WASHINGTON - Lawyer Patrick Murphy and five other veterans of theThis is the first step in rebuilding the Democrats' credentials on military issues -- getting new veterans on board as frontline candidates.
Iraq war are asking questions about President Bush's policies in Iraq as part of their broader Democratic campaigns to win congressional seats in next year's elections.
Given their experience in Iraq, the six Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia say they are eminently qualified to pose the tough questions. Their reservations mirror public opinion, with an increasing number of Americans expressing concern about the mission and favoring a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The most recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll showed only 37 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, with 62 percent disapproving.
This summer, Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran, nearly defeated Republican Jean Schmidt in a special election in an Ohio district considered a GOP stronghold. Hackett focused on his wartime experience and his opposition to Bush's policies.
On Monday, with support from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other party leaders, Hackett decided to seek a higher office, the Senate seat now held by two-term Republican Mike DeWine, said spokesman David Woodruff.
"Some guys don't think it's time to question our government, but the fact is I love my country," said Murphy, 31, who fought with the 82nd Airborne Division. "We need to have an exit strategy now."
Bryan Lentz, 41, an attorney from Swarthmore, Pa., volunteered to go to Iraq at age 39 with a civil affairs unit. The Army reserves major was so disillusioned by the lack of a plan in Iraq that he decided while he was in Iraq to run for Congress.
He is trying to unseat 10-term GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
"I'm not anti-war, I'm anti-failure," Lentz said. "We need to define what victory is and we need to set a plan to get there. You cannot stay the course if you do not set a course."
Oh, we have plenty of veterans representing the Democratic Party. You know about the Vietnam folks like Kerry and Kerrey and the WWII vets like Akaka and Inuoye, but you'd be surprised to hear some of the unlikely folks who have service records -- Ted Kennedy, Army; Jon Corzine, Marines; Jack Reed, Army Rangers; Chris Dodd, Army. And that's precisely the point. The split of veterans in the Senate is almost 50-50, and yet you'd never know it from the posturing of the Republican Party and the complicity of the press.
It's going to take a new wave of Democratic veterans to restore that image and, much more importantly, restore the spine of the party to speak out on military affairs. As Paul Hackett showed us last time, stark criticism of the Iraq misadventure can be delivered and delivered well when it's coming from someone who's actually served there. Hard to claim they don't support the troops when they are, in fact, the troops.
Good luck, guys.