Ross Mackenzie

Answer: Sam Johnson; 29 years in the Air Force - seven of them as a POW in Hanoi.

Question: Who gave the most powerful speech in the House of Representatives during a raucous Nov. 18 debate culminating in a 403-3 vote against pulling troops out of Iraq?

Answer: Texas (3rd District); Republican. Indeed, former speaker of the Texas House.

Question: What are Johnson's state and party?

Answer: That's the whole point.

Question: Why have so few heard of Johnson? Why has he received so little exposure?

Answer: Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania (12th District); 37 years in the Marines - including two tours in Vietnam.

Question: Who is the Congressman who got so much exposure with a proposal to start pulling American troops out of Iraq?

Answer: Thank you. You've asked the ultimate question.

Question: Why did Murtha receive so much exposure, and Johnson so little?

XXX

We have at hand yet another example of selective coverage. Murtha was a Page One poster boy for close to a week. Johnson remains practically unheard of. What goes similarly unreferenced is this: Murtha voted with the majority (not in the three-vote minority) on the House pull out resolution.

Some related queries:

Why the plaudits for minority pols as long as they are Democrats (Illinois Senator Barack Obama and all the members of the Congressional Black Caucus) - but heaven help them if they are Republicans, such as Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele of Maryland, Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, or former Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma?

Why are "moderates" so often described in terms of how they deviate leftward from the accepted Republican line (Senators Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe), but not in terms of how they deviate rightward from the accepted Democratic line (Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut)? Are there no liberals among the Republicans but only conservatives and moderates, and no moderates among the Democrats - just liberals and conservatives?

XXX

Why is Sen. John McCain championed as the media's favorite Republican "maverick" when he deviates from Republican (or administration) orthodoxy, while his support for increasing U.S. forces in Iraq goes almost ignored?

Why, in coverage of calls for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, is the public rarely reminded that many of those so vociferous in their withdrawal demands now, in fact voted to remove Saddam Hussein and urged acting before he employed his weapons of mass destruction against the West and its allies?

Why is the government applauded for investigating the tax status of conservative evangelical churches that signify for Republican administrations, while the government is deplored for investigating the tax status of liberal mainline churches - such as Pasadena's All Saints Episcopal - that signify against them?

And why does the public hear ceaselessly about Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq and who demands immediate withdrawal of American forces now, yet hardly a word about (for instance) Virginians Sallie Stubenhofer and Rhonda Winfield - two mothers of sons killed in Iraq, who insist that immediate withdrawal is not the appropriate avenue out?

XXX

NBC'S Brian Williams said of Congressman Murtha: "When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn't be news. But it was today, because of who he is." Neither Williams nor many others in the mainline media have noted that two years ago "hawk" Murtha urged the firing of Pentagon leaders who misled him into voting for the Iraq enterprise.

Here are the abbreviated comments of "one Congressman out of 435" - Sam Johnson of Texas - on the floor of the House two weeks ago:

I spent 29 years in the Air Force - served in Korea and Vietnam and spent seven years as a POW in Vietnam, more than half of that time in solitary confinement.

When I was a POW, I was scared to death when our Congress talked about pulling the plug that I would be left there forever. I know what it does to morale. I know what it does to the mission. And so help me God, I will never, ever, let our nation make those mistakes again. Never.

Our men and women in uniform need our full support.

They need to have full faith that a few naysayers in Washington won't cut and run - and leave them high and dry. They need to know these things because that's mandatory for mission success and troop morale.

Mr. Speaker, we're making great progress in Iraq. And our work is paying off.

It's going to take time, but our guys on the ground are working with other nations to make inroads to create leadership and inspire democracy in a country that has known only hate, fear and death from a ruler.

However sadly, some here want to embolden the enemy by saying we just cut and run. That's just irresponsible and unconscionable.

In case people have forgotten, this is the same thing that happened in Vietnam. Peaceniks and people in Congress - and America - started saying bad things about what was going on over there. Let me tell you what it did for troop morale. It's a real downer.

Withdrawal is not an option!

XXX

Johnson's side carried the day, 403-3. So, again, the ultimate question: Why so much exposure, visibility and coverage for the anti-war Congressman Murtha, and so little - practically none - for Congressman Johnson, who seeks to see the mission through?


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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