August 28, 2008, Denver, CO – Rep. Patrick Murphy grabbed a brief moment in the Democratic convention spotlight Wednesday night, taking a poke at President Bush and arguing that Sen. Barack Obama “understands the needs of our nation and our military.”
Standing at the podium in front of 25 other military veterans, the Iraq war veteran told the story of his quick rise to Congress, a journey that helped him to understand “we didn’t just need change [in Iraq], we also needed to change how we treat our veterans here at home.”
“We have a saying in the Army: Lead, follow or get out of the way,” said Murphy, D-8th District, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. “It is time for a president who leads. And it’s time for a commander-in-chief who knows that leadership means serving our troops as well as they serve us.”
He didn’t pass up the opportunity to jab at Bush. “For eight long years, we’ve had a president who rushed to stand in front of soldiers at political rallies but abandoned them at Walter Reed,” he said.
For Murphy, the prime-time address was the latest in what has been an attention-filled freshman term. The 34-year-old, who is Congress’ only Iraq war veteran, has been tapped frequently by party leadership to speak out on issues involving the armed forces and the Iraq war.
Murphy’s status as a military veteran who opposes the war has been a particularly potent subject in his race for re-election. The son of his GOP opponent, Tom Manion, was killed in Iraq last year. Manion supports the U.S. role in the war.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain, responding to Murphy’s speech, said the lawmaker “wants to bask in the limelight as if he were a celebrity, but he lacks the substance and the independent will to deliver on his empty promises.”
While Murphy has long pushed for a pullout of all combat troops from Iraq, he didn’t renew that call in his remarks and instead focused on Afghanistan.
“I am proud to stand with [Obama] as he leads the fight for a smarter and tougher foreign policy so that we can finally go after Osama bin Laden,” he said.