Murtha dead at 77

There was no shortage of things to criticize — search our archives for “pork,” “Abscam,” “ethics,” or “Haditha,” for starters — but there’s also no need to kick the coffin while friends and family are grieving. Let’s accentuate the positive. From WaPo’s obituary, semper fi:

He entered the Marine Corps in 1952, during the Korean War period, and served until 1955. He returned to Johnstown to run the family car wash and finish his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, and he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. During the Vietnam conflict, he volunteered for combat and served near Da Nang in 1966 and 1967.

In 1955, he married Joyce Bell. She survives, along with their daughter, Donna Murtha ; twin sons, Pat Murtha and John M. Murtha ; and three grandchildren…

Rep. Murtha, whose military decorations included the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart, was one of the first Vietnam veterans to sit in the House. His district returned him regularly to office, and after 10 years, Rep. Murtha had quietly established himself as a key Capitol Hill player who could woo lawmakers of divergent views to join forces.

I remember seeing a few days ago that he was in the hospital for surgery but assumed he was out of the woods because he was in stable condition. Not so — for good reason:

The 77-year-old Democrat underwent scheduled laparoscopic surgery to remove his gallbladder at Bethesda Naval Hospital last Thursday but then, after his release, sought care at the Virginia Hospital Center over the weekend.

The congressman’s spokesman declined to say Tuesday what led him to be hospitalized again. But responding to questions Wednesday, he said that Murtha was in stable condition. Two persons said it appeared Murtha’s intestine had been cut inadvertently during the gall bladder removal.

The two obvious political questions: Who’ll succeed him as the new powerbroker on defense spending in the House? And what will this do to the race in PA-12, a district that’s ever so slightly Republican-leaning according to the Cook Report? Like Ace says, that election may have less to do with the deficit and ObamaCare than who can promise the most earmarks to a community that’s been gorging on them for years.

Update: More on the Murtha family’s history of military service from the AP, which doesn’t flinch at his many ethics imbroglios:

Military service was in Murtha’s blood. He said his great-grandfather served in the Civil War, his father and three uncles in World War II, and his brothers in the Marine Corps.

He left Washington and Jefferson College in 1952 to join the Marines, where he rose through the ranks to become a drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C., and later served in the 2nd Marine Division.

Murtha moved back to Johnstown and remained with the Marine Reserves until he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He served as an intelligence officer there from 1966 to 1967 and received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Update: A special election will be called within 60 days to fill Murtha’s seat for the rest of the year. The winner, obviously, will enjoy an incumbency advantage in November. It’s a jump ball:

With Murtha gone, however, the special election will be seriously contested. Murtha’s district is the only one in the country won by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, according to Republican sources, and that trend line coupled with the volatile national environment for Democrats ensures Republicans will heavily target the contest.