Here’s the story, roughly, in a nutshell:
March 20: The Washington Post reports about how the Republicans are using the Schiavo story for political gain, citing a one-page memo obtained by ABC News:
An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.
"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."
March 21: Right-wing blogosphere goes ballistic. Powerline, named best blog of the year by Time magazine (presumably for its work on the "Dan Rather" memo) asks, "Is This The Biggest Hoax Since The Sixty Minutes Story"? You can almost hear the wishful thinking in the question itself — "Oh, yes, pleeeease let it be a big hoax" think the Powerline jerks.
And sure enough, they simply cannot believe that the memo is true, although they have no reason to challenge its authenticity (other than their suspicion):
Based on the fragments from the memo that were reported by the Post, I question its authenticity. It does not sound like something written by a conservative; it sounds like a liberal fantasy of how conservatives talk. What conservative would write that the case of a woman condemned to death by starvation is "a great political issue"?
And so began the meme that the Schiavo memo was actually a Democratic-authored "dirty trick" designed to make Republicans look bad, with the mainstream media as a willing accomplice or naive partner in the scandal.
Late March: Michelle Malkin writes about the memo "controversy" several times. You may wonder what made it a "controversy". The answer is "nothing". But that’s how wingnuts operate. They try to make a scandal where none exists, knowing that the mere accusations alone can carry weight. (It’s called McCarthyism, by the way). Michelle, among others, wonders why the mainstream media isn’t answering questions about the "fishy" memo, like who are their sources, etc. She blogs about it at least once a day, letting everyone know that "The. Heat. Is. On."
April 1: Michelle Moron Magalang Malkin writes about admitting errors, and wishes that the Washington Post would admit their errors with respect to the "fishy" Schiavo memo:
I suspect that no one at the Post or ABC News still believes the amateurish, unsigned, misspelled memo was circulated by Republican Party leaders. We may never know whether the memo was the handywork of a Republican staffer or a Democrat dirty trickster or an outside interloper . . .
Nonetheless, the damage has been done. The memo has been cited hundreds of times to support the argument that Republicans’ decision to intervene in the Schiavo case was politically motivated. And neither ABC News nor the Post has admitted any wrongdoing.
The Post can continue to mischaracterize its coverage. It can stonewall, perhaps hoping that its critics will get bored and give up. Or it can own up to its errors.
Truth be told, it wasn’t the memo that made everybody think that Republicans were making political hay out of the Schiavo saga. It was the fact that the Republican-led Congress passed laws pertaining to Schiavo that made everybody think they were making political hay out of the Schiavo saga. But whatever.
April 6: Guess who wrote the "fishy" Schiavo memo? A Republican staffer (just as the original Post story said) — actually "legal counsel" — for Sen. Martinez of Florida — a guy by the name of Brian Darling — owned up to being the source of the memo. He admitted it (and then resigned). Will Michelle and the others step up to the plate and admit that thier speculations were bogus?
April 7: Nope. Michelle writes:
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…
Correct, so far as I can tell. What she did do was spend a week calling it "fishy" and linking to all those people she now says should retract.
And now she is joining others (again) in complaining about minor inconsistencies within the reporting of the story of the memo, totally ignoring the fact that it has now been shown that the memo was written by a Republican and distributed by Republicans!
Essentially, their argument now goes like this: Even if the memo is real, the mainstream media couldn’t have been sure it was real when they reported it, so they’re still a bunch of lying liberal SOBs.
All this wingnut backtracking and embarrassing attempts to restore their own cred has prompted this 100% correct viewpoint from TBogg:
Admit you were wrong and then shut the fuck up for awhile.
More from Gilliard here. And Kos here. And Kevin Drum feels the same way I do.
Let’s be clear here. Hindrocket and the other two stooges at Power Line made their reputation, such as it is, on the Rather memo, a supposedly fake memo refering to an actual event: Bush went AWOL. But in their eyes the fact that the memo was fishy meant that the process was more important then that inconvenient historical fact. Today we see that the notion that Mike Allen didn’t have all of his facts complete and carved in stone regarding a evolving story means that the reality that it was a Republican memo is irrelevant.
Maybe these three knuckleheads should use the same line of reasoning when it comes to adding up 9/11 + weapons of Mass destruction that don’t exist = invade Iraq.
More on Americablog.
Pollack gives the "scandal" its new name: PowerLine-Was-Completely-Fucking-Wrong-Gate