WASHINGTON — Irving Kristol, the recently deceased godfather of neoconservatism, once said to me, "Fairness is not a liberal value." I thought about his asseveration while observing the liberals’ colossal indignation over conservative activist James O’Keefe’s entry under false pretenses into the district offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. O’Keefe is the merry prankster who entered the offices of the left-wing community action group ACORN under the false pretense of being a pimp. Repeatedly and in ACORN offices across the country, the ACORNiacs counseled this faux pimp on how to be a successful sex entrepreneur. He taped them! The tapes exposed ACORN for the criminal enterprise it has become. O’Keefe became a hero to some conservatives but a scoundrel to all liberals.
Now O’Keefe is under threat of indictment for bringing a couple of fellow pranksters into Sen. Landrieu’s office, though he has toned down his act. This time, his associates claimed only to be employees of the telephone company, which I guess is understandable. One would not expect a United States senator’s staff to counsel young men on success in the sex trade. For that matter, I doubt that the senator’s staff would even counsel them on phone sex. Rather, it appears that O’Keefe wanted surreptitiously to film Landrieu staffers working the telephones. His intent had something to do with a controversy about telephone callers’ not getting through to Landrieu’s office. At any rate, all hell has broken loose because O’Keefe and his faux telephone repairmen were up to something tricky on federal property.
Now, if they claimed to be members of a protest movement and were disorderly in a senator’s office, liberals would remain tranquil. In fact, liberals did remain tranquil when this happened at Sen. Joe Lieberman’s office last November. Or if they claimed to be environmentalists, they could disrupt a member of Congress’ office with no liberal outrage. This happened in 1997 in Rep. Frank Riggs’ office. Or for that matter, they might claim to be associates of filmmaker Michael Moore and disrupt various congressional offices with cameras and microphones and general unpleasantness.
Liberals have a double standard when it comes to political protest or even political parody. We have seen this unfairness for more than a generation. During the youth rebellion of the late 1960s (and it was the youth rebellion of left-wing youths; most 1960s youths were conservative, and in 1972, the youth vote went to Richard Nixon), the yippies’ coarse and often criminal mischief was applauded by liberals as idealistic, heroic and amusing. At the time, it became fashionable among left-wing youths on college campuses to ambush "establishment" speakers at public lectures with a pie in the face, no matter how old or decrepit or unaware the poor lecturer might be. I cannot recall one pie heaver ever being denounced as a violent assailant — though all of them were.
Suspecting that a double standard was at work, I and some fellow conservative students at Indiana University in 1971 (they were my colleagues at the nascent American Spectator) held a debate, invited a faux Columbia University sociologist — professor Rudolph Montague (actually a grizzled Vietnam vet who had returned as an undergraduate) — to participate and, in the middle of his absurdist left-wing discourse, had a co-conspirator run onstage, call him "a goddamn communist" and assail him with a pie. Rather brilliantly, Montague shouted his apologies to the fleeing student — very liberal of you, Prof! Our intention was to demonstrate the double standard: Peaceful conservative forums get no media attention; disorderly forums (usually left-wing) do.
What we got was an even more brilliant demonstration of unfairness. When Indiana University officials called Columbia University to apologize and discovered there was no professor Montague, we were accused of a violent assault. As far as I can recall, we were the first pie heavers ever accused of violent assault. But can a thrown pie be a violent assault when engaged in by "consenting adults"? Somehow that does not seem right.
Likewise, it does not seem quite right to accuse the conservative O’Keefe of federal crimes when left-wingers disrupt federal offices as frequently as they do. Some years ago, I was in Rep. Bob Barr’s office, when the drop-dead beautiful Hollywood figure Michael Moore came in claiming to high journalistic endeavors and being disruptive. He was asked to leave and became more disruptive. Then he followed us down the hall when Barr left for a meeting and continued his obnoxious mission of enlightenment. His efforts have been crowned with artistic awards. What will O’Keefe’s award be?