Murtha in Brooklyn

Here is John Koblin’s dispatch from last night’s town hall meeting in Brooklyn.

Major Owens plopped down in the front-row in a hot, musty Methodist church in Park Slop, inches from Yvette Clarke who hosted a town hall forum in the congressman’s district with Rep. John Murtha and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Weird, but Clarke tried to diffuse any awkwardness.

“We know that a political campaign is going on,” she said, “but Congressman Owens has been an outstanding voice when it comes to addressing the Iraq War and our need to bring our troops home and he’s been consistent in that voice and I believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due.”

Then, she invited Owens – who is campaigning against her – to the microphone. He too stepped around the politics of the race to succeed him. “Jack Murtha is the great hope” and he won’t “take any minutes away from that.”

Murtha had only a few words for Clarke at the town hall. “I appreciate the opportunity to be here with Yvette. When I talked to her, she was one of the first people to talk to me about this war and a number of other things she’s been involved with me, like diabetes research and cancer research and those kind of things.”

 Murtha in Brooklyn

If anything, Murtha had higher praise for the person he wasn’t there to endorse. “We need accountability. Major Owens understood this early on. Major Owens was in the forefront. Major Owens is dynamic. He doesn’t say a lot but he gets things done in Congress.”

In response to one question, Murtha also said he would campaign in Connecticut for Ned Lamont if invited.

But it was still Clarke’s day. Before the town hall, Murtha had said he is endorsing because of her position on the war. At the town hall, Clarke said, “It’s okay to say that we want our troops home now – it is in our gut, it is in our instinct, we know that’s what we want, but how do we do it responsibly?”

She didn’t clarify. So I asked her outside, just how do you handle this responsibly?

“We should start by redeploying our troops to friendly territories like Kuwait, but always standing ready in case they need to go back in,” she said, echoing Congressman Murtha’s suggestions from a few minutes earlier. “This is what we’re calling a multi-pronged approach to the help the democracy.”

What about a timetable for withdrawal?

“That’s a great question,” she said, before pausing. “I’ll leave it to the experts for that.”

Chris Owens, who sat behind me and joined a bevy of supporters outside afterwards, wasn’t impressed. He called her presence with Murtha and Weiner “all hype.”