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The Bombshell That Bombed
November 11, 2003
By Mike McArdle

I sometimes listen to talk radio while in my office during the day. I find it a healthy way to insure that my blood pressure never gets too low and it keeps me up to date on the views of people whose views I find repulsive. Okay, okay, it's a dumb masochistic thing to do and I have no sensible explanation for it.

But anyway, a few weeks ago, the local talk station changed its lineup and at 3PM treats us to the incessant rants of Sean Hannity, who can also be seen each weeknight on Fox News verbally flogging the perpetually supine Alan Colmes, who seems to feel that it's his calling in life to uphold the liberal point of view by imitating Harpo Marx.

Hannity's talk show begins with a horrible screechy recording of a song called "Let Freedom Ring" which just happens to be the title of Hannity's most recent liberal-bashing book which, of course, features a picture of Hannity in front of an American flag backdrop. As bad as the song is the show is even worse, a tribute to verbal goonishness masquerading as patriotism. By contrast that guy who was throwing back buckets full of pain pills was reasoned and sensitive. I would complain to the local talk station about Hannity but realize that I'm not the type of listener they're going to adjust their schedule for.

So last week Hannity happened across what he thought was a big story. It seems he uncovered a memo written by a Democratic staffer suggesting that the Democrats might use the investigations of the discredited reasons for the Iraq war by the Senate Intelligence Committee to call for an independent investigation because the Republicans undoubtedly had no intention of really investigating the Bush administration. Well, Sean was shocked. He had uncovered politicians thinking like, well, politicians.

Now, of course, to make this memo into something significant requires a use of the Menendez maneuver (my clients deserve sympathy from the court, after all they just lost their parents): how dare you try to investigate the President for lying about the reasons we went to war. Don't you realize that there's a war going on ? As innocuous as the memo seems it happened along in a week when the little man's war was looking worse than ever and bodies were coming back to Dover in droves. The Hannitys of the world really wanted to talk about something else, anything else.

So Hannity feigned indignation. Is this how those evil Democrats support our troops? By attacking their commander in chief ? Heads should roll. This borders on treason.

Immediately the usual suspects of the right wing had joined in the task of trying to make Hannity's memo soufflé rise. Newsmax departed from its usual message to its readers (send money to Newsmax or Hillary Clinton will rule the world) to join in the effort to make the memo into a hot news story. It was an "anti-Bush plot" Carl Limbacher and the guys said, and repeated Hannity's demand for the Senate Ethics committee to get involved.

Zell Miller, making the rounds of right-wing talk shows, denounced the memo as "the first cousin to treason." Zell then went back to endorsing Bush and humping his new book, Holy Crap, I’ve Spent 70 Years In The Wrong Party.

Who knew?

Fox News hammered away for a few a few days accusing the Democrats of trying to "cash in" on the problems that the administration has encountered in Iraq. The Rev. Moon's guys at the Washington Times jumped on the bandwagon chastising committee chairman Pat Roberts for not being tough enough on the Democrats.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page apparently also thought the memo was a brother-in-law or significant other of treason and weighed in with the contention that Senator Jay Rockefeller make "heads roll," singling out minority staff director Christopher Mellon as a good place to start. The Journal, of course, cites no evidence that Mellon wrote the memo (or even read it) but mentions that he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton Administration. Aha! He worked for Clinton. Well that settles it.

That brought Newsmax back into the action, claiming that the Journal had uncovered a "Clinton connection" to the "bombshell" memo affair. Mellon worked for the committee, he had previously worked for Clinton, and Hillary Clinton had been (gasp) critical of the war. Obviously then, the memo was a Clinton creation. Time to get the checkbook out.

But for all the hysteria from Sean and his right-wing spin machine the memo story went nowhere. A few Senators yelled at each other on the Senate floor but that happens every day. Sunday's talk shows came and went with scant mention of the memo story.

The "bombshell" had bombed. The Democrats, notably Jay Rockefeller and Dick Durbin, had refused to back down insisting the real issue was that the committee had no intention of pursuing a real investigation. By Sunday the memo story was absent even from the Washington Times and Fox News websites.

And just maybe there's a lesson in there for the Democrats. When you stand up to the blowhard thugs you can beat them.

Take note, Alan Colmes.

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