated No. 1. My record is clear.
Its post on Murtha also said that he was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam scandal, which may well be true. No one would accuse Murtha of being a Mr. Clean, and he has been dogged by allegations that he has been on the take over his long political career.
By the by, Cybercast News Service is run by a David Thibault, a senior producer for a television news magazine broadcast and sponsored by . . . are you ready for a shock? The Republican National Committee.
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FYI, the term swift boating entered the political lexicon during the 2004 presidential campaign when a right-wing group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans claimed that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had lied about his own Vietnam combat experience. The claim was never proven because it was provably false, but as befit the entire Kerry campaign, he did a notably inept job of defending himself.