Nearly as unappetizing as the video of ACORN workers explaining how to run a prostitution business, cheat on taxes and import underage streetwalkers from Central America is the presence of Michael Moore's mug on TV screens everywhere.
Having helped throw the 2000 election to George W. Bush -- moderate Democrats had to be punished -- Moore is now promoting his new movie on the evils of capitalism. The bankers he embarrasses on camera should also be thanking him for their best years.
Democrats were elected to fix the health care mess and address other problems that the Republicans ran away from. "Now is the time," as President Obama likes to say, and flare-ups caused by the undisciplined left are most unhelpful to his agenda.
ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- has long served as a walking parody of the poverty pimp popularized by the right. Ten years ago, the brother of ACORN's founder was caught embezzling $1 million from the organization. ACORN workers have since been criminally charged with voter registration fraud. After the video surfaced, Democrats tried to control the political damage by quickly voting to cut off ACORN's federal funding.
The ACORN affair followed the Van Jones controversy. Head of a federal "green jobs" program, Jones had signed a petition questioning whether the Bush administration let the Sept. 11 attacks happen to provide a pretext for invading Iraq. He had also publicly used obscenities in referring to Republicans. Jones had become a liability for the Obama administration. He was asked to leave quietly and graciously complied.
But some liberals don't know how to cut their losses. An editorial in The Nation accused Obama of surrendering to the "vile, clownish demagogue Glenn Beck" in its decision to replace Jones. And Democratic spokesman Howard Dean said in Jones' defense on Fox News, "This guy's a Yale-educated lawyer." (Dean needs to spend more time in the heartland.)
Beck should not be the issue. His crackpot commentary goes out in scattershot fashion, and every now and then punctures a reality-based vein.
The line between a professional provocateur and publicity freak does not exist for media personalities. Beck's antics win an audience but not friends for the Republican Party. And the same can be said about the Michael Moore show and Democrats.
Let me note right off that I did not see Moore's new movie, nor do I intend to (unless someone cares to pay me handsomely for reviewing it somewhere other than this column). I dropped out of the Michael Moore fan club after watching his 1989 indictment of General Motors' alleged cruelty to its employees, "Roger and Me." Any business-page reader knew that one of the company's biggest problems was the bountiful contracts it had negotiated with unions. The workers used to say that GM stood for "Generous Motors" -- a level of generosity that this year's crisis brought to a very public end.
Moore is back again as "protector" of the little guy against the Wall Street elite. But I'm still back in 2000, when the little guy needed Al Gore to become president. Though the race was tourniquet tight, Moore backed Ralph Nader to teach the Democrats a lesson.
As Bush forces funneled campaign cash to Nader, Moore served as the spoiler's warm-up act. He would bounce onto the stage and tell liberals that they'd be better off voting for "that potted plant" (he used one as a prop) than for Al Gore or George Bush.
Like their counterparts on the right, crusaders of the left often don't choose their friends wisely. Believe me, Glenn Beck is not the fellow on TV liberals should worry about.
Froma Harrop's e-mail address is email@example.com.