Chris Frates at Politico:
An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. POLITICO has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document’s origin.
Christina Bellantoni at TPM:
Democrats today are accusing Republicans of circulating a fraudulent memo that claims to be sent to “Democratic health and communications staff” and which suggests the majority party leadership wants to make big changes to Medicare next year after health care passes.
A senior Democratic leadership aide told TPMDC in an interview the memo, obtained and printed by Politico and leading the Drudge Report this afternoon a few days ahead of the health care vote Sunday, is “a hoax.”
[READ THE MEMO HERE]
“We have checked with every Democratic office, no one has ever seen it. It did not come out of a Democratic office,” the aide said, adding that media outlets printing the memo have not checked with leadership offices if the memo is authentic. A second Democratic leadership aide confirmed the memo was not sent by the Democrats. A third Democratic aide also said the memo is fake, citing the “draft” stamp and saying no one uses such things.
“If this were a Democratic communications person who wrote this, they should be fired, because this looks like Republican talking points,” the third Democratic aide told TPMDC.
The memo alleging the changes commonly known as a “doc fix” would be politically damaging to Democrats, who already are holding together a fragile coalition to get the needed 216 votes Sunday.
The Politico items quotes from the memo as saying, “We cannot emphasize this enough: do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered.”
I gave the memo a once over. I looked legit — the points it makes are, indeed, potential trouble spots for Democrats. I wrote and posted an item on it. In doing so I committed an error of craft: I didn’t check to see what the Democratic leadership or the White House or the Democratic National Committee had to say. Had I done so, I would have been told that they did not write the memo. So — no Dan Rather Excuse here — I didn’t do due diligence, and I posted the item too quickly. For the sake of my post, it doesn’t matter whether the underlying facts are true, it matters whether the memo is a real one. Before characterizing the memo as being from Democrats, or insinuating that the memo listed official talking points, I clearly should have made a call. I didn’t. That’s on me.
I don’t know if the memo is a hoax. I suspect that it is was created by someone who is a Democrat — but that it comes from an allied Democratic group, or from a committee staff member. Dozens of such memos circulate daily through the K-Street-Capitol Corridor. A Republican might have been ‘cc’d on one such e-mail, which was then sent up the flagpole, and then send out to reporters by a hyperkinetic communications staff.
I do not believe that Mr. Steel or a member of his staff created the memo. You may ask why I believe this, and my reasons won’t satisfy many of you, but here goes: I’ve know Steel for years. He is a stand-up guy and isn’t dishonest; in trickier situations, he’s told me the truth. Here he may have been overzealous, and I fell for it on a slow Friday afternoon.
When Politico went live with this article, I had confirmed with two people I know on the Hill that they had seen this being passed around. Did it come from Democrats, or from Republicans? I can’t answer that, but I did confirm with two sources that it exists.
The memo, however, was pushed to some reporters by the office of GOP leader John Boehner. A source forwards an email sent at 12:58 PM by Boehner spokesman Michael Steel to The Daily Caller’s Jon Ward and other reporters, with the original memo attached.
“Folks — Please read the attached draft memo addressed to `Democratic Health and Communications Staff,’ Steel wrote. “It makes it clear that Democrats want to avoid discussing issues related to the CBO score of their latest government takeover legislation because their claims don’t pass the straight face test.”
Asked for comment, Steel would only say: “Will the Democrats do the `doc fix’? If they will, they are low-balling the cost of health care by hundreds of billions of dollars.”
A GOP aide pointed out that the memo “has circulated widely in the lobbying community” and “no one has proven that it is a fake.” It also looks as if the memo was circulated just after it posted on Big Government.
But the GOP leadership did circulate a hard copy of the memo to reporters before its authenticity had been confirmed or disproven.
I’ve seen the memo, and If it’s a fake, it’s a very good fake; just as people who write political dramas and novels can almost never bear to give the opposition any convincing arguments, the kind of people who write the fakes I’ve seen generally make the alleged authors sound like unreasonable buffoons. This memo actually makes some compelling arguments for the Democratic side, which is one reason to believe that it might be real. (The other major reason, as far as I’m concerned, is that Politico posted it; one assumes that they vetted it somehow).On the other hand, there are also reasons to be suspicious:1) The memo nowhere identifies where it’s from2) There are several very juicy, very damning bits, and I am always suspicious that people would actually put such things into writing3) In some subtle way that I can’t put my finger on in any particular quote, the memo writer tends to make the GOP sound too convincing, too powerful4) Its appearance is at an awfully convenient time for the GOP–although of course, this is the actual time when communications memos are circulating.5) The Democrats are denying it’s theirs; of course, if Politico can confirm the provenance, this will only elevate a minor kerfuffle into a big story.If it’s a fake, “fake but accurate” is not a defense. I mean, it may be of Politico, provided they act swiftly to rectify the mistake. But rightwing bloggers should not do what the left did in the Dan Rather case, and insist on its accuracy well past the point of reason. There are decent reasons to worry that it’s a fake, and no one should circulate the talking points from the memo until the provenance has been confirmed.
Peter Suderman at Reason:
I can’t verify whether or not it’s a genuine Democratic memo, but the fact that neither the Politico item nor the memo itself identify an author or source is somewhat suspicious. Politico is attempting to verify the veracity of the document now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s never confirmed either way—or if it is, but not until long after the larger legislative debate is settled.
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:
Let’s hope someone wasn’t freelancing fake memos around the Hill. Or worse, had some direction to do so. It would be ever so unhelpful if, in highlighting Dems’ budget tricks, Republicans get caught in a ridiculous trick of their own. No named Democrats or aides aren’t denying the memo yet. My guess is folks on both sides are less sure where it came from than the original report suggested, and they’re scrambling to figure it out now. Will update when I hear more.
UPDATE: Jack Shafer at Slate