Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 27, 2010
Caleb Howe has some fun at the expense of MSNBC's David Shuster - which is admittedly like hunting cows - over Shuster's haste to make partisan hay over the arrest of James O'Keefe at the offices of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, contrasted with Shuster's muted, caution-filled response to Nidal Hasan's mass shooting at Fort Hood.
If you've been fortunate enough to miss the O'Keefe story, he's one of the college-age right-wing gonzo-journalist types who busted ACORN with a string of undercover videos in which he dressed up as a cartoonish pimp and got various ACORN employees to counsel him on things such as how to safely employ underage hookers who were in the country illegally. Anyway, O'Keefe and three accomplices were busted yesterday by federal authorities at one of Senator Landrieu's district offices in Louisiana - two of the others were posing as telephone repairmen and O'Keefe was apparently videotaping them with his cell phone. Left-wingers like Shuster, desperately starved for some good news, went nuts on the story (the media reacted far, far faster to this than they did to the original ACORN story - a response that may be the privilege of advocates on one side or the other, but speaks quite ill of anybody pretending to be an objective mainstream news agency), blaring that this was a conspiracy to plant illegal wiretaps on Senator Landrieu's phones.
If so, that was wrong, illegal and colossally stupid on the part of O'Keefe and his henchmen, ad the potential charges under federal wiretapping statutes are steep, whereas the returns on tapping the main phone line at a Senator's local district office are likely to be slim pickings indeed. The Louisiana Democratic Party was calling this "Louisiana's Watergate," as if Watergate would even have made a list of the top 50 scandals ever to hit the Louisiana Democratic Party, but then the LDP has never been short on chutzpah; liberals were likewise quick to forget their own side's ugly history in this area, ranging from Congressman James McDermott being successfully sued for distributing an illegally intercepted cell phone conversation by GOP leadership, to Sarah Palin's emails being hacked by the son of a prominent Tennessee Democrat, to John Kerry's campaign manager in his first Congressional race (his brother, who still gets jobs from the Democrats) being busted for breaking into an opponent's headquarters.
But unlike the Fort Hood shooting or, say, the recent arrest of former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter on yet another charge of soliciting underage sex, in this case waiting to see what the facts are may actually provide something of a different story. Maybe O'Keefe really is a knucklehead, but Patterico looks more carefully at the arrest affidavit and notes the absence of any allegation that O'Keefe or his accomplices had any bugs or other listening devices on them when they were arrested (although there was a reference to an unspecified listening device in one of their cars several blocks away) - that hasn't stopped major media from headlining the claim that they were caught planting bugs, but then O'Keefe (unlike Hasan) is not the kind of figure who gets "alleged" put in front of charges of his misdeeds. And Patterico at least suggests a possible alternative explanation: that O'Keefe's group may have been trying to get to the bottom of media reports that Sen. Landrieu's phone lines have been too jammed to receive calls from constituents opposed to the health care bill.
Anyway, wait and see. The odds are that O'Keefe's brief career is over and he's headed to jail - which does not a whit to change what he exposed about ACORN, but nonetheless would get him out of the business of running future exposes - but even so, we may yet find out that not all is as initially reported.
SECOND UPDATE: Good Lt. at the Jawa Report elaborates on Patterico's theory and how it may fit with the affidavit. MSNBC has a similar take from law enforcement sources that makes it sound like they were definitely vandalizing the phones:
[T]he men, led by conservative videomaker James O'Keefe, wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative. They were apparently motivated, the official says, by criticism that when Sen. Landrieu became a big player in the health care debate, people in Louisiana were having a hard time getting through on the phones to register their views.