Mike Allen’s latest installment on the case of “the GOP talking points memo” is another page-one Washington Post story: “Counsel to GOP senator wrote memo on Schiavo.” Michelle Malkin appears to be receiving the same eloquent and endearing email messages on the subject from left-wing goons that we are. Her link-filled post on the case speaks for me in reviewing the relevant issues: “The Schiavo memo and the search for answers.” See also Michelle’s “The Schiavo memo: GOP cover-ups?”
Mickey Kaus concisely summarizes the state of the evidence in “Non-fake but inaccurate.” Kaus writes (italics and bolding deleted):
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 th[a]n the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it’s hard to believe it wasn’t given to at least some other GOP lawmakers)…
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…
See Kaus’s column for the links and the typeface emphases.
UPDATE: Scott Ott takes the story to the next level: “Writer of GOP memo outed as ‘Curveball.'”
HINDROCKET adds: A reader asks a good question: Where has Tom Harkin been for the last two and a half weeks? If he had come forward on March 19 or 20, there never would have been a “talking points memo” story, or at least not much of a story. The truth–that an obscure Republican staffer wrote a dumb memo that hardly anyone saw–would scarcely have created a ripple. The whole point of the story, as initially reported, was that the document was an official “GOP memo,” created by the party’s leadership and broadly circulated to the party’s Senators. If Harkin had told what he knew promptly, that story never would have been written, or would have been promptly spiked. So it seems likely that Harkin stayed quiet because he wanted the false account to circulate; indeed, he may have been the source of the misinformation promulgated by ABC and the Post. But then, why did Harkin come forward yesterday? Again, the most obvious answer does Harkin no credit: with speculation increasingly focusing on the Democrats as the likely source of the memo, it was in his party’s interest to come forward, even at the risk of exposing the falsity of the early reporting on the memo.
There are still several unanswered questions, of which the most important is: Did Harkin (or possibly someone else) misinform the reporters about the source, nature and distriubtion of the memo, or did the reporters see the memo and leap to the wrong conclusion? I have posed this question to Mike Allen of the Post, and will pass on any reply that I receive.