Time to take our medicine, kids.

It’s fun to make fun of the clownish, obviously foolish Jack Murtha, who among other things thinks it’s possible to fight a war in Iraq from Okinawa. But we’re all jabbing him from far outside his power base. Robert Novak explains what’s going on inside Murtha’s anti-war command post:

After 16 undistinguished terms in Congress, Rep. John P. Murtha at long last felt his moment had arrived. He could not keep quiet the secret Democratic strategy that he had forged for the promised “second step” against President Bush’s Iraq policy (after the “first step” non-binding resolution of disapproval). In an interview last Thursday with the anti-war website MoveCongress.org, he revealed plans to put conditions on funding of U.S. troops. His message: I am running this show.

Indeed, he is. Murtha and his ally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were humiliated last Nov. 16 when the Democratic Caucus overwhelmingly voted against Murtha as majority leader. Three months later, Murtha has shaped party policy that would cripple Bush’s Iraq troop surge by placing conditions on funding. That represents the most daring congressional attempt to micromanage ongoing armed hostilities in nearly two centuries, since the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War challenged President Abraham Lincoln.

Don’t think for a second that just because it’s Murtha’s baby, the Democrats are going to abort it. The “slow bleed” (a term I use mainly to annoy Media Matters) is alive and well. Pay close attention to what Hillary! says in her anti-war video, fisked here. Her new or old plan to end the war, depending on which sentence in her speech you choose to believe, is slow bleed with a better name. John Edwards is also running on a variation of the slow bleed. That’s two of the top three Dem presidential candidates.

Slow bleed isn’t a stupid strategy, either. It’s dangerous, and it makes our troops the victims of Democrat narcissism, but it’s not stupid. It’s very clever, as Murtha clearly understands:

Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, did not hide the purpose of setting standards for training, equipping and resting troops: “They won’t have the equipment, they don’t have the training, and they won’t be able to do the work.”

Murtha’s able to wield so much power because he and Speaker Pelosi are two liberal peas in a pod. According to Novak, they have managed to sideline House majority leader Steny Hoyer and are working their strategy without him. Murtha lost that election, but has apparently won the war. And having won that war, he’s empowered to make sure we lose the one in Iraq.

Rich Lowry picks up on where Murtha’s strategy may lead, in Iraq and here at home:

The surge is the best chance of turning the war around. By hampering it, Democrats will ensure that the war continues to fail, and thus that domestic political support for it plummets to the point where Democrats feel safe in defunding it.

The subconscious logic of their position on the war has thus taken a subtle turn. It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end.

President Bush will have no choice but to reject the Murtha restrictions should they reach his desk. But a veto is problematic. As Murtha points out, a veto means that Bush doesn’t get the continued funding for the war. He might have to sign the bill, take the funding and ignore the restrictions as an unconstitutional trespass on his powers. In that event, a cry to impeach him will go up from the increasingly powerful antiwar Left.

It’s not unthinkable that President Bush might face serious and sustained calls for impeachment for the crime of carrying out the responsibilities of his office, fending off what amounts to a seizure of his power by the Democrats in the House, Senate and on the campaign trail–none of whom have been elected to replace him. It’s also not unthinkable that this will have serious consequences on the progress of the surge in Iraq. And it’s far from unthinkable that those battlefield consequences are part of the plan that Murtha, Pelosi, Clinton, Edwards and perhaps a majority of the Democrats are banking on to bring them the White House in 2008.

They know that they can’t defund the war outright, yet. But by hamstringing the president’s options, they can make victory impossible. Having then forced on defeat, they can claim victory over Bush and defeat in Iraq, and then they can defund the war. That’s where we’re headed, under shadow Commander in Chief Jack Murtha.

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a political party’s cynicism, cowardice, irresponsibility and narcissism? Ask Jack Murtha, because that’s exactly what he’s asking of our troops fighting in Iraq.