Quin, I have to agree with you that this was an amazing example of about as bad a judgment as someone can have. And this looks downright mean. I like what my former John Locke Foundation boss John Hood, whom you linked, said at The Corner:
This CNN episode ought to convince all conservatives that not only should O’Keefe’s behavior be condemned, but conservative leaders and organizations need to do a better job of assessing the maturity level and character of the people they hire, support, or praise. Building an alternative media network of conservative and libertarian periodicals, news portals, broadcasters, blogs, and video sites is a great idea.
Hood is talking about the nationwide effort by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and others to add state capital and investigative reporting components to conservative/libertarian think tanks (which James O'Keefe was not part of). But he is right that after O'Keefe's ACORN "pimp" expose' -- which I thought was great (but I don't consider journalism) -- too much support (and I assume money, considering he's got his own investigative organization now, Project Veritas), were thrown at him too soon without really making him prove himself.
There's of course the potential for something like this to happen (although I never thought to this extreme) when work like O'Keefe's is so far out on the edge. You can get big scores like the ACORN scandal; but you also run the risk of big blunders like this.
I've met James O'Keefe and emailed with him a little bit, and he was very pleasant and gracious -- even humble. Unfortunately it appears he got a wave of incredible publicity, some money, and got surrounded by some other young folks who either were enablers or at least unwilling to do any kind of intervention. The exception to that was Izzy Santa (she's in the CNN story), who blew the whistle on the scheme right before it was to happen. Good for her.
I don't rescind my enthusiasm for how O'Keefe and Hannah Giles exposed ACORN or for the Census Bureau waste he uncovered. I do regret that everything that came his way in a hurry may have made him feel invincible. I don't have a problem with him getting his own enterprise to run his projects through, but it should have a strong accountability mechanism in place so something like this would not have happened. And if people wanted to financially support that they could, and if not, they wouldn't have to.
I do think we need to hear something from O'Keefe and Andrew Breitbart pretty soon about this. Undoubtedly lawyers are debating what should and should not be said.