It's a toss-up whether James O'Keefe will end up in the loony bin or prison.
O'Keefe is the delusional darling of the radical far right who fancies himself either Woodward-and-Bernstein or Ashton Kucher. Actually, given his track record, trying to "punk" pseudo-news targets, he's more a cross between Tony Soprano and Bozo the Clown, except without the grace.
The thing about Mr. O'Keefe is not that his efforts have been so woeful and ham-fisted -- his dressing up like a clownish pimp almost made you feel sorry for demeaning the reputation of pimps -- but his goals are so infantile. "Investigating" how a single ACORN employee does her job, "investigating" to see if a senator's phones work, trying to seduce a female CNN journalist with dildos, paintings of naked women and a sex tape machine.
Hey, why shoot for the stars when you can piss in the gutter?
And it's this level of "young gun" that Fox News has boosted, and Rush Limbaugh and Andrew Breitbart among others have hailed, that Republicans put on a pedestal to lead them into the future.
If this is what Republicans consider "journalism," no wonder they hate the "lame street media." If this is what Republicans believe a reporter does, no wonder the Bush White House gave credentials to gay-website escort "Jeff Gannon."
And if this is what Republicans think news is, what substance is, what seriousness is - no wonder they took to Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Jan Brewer, Carl Paladino, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin for leadership. Then again, it makes Ms. Palin quitting as governor after only half a term seem so much more understandable now.
Mr. O'Keefe's creepy efforts to lure a CNN reporter into a videotaped sex den with almost every sleazy soft-porn paraphernalia imaginable have rightly been ridiculed as hysterically laughable. It's as if an eight-year-old boy just discovered sex but didn't know how to get the attention of a girl.
Except for one thing. "Laughable" diminishes how truly scuzzy it was, because James O'Keefe is not an eight-year-old boy.
He's an adult. On parole.
Oh, right, that whole criminal thing. When James O'Keefe and his accomplices broke into a U.S. Senator's office last January, they were arrested on felony charges. Mr. O'Keefe pled it down to a misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to $1,500, 100 hours of community service and three years probation.
It would be interesting to know what his probation officer thinks of Mr. O'Keefe's sex-sting seduction plan. That sort of thing is probably frowned upon when you're on probation.
Of course, it's all just a pattern with Mr. O'Keefe. The scam that made him a far right hero was just as deceitfully seedy. The tape Fox News repeatedly aired supposedly showing an ACORN worker acting badly was, in fact, discovered later to have been heavily doctored. Further, after Pimp Daddy O'Keefe and his Pimp Girl Hannah Giles left the office -- the ACORN employee immediately called the police and filed a police report on them!
So, given his criminal and adolescent track record, it's no shock to discover James O'Keefe slimily trying to seduce a young woman on camera for no reason but to debase her. Laughable though the attempt was, that doesn't make it any less vile. Think not? Imagine if it was your sister on tape. Better still, consider that the reason the assault fell apart is because the executive director of the very organization James O'Keefe was working for was so repulsed, that she herself warned the CNN reporter!
To be clear, it wasn't that the CNN reporter, Abbie Boudreau, was doing anything wrong. But James O'Keefe just wanted "to have a little fun" (his words) by degrading the young woman on video, and even keep pressing her more uncomfortably if she became offended and withdrew.
Some fun! Forget if she was your sister. Just consider that this is a fellow human being.
And this is the kind of person who Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Andrew Breitbart and the Republican Party keep putting on a pedestal for the new Republican Party. It's a cousin to Rand Paul wanting to allow some discrimination, Joe Miller wanting to end Social Security, Sharron Angle wanting to cut health care for other women's pregnancies because she's already got hers. Selfish, mean-spirited, reprehensible.
A script was prepared for James O'Keefe to read on camera, to go along with his sexual humiliation of the young woman:
"I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort..."
Gee, what would ever give anyone the idea that that's what James O'Keefe and his friends are like? Go figure.
And who is this young woman that Mr. O'Keefe wanted to degrade? Who he calls a "bubble-headed-bleach-blonde?"
Abbie Boudreau has received a national Emmy nomination and won seven regional Emmys. Her reporting exposed misuse of Hurricane Katrina rescue supplies which were subsequently directed to their intended recipients. One month after reporting on a controversial military rule in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense eliminated the policy. Her investigation of Cooper Tires got the company to recall thousands of tires. She is a graduate of Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism.
No wonder that James O'Keefe wanted to sexually humiliate such a person. She's the kind of actual journalist who uncovers buffoonish con men like him who prey on society.
Which, in fact, was what she was doing at the time Mr. O'Keefe tried to assault her. At least he proved her good journalistic sense. (Which she herself explains here.)
And no wonder that today's far right Republican Party lionizes the James O'Keefe's of the world. They do represent what the reactionary GOP today has become.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg