As somebody who once harbored idealistic notions about the role of the press (I was a liberal in my youth), I guess I’m still prone to give them too much credit — I had thought that CBS’s misadventure with a faked memo might cause the MSM to be more cautious about using dubious documents to “get” conservatives.

Boy, did I get a wrong number.

ABC News’s presentation of alleged “GOP Talking Points” on the political advantage of supporting Terri Schiavo and her parents proves that the media hasn’t learned a thing from CBS’s embarrassment. Correspondent Linda Douglass said that the network had “obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators, explaining why they should intervene in the Schiavo case.”

There is just one problem with the memo: It wasn’t a GOP document. As Fred Barnes reports in today’s Weekly Standard, key members of the Republican leadership never laid eyes on it. “True,” Barnes writes, “a few paragraphs were of Republican origin. They had been lifted, word for word, from a Martinez press release outlining the provisions of his legislative proposal, ‘The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act.’ This was the inoffensive part of the memo. The offensive part–it didn’t come from Martinez–left the strong impression that Republicans are callous and cynical in their attempt to save Schiavo’s life, ill-motivated in the extreme.”

As Barnes notes, the offensive part “contended Republicans should save the disabled Schiavo’s life because ‘this is a great political issue’ that could lead to the defeat of Democratic senator Bill Nelson of Florida in 2006. The other said dwelling on the Schiavo issue would excite pro-lifers, a key Republican constituency.”

Barnes adds:

“There wasn’t a hint in these reports the memo could have any other source but Republicans. Yet there was no evidence it had come from Republicans. It was unsigned and had no letterhead or date. Nothing indicated it came from the Republican leadership or the House or Senate campaign committee or from the Republican National Committee or even from a stray Republican staffer. The only evidence was of a dirty trick — and there wasn’t much evidence of that. Powerline, the influential blog, found a version of the memo with typos cleaned up on left-wing websites.

“The only basis for blaming Republicans was the unsubstantiated allegation that the memo was spread among Republican senators. Yet no senator stepped forward and said, ‘Yes, I got that memo.’ Now consider what would have happened if a damning memo had been distributed to Democratic senators, saying the Schiavo issue could be used politically against Republicans. Would anyone in the mainstream media have jumped on it? I doubt it. Only right-wing bloggers would have.”

Memogate II was sickening, more so in many ways than CBS’s original Memogate. But some good comes of all this: People like me are no longer able to hide from the truth about the MSM.