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OP-ED | Who Would’ve Thunk It? Murphy Leads The Way

by | Oct 3, 2014 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Congress, Opinion, White House

josalee thrift / ctnewsjunkie file photo

Who would have thought a little known junior senator from Connecticut would be one of the leaders in prodding Congress to exercise its constitutional authority as President Obama’s wages war abroad?

But that’s precisely the role Sen. Chris Murphy has assumed in the last few weeks. Murphy has been all over the place, blasting out press releases and appearing on television at every available opportunity. Normally when politicians strain to get themselves in front of cameras, I cringe. Dick Blumenthal, Murphy’s colleague in the Senate, comes to mind.

Two Sundays ago Murphy appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press, where he went toe to toe with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, and new moderator Chuck Todd. And this past Sunday, he returned to Connecticut to face Al Terzi and Jenn Berstein on Fox-CT’s The Real Story. He shone brightly in both venues.

I was never a big fan of Murphy’s. In many ways, he just seems like a typical politician — all about messaging, imaging, and self interest. I interviewed him several times when he came out of nowhere to defeat Nancy Johnson, the Republican who represented the old 6th Congressional District for 25 years.

Murphy was exceedingly careful not to say anything controversial. Even on the Iraq war, which he says he opposed and Johnson supported, he took great pains not to make it a major focus of his campaign, lest his words come back to haunt him. After all, several iconic Democratic figures in Congress, such as John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards — and yes, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman — voted to support the resolution and later had to explain their votes away.

It was much safer to hammer away at Johnson’s authorship of Medicare Part D, which prohibited the federal government from negotiating the prices of drugs with the pharmaceutical companies. Who could possibly disagree with Murphy’s criticism of that indefensible policy?

Fortunately, Murphy has grown by leaps and bounds since the days when he was an insurgent state senator trying to topple a 12-term Washington incumbent. He has carried his cautious interest in foreign policy as a congressional candidate to become an emerging leader on that subject in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he also chairs the Subcommittee on European Affairs.

In his appearance on The Real Story, Murphy made a clear and compelling case, not only that a thorough debate is needed on Obama’s decision to start a bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, but that Congress should return to Washington before its post-election lame-duck session and actually hold a vote on whether to endorse or even authorize the president’s actions.

“The Constitution mandates that we have a vote, and the consequences of getting this wrong are potentially disastrous to us,” Murphy said.

Murphy took something of a risk in defying Obama’s wishes by voting last month against the arming and training of Syrian rebels (Blumenthal voted for it). His logic was utterly sound.

“One of the worries we have is that by arming and training these Syrian rebels, who are fighting side by side with Al Qaeda inside Syria, is that you would actually be strengthening, not weakening Al Qaeda in Syria,” Murphy said. “So that’s what’s important to remember in this whole debate.”

I’m not a foreign policy expert by any stretch of the imagination, but Murphy certainly sounds like he has learned a lot about the subject in his year and half in the world’s most exclusive club. He is very fluent, discoursing easily on everything from Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to the Sunni moderates to the Kurdish peshmerga.

Last week I watched British Prime Minister David Cameron address lawmakers, whom he had called into emergency session to make his case in Parliament for joining the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). There was a robust debate among both the prime minister’s allies and foe, while Cameron was called upon to defend his desire to join the coalition — which he did eloquently.

I found myself thinking, “Why can’t we have a system of government like that?” Instead of vigorous discourse on our risky involvement in the Middle East, we get brief media availabilities, press releases, Oval Office addresses, and a cowardly Congress that goes into recess until the elections instead of doing what we pay them to do.

Murphy is among the few in Washington advocating loudly for Congressional action, even if it means interrupting the vacations and campaigning of the Capitol Hill ruling class. You go, young man!

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(8) Archived Comments

posted by: art vandelay | October 3, 2014  8:35am

art vandelay

Could Murphy be looking for a bigger stage to play on?

posted by: thomas hooker | October 3, 2014  9:29am

In fact, Chris Murphy was very outspoken in his criticism of the Iraq War.  He did not pull his punches.  And he took on Nancy Johnson over her support for the war loudly and repeatedly.

Furthermore, Murphy made clear that he would challenge Joe Lieberman for the Senate, whether or not Lieberman ran again.  That took courage. 

Mr. Murphy is no ordinary “politician.”  Perhaps it’s just that the press are paying closer attention now.

posted by: SteveM | October 3, 2014  10:55am

Could not agree more with this. Murphy’s press releases are some of the few I actually read through now, they are very informed and knowledgeable opinions.

posted by: PWS2003 | October 3, 2014  12:00pm

These are positive actions on his part but they stand in stark contrast to his performance earlier in Kiev with John(Bomb, bomb, bomb,bomb,bomb Iran) McCain, where they stood on stage with a Neo-Nazi.

posted by: thomas hooker | October 3, 2014  5:56pm

Terry, don’t take my word for it.  Here’s the take of Fox News back in November 2006: “HARTFORD, Conn. –  Rep. Nancy Johnson, a 12-term Republican who ran a tough-on-terror campaign and touted her co-authorship of the Medicare prescription drug legislation, lost her re-election bid Tuesday to anti-war Democrat Chris Murphy…Portrayed as a strong supporter of President Bush and the unpopular war in Iraq, Johnson was one of Connecticut’s three Republican members of Congress who fought for political survival Tuesday against anti-war Democrats hoping to regain power.”

This was at the peak of anger against the Iraq War, and in this state, it was the central issue of the day.  Murphy never hedged his opposition to that war, nor shied away from criticizing Johnson’s support for it.

posted by: MGKW | October 4, 2014  5:20pm


You are spot on with this article…he speaks with a clear purpose and he does his homework…I have engaged him in conversation many times and it is a pleasure—-he does not talk down—-treats all with a level of respect not seen in many politicians.
A tip:
Someone should take a closer look at the 5th CD…it may be a lot closer then some reporters and pundits think….Greenberg is keeping an extraordinarily low profile because he does not want his past to come back and bite him.

His comments on social security, the mideast, reproductive rights, and gun law are all known but not by many.

He has done a great job misdirecting people…puppies, etc.

Just a tip….

posted by: SocialButterfly | October 5, 2014  4:46pm

Esty keeps overpowering Greenberg with no mercy in her paid political ads. Why isn’t Greenberg attacking Esty, even slightly? A non-existent “cat and mouse game.” Why no debate between these two people?

posted by: thomas hooker | October 6, 2014  8:42am

Terry, just thought that Fox would carry significant weight with you, as a partisan Republican.  Perhaps you simply didn’t ask him about the war much.  Did you want to focus your interview on other subjects?

Clearly, Murphy has made no secret of his views on foreign policy, both back then, and now.  He clearly intended to make Lieberman’s foreign policy positions a major focus when Murphy stated that he would challenge Lieberman, whether or not Lieberman decided to run for re-election.

Oh, and that “devil you know” on education policy?  Governor Malloy has now been endorsed by both major teachers unions.

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