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High Risk, Low Reward: O’Keefe’s Reckless Phone Stunt

Posted By Calvin Freiburger On February 2, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

Earlier, NewsReal’s Paul Cooper reported on Sean Hannity’s interview with James O’Keefe, the young conservative journalist who stands accused of…well, something pertaining to Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) phones.  Conservatives’ initial reaction to the arrest was, “he tried wiretapping a US senator’s phones? What an idiot,” but O’Keefe has since denied that that’s the charge against him, persuading some conservatives to rally to his defense.  Is O’Keefe setting the record straight, or merely trying to spin himself out of a tight spot?

Last night, O’Keefe reiterated that his mission was to determine whether or not Landrieu’s staffers were deliberately ignoring phone calls from constituents angry over the sweetheart deal she received in exchange for supporting ObamaCare, and swore up and down that he and his partners didn’t even bring wiretapping equipment along, much less intend to bug her phones.  As for specifics beyond that, however, he fell back on his inability to discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.

I certainly hope the facts are on O’Keefe’s side, but it’s too early to cast him as a victim around whom we should circle the wagons.  As Allahpundit pointed out on January 26, the very act of entering federal property under false pretenses is a clear-cut federal crime, and on January 29 Ed Morrissey noted:

They wouldn’t have needed to get access to the telephone closet in order to observe people answering the phone, and attempting to access it under false pretenses (representing themselves as telephone-company technicians) strongly implies that they wanted access for other reasons.

As bad a president as Barack Obama may be, I doubt his FBI has enough time on its hands to persecute innocent right-wingers on trumped-up charges.  It may be that O’Keefe’s version of events is true, and that false entry really is his only offense, but a crime’s a crime, and the motive is far from compelling.

The most O’Keefe could have potentially discovered was that Landrieu was deliberately ignoring her constituents’ calls for a few days.  That would be embarrassing, sure, but would it really be that shocking to anyone who’s ever received a half-hearted, impersonal response from one of his representatives?  More scandalous than the Louisiana Purchase itself?

Clearly not, in my opinion.  Which means that the potential return was not worth the risk of breaking federal law, or the predictable denunciations of the Right generally for the actions of four individuals.  O’Keefe’s heart may be in the right place, and for his sake I hope the investigation corroborates his side of the story, but his recklessness has needlessly given the Left ammunition to blast us with, and forced the rest of us to waste time cleaning up after his mess.


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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