Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) died yesterday, possibly of complications from gall bladder surgery. Mr. Murtha was a lifelong conservative-to-moderate back-bencher as well as a legendary procurer of pork for his district, but I prefer to remember him as the first Democrat who ever stood up to George W. Bush. Though he was an early Iraq war hawk, he became concerned enough about the war's toll on the armed services that he called for an immediate pullout of American troops from Iraq in late 2005, at which point Mr. Cheney suggested Mr. Murtha had lost his "backbone." Mr. Murtha, a Vietnam vet, promptly responded that Mr. Cheney had received five deferments to stay out of Vietnam, and as such really had no standing to challenge his "backbone" -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, the tone of both Messrs. Bush and Cheney changed dramatically the following week.
Sadly, not even five years later, Democrats seem to have forgotten the lesson Mr. Murtha taught: that bullies are weak, and need to be slapped down. Shame on them.