April 7, 2005

Oh, so it wasn't a fake memo?

It's better that some idiot really did write that memo about what an effective political device the Schiavo family affair could be. I'd like to think, after Rathergate, the media have become more alert about fakery. That someone is fool enough to put the rawest political thoughts in writing is almost comforting. You certainly couldn't have imagined that no one in Congress thought those things that were in the memo.
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.

[Senator Mel] 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, a freshman who was secretary of housing and urban development for most of President Bush's first term, 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.

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.
So Harkin was always in a position to vouch for the memo, and Martinez had to come clean. Is Martinez off the hook now that Darling has resigned? Darling is the very definition of scapegoat. Martinez was the Senate "point man," according to the article, and he passed the memo to Harkin! He claims not to have read the memo, the very talking points he was urging on everyone else. He can only distance himself from the memo by portraying himself as horribly inept. But he was the point man! A point man with his points. The finger points at him. At least at him. But is Martinez a darling of the Senate Republicans? Will they close ranks around him, or isolate him because he makes the rest of them look bad?

UPDATE: The NYT has this:
In his statement, Mr. Martinez said that on March 9 he had mistakenly and unknowingly handed the document to Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, on the floor of the Senate. Mr. Martinez said that he had meant to reach for a different document and that he did not know how it had entered his possession.

"Senator Harkin was kind enough today to call me and tell me this afternoon that he believes the memo he received was given to him by me," Mr. Martinez said. "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession."
Martinez is either telling the truth or lying: which makes him look worse? It's almost a toss-up.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin Drum for linking. He writes:
Martinez had a copy of the offending memo in his pocket and Republican aides in other offices confirmed that they had received copies too. Is that a smoking gun proving that Martinez and other Republican senators had also read it? Technically no. But let's face it: you have to be pretty naive to believe anything else. The jig is up, folks.

There is a kind of memo that gets passed around by and to people who don't read it, but that would contain information you want to have in writing. When it's the kind of thing that's embarrassing to have in writing, why would you have it and pass it around unless everyone was reading it?

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