The Spectacle Blog

Murtha on McLaughlin

By on 2.13.06 | 12:15PM

Jack Murtha appeared on John McLaughlin's "One on One" program this weekend. (I've never seen it, but it's his "in-depth" interview show on PBS.) McLaughlin brought up my article on Murtha's lobbyist brother and Abscam past.

For starters, I can't figure out why McLaughlin's bringing this up. As far as I know, the article didn't make much of a splash. Thorough Google, Technorati, and Lexis Nexis searches turned up a negligible response. So either McLaughlin found the article in pre-show prep, or Murtha put him up to it so as to get a response on the record with a friendly interviewer. If it's the latter, he couldn't have found a better venue:

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's clear up something with you, Congressman. A few days ago a conservative publication, The American Spectator, published an article attacking you and your ethics and integrity. And the thrust of the article was because your brother, Kit, is a defense lobbyist, and you're engaging in, quote, unquote, "murky ethics" by virtue of the fact that he is the ranking Democratic member of the -- you are the ranking Democratic member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. How long has your brother been a defense lobbyist?

Actually, the thrust of the article was that guys like McLaughlin weren't looking at Murtha's lobbying ties with the same zeal as examining Republicans'.

REP. MURTHA: Well, probably 20 years. But we treat him like we treat everybody else. He's got a good project, we take care of it. If he doesn't have a good project, we don't take care of it. He served in the Marine Corps just like I did and he's a marvelous brother, but he doesn't get treated like -- he just get treated like anybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't do any favors for him?

REP. MURTHA: We don't do any favors for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No quid pro quo?

REP. MURTHA: We treat him exactly like everybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you actually have rejected some of the ideas -- some of --

REP. MURTHA: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

That's it? No mention of the L.A. Times article uncovering many more details of this cozy relationship? Nothing of the fact that most of the benefiting defense contractor clients only signed up with KSA after Kit Murtha became a senior partner there? McLaughlin will take Murtha's word for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this -- were you involved in the Abscam scandals in the late 1970s, the FBI sting operation into congressional bribery? One senator and five members of the House were indicted after accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents in the sting, which centered around a fictitious effort to get support for arms sales to Middle Eastern countries. Murtha was approached by an undercover FBI agent, and you're on tape telling the agent, quote, unquote, "I'm not interested." Is that true?

REP. MURTHA: Not only that, John; they pulled a drawer out and they had $50,000 there and I said, "I'm not interested." I said, "I'm interested in investment in my district, period."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the person who wrote this is really writing a smear -- a crude, cheap and actionable smear -- against you by say you were an unindicted co-conspirator. It was never suggested throughout the whole case -- in fact, the ethics committee exonerated you, correct?

Whoa, John. Quote the rest of the tape. Murtha said he wasn't interested "at this point." It doesn't change the legal outcome, but it's not an insignificant fact.

REP. MURTHA: Only two votes against out of 17 counts. I mean, it was -- it cleared completed. That was in the grand jury stage of it, for heaven's sakes.

This is the point at which a good interviewer would ask about the resignation of Ethics Committee lead counsel and prominent Democrat E. Barrett Prettyman Jr. just after Murtha was cleared.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to take any action against this person, whose name is David Holman?

REP. MURTHA: I'm not going to allow them to distract me, John, from my mission. My mission is one thing: to get the president to change his direction.

I thank the Congressman for his charity. A libel suit would be a bad idea for Murtha: not just because everything in the article is well sourced, but dredging up and reexamining the facts would be painfully embarrassing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it character association --

REP. MURTHA: Well, it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- assassination?

REP. MURTHA: I'll tell you, in my business, I take a lot of criticism. But in my estimation, what I do is try not to be distracted by this criticism. They're doing everything they can to distract from what I'm saying. I'm saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're also using you as a ploy to distract from the Republican Jack Abramoff.

REP. MURTHA: Yeah, good point.

Which one is the partisan politician here? But this tactic of claiming that those questioning Murtha's ethics are intentionally distracting from his Iraq message is precisely what I outlined in my article:

Perhaps that national prominence is steering the major press away. ... John Murtha is apparently using a controversy he created in November to shield himself from his ethical past. His comments about the war in Iraq make for convenient cover in an increasingly critical ethical atmosphere.

The Clintons would be proud of this one: because of the unstated, potential motivations of a few, the intentions of all who question Murtha are suspect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this story originates with The American Spectator or David Holman, or do you think it originates somewhere else?

REP. MURTHA: Well, I have no idea where it originates, but I'll tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see any sinister genius at the White House pulling this string, do you?

REP. MURTHA: (Laughs.) I don't know the guy and I've heard a lot about him, but I have no doubt that it could have originated there. But the point is that they're trying to distract from what I'm saying. They can't answer it substantively. They can't say --

Again, who's the partisan politician? Both. Sorry, Johns, but conspiracy theories don't qualify as political dialogue. If I'm on Karl Rove's speed dial, I'd sure like to know it.

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