It's Rathergate all over again!

What do you do when the Downing Street memo seems to confirm that your president lied? Call it a fake, of course.

By Tim Grieve
Published June 20, 2005 1:44PM (EDT)

Here it comes.

Just as the Downing Street memo is starting to get a little traction in the United States -- the mainstream press has at least begun to write about why it hasn't been writing about it, and John Kerry is apparently pushing his Democratic colleagues to call for an investigation in the Senate -- bloggers on the right are rising up to declare the memo a fake. "Did Lucy Ramirez find the Downing Street memos?" asks Captain's Quarters, and you can pretty much guess where it goes from there.

The nugget of nefariousness from which the right builds its case: Michael Smith, the reporter who first obtained the Downing Street memo, has told the Associated Press that he protected the identity of the source who gave him the memo by typing a copy of it on plain paper and destroying the original. Little Green Footballs picked up the thread, Captain's Quarters jumped right on it, and the National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg piled right on top. "Is the Downing Street memo real?" Goldberg asked over the weekend. "There's no way of knowing."

But of course, there is a way of knowing. As Kevin Drum notes, "There are quite a few principals in this case who either wrote or received these memos and therefore have absolute knowledge of whether or not they're genuine." And while Goldberg apparently disagrees, we think it's more than a little telling that not one of those principals has raised a single question about the authenticity of the memo. If the memo were a fake, Tony Blair certainly would have had every reason to say so by now. And if the memo were a fake, why would British sources have confirmed its authenticity for the Washington Post?

Goldberg, at least, seems to have backed away from his initial enthusiasm for the faked-memo theory. On Sunday, he said that, if he had to bet, he'd bet that the memo is real. But really, he says, who can be bothered? "I haven't invested much time or energy in the Downing Street memo brouhaha as I've had more important personal stuff to deal with," Goldberg writes. It all sounds a little familiar: Goldberg is too busy living his own life to fight in the war for which he's shilled or even to take seriously what he calls the "countless conspiracy theories" about why we're in Iraq in the first place. If only he were too busy to stop spreading conspiracy theories of his own. . . .

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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