As those of you who have been following my blogging as of late know, I have been doing weekly volunteer work for the campaign of PA-08 Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy. Aside from being a progressive Democrat who was one of the original netroots-endorsed candidate, Patrick is a veteran who has served in Bosnia and Iraq, along with being a constitutional law professor at West Point – an impeccable resume of service, to say the least. Since 2004, though, it’s been a trademark of the GOP and its right-wing cronies to question the service of just about any veteran who has seen combat – if they are running for office as a Democrat. I spoke with one of the staffers in the Murphy campaign, who noted that the local newspapers had said early on in the race that they would not stand for any sort of ‘Swiftboat’ attacks on Patrick’s military service by his opponents.
Apparently, that appeal fell on deaf ears. Either that, or Fitzpatrick’s internal poll numbers (which he has yet to release) are bad enough that he has to sink to a new low in his campaign.
Two Iraq war veterans have accused Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Murphy of mischaracterizing what he did in that war-torn country. The charge provoked an angry response from Murphy, who charged incumbent Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, with trying to “swiftboat” him.
U.S. Army Capt. Richard Barbato, who served in the 82nd Airborne, the same division as Murphy, joked that Murphy was always back at the unit’s headquarters while the rest of the unit’s soldiers were fighting.
“While we were up on the front lines … [Murphy] didn’t see the same things we did,” Barbato said.
This picture, pulled from Patrick’s photo gallery, certainly doesn’t seem like he was just hanging around while other soldiers were putting their lives in peril. In addition, the campaign’s official blog pulls up Patrick’s citation for a Bronze Star. While most of it focuses on his work on helping the Iraqi court system get up and running, it takes note that he was not merely involved in administrative matters:
Additionally, he instructed over 600 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers in the use of force, the profession of arms, and military justice…Additionally, CPT Murphy was the Convoy Commander in over 75 movement-to-contact missions throughout the Baghdad area of operations, one receiving small arms fire and one successfully scouting the eventual detonation of an improvised explosion device, but all resulting in mission accomplishment and no soldiers killed or wounded in action.
Remember how we all criticized John Kerry’s slow response to the Swiftboat attacks during the 2004 election? Well, he’s certainly learned his lesson, and it appears like he’s taking any attacks on our veteran candidates quite personally – and responding with a vengeance:
“I won’t stand for the `swift boating’ of Patrick Murphy. It disgusts me that a congressman who has never worn the uniform of our country stands there in silence as a veteran home from Iraq has his service disparaged.
“You know why Mike Fitzpatrick is engaged in the lowest form of smear and fear politics? Because he’s afraid of actually debating Patrick Murphy about the disastrous war in Iraq. He’s afraid to debate a veteran who lives and breathes the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor. He’s terrified of actually leveling with the American people about the way the administration misled America into war, and admitting their stay the course slogans just guarantee more Americans die for a stand still and lose strategy.
“Mike Fitzpatrick should finally find the courage to debate the real issue instead of cowardly having his surrogates try to destroy anyone who speaks truth to power. It’s unacceptable to do this to any leader of any party anywhere in our country.”
This was released the exact same day the attacks on Patrick’s military service were made. Fitzpatrick, after the news conference, tried to back away from the statements made by his supporters – even though he did not move immediately to condemn them right after they were uttered.
After the press conference, Fitzpatrick said he disagreed with the veterans.
“In no way, shape or form would I ever question Pat Murphy’s service to our country,” said Fitzpatrick, who is not a military veteran. “I recognize and appreciate Pat’s service to our country as much as anyone in our community.
“As far as his military service in Iraq, I take him fully at his word,” Fitzpatrick added.
It’s the classic GOP maneuver of tossing out aspersions on a Democrat’s military service and subsequently ‘distancing’ themselves from the actual attack itself. You can bet that Fitzpatrick will continue along these lines. However, the Murphy campaign has no intention of taking this lying down. Aside from Kerry’s smackdown on Friday, there is word that several big-name Democrats will be ‘going to bat’ for Patrick, as I was told. I can’t divulge any names, as per the request of the campaign, but you can bet that Fitzpatrick will wish that he and his campaign had kept their collective mouth shut. And when I say ‘big names’, this is in addition to the appearances with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. There is going to be some major star power coming to Bucks County in support of Patrick.
The lesson from it all? The Republican Party doesn’t care about military service unless you agree with their beliefs. No matter how honorably one served, they will find a way to question our candidates’ service to America, even though the vast majority of them have never served in the military. It’s shameful. It’s disrespectful. And most of all, it’s unpatriotic.