Memo mystery solved; media doesn't look good
That "GOP talking points memo" mystery has been solved:
Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez says an infamous unsigned memo passed around on Capitol Hill emphasizing the politics of the Terri Schiavo case originated in his office.
So what do we learn from this AP story? That the media isn't doing its job:
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 [ABC's Kate] Snow and [Washington Post's Mike] Allen reported on March 19 without adequate substantiation.
But it was the MSM that failed to play it straight in the first place.
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.
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?)
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 Times 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.