Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania lies seriously ill in hospital after complications from gall bladder surgery and the last of the old Irish Democratic Party bosses may be on his way out.

Murtha was a 'Tip' O'Neill guy, the type of old style Irish American pol, skilled in the backroom manoeuvres where real power lay. He never looked good under the klieg lights and he would be first to admit he didn't talk, or debate great either. But when there was a job to do John Murtha did it.

It has become fashionable to denigrate such pols today in this allegedly squeaky clean arena, but pols like Murtha got it done. Men like Murtha, 'Tip; O'Neill and Lyndon Johnstone in his day passed some of the most extraordinary civil rights legislation ever created by the U.S. Congress.

Murtha like George Washington Plunkitt believed in 'honest graft' the kind of graft that helped bring jobs to his local district and made sure that the voters returned to thank him every election.
Like making sausage the process was not too pretty but the end result was a much better country. Murtha understood that as a veteran and war hero himself. Let's hope he gets better.