Robert Novak

Murtha quickly issued a new press release Wednesday deleting "charged" and describing Wuterich as leader of "the squad accused of killing two dozen civilians." The lawsuit accused Murtha of spreading "false and malicious lies" about the sergeant in his May 19 statement which said Marines "killed a number of civilians without anybody firing at them."

Although Murtha has carried his western Pennsylvania district by landslide margins and was unopposed in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won it with only 51 percent. Diana Irey, a Republican county commissioner, is waging a vigorous campaign, and last week accused Murtha of "regular and willful misstatements of key facts."


Melvin R. Laird, who as secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld's fellow Nixon Cabinet member 37 years ago, has publicly declared his old colleague should have left his post after the 2004 election on grounds that one term is enough to lead the Pentagon.

Laird endorsed the one-term limit in Atlanta June 9 in a conference of former Defense secretaries. "I told that to Rummy, that he should stay only four years," said Laird. "He didn't pay any attention to me."

Bush advisers, with no replacement in hand, say Rumsfeld can stay in the Pentagon as long as he wants.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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