A November 22 New York Times article quoted Vice President Dick Cheney commending Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) as "a good man, a marine, a patriot" but omitted any reference to the Bush administration's initial response to Murtha's November 17 announcement supporting the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
That response included this attack on Murtha on November 17 by White House press secretary Scott McClellan:
McCLELLAN: [I]t is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists.
The Times article reported only the administration's more conciliatory comments of November 21, without noting that they differed sharply from its initial response. As the article reported, during his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Cheney said, in addition to praising Murtha as a "good man, a marine, a patriot," that Murtha was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion.
The article even brought up Murtha's prior criticism of Cheney but, again, made no mention of the administration's attack on Murtha. The paper quoted Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, saying he "felt bad" for invoking Cheney's Vietnam-era military deferments during the November 17 press conference to announce his joint resolution calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." When a reporter said to Murtha, "The president and the vice president are both saying that it is now irresponsible for Democrats to criticize the war and to criticize the intelligence going into the war, because everybody was looking at the same intelligence," Murtha responded: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
From the November 22 New York Times article by David S. Cloud:
As recently as last year, Mr. Murtha was warning that "premature withdrawal" of American troops could lead to a civil war in Iraq and leave American foreign policy in "disarray," the exact critique Republicans lodge against him now.
The evolution of his views, he said, has been driven both by the pain of frequent visits to see injured soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington and by his steady disillusionment with the Bush administration's handling of the war. But in some ways he is unsuited temperamentally to the role he has assumed.
"I just came to the conclusion finally that I had to speak out," he told reporters on Monday. "I had to focus this administration on an exit strategy."
"I'm hopeful I don't go too far," he said, adding that he "felt bad" last week after bringing up Vice President Dick Cheney's "five deferments" in the Vietnam era.
Mr. Cheney, in a speech on Monday in Washington in which he defended the administration's handling of the war, called Mr. Murtha "a good man, a marine, a patriot," and said Mr. Murtha was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."
An insider most comfortable in the backrooms of Congress, Mr. Murtha said his goal was only to force a dialogue with President Bush on the need to draw down American forces -- not lead his party's antiwar wing. Many fellow Democrats are uneasy about his call for an immediate withdrawal, fearing it will give Republicans a chance to brand them as weak on national security.