02 November 2008

Plumbing the Depths

I’ve not really commented on the "Joe the Plumber" newsiness because a) he had every right to question Obama, b) McCain had every right to draw on “Joe” and Obama’s meeting, and c) the media had no right to expose “Joe’s” private information on such a wide scale.
“Joe the Plumber” (Samuel. J. Wurzelbacher) has embraced his status as public citizen. He's appeared regularly on television to expound on his political views, which means, unfortunately, that he’s gone from symbolizing the plight of blue-collar Americans to symbolizing the “Obama is anti-Semitic and un-American” paranoia that’s out there (with a dash of racism thrown in).

First of all, in a telephone interview with CBS News he said that Obama "‘tap dance[d] ... almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.’ in their conversation.” (qtd. in Weiner). Rather a loaded comparison, but okay. Maybe it was a "whoops!"

Secondly, when he endorsed Senator McCain, he eagerly agreed to a bystander’s assertion that an Obama presidency would result in the death of Israel. The next day, Wurzelbacher appeared on Fox News with Shepard Smith, and:
[f]or five painful live-on-Fox minutes [. . .] Mr. Smith repeatedly asked Mr. Wurzelbacher what evidence he had to back up that charge. Mr. Wurzelbacher refused to answer. He said it was up to Mr. Smith’s viewers to figure out why he, Joe the Plumber, thought Mr. Obama was a menace to Israel.

Looking incredulous, Mr. Smith gave up. He read a statement from the McCain campaign praising the plumber’s “penetrating and clear analysis.”

Then Mr. Smith said: “I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear. Barack Obama has said repeatedly and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States no matter what happens once he becomes president of the United States. His words.”

“The rest of it,” he said, “man, it just gets frightening sometimes.” (qtd. in NYT).
Finally, Mr. Wurzelbacher has returned to the “Obama is a traitor” meme so recently exploited by Governor Palin (and some excited crowds). He claimed on Fox News today that “people shouldn't vote for Obama because he doubts Obama's ‘loyalty to America’ (see video at TPM):

"McCain has fought and bled for our country, loves our country," said Joe Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," who has campaigned throughout Ohio with and on behalf of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "There's too many questions with Barack Obama and his loyalty to our country. And I question that greatly."

Fox News' Neil Cavuto tried to clarify: "You're not doubting that he's a good American. Or you are?"

"His ideology is completely different from what democracy stands for," said Wurzelbacher (qtd. in Tapper).

So much for “penetrating and clear analysis”by Senator McCain's "role model."

Just a few weeks ago Senator McCain was negating this kind of rhetoric when espoused by supporters in his town halls (a rhetoric that probably contributed to his decision to discontinue the town hall format). It’s unfortunate that McCain’s representative for “the everyman,” someone who, as Josh Marshall asserts, is now a “McCain campaign surrogate,” has chosen to revisit this line of character assassination to present Barack Obama as a "traitor."

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