You only need to spend a few seconds with Mel Martinez to realize the Florida Republican Senator is a few beers short of a six pack, but his lame-brained excuse for how a memo outlining the GOP’s plan to turn the Terri Schiavo tragedy into a political opportunity fell into Democratic hands sends political intelligence to subterranean levels.
Martinez claims he gave the memo to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin because he thought they were only “talking points” and says he never read the document before turning it over to the opposition.
“Unbeknownst to me, instead of my one page on the bill, I had given him a copy of the now infamous memo that at some point along the way came into my possession,” Martinez claims in a statement.
The memo that “at some point along the way came into my possession” was written by the Senator’s staff legal counsel, Brian H. Darling, a 39-year-old former lobbyist for the for the ultra-right-wing Alexander Strategy Group started by scandal-scarred House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s former chief of staff..
The memo urges Republicans to seize the Schiavo case as “a great political issue” and concludes that supporting the legislation that turned the issue over to federal courts “ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.”
That legislation, rushed through both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, struck out with federal judges who refused to be bullied into breaking the law to satisfy a political agenda.
Harkin passed the memo around and copies found their way to ABC News and The Washington Post. When the memo became public, Republicans screamed conspiracy and claimed it was all a liberal plot. Their bleating continued with the truth-be-damned conservative bloggers who tried to equate the memos with the infamous Rathergate memos about Bush’s murky military service.
Martinez, the Senate’s point man on the Schiavo bill, screamed the loudest.
“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,” he claimed.
So, by taking things for granted, Martinez, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during Bush’s first term, blithely turns over a piece of political dynamite to the Democrats?
In doing so, he proved that, yes, he and his fellow Republicans are, indeed, that stupid. There’s an old rule in Washington that says: “Never put anything in writing unless you’re prepared to see it on the front page of The Washington Post.”
Republican staffers who worked on the bill in both the House and Senate tell me the Schiavo legislation was political from start to finish.
“We saw it as a chance to put right-to-life on the front burner,” admits one who, after the Darling debacle, prefers to remain anonymous. “We blew it.”
Darling claims he wrote the document as a “draft” and didn’t remember printing it out from his computer terminal. He resigned after his role in the affair emerged.
“It was intended to be a working draft,” Martinez said. “He doesn’t really know how I got it.”
Another stupid mistake by Martinez. First he, and other Republicans, claim nobody on their side of the fence ever thought of turning the Schiavo case into a political opportunity and then he admits his office had a “working draft” that laid out just how to do so?
Forrest Gump said it best: “Stupid is as stupid does.”