Arrividerci, Acorn

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I have to say, I'm finding the defenses of ACORN pretty ridiculous.  ACORN is not going down because there's a conservative media conspiracy, or other explanation du jour.  There is clearly something deeply wrong with the organization.  One or two bad apples could be explained away, but six, across the country, indicates that at the very least, their HR policy is very troubled.  There's no way to defend this.

Mike Tomasky makes the rounds of the talking points, which are so bad that even his considerable writing skill can't make them sound good:

Finally, Acorn president Bertha Lewis immediately appointed an independent panel to study the group and recommend ways for it to shape up. When you think about all the stonewalling that goes on in the world, and especially the corporate word (did AIG do this?), I'd say that's pretty laudable. It's headed by John Podesta, a Democrat, obviously, but an absolutely upright and no-nonsense guy whose own nonprofit, the Center for American Progress, is incredibly scrupulous and careful about how it conducts its own business.

One last point. Joe's piece reminds me of something I'd forgotten totally about. Last year, a group called Young Political Majors did a GOP voter registration drive in some states. In California, the group was found to have duped people outside supermarkets and what not into registering Republican even though they were, or intended to be, Democrats or independents. They are believed to have duped at least "several dozen" people.

So Acorn's paid volunteers made maybe 20 mistakes out of one million. YPM's paid volunteers used intentional chickanery to do a seriously crappy thing. Which of those is worse?

Oh -- and YPM's leader was arrested last October. I believe trial is pending. His lawyer says the charges are baseless.

Now. Imagine that Bertha Lewis, or an Acorn leader in a large, vote-rich state, had been arrested last October. Acorn would be finished. The right-wing press would be screaming that the election was an out-and-out fraud.

So why have you (unless you're a massive news junkie) never have heard of YPM? Because for all the right's whining about the liberal media, the mainstream media aren't ideologically committed to party warfare in remotely the way that the conservative media are.

Huh? You've never heard of YPM because, well, you've never heard of them.  It's not as if most people first heard of ACORN when Breitbart started to go after them; they're on the news radar because they are a massive nationwide organization that takes millions of tax dollars every year.  Complaining that the left is somehow being unfairly targeted because a regional company that tricked "dozens" of people into registering with the wrong party--not falsely registering, not preventing them from voting, but registering as Republicans--didn't grip the national consciousness in the same way as seeing ACORN activists offer advice on camera to help someone smuggle their illegal underage El Salvadoran hookers into the country--well, the mind boggles.

Nor is it some act of extraordinary courage that led ACORN to appoint an independent panel.  At this point, ACORN's shelf life is probably about 90 days.  This was not a bold, gutsy move; it's a desperate hail mary pass.  Appointing an independent panel is what all organizations do when something truly indefensible has happened.  I'm sure Arthur Anderson appointed an independent panel to find out why they'd been peddling their integrity to the nice folks at Enron.

There are times when, no matter how much you like them, you need to throw one of your own off the bus.  Democrats need to recognize that this is one of those times.  There is no upside to defending the indefensible.  All it does is throw your credibility after theirs.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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