OLD GUARD

Murtha on the Outs

Caught in a tangled web of military contractors and lobbyists, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania is seeing his hard-earned influence slowly slip away. Murtha--the top Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Committee who has cultivated close ties to military contractors--is cornered now that many of his associates are being investigated in the new political climate established by Obama's strict ethics code. The "old bull" of the House has also butted heads with Defense Secretary Robert Gates over several military contracts that Gates saw as wasteful. Murtha, however, shows no outward signs of concern. He returned to Congress the past week after having recovered from knee surgery with a cane "topped by a six inch gold knob, a gift from the Marine commanding officer."