Speaking of Iraq

The long awaited Congressional debate about Iraq was this week. Those who agreed to send in the troops had one more chance to wiggle out of their previous vote or plunge into the whole "cut and run" position. Those who voted against it. Well, they're probably saying, "I told you so".

A few have changed their minds - and in light of how viscous the backlash can be, that qualifies as a pretty brave position. One man who changed his mind is John Murtha.

When Murtha's light came on, he spoke up and has continued speaking ever since. His reward for being smart enough to recognize a mistake when he sees one wasn't a nice pat on the back and a pleasant letter saying, "John, you're a good man and thanks for pointing that mistake out." Instead, the very conservatives he so often sided with in the past attacked him like a pack of wolverines. Overnight, he changed from respected war hero to lilly-livered, liberal, cutter and runner. The backlash was so strong that the verb to be "Murthaed" has now replaced being "Borked".

Murtha is a strong and knowledgeable man and probably one that I would personally disagree with more often than not. But on the subject of Iraq, I think he's exactly right. In essence he says, when you do something stupid, fess up and find a way to make it right. Sometimes the mistake is so bad - and I count Iraq as one of them - that there's no real way to fix it. When that happens, you do the best you can and cut your losses. For the corporate cronies in the executive and legislative branches, this should be instantly recognizable as a valid business decision that CEOs play out all the time.

Maybe they can't see it because no one gave them a CEO-sized bonus for figuring it out. Who knows.

While I agree with Murtha, his delivery sucks. On the plus side, he takes every opportunity to make his points and it's clear he's impassioned about them. The problem is, his oratorical skills aren't up to the task. What should be an inspiring message about facing failures and making things right gets lost in a sputtering, slightly rabid, and rambling, red-faced rant. He forgets what he wants to say. He stops sentences in the middle and moves in another direction at will. He almost never takes a breath to let anyone else speak. In short, he becomes an easy target for the wingnuts to characterize as another ACLU-loving loon, regardless of whether it's true or not. He's the mirror image of Kerry. Kerry's somnambulant tones and forays into splitting the fine hairs of his positions bored half the people and convinced the rest he was an Alzheimer's patent on sabbatical from the ward. Murtha rants more like Howard Dean - and you see where that got Howard.

There have been regrettably few political orators in the past few decades. In an effort to talk like the common man, Shrub just ends up sounding like a cowboy at the wrong end of a long trail drive with shit on his boots and dust in his mouth. Clinton was way too long and much too heavy on the "I feel your pain" angle. When you listen to Tree, it's no secret where Shrub got his public speaking skills. The only things Daddy does better ate the absence of Shrub's accent and not using the podium like a Serta PerfectSleeper.

Before Bush the Elder, the Great Communicator was Orator-in-Chief. Despite the moniker, he couldn't deliver a line unless it was on a TelePrompter or whispered in his ear by Nancy. Before Reagan, Carter was long on ideas and short of ways to inspire. Ford never made it to the podium because all the tripping over microphone cords and Nixon looked like what he was, a thief caught with his hand in the till. Before him, Johnson made an effort, but fell short more on the basis of poor content than the lack of oratorical skills.

That brings us to Kennedy. Now Kennedy could talk. He could pluck an idea out of thin air and boil it down to it's most essential and precious elements. His metaphors were powerful and never over-used. He had the pacing. He had the structure. He had it all. In fact, he was so good that his opponents often left his speeches with tears in their eyes.

So there you have it. Nearly 45 years of mumbled-mouthed politicians. No wonder the quality of civic debate has gone downhill. The speakers can't speak and the listeners can't understand.

So where does that leave us with Mr. Murtha?

I guess for now, we'll take him solely at his content and forgive him the trespasses of his public speaking. Hopefully, people will see the raw passion he projects and be inspired by it, regardless of the delivery. Just because the man can't talk is no reason to bypass his message.

It's too important for that.

Cross Posted at Bring It On!

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, June 16, 2006

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