When it's all said and done -- and really, how much longer can it take? -- Ben Domenech may turn out to be the uniter that George W. Bush only promised to be. The left has been calling on the WashingtonPost.com blogger to step down or be fired for a day or so; now some voices from the right are joining in the chorus.
Michelle Malkin, the right-wing blogger and pundit whose recent book Domenech edited, says she applauded Domenech's appointment at WashingtonPost.com and wrote off the attacks on him as a liberal smear campaign -- until she saw the evidence of plagiarism that the bloggers began to unearth. "I certainly understand the impulse on the right to rally around Domenech," Malkin writes. But she says that she "can't ignore the plain evidence," and that the allegations of plagiarism "can't be dismissed as 'lies' or 'jealousy' attributed to Ben's age." When it comes to plagiarism, Malkin says, "I know it when I see it. And, painfully, Domenech's detractors are right. He should own up to it and step down."
Conservative blogger Rick Moran, writing in the American Thinker, is also calling for Domenech to step down, saying that he "is not the kind of writer we want representing the conservative viewpoint at the Washington Post or anywhere else."
But the view on the right isn't entirely unanimous. One partisan poster, responding to Moran's argument, wonders if the whole Domenech debacle isn't "a set-up job by the WaPo to smear conservative bloggers on behalf of an outraged MSM."
Things are awfully quiet over at the National Review, where some of Domenech's seemingly plagiarized work appeared. And while Domenech's old college newspaper has begun posting this-might-have-been-lifted disclaimers on his work, Domenech's colleagues at Red State are still offering up a full-throated defense. One Red State poster argues that Domenech's articles look "suspicious" only because "permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper" -- a claim that seems to be discredited, just a little, by the publication today of an editorial by that same "out of business campus newspaper." Another Red Stater rants about the lack of "decency" among liberal bloggers who have unleashed "an unremitting torrent of smears and lies and invective" against Domenech as they set out on a "fishing expedition" to sink Domenech's blog.
While it's probably true that bloggers on the left went looking for evidence to use against Domenech -- it has been known to happen -- it's a little late in the game for anyone to complain about the lack of civility in the debate, at least where Domenech is concerned. It was Domenech, after all, who, in his first post for Red America, dismissed liberals as "shrieking denizens" of the Democrats' "increasingly extreme base."
Update: The National Review's media blogger has weighed in, saying that Domenech's blame-the-college-newspaper editor approach isn't going to work. "Sorry -- it's not just the college paper," Stephen Spruiell writes. "There are other examples, including one from NRO. This is bad. Perhaps it is not fatal, but we need explanations not just from Domenech, but also from the Washington Post on how it plans to handle this."