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4/7/2005
SCHIAVO MEMO: REAL BUT INACCURATE
CATEGORY: Media

Brian H. Darling is a legal counsel for freshly minted Florida Senator Mel Martinez. He’s also a certifiable idiot:

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Martinez, the GOP’s Senate point man on the issue, said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. “I never did an investigation, as such,” he said. “I just took it for granted that we wouldn’t be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue.

Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman’s feeding tube. “He said these were talking points—something that we’re working on here,” Harkin said.

(Courtesy: Yahoo News)

Darling is a former lobbyist for The Alexander Group. One interesting point that’s mentioned in the linked AP story is that The Alexander Strategy Group is a conservative lobbying company. What the AP fails to mention is that they’re in business with The Harbor Group, a liberal lobbying organization.

Why do you suppose they’d leave that out?

At any rate, Darling is a fool. And it may not be entirely his fault. Martinez may not be giving us the whole story here.

Darling may have fallen on his sword to protect his boss. Senator Harkin’s quote – that Martinez handed him the memo and said they were “talking points” sounds plausible. It’s very possible that Senator Martinez asked Darling to come up with such a document and that he never read it. It’s equally possible Darling had no clue that the memo was for bi-partisan consumption.

Both men should know better. The first thing you learn on Capitol Hill as a senior staffer is to assume that every word you write may eventually see the light of day. That’s why most political strategy memo’s are done outside the legislative office of the lawmaker. It was always plausible to me that the memo could have originated with a GOP staffer because it was clearly written to delineate political advantages for the Senator. Some of it was grandiose, amateurish posturing – especially the bit about giving the party an advantage with the Christian right. A pro wouldn’t point out something so patently obvious. Such documents are never done on “letterhead” and are usually composed by the senior staffer himself, thus accounting for errors in spelling and such.

It very well could be that Martinez handed the memo to Harkin after not having read the darn thing. This will teach him. Admittedly, it takes a while for a freshman lawmaker to figure out what he should be reading and what he can safely trust his staff on. But one glance at that memo and it seems clear that Martinez is either a Democratic party plant or he never read the contents of the memo.

There are still questions as the Powerline guys point out; the way the story was reported originally be ABC and WAPO made it seem as if this was some widely circulated action plan from senior Republican Senators. This is obviously not the case. And then there’s the little matter of the second draft of the memo where the spelling and factual errors are cleaned up. It’s entirely possible that a Democratic staffer made the memo all nice and neat so that they could give it to the press and skewer the Republicans with it.

All this being said, the unspoken (so far) issue is that Powerline, Michelle Malkin, Anklebiting Pundits, and a host of larger blogs may have let their enthusiasm to nail another scalp to the wall get in the way of their better judgment.

Powerline, which led the charge in investigating the memo’s origins and the way it was reported by the MSM, was, I thought, pretty circumspect in it’s claims that the memo was a Democratic dirty trick. Others weren’t so subtle. There’s a lesson here for all of us.

There are some things the blogosphere does very well. And then there’s journalism. Being so large, the sphere is eventually going to sort itself out and those who wish to practice journalism will have a chance to do so, probably as an adjunct to a mainstream media outlet. Those who wish to offer opinions and rant about events like myself will also have a place although I suspect most people will tire of this one dimensional aspect of the sphere and, unless one is a really excellent writer, those sites will fall by the wayside.

The point is, I guess, is that in this case we offered analysis and opinion that, for the most part turned out to be wrong. And the MSM is going to jump all over this faux pas and cite it as “proof” that people in pajamas should stay out of the news collecting business and go back to reporting what they had for dinner, how hard it is to toilet train their kid, and whether or not Aunt Martha’s gallstones will keep her from visiting during the holidays.

The looks of smug satisfaction on the faces of our critics over the next few days will be hard to take. Just remember it’s something we brought upon ourselves. And don’t worry, our critics will get over it. If they’re dumb enough to believe that this one slip will send bloggers scurrying for cover, let them indulge their myopia. Their laziness and hubris will continue to supply the blogosphere with plenty of ammunition. And as their declining readership could tell them, they still just don’t get it.

UPDATE: FALLOUT AND BACKTRACKING

Michelle Malkin, whose journalistic hide was exposed a little more than some others, is all over the story this morning, sparing no one (including herself) and asking all the right questions. A sample from Post #1:

After John Hinderaker at Power Line first started asking necessary questions about the reporting on the memo, many on the Right jumped to conclusions that the memo was “fake” or a “dirty trick.” I concur that those who made such claims should issue clear retractions and corrections. And I urge those bloggers and pundits to do so.

But contrary to what the left-wing gloaters who have not bothered to follow the story until last night are writing, I have never made such claims, a point I stressed yesterday afternoon in an e-mail exchange with Post reporter Mike Allen.

Malkin’s real exposure occurred when she reported that Josh Claybourn of “The Agora” had tipped her about seeing the memo passed by a staffer for Senator Reid. Michelle dug hard to try and corroborate that story and was never able to pin it down, eventually deciding that Claybourn was being misled. She covers this in Post #2:

To date, Claybourn has not responded to my suggestion that he divulge the phone numbers of his sources. Will he continue to play nicey-nice with his sources now that they have been shown to be manipulative, lying smear merchants?

The story’s not over. Sen. Martinez and his former legal counsel may still have plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.

I doubt whether we’ll hear more from the Senator as he’ll try and hunker down and weather the storm. And it’s doubful we’ll hear anything from Darling who’s probably on his way back to The Alexander Group as I write this.

I’ll try and keep an eye on both Michelle’s site and Powerline today to see if they get any cooperation from WAPO reporter Mike Allen who orginially broke the story.

UPDATE: FALLOUT AND BACKTRACKING II

Here’s a quick round up of sites blogging this morning about the memo:

Myopic Zeal has an excellent round-up himself and has been tracking the story since it broke last night.

Outside the Beltway has been asking the right questions from the beginning:

While some on the Right have made claims that the memo was a Democratic forgery, that’s not what the story was about. Rather, the argument was that the source of the memo was unknown but was played in such a way by ABC News and others as to give the impression that it came from the Republican leadership and was widely circulated. Neither of those seems to be true.

Lawshawn Barber like other larger blogs, are really hearing it from liberal trolls:

My liberal readers are such sweet folks, in their own way. A couple of them made haste and posted a link and story blurb in comments last night, bless their hearts. One fan prefaced the blurb with this comment: “[I]n case you really cared…” He assumes I don’t care because a conservative wrote the memo. The implication is that I don’t criticize conservatives.

Kobayashi Maru is also troubled by trolls and wonders what the big deal was about the memo in the first place. Answer? One more club for the Democrats to use on conservatives.

Captain Ed wonders how Darling ever got a job on Capitol Hill in the first place. Darling’s old boss is Ed Buckham, former Chief of Staff to Representative Tom Delay. Nuff said?

Perhaps most courageously, Pat Hynes at Anklebiting Pundits admits error:

We’ve been tough on the Democrats for floating fake memos in the past. So when the Schiavo-Quiddick scandal hit, we were tough on ‘em again. But we were wrong.

Finally, what would a round-up be if we didn’t get the gloating from the other side? Here’s Kos with the gloat…and a threat:

The wingnutosphere spent the last few weeks screaming bloody murder about the memo (which frankly I had forgotten about), claiming it was some sinister Democratic plot. They wanted to make a big deal about it, so let’s make sure we oblige.

By: Rick Moran at 6:44 am
6 Responses to “SCHIAVO MEMO: REAL BUT INACCURATE”
  1. 1
    Fishkite: The Blog Between Church and State Trackbacked With:
    7:58 am 

    memogate II, we hardly knew ye
    Michelle Malkin, Powerline and Mickey Kaus put (what I hope are) the final nails in the coffin.

    I’ve noted below what the media’s mistakes were.

    What about my mistakes?

    I referred to the memo as “fake” (twice) and a “fraud” (once). That …

  2. 2
    WILLisms.com Trackbacked With:
    10:32 am 

    Lessons From The Schiavo Memo Fiasco.
    The mystery of that “GOP talking points memo” on Terri Schiavo became far less mysterious today. The author of the memo has stepped forward to claim responsibility, Mike Allen of The Washington Post reports: The legal counsel to Sen. Mel…

  3. 3
    basil's blog Trackbacked With:
    11:51 am 

    Lunch: 4/7/2005
    Try one of these specials with your lunch: aTypicalJoe says the Schiavo memo is real, and is smiling. Right Wing Nut House says the Schiavo memo is real, and is not smiling. Red States Rant is ready to buy a

  4. 4
    Joust The Facts Trackbacked With:
    5:26 pm 

    ‘Brutally Stupid’
    Finally there is proof. Sen. Mel Martinez has admitted that the ‘Schiavo Memo’ talking about the political benefits of the issue originated from an attorney in his office.

  5. 5
    La Shawn Barber's Corner Trackbacked With:
    5:52 pm 

    MSNBC - Thursday Blog Round-up
    Update: Originally posted yesterday. One subject on the agenda for today’s show is the Republican-authored Schiavo memo.

    Update II (2:25 p.m.): Another topic—- The possible elimination of the filibuster by the GOP. The language in this petition i…

  6. 6
    Benjamin Said:
    8:03 pm 

    I’m bothered by which the memo was quickly blamed at democrats. More and more political “discussion” is being reduced to shouting across the ailse….

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