Little Rock You know the Bob Dylan song with the famous line, “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?” Well, watching James O’Keefe latest episode of political absurdity and chicanery fall crashing to the ground with a giant thud brings that line to mind, and you know how it is, now I can’t stop humming it.
O’Keefe was the video scammer who set the stage for rightwing agitprop videos with a highly edited sting of bits off conversation in ACORN’s housing affiliate as part of a coordinated conservative attempt to attack and defund the organization in the United States. Some of his antics led he and his confederate, who posed as a hooker, to pay $100,000 to people abused, but he critically damaged ACORN. Since then he has continued to try to reclaim some space as a press hog in one stunt after another, including one at the federal building in New Orleans which led to his arrest and lengthy probation. Most recently he was hanging around Texas trying to play gotcha with Affordable Care Act navigators enrolling eligible families, but that was pretty much a dud.
It’s another political season, so like a nightmare, “he’s back!” Or, at least he wanted be back when he summoned the media to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. likely with the aim of trying to bring down Hillary Clinton this time. According to Dana Milbank a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, there was a full house of reporters who attended on a slow news day out of boredom and likely looking for free food. As he writes, O’Keefe was there to…
…unveil evidence of “illegal activity conducted by high-level employees within Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” He then rolled tape of … a Canadian woman attempting to buy a T-shirt and some campaign pins at a Clinton rally. To O’Keefe, this was evidence of foreign contributions being made to Clinton — an “illegal activity” with a total value of $75. Many of the 50 reporters who showed up at the National Press Club for this unveiling felt as if they had been punked. “My first reaction is this is about buying a T-shirt,” said one. “It doesn’t seem like much of a bombshell.” “Is this the best thing you have?” I asked O’Keefe. “Is this a joke?” inquired Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast. “This feels like a prank. … We’re talking about buying campaign swag.” But O’Keefe was serious: “This is just the beginning! We’ve got more!” Next installment: O’Keefe catches a Mexican national buying a Clinton sweatshirt?
Ouch, not only did he crash and burn, he got ridiculed, but he earned it.
This is too rich for me not to share more as Milbank goes on:
“It was a conduit donation, which was a crime,” O’Keefe proclaimed to his press club audience. Umm. So if it was a crime for the Clinton campaign to receive this “contribution,” wasn’t it also a crime for O’Keefe’s “journalist” to take a foreigner’s cash and hand it over to the campaign? I put the question to O’Keefe, who called his lawyer to the microphone. “It’s a technical violation of the law,” the lawyer, Benjamin Barr, admitted. “It’s akin to jaywalking.” (O’Keefe’s methods have been in doubt before: He paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit by an ACORN worker years after that expose.) It’s unclear whether a purchase of campaign swag by a foreign national would violate campaign-finance laws under any circumstance. But it’s absolutely clear that the sort of violation alleged by O’Keefe would never be enforced. Nor could it be, because O’Keefe’s shirt-gate case unraveled quickly under questioning at his news conference. He didn’t know the identity of the Canadian, he said, or even if she really was Canadian. His “journalist” who facilitated the transaction gave the Clinton campaign a fake name, and O’Keefe wouldn’t identify the videographer. He also had no plans to report the supposed violation by the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.
This is what is known as a takedown. Who shows up for his dog-and-pony show the next time? Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
As Milbank finishes it feels like it:
But O’Keefe had achieved his purpose. “It’s going viral,” he said, noting that “it’s in the Washington Post right now.” It was, under this headline at that time: “New James O’Keefe video sting catches Clinton campaign being kind to a Canadian.”
Bob Dylan’s Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again