Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain Cannot Let Go of Joe the Plumber

The McCain campaign strategy seems to be invoke something, find out it was a big mistake, but try to go with it and convince the American public that your mistake was actually part of the plan (see: Sarah Palin). So it is with Joe the Plumber. Without looking into Joe's credentials (or lack thereof), McCain decided to thrust the guy into the national spotlight in a an ill-advised debate style which hinged on him. Once the media looked into the guy (as McCain or any other sane individual knew they would) they found out some interesting facts.

Joe the Plumber's real name is Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher and, in reality, he is not really a plumber. Despite insisting that he does not need a license to practice his trade, the folks who run Toeldo, Ohio say that he does. And his claim that he is about to buy his employer's $250,000 plumbing business may not be true, either. In any event, it is worth watching Obama's answer to Sam (Joe), because instead of brushing him off, he takes the time to explain his plan to him and makes sure that he understands it:

Wurzelbacher seems to get it and to appreciate Obama's time to answer his question. Now, beyond McCain's initial incantation of Joe the Plumber at the third debate, his campaign seems to be grasping the idea of Sam (Joe) the Plumber (probably in their attempt to portray themselves as populists). McCain has even gone so far as to call up Joe (Sam) to ask him to come out to some campaign rallies. Rather than let the Joe the Plumber fad die, McCain seems to want to embrace it despite the recent revelations of the real Joe (Sam).

Palin also seems to be embracing Joe the Plumber. She has said that he had the courage to stand up to Obama and that should be commended. Indeed, it should, because politicians do not get asked legitimate questions (it is too bad that this time it seems that the questioner was not the best person to be asking the question given his tax history). But Palin should not be praising Joe the Plumber, for when she faced a similar incident in Philly and was called out on it later, she said that Katie Couric was participating in "gotcha journalism": (you can ignore the interview with the guy who asked the question, because he seems like a pompous ass)

So, isn't Palin caught in "gotcha politics" (isn't that a pizza place?) when she invokes the Joe (Sam) the Plumber question? Is it not hypocritical for Palin to say that she should not be called out on her answer to a random voter (in which she agreed with Barack Obama's ill-advised plan to enter sovereign Pakistani land to get terrorists without Pakistani approval, which is in direct opposition to John McCain's position), but that Barack Obama's answer should be scrutinized? Or is it still sexist to ask Sarah Palin about things she has said and what she believes?

All of this Joe the Plumber stuff is getting annoying. He asked Obama a good question, and Obama answered him quite well. The McCain campaign, looking for anything to bring attention off of their policies and anything else that may mean something to the voter before the election, have continually brought up Joe the Plumber to show, "Hey, look, I own eight homes, but I still care about your average Joe; I'm a populist! Greed and corruption on Wall Street!" Once Joe's 15 runs out, it'll be back to the Ayers non-connection. But while McCain and Palin continue to use the image of Joe, I propose a name change . I think we should call him Joe the Unlicensed Contractor. Peace.

Photo - Obama and Sam (Joe) (


  1. I hear this argument a lot, and I just do not buy into it.

    Every time there has been a president with a majority Congress of the same party, one of two things happens.

    The first scenario is the Bill Clinton/Newt Gingrich situation. Clinton blindsided Bush in 1992 and got control of the Oval Office. Newt Gingrich and other prominent Republicans seized the opportunity to point out a few flaws in Clinton's first year in office and orchestrate a sweeping Republican victory in the legislative branch under the "Contract for America." While this may have stopped what some view as a potential Democratic domination of the 1990s, it led to other unintended consequences (Don't Ask, Don't Tell being one them in which Clinton and the social conservatives had to compromise on a hot-button issue and churned out a pathetic initiative).

    The other thing is the George W. Bush scenario, in which something catastrophic happens in the first term of a presidency and he and his party use this to their advantage to keep control of both the executive and legislative branches. Needless to say, that does not bode well for Americans considering what has happened the past 8 years.

    But even if McCain wins, the Republican missteps of the past 8 years have paved the way for the Democrats to further solidify their majority in Congress and, depending on the numbers come election day, could gain a veto-proof majority, in which case it does not matter who is president. If Obama wins the Oval Office and people do not like his way of governing in his first year, then they will vote Republican in the midterm elections and we will have a Clinton/Gingrich situation. If they like his style of governance or if something catastrophic happens and he and his advisers politicize it a la 9/11 and Karl Rove, then he will enjoy a Democratic Congress for most of his presidency. The only difference in this and the past 8 years is that a) I do not see Obama politicizing something akin to 9/11 and b) he is much smarter and has significantly better foreign policy stances and economic advisers than Bush.

    So on its face the argument may seem convincing, but I just do not buy it given the history of it (look at Reagan and O'Neill in the 1980s for another example of the Clinton/Gingrich scenario). If the ruling party in Congress is going to prevent someone from voting for who they think is the better candidate, this country is in serious trouble. I've talked to people who like Obama but do not like the prospect of a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress. I say to them, as I do to you, Ted, that if the American people have a problem with Obama with a Democratic Congress (assuming here that Obama wins), they will show that in the midterm elections and it could actually help the Republicans because they could have a 1994-esque rise to legislative prominence. I certainly do not think that America will die if the scenario you laid out occurs. Peace.