by JS O’Brien
I feel really bad for Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber.” Here is a guy, minding his own business, playing football on his front lawn with his 13-year-old son, when he looks up and sees a candidate for president walking down his street. This particular candidate is tall, well-spoken, extraordinarily well-educated, accomplished, and black. Joe is a Republican, so he figures he’ll confront a Democrat he doesn’t much care for. He goes over to him and … well … embellishes a little bit, as we are all wont to do on occasion.
He tells the candidate he’s trying to buy a business that brings in more than $250,000 a year, and that would mean he would have to pay more taxes, wouldn’t it? The candidate probably should have probed Joe a bit about whether he meant that the business charged a total of $250,000 or whether that was the profit, but he probably figured that Joe was a businessman and didn’t want to insult his intelligence. So, the candidate from Chicago told him it would, but that tax savings for those earning less than he does would benefit others who could then afford his services more easily, meaning he could make more money from getting them as customers in a Keynesian “spreading the wealth around.”
Joe’s encounter with Senator Obama was duly reported in the media, and as befits the news cycle in this time of rapid change, quickly forgotten.
Except by John McCain and his campaign staff.
McCain, you see, had a tough debate coming up soon, and he thought that Joe’s story and Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment could be used to advantage, so he went to the debate and constantly brought up Joe’s name in an attempt to hammer Obama on tax fairness, making the point that if a plumber who had worked so hard and earned enough to buy a business could be hurt by Obama’s tax plan, then so could other ordinary Americans.
There was just one problem: Joe wasn’t exactly who and what he said he was, and the media quickly found out about it and published what they found.
It turns out that Joe is not a licensed plumber and has never gone through any plumbing courses, which makes his work in Ohio illegal. His employer has a license, but not to do work in Joe’s county. Uh oh. Joe also owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes and there’s a lien on his property. He almost certainly doesn’t have the money to buy a business (his last public report of income was only $40,000), doesn’t really know much about business, and if the business he’s dreaming of buying (his boss’s) earns $250,000+ as he says, it must be the only two-man plumbing business in the world to do so. And, there’s an outside chance that Joe is related to Charles Keating’s son in law. Charles Keating is the swindler John McCain got entangled with that earned McCain a reprimand from the Senate Ethics Committee.
So where does this leave Joe? Well, he’ll almost certainly be told to cease and desist working as a plumber until he gets a license. The tax people will come after him. His employer is bound to be angry. He’s about to become a national laughingstock. There’s a good chance that all those TV interviews people have been wanting will be canceled. Joe is about to lose his livelihood, his good name, and his dignity.
And what about John McCain? Well, he’s not only crushed Joe with his maverickness loose cannon-ness, he’s also made himself look like a fool for running with a story that turns out to be just another Republican fairy tale (see “Reagan, welfare queen, the”).
And this is the overarching reason why Americans should run screaming from John McCain.
I can imagine that carrier jet pilots need quick reactions and must sometimes make split-second decisions. I’m sure John McCain’s willingness to make those quick decisions was very useful to him in wrecking three aircraft. But who earth wants a president who makes snap judgments on complex issues? Do we really want a man who plays Lone Ranger, parachuting into delicate legislative negotiations to “fix” things, only to exit stage right (Heavens to Murgatroid) on a whim for a debate after those negotiations fall apart? Do we really want a guy who makes a snap judgment on a running mate, and gives us a woman who is undereducated, underexperienced, underbrained, undercurious, and under Todd Palin (surely Paris Hilton has better taste)? A woman who has spent enough time in beauty pageants and being a television sports announcer to give a professional look on camera, but who is stumped by that most difficult of questions: “What publications do you read?” Do we want a man who lurches from one campaign message to another every 32 seconds, hoping something, anything, will resonate?
This time, John McCain hurt only Joe the Plumber with his impulsive behavior. Give him the reins of the executive branch, and there’s no end to the damage he can do. We should know, shouldn’t we? “Fire, ready, aim” has been the motto of the White House for eight long years.
And it’s been a great ride, hasn’t it?