Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Schiavo Memo Scandal: Source Identified, GOP Senator Embarrassed, Implicated Staffer Resigns!

In case you have been living under a rock somewhere, let me begin with the main development of the past 24 hours: The "memo," it seems, was written by Brian Darling, a now former (thank God!) legal counsel to freshman Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez.

Before I go any further, I wish to take this opportunity to say several things on this matter:

First of all, I did not update this blog earlier because I simply have not had any time! I was not "hiding" from anyone or anything! Some of us have to work for a living, and not all of us have cushy jobs with free access to our blogs from work! I did not get home last night until around 10pm (CDT) after working a 9+ hour day. I usually hit the internet at night, but could not follow my routine because I had to be back at work by 9am, so I took a shower and went to bed early. I did not even find out about the update on the memo's true source until this morning as I hurried out the door to work after oversleeping and caught a discussion about it taking place on Laura Ingraham's radio show while commuting. I was due to get off at 5pm, but did not get out until after 7:30, nor home til sometime after 8pm and had not eaten since breakfast, so guess where my priorities were? Please forgive me for not blogging on this sooner, but my schedule simply did not permit otherwise! I have a life outside of the internet! You will notice, please, that I did not get to discuss the developments that occurred regarding this article in the Washington Times or any blogger comments about it in the interim, either. This post could probably say much more, but I keep getting interrupted and have to get to bed before too much longer as I work again at 9am. Real life, go figure!

Before I go any further, I would like to state, for the record, that the use of the word "fake" to describe the "memo" was incorrect. I wish to note, however, that this document was, as it is being described, in no way shape or form an official "GOP talking points memo" or any other sort of official communique! Still, any statements or implications previously printed by me alluding to the memo as a "fake" or a possible Democrat dirty trick, I now hereby retract in light of the recent facts in evidence. I apologize for any errors in judgment on my part and any distress that may have resulted from such errors. (There, was that so hard my little MSM friends?)

Next, Sen. Martinez ought to embarrassed and ashamed! Even if his claim that he did not read the memo is true, and, absent any evidence to the contrary, I will take his word for it that he did not, it remains that he should NEVER have handed any papers to anyone from the opposition party without full knowledge of the contents! To do so was foolish, reckless and borderline incompetent!

And furthermore, while some apologies are due, the revelations that have come to light STILL DO NOT EXONERATE THE WASHINGTON POST OR ABC NEWS ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES RELATED TO THIS MATTER!

But first, let's get up to date on the latest, shall we...

From the Mike Allen article in Thursday's Washington Post:

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.

Brian H. Darling, 39, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

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.

Martinez... said he had not read the one-page memo. He said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, officials gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post.

...In a statement issued last night, Martinez said that Harkin asked him for background information on the bill and that he gave him what he thought was a routine one-page staff memo on the legislation. "Unbeknownst to me, instead of my one page on the bill, I had given him a copy of the now infamous memo that at some point along the way came into my possession," the statement said.

...Martinez said Harkin called him about 5 p.m. yesterday and told him that the memo had come from his office. Martinez said he then called in his senior staff and said, "Something is wrong here." He said that Darling later confessed to John Little, Martinez's chief of staff, and that he said he did not think he had ever printed the memo.

"It was intended to be a working draft," Martinez said. "He doesn't really know how I got it."

Reached by telephone last night, Darling said it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the matter at this time.

Okay, that answers some of the questions raised, but not all!

Next stop Powerline, where both John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker and Scott "The Big Trunk" Johnson have plenty to say on the matter. Scroll down to "Mystery Solved" where Hindrocket nails it:

Mike Allen, the Post's reporter, has previously said that the memo came from a Democratic Senator who said he got it from a Republican Senator. That is consistent with the current AP account. But the story that Allen wrote with a Post colleague on March 19 is not consistent with the current version of the facts. On March 19, Allen wrote:

Republican officials declared, in a memo that was supposed to be seen only by senators, that they believe the Schiavo case "is a great political issue" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006.

A one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record) (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.

In fact, if the current AP account is correct, the amazingly inept "talking points memo," which got the number of the Senate bill wrong, misspelled Terri Schiavo's name, and contained a number of other typographical errors, did not come from "Republican officials" or "party leaders," but rather from an anonymous, unknown staffer. Senator Martinez himself--forget about members of his staff--is a freshman senator, in office for three months, not a "party leader" or "Republican officials." (The plural in the Post's original article is interesting.) Also, the reporting by ABC and the Post suggested that the memo was widely or universally distributed among Republican senators, while a survey reported by the Washington Tmes indicated that none of the 55 Republican senators had seen it. So, if the current AP story is correct, it confirms that ABC and the Post misreported the story--in the Post's case, in an article that was picked up by dozens of other newspapers off the paper's wire service.

The latest story also confirms how absurd it was for ABC, the Post, and other news outlets to label the anonymous memo a "GOP talking points memo." We have no idea who the unidentified Martinez staffer is, but he apparently was not authorized to speak for his boss, and most certainly was not empowered to speak for the leadership of the Republican party. We'll try to track him down and get his story, but in the meantime, this story serves as an object lesson in how the mainstream media can take a dopey, one-page memo by an unknown staffer and use it to discredit the entire Republican party.

(Emphasis added.)

In "Speaking For Me" Big Trunk points to a fine article by Mickey Kaus in Slate, entitled Non-fake but Inaccurate!:

WaPo's Mike Allen reports that the now-famous Schiavo "talking points" memo came from freshman GOP senator Mel Martinez's office. So that mystery is cleared up. The memo wasn't a fake... But Allen doesn't come off looking too good in this latest account. a) The memo was apparently not "distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders," as Allen's initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was--at least judging from today's account--handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn't in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn't explain why he told Howie Kurtz he "did not call them talking points or a Republican memo" when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more "carefully worded" account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote

In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" ...

This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don't know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it's hard to believe it wasn't given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen's story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole "memo" fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC's Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document... But certainly whatever legitimate valence Allen's 'memo' story had depended almost entirely on the impression that the memo revealed and represented the strategy of the GOP leaders who pushed the Schiavo bill. If all that was involved was a staff memo Martinez gave to Harkin, Allen's story was way out of whack. The memo wasn't close to being worth the play it got in WaPo or in Douglass' report. (It's not worth the current Senate investigation either. What's the crime--politicians considering politics?)

(Emphasis by author.)

Lorie Byrd from PoliPundit has posted updates here and here.

Notice, please the infantile nature of many of the trolls on the second thread in particular. But they are mild compared to the foul garbage that beset Michelle Malkin! (Foul language alert!) As usual, she responds with class and dignity. More proof that many of the goons and loons on the left have absolutely ZERO CLASS! Are they entitled to a little gloating here? Why, yes, quite frankly, they are! Are they entitled to act like potty-mouthed pre-teens? Absolutely not! Keep it clean and civil, folks, otherwise you risk looking like the soreheads, cranks and nutjobs too many of you apparently are!

From Michelle Malkin's first Thursday post on the relevant subject, The Schiavo Memo and the Search for Answers, there is this:

For me, the salient questions always centered on what exactly ABC News and the Washington Post knew or didn't know before they hyped the GOP politicization angle in the midst of the wrenching Schiavo debate.

A related issue was ABC News' and the Post's mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP "party leaders" even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that . After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted .Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.

Well, now we know the truth. Thanks to the Associated Press, with the Washington Post bringing up the rear. And, gee, it only took 18 days to nail down a story that differs in key respects from what Snow and Allen reported on March 19 without adequate substantiation.

(Emphasis added.)

Ah, the pesky truth! The left just wants to gloat that many of us were convinced the memo was some sort of Democrat dirty trick, and got it wrong, while ignoring the fact that what we were really chasing all along was, in fact, accountability on the part of the mainstream press! Don't believe me? Go back and read, and don't just see what it is you want to see, read it all!

Michelle Malkin also has a second related Thursday post, The Schiavo Memo: GOP Cover-Ups? in which she asks tough questions about the false leads given to In the Agora's Joshua Claybourn about 2 weeks ago. But, I guess the left still thinks we're being unfair and are all strictly on a VRWC witch hunt here!

From Jim Geraghty at NRO/TKS:

To the credit of the Washington Post’s Mike Allen and the mainstream media reporters who insisted it was a GOP memo, the author was a Republican, Brian Darling, legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida. Darling has since resigned, according to the Washington Post. It does not appear to have been a Democratic dirty trick, as many bloggers speculated.

To the credit of the skeptical bloggers, to say that this memo was authored by ‘party leaders’ is stretching the term beyond recognition. And stating that it was distributed to all GOP senators sounds just wrong, it appears it was just given by Darling to Martinez.

In this blogging world, sometimes you’re going to find a superscript ‘th’. And sometimes you’re going to find a muddier situation, in which a foolish GOP staffer tried to play Karl Rove to the whole party without using spellcheck or checking bill numbers. But I think the bloggers did their job well in this one.


Mick Wright at Fishkite: See here, here, here and here.

Joshua Claybourn at In the Agora: See here and here. (That last one is an apology to ABC News!)

RightPundit: See here, here and here.

Will Franklin at See here.

LaShawn Barber: See here.

Ankle Biting Pundits: See here.


The Washington Times: Martinez says his staffer produced Schiavo memo

There also appears to be a TON of great material at, but I have already stayed up most of the night to write this update, so I bid you adieu! I must get at least SOME sleep and get back to the pain in the butt reality that is my life!

I may update this further later on if I can find the time...

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