What About Joe?

I’m feeling like toasted dog crap, so I probably won’t get too much writing done today, but I don’t think I can ignore this.  The rightwing chattersphere is up in arms over what it sees as the intentional destruction of its new iconic hero; Joe the Plumber.  And interestingly some of them are even trying to lay this at Obama’s feet.

But let’s make sure that blame gets placed where it belongs.

I didn’t spend an awful lot of time on Joe yesterday because I don’t think he’s that important.  He didn’t even make it into my final debate analysis even though he was mentioned over two dozen times.  I did point out that he was far from an unbiased and undecided voter, and that there was a possible link to the McCain campaign, but even then I also pointed out that this was more coincidence than anything else.

In short, my whole take on Joe the Plumber was that here was a hard right guy who noticed the presidential candidate of the Democratic party on his street, and decided he would try to skewer him.  If I didn’t suffer from people fear, I would probably want to do the same if I noticed John McCain knocking on doors on my street (altogether not an impossibility).

As it turns out, some of the stuff that we were initially led to believe about Joe the Plumber wasn’t exactly true.  For instance, he’s a registered Republican, and he doesn’t have his plumbing license and therefore is not legally allowed to work as a plumber in Toledo Ohio.  Allahpundit, a conservative blogger that I’ve come to respect over the course of these past few weeks for his clear-eyed approach to issues such as this, puts this in perspective for the rest of the wingnut hoardes:

The law’s the law and it is, after all, his own fault for not having the papers he needs. If, say, an illegal alien had asked McCain a tough question and some righty media source responded by bringing his status to light, would the left feel the same way?

Actually, there’s a little bit in there for everyone, right and left.  The fact of the matter is that Joe’s livelihood is currently at risk and this is because both his affairs were not in order and he was thrust into the media spotlight.

So, if we are really going to assign blame, let’s really assign blame.  Who’s at fault for his affairs not being in order?  Who is at fault for Joe the Plumber not having the proper licensing to perform his job?  This should be an easy question for the members of a party who claim to believe in personal responsibility; Joe is.  I didn’t force him to not get his plumbing license.  Barack Obama certainly didn’t hold a gun to the guy’s head and threaten him into not getting licensed.  That was all Joe and nobody else.

Now, whose fault is it that Joe was thrust into the media spotlight so that this eventually came out?  From my old friend PSoTD:

Joe the Plumber went from ordinary citizen to campaign prop during the debate on Wednesday night, and John McCain used him as a crux to attack Obama’s positions several times.

Fine. And that crux would have stood fine if what Joe the Plumber had said – in public, in his comments that went beyond a simple question about a candidate to an editorial determination about that candidate – were accurate. John McCain made political arguments based on what Joe the Plumber said that were not true about Joe the Plumber. Is the news media supposed to ignore that?

Once again, John McCain has pushed something – and this case, someone – as a central part of his campaign that has not been vetted. And it didn’t help Joe the Plumber that apparently he didn’t have the wisdom to realize that if what he said to Obama wasn’t 100% accurate, he probably shouldn’t be spending all that time with the news media regardless of the fact they were camped on his street. That’s called stoking the fire, and that’s how those who aren’t media-savvy get burned.

I really don’t see how Obama’s campaign is to blame for the fact-finding into Joe the Plumber’s life. I do see how John McCain used Joe the Plumber as an hatchet rather than a scalpel to try to attack Obama’s positions, and Joe the Plumber is probably going to be the one that gets chopped up the most.

Barack Obama’s involvement can be pared down to him answering a question from a citizen, which is what he’s supposed to do, and when John McCain used Joe as a prop in the debate, Obama played along.  John McCain, on the other hand, made the deliberate choice to employ Joe the Plumber as a rhetorical tool without, as PSoTD rightly points out, fully vetting him.  And this because for some strange reason John McCain has this bizarre aversion to mentioning the phrase, “middle class”.

Of course Joe the Plumber was going to get vetted by the media, he was brought up over two dozen times in a presidential debate.  People who had never heard of this guy, myself included, were going to be hungry to find out more about him because after being mentioned over two dozen times, he’s got to be pretty important.

Same thing with Sarah Palin; of course she was going to get vetted by the media–she was picked by McCain to be the potential Vice President.

So let’s not get it twisted here.  Barack Obama only answered the guy’s question on the campaign trail.  He wasn’t the one who prevented Joe from getting his plumbing license, and he wasn’t the one who brought him up as a political prop in a presidential debate.  He doesn’t own the media, and he didn’t send a flock of winged monkeys to destroy the Plumber.  Nor did “the left”.

The wingnuts are up in a stir, but if they really want to direct their outrage at someone, that outrage ought to be directed at McCain and Joe, they were the ones who brewed up this perfect storm.

10 Responses to “What About Joe?”

  1. tas says:

    I’m just sick of the trumpeting the little guy syndrome that this country is stricken with every four years — and it gets worse with every cycle. In 2000 and 2004, we had the usual pandering to the middle class from both parties; playing to the middle to get votes. Which always happens. But we’ve seen thee pandering make a turn for the worse in 2008: First with Huckabee, then with Palin. It’s bad enough that we’re forced to suck the middle’s cock but now the right was trying to enforce them on us by placing them in the actual high offices of the land?

    I know this can be looked upon as a screed against the normal people and yadda yadda. Nor do I think there’s anything wrong with being a plumber, etc.. Depending on how my academic efforts go, I might be there myself to earn a living. But it’s the glorification of these jobs — culminating in how we need somebody just like this in office — that pisses me off. Whatever happened to aspirations of greatness in America?

    I’m reminded of a time when I started working at Electric Boat, doing steel construction work on nuclear subs for the Navy. Kind of a shitty job, but hey, it would have given me play in a presidential debate. Anyways, one of the old timers there pulls me and another young, new guy aside, asks us how old we are and where we worked before this (our background’s were in the computer industry), then asked “What the fuck are you guys doing here? If my son told me he wanted to at this place, I’d tell him fuck no! You’re going to college.” So if the candidates want to know what the middle class really thinks, there you go.

    I’m sick of these four year cyclic races to the bottom. Obama — the cream of our American educational system — is reviled for being such; while a know-nothing schmuck like Palin is promoted for being just one of those folksy types. It’s crap; utter bullshit. While Republicans are busy glamorizing the lives of “normal” people, aspirations and the willingness to achieve more — what really moves this country forward — suffers.

  2. radical_moderate says:

    Glamorizing the working class, but doing nothing for them describes Republicans alright. The cyncism of the hard right is galling, but lucky for them (at least until this election hopefully) is that only the “elites” seemed to note their cynical ploys to attain Political Power and keep propping up their rich Friends to the detriment of the working people they claim to glorify. That some of them, like Joe himself, play along with this crap is frankly mind-boggling; does Joe really not know that Obama will put 3xs as much money in his pocket than McCain will? Even considering if Joe ever could afford to purchase his employer’s business, and would be lucky enough to make $250,000 a year, he would still be doing fine under a President Obama. Of course Joe kind of exposed his true agenda with his crack about Sammy Davis Jr vis a vis Obama….

  3. movie fan says:

    McCain and Palin look, act and talk like amiable robots… both of them are the perfect combination to carry on the legacy of George W. Bush.

    the fact that anyone is praising McCain for his performance in the third debate proves that he and Palin have lowered people’s expectations down to nothing (don’t forget, the VP debates were a tie!)

  4. gcotharn says:

    Joe is a symbol of Americans who will be hurt by Barack’s Euro Socialist economic beliefs. You cannot tear down a symbol by pointing to his tax lien. You tear down a symbol by effectively arguing that Americans will not be hurt by Barack’s tax plan. Then the symbol ceases to exist. It *poofs* into nothingness, b/c Americans will not be hurt by Barack’s tax plan. You gain nothing by personal attacks on a symbol.


    Given the crazies who are out there, it was unconscionable for Daily Kos to publish Joe the Plumber’s home address. Daily Kos was virtually urging the crazies to vandalize his home. It’s true Joe’s home address was already available to anyone who wanted to search for it. That only puts Daily Kos’ actions into harsher light. Publishing his address was a call to action.


    Beyond Daily Kos’ egregious action, the issue is not so much beating up a little guy as it is contrasting 1) media treatment of Joe, with 2) media treatment of Barack and friends. The Obama Campaign Treasurer has tax liens against him. Has that been tracked down by media? Have the implications been publicized and speculated upon? Joes info has already been tracked and speculated. Ayers has been an issue in this campaign: have TV trucks assembled outside the Ayers home? I could go on and on with other examples, but Ayers is the prime example of a double standard:

    No media/Dem/left person know the truth of Barack’s political and philosophic relationship with William Ayers. Barack’s story has shifted:

    Feb: kids went to school together
    April: some guy in the neighborhood
    May: they met at political event
    Oct: they worked at Annenberg Challenge, but Barack didn’t know about Weathermen!

    You can quibble with my brief descriptions, but you cannot quibble that Barack’s story has shifted. So, even though Barack’s story has shifted, every media/Dem/left person in existence take it as an article of faith there is “nothing to see there.” Why? In what universe do we take a politician’s word and then refuse to investigate the politician’s background? In what universe do we watch a politician try to hide something from us and then take it on faith there is “nothing so see there”? The point of investigating Joe the Plumber is it highlights what has not been investigated about Barack.

    Finally: the “Joe the Plumber” phenomenon is largely about Barack’s words: “spread the wealth”. There are four revelatory incidents which shine light on Barack’s true opinions, and “spread the wealth” takes its place among them:

    1. “First time I’ve been proud of my country”
    2. “Goddamn America”
    shine light on Barack’s opinion that something is fundamentally flawed about America.

    3. “Cling to God and guns”
    shines light on Barack’s disdain and condescension

    4. “Spread the wealth”
    shines light on Barack’s Euro-Socialist (or worse) economic beliefs.

    Joe is a symbol of Americans who will be hurt by Barack’s Euro Socialist economic beliefs. You cannot tear down a symbol by pointing to his tax lien. You tear down a symbol by effectively arguing that Americans will not be hurt by Barack’s tax plan. Then the symbol ceases to exist. It *poofs* into nothingness, b/c Americans will not be hurt by Barack’s tax plan. You gain nothing by personal attacks on a symbol.

  5. *sigh*

    I have a low attention span, so I only ready your first paragraph, and last paragraph, which were strangely the same.

    Anyway. First, I never mentioned Joe’s tax lien. I don’t care about his tax lien, I don’t care about whether or not he has a plumbing license. I don’t care about any of this stuff. The point of the post was that a lot of conservative bloggers were trying to blame all these new troubles that Joe is going to have to face on Obama, which just isn’t true. Any ills that Joe may have to face, including the potential loss of his job, is the result of John McCain deciding he wanted to use Joe as a political symbol.

    It’s a human interest story. When someone gets mentioned 26 times in a presidential debate, of course the media is going to do some digging because all of a sudden everyone wants to knwo who this guy is. It’s not our fault that he didn’t have his affairs in order.

    And, I don’t know if you have been paying attention, but contrary to the spin, Joe actually would benefit from Obama’s tax plan, in fact, he would benefit more from Obama’s tax plan than he would McCain’s tax plan.

    I wasn’t making personal attacks, at least not on Joe and not in this post.

  6. gcotharn says:

    I covered your concerns in the body of my comment.

    What the heck, condensed version:

    Daily Kos incited crazies to vandalize Joe’s house.

    Beyond Kos, the issue is not so much beating up a little guy as it is contrasting 1) media treatment of Joe, with 2) media treatment of Barack and friends.

    the “Joe the Plumber” phenomenon is slightly about Joe as a symbol, and largely about Barack’s words: “spread the wealth”.

    add final paragraph

  7. Seriously? You wanted a discussion on memory lane of the Anti-Obama smear machine’s greatest hits?

    And this is why I don’t ever participate in the comments to my posts.

  8. tas says:

    Oh sweet jesus, gcotharn escaped out of his bedroom window again. Somebody call his parents and tell them to hire a new fucking babysitter.

  9. tas says:

    Seriously, nobody can sit their fat ass on a comment thread and ruin it like you can, gco. You’ve long worn out your welcome here. Go the fuck away.

  10. gcotharn says:

    Kyle, it must be wonderful to be so wise.

    tas, you’ve a solid point. I’ve always intended discussion which constitutes a search for truth. It’s not my intention to intrude where I am unwelcome.


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