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On both his television and radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity referred to a congressional resolution calling for the immediate termination of U.S. troop deployment in Iraq as the "Murtha amendment." But the resolution in question was not sponsored by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA). While Murtha had introduced a detailed measure that called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date," his resolution bore little resemblance to the Republican-sponsored measure Hannity was discussing. This one-sentence resolution -- described in news reports as a "political trap" and "aimed at embarrassing war critics" -- simply ordered "that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately."
Further, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto falsely wrote that the House of Representatives had voted "on Rep. John Murtha's proposal for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq." In fact, only the GOP measure, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), reached a vote in the House.
On November 17, Murtha announced House Joint Resolution 73, a measure that, if approved, would force the president to withdraw American troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." He explained the measure at a press conference that day:
MURTHA: My plan calls for immediate redeployment of U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces to create a quick reaction force in the region, to create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines, and to diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
Murtha's resolution also set out facts on the cost of the war, the number of American casualties and polling data regarding Iraqi sentiment toward the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Murtha's proposal immediately triggered heated responses from the White House and Republican lawmakers. On November 18, Hunter responded with the introduction of House Resolution 571, which simply read:
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
An Associated Press article published November 18 described the difference between the two measures:
Murtha offered a resolution that would force the president to withdraw the nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." It would establish a quick-reaction force and a nearby presence of Marines in the region. It also said the U.S. must pursue stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
But House Republicans planned to put to a vote -- and reject -- their own symbolic alternative resolution that simply said: "It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately."
With stinging rhetoric, Democrats criticized the GOP alternative. They said House Republican leaders killed Murtha's thoughtful approach.
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) criticized the Republican resolution as a departure from Murtha's "thoughtful approach":
FILNER: But, you know, Alan [Colmes, co-host], I think you know and you have called for a real debate in Congress on what is going on in Iraq on this failed policy, on the lies that got us into Iraq, on what has been going on since. And, you know, has this all this thing been worth the 2,000 American lives, the very best and bravest of us? We need this debate.
But what the Republicans have done is a phony debate, a cynical debate, a divisive debate. They had the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, draw up a one-line resolution, saying we want the immediate deployment -- immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, a resolution by the way, [Rep.] J.D. [Hayworth (R-AZ)], that went all over the world on the Internet that probably did more harms to our troops than anything else.
They prostituted Mr. Murtha's very thoughtful approach to the end of the deployment of American troops. So this debate is needed. But on the terms that the Republicans did it, is a disgrace to the American troops. It is a disgrace to this Congress.
In a floor statement prior to the vote, Murtha said of Hunter's proposal, "This resolution is not what I envisioned, not what I introduced."
Nonetheless, Hannity proceeded to refer to the measure as "Murtha's amendment":
HANNITY: And we are awaiting momentarily now, a vote in Congress over the latest battle in Iraq and whether or not Democrats support the Murtha amendment, which is to bring the troops home.
Earlier that day, during an interview with Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) on ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity also described the resolution as the "Murtha amendment":
HANNITY: The Iranian President, Congressman Rangel, said he wanted to wipe Israel from the face of the earth and defeat Anglo-Saxons. Will he perceive a vote, if the Murtha amendment passes, as weakness? As surrender? The House ultimately defeated Hunter's resolution 403-3.
Taranto similarly obscured the differences between Murtha and Hunter's separate proposals. His November 21 "Best of the Web" column included the headline: "Murtha balks at his own proposal." In the section that followed, Taranto made no distinction between Murtha's resolution, which never reached a vote in the House, and Hunter's measure, which did:
Late Friday night the House took a vote on Rep. John Murtha's proposal for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. The vote was 403-3 against, with Murtha among the 403. The only congressmen favoring Murtha's idea were three far-left Democrats: Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, Jose Serrano of New York and Robert Wexler of Florida. Six Dems voted "present": Michael Capuano (Mass.), William Clay (Mo.), Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and Major Owens (N.Y.).
Some Republicans have labeled Murtha a "coward," which strikes us as unduly personal. But he does seem to lack the courage of his convictions.