Lay that pistol down, clown

 Okay, I know it's not especially productive to actually explain things to GOP diehards, but  this is something we have to get straight before somebody gets hurt. According to a press release sent out by the much maligned ACORN, at least two of their offices nationwide have been vandalized and several staffers threatened following McCain's exaggerated accusations that this long-standing community-services organization was undermining democracy by registering unqualified or imaginary voters.

 Look, here's how it works. ACORN sends people out to solicit citizens to fill out voter-registration cards. ACORN does not empower anyone to vote. At the end of the day, all the registration cards that ACORN's minions have collected are handed over to the local election authority. It is the local election authority -- not ACORN -- who decides who's eligible to vote.

Now ACORN is a grassroots organization made up of the kind of "just plain folks" that Sarah Palin claims to be (and represent) except many of them are African-American or Hispanic, none of them have access to any mainstream power establishment, and most of them are poor. Unfortunately, this means that a few people of questionable work ethic are sometimes the ones dispatched to collect voter signatures. And yeah, these bad employees tend to cheat. They fill out cards for Abraham Lincoln and such. Plus, some of the people to whom ACORN workers hand cards fill them out stupidly.

Local election authorities generally have no trouble figuring out that "Minnie Mouse" with a six-digit Social Security number is not for real, and toss bogus registration cards into the "no" pile. That's their job; not ACORN's. ACORN hands over all its cards, even ones that somebody just scribbled on. They have to. In fact, if ACORN, or any other group out to register voters didn't turn in all the cards they collected, there would be real cause for scandal.

This routine goes on with every voter-registration drive in America. It's normal. It probably happens to McCain advocates as well. So to make a deal out of it, is about as sensible as condemning farmers because Del Monte threw out some rotten fruit. Nobody got to vote because of those bad registration cards. Time and resources were wasted, but the system works.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who really ought to get out of the studio more, spent an entire Situation Room "investigating" the ACORN scandal. He did a pretty good job ignoring the facts and offering half-truths out of context. In fact, he was just creating a pretend investigation to keep viewers tuned in. Artful. Also decitful.

 And in the end, it helped legitimate this phony scandal that now is having real-world repercussions. Shame on Wolf.

Better he should look for election fraud where it more plausibly could happen -- like with rigged voting machines. Then perhaps McCain could go on the stump against the Bush administration for undermining democracy.

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