Reporting the digging before it's been dug?

Are Republicans digging up irrelevant dirt on Melody Townsel? According to Ms. Townsel (who wrote a letter to Amy at Daily Kos) post, they are:

Hello, Daily Kos-ers:
Tonight, my deepest fears regarding my pending testimony in the John Bolton nomination process have come true: Republicans have dredged up un unfortunate chapter of my life and, clearly, are about to announce it to the world. When you read this, you may decide either that I was stupid to step forward, or that I no longer deserve your trust. I want, however, to be the one to announce this to you all since you've been so unbelievably supportive.

When I was in college, 22 years ago, I plagiarized some columns while working for my college newspaper, and I was removed from staff. Months later, while working for another college newspaper, I wrote a review for a local play that tracked closely in format to another writer's review -- and, although it was not plagiarized, it made my editors, who had become aware of my recent past, very uncomfortable, and we mutually agreed that I would no longer submit stories to them.

As you can imagine, I'm deeply ashamed to be forced to revisit these events so publicly -- and, while I was under tremendous academic, financial and family pressure at the time, there is absolutely NO excuse for what I did so long ago. I knew it was wrong then, and I remain deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

I wish to stress that Amy, my friend who has been such a staunch supporter and has been keeping you posted on things happening with my pending testimony, was completely unaware of these events. There are some things you don't tell even your best friend.

As you judge me, please keep in mind that I was 21 years old when this happened. Today, at 42, I can state emphatically that I've worked hard my entire professional and personal life to put my incredibly poor decisions and actions behind me -- and I believe my professional and personal life since that time speaks for itself.

More than 10 years had passed from those college events when I had my brutal, ugly and unfortunate contact with Mr. Bolton. In that decade, I worked professionally as a copyeditor, a business writer, and a business analyst for major publications. I also worked as a senior planning analyst for a major airport project -- and, thereafter, I accepted a one-year posting with Black Manafort Stone & Kelly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. There, as you know, I met Mr. Bolton.

I want to tell you all this story, first and personally, before the Bush camp works its special brand of magic -- and I would deeply appreciate your help in posting this letter as many places as you can in advance of my testimony. Even as I write this, the Bush team is working overtime to destroy my life and business, telling and retelling the things I'm writing here. I just received a phone call from a Christian newspaper reporter.

I know they'll tell you that my pending statement to the Senate cannot be trusted because I did some stupid things as a 20-year-old kid two decades ago -- even as they try to tell you that Mr. Bolton's bahavior toward me in Moscow and Kyrgyzstan 11 years ago just doesn't matter. They'll try to make my actions of two decades ago the story -- setting aside the forgiveness Mr. Bush grants himself about his own history of questionable behavior by stating, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."

As of tonight, it's clear that I've truly risked everything to tell you -- and the U.S. Senate -- about Mr. Bolton. I've already told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee counsel about this episode in my life, and I remain committed to to going through with my testimony tomorrow. They still want to depose me.

Since Amy first posted my letter, you may have read that former colleagues have stepped forward to verify its contents to the Senate regarding Mr. Bolton -- and other, similar tales of his abuse appear to be surfacing daily. The fact that they're working so hard to discredit me tells me they know that I'm right.

That's my story. If you can still offer it, I would appreciate your continued support. I would appreciate your empathy. I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as I try to rebuild my life and my business.

Perhaps most important, I would also appreciate your sharing my story, as quickly as possible, with anybody you can. Please help me get this out there first.

Sincerely,

Melody Townsel

The post is headlined "Important Melody Townsel revelation--PLEASE DISSEMINATE," but from what I can see, the only people who disseminated it are, well Amy at Daily Kos, via Ms. Townsel herself. While Little Green Footballs and Power Line both picked up on it, their only source was Daily Kos. Here's John Hinderaker:
Little Green Footballs notes that she has written her close friends at the Daily Kos to alert them to a history of plagiarism which she says will be used against her by Republicans. I haven't seen any sign of that yet, but it's certainly fair to say that if a Republican made an otherwise-unsupported charge against a Democrat, and turned out to have a documented history as a plagiarist, that fact would be considered relevant. What's more significant to me, though, is her close self-identification with the nutjobs at the Daily Kos.
Here's what I think: I don't care about stuff that Melody Townsel, now 42, did when she was 21. That stuff is too old, and too irrelevant. Besides, she's not accused of plagiarism. Rather, at issue is her partisanship, and the accuracy of what she's saying about John Bolton.

I didn't care about the DUI allegations about George W. Bush either. But lots of leftists sure as hell did.

If the evil Republican dirt digging machine is at it again, then why is it that the only place the dirt has appeared was at Daily Kos and the blogs linking the piece? The commenters have gone absolutely ballistic over this latest Republican "attack" -- to the point that many of them are baring their souls, and sharing details:

"smoking pot, taking LSD, mushrooms and playing in a texas-psychedelic band."


"21 years ago I was a born again christian.
-I got better though."


"i had just finished taking the MCATs while at the same time my fiancee (yes, fiancee) and i broke off our engagement, i was about to turn 21, and in honor of the milestone out at the campus bars for the celebration drank 21 beers and 18 shots. why do i rememer the amount? i was po'd that i didn't make an even 21/21. oh yeah, that's the same night i tried to jump out of a moving camaro because i thought the driver was making a pass at me, made him pull ver, got out of the car and then proceeded to fall asleep under a tree by our campus library, and as dawn was breaking staggered back to my dorm room (waking all 3 room mates), and then did a few lines of coke -- using the album cover for heaven 17's "how men are" as my flat surface, and was as good to go again for another day and night of my birthday week's celebrations."

"i don't know whether to laugh or HELL YEAH LAUGH -- what else is there to do?!?!

WHAT A JOKE. LET THEM BRING THIS SHIT OUT. They'll be laughed out of the damn press conference!

god, i don't think i went to enough classes to plagarize!

GOD DAMN JOKE! & i'm talking about the people -- not this stunt.

Did you roll through a stop sign when you were 24?"


"Realistically, I think we all knew there would be a Herculean effort to drag this womans name through the mud. If this is the worst thing they can get on you, Melody, you are a far better person than I."


"I wasn't respectable 30 years ago and I'm still not. Thank God."

Naturally, Bush and Cheney and Gannon are all either implicated for their dirt or slammed for hypocrisy, while Bill Frist is likened to Josef Mengele.

I have dirt in my past, and so do many of my closest friends. As I said, I don't consider this plagiarism stuff at all relevant. But my question remains, did the Republicans bring this up?

I see no evidence that they did. We have only Melody Townsel's word that "Republicans have dredged [it] up" and "clearly, are about to announce it to the world." Then there's this curious statement:

Even as I write this, the Bush team is working overtime to destroy my life and business, telling and retelling the things I'm writing here. I just received a phone call from a Christian newspaper reporter.
The post was dated Monday April 25. Plenty of time for the Bush team to have finished working overtime.

And why the call from the "Christian" newspaper reporter? Obviously, she thinks "Christian" is a dirty word, but did she ever stop to imagine how it would have looked had she said "Jewish?" Who would call her and say he was a "Christian newspaper reporter," anyway? What was asked? Who was this caller?

How do we know that this is the handiwork of the Republican attack machine? Because Daily Kos readers are incensed? It's looking a bit too convenient for comfort.

I'm very skeptical.

I think it's quite possible that the "victim" dug up (more properly, presented to Daily Kos) the dirt against herself to set herself up to complain about the dirt digging. This both makes the Republicans look bad, and controls the damage in advance. Neat trick if you can pull it off, Melody.

(And if that turned out to be what happened, no, I still wouldn't care about twenty year old plagiarism. I'd be caring about something far worse -- and far more recent.)

UPDATE: This reminds me more and more of Philadelphia Mayor Street "discovering" the FBI bug (and harnessing hatred of the evil Republicans) just in time to transform defeat into victory.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: If assume for the sake of argument that sneaky, evil Republicans dug up the plagiarism dirt on Melody Townsel, then I have a couple of questions:

  • 1. Why haven't they used it?
  • 2. How on earth did she come to know about it?
  • I have no way of knowing whether people might be digging up dirt on me, or the nature of the dirt, and dirt diggers, by their nature, don't tend to broadcast to their targets what they're doing behind their backs.

    posted by Eric on 04.26.05 at 08:14 PM










    Comments

    hmmm... the BBC plants hecklers, a professor at one of the Claremont Colleges (CA) vandalizes her own car in order to be a "victim" of "hate crime", The fake memos about GW's national guard service are defended as being "fake but accurate"... now Republicans are castigated for "digging dirt" which they haven't done ("but they WILL! they WILL!")...

    I swear, the Left has moved from mere neurosis to full blown psychosis

    (and those "women" weeping about Bolton being "rude" really embarrass the crap out of me... Jaysus, sisters, even if your stories are true, butch up or shut up)

    Darleen   ·  April 26, 2005 10:12 PM

    You got dirt in your past? heheh, I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours....

    Good post Eric, as always.

    bryan   ·  April 27, 2005 3:12 AM

    We all have dirt (i.e., stuff we'd rather not have people know about). Some dirt is more findable than other dirt. Obviously, Melody Townsel's sort of dirt is the kind which could be discovered during a background investigation. I wouldn't mind if she decided on her own to disclose it to her supporters or the general public. But to transform disclosure into a malicious accusation of dirt digging -- if she's doing that it's a lot more dishonest than 20 year old plagiarism.

    One other thing this teaches: blogs are becoming a new playground for political operatives!

    Eric Scheie   ·  April 27, 2005 8:26 AM

    Whoops! Did I just say "playground?"

    I must have meant "battlefield."

    My apologies to all warriors concerned!

    Eric Scheie   ·  April 27, 2005 8:27 AM

    Heck, I've written about all the amusing dirt in my past over the last three years on "The Daily Brief"...

    Sgt. Mom   ·  April 27, 2005 10:42 AM

    FYI Eric, I dug up a bunch of dirt on you a while back, but was too disgusted to take it public.

    For heaven's sake, Eric, a giraffe AND a swimming pool full of artificial movie theater popcorn butter? Just sick man.

    Beck   ·  April 27, 2005 12:39 PM

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