Saturday, April 12, 2008

On the coffee table – ‘Taking the Hill’

This story of Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq War vet to get elected to Congress is informative and sobering. It’s also a pretty good read. But, it’s not a great read.

The book is more informative when Murphy discusses his run for Congress than in his analysis of how and where Bush went wrong in launching the Iraq War in the first place, or how Bush, Cheney, Bremer, Rumfeld et al screwed up after the invasion.

Throw in the fact that Murphy felt compelled to join the Blue Dog Coalition and renew funding for the School of the Americas, with the larger position that, as a freshman in Congress who got elected on one issue, and this is not a five-star book.

I wound up giving it three stars on Amazon. If I were the first rater, I might give it four stars. But, in light of the five-star fluff of several earlier raters, it had to get knocked down to three stars as a counterweight.

Since there’s nothing new on Iraq here, I focus my critique on the Congressman Murphy latter part of the book.

First, the amount of work involved with getting elected is huge. Especially for a first-time office-seeker with not a lot of name recognition, it can be grueling. Murphy spells that out in detail, both for the Democratic primary and the general election. He then details attack-dog Republican tactics against him in the general election, including a possible Hatch Act violation by the chief of staff of his opponent, incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Next, he discusses the hypocrisy of some endorsements, though he’s either too kind or too soft to use the word “hypocrisy.”

That includes the Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsing Fitzpatrick, a non-veteran. That includes unions endorsing Fitzpatrick because “he returns our phone calls.” (It’s all about access, isn’t it?)

Murphy then explains his decision to join the Blue Dogs because they stand for “balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility.”

But, uhh, Pat … “paygo” on budget issues is an official position of your party as a whole in both houses of Congress. No need to join the Blue Dogs for that, unless you think Pelosi and Reid are giving lip service.

As for SOAR, especially in light of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, you’re naïve at best if you really think that under this administration, all its days of training human rights thugs are in the past. You should have voted to kill it.

In short, a good book but not a great one. While it is interesting to read about the shoe leather of a Congressional campaign, one doesn’t have to be an Iraq vet to do that, either.