There has been a slight tightening in the polls since the debate –due, it seems, to the arrival on the scene of –yes, Joe the Plumber!
(Come on down, Joe.)
A regular guy, right? Modest house in Toledo, Ohio (–which, most people know, is a real “battleground” state, though the latest polls there give Obama a 3.2 edge.)
(Joe –tell us a little about yourself….)
The first news-video had Joe question Barack about what his tax plan would do to him and his “American Dream” of acquiring a small plumbing business; Joe seemed very clear that Barack’s plan would “penalize him”…
At this point, the merits or otherwise of the argument seemed scarcely to matter. By the time Joe’s name surfaced at the debate, John McCain seemed utterly sold on how bad Barack’s plan would be for Joe; how it would “penalize him”.
I can’t remember at this stage, when the terms “spread the wealth” and “socialism” came into it….but pretty soon they were wafting about…as they do at the slightest opportunity.
Though Obama’s handling of it at the debate seemed quite reasonable, and he fairly gracefully tried to end the agree-to-disagree discussion by allowing that Joe might not “end up voting for me”, McCain seemed to think he had scored a significant point by raising the whole issue….of Joe the Plumber.
As it turned out, JTP was to become the media “star for a day”. Joe himself thought the whole thing was…”surreal”; he seemed to downplay it with what I assumed was Ohioan modesty.
Though his 13 year-old son thought it all “absolutely awesome….”
All the rightwing radio prognosticators were right on to it. I noticed that McCain in the debate referred to the industrious Joe as “working 10 and 12 hours a day” –apparently you can’t use ’11’ in this context– or “putting in long hours”. It has to be “putting in”. And it can’t be just 10. Or 12. There is something about “10 and 12” that suggests a combination of utterly laudable qualities, such as:
1. Who’s counting?
2. Hey, we just work and work until the job is done!
3. This is none of your liberal-elite-lite nine to five.
But, by the time Rush sank his teeth into the story, the hardworking hours had expanded to “12 and 14″….
(Even Our Great National Bloviator couldn’t get himself to run to “…and 16″. That is somehow strangely….reassuring. There are….”Limits to Bloviation” –hey Rush, that could be your next book)
Antway, I wasn’t paying very close attention, but at one point Rush –alright, maybe it was Sean– ran an interview with Joe, who was telling how the whole thing had come about, and expatiating on some of his political views that moved him to challenge Barack in the first place….
I heard him mention “Socialism” again. And yes, “Big Government” was still the problem.
Another sterling quality that the plainspoken Joe manifest was his “pull himself up by his own bootstraps” independent spirit. He didn’t want any handouts or welfare.
“That’s the problem with this country. Everybody wants a handout. Everybody is looking for something for nothing. Everybody wants welfare….” said Joe.
But then my ears prick up.
Speaking of people abusing welfare, I heard Joe say –and I think I have this verbatim:
“How come they all have cell-phones…”
By now, most of us can spot a sub-text from several paragraphs away, and this one seemed to me to stand out… quite a bit.
Our Joe was no middle-of-the-road Ohioan (Toledan?) This, clearly, was a man with some hard-right views.
He had gently-but-firmly refused –“demurred” is probably a better word– in several of the nextday interviews to say how he would be voting, choosing to invoke the sacred privacy that for some attends the privileges and duties of the ballot box.
“That’s between me and the lever…” was how he handled the question. (Why did it seem to have a mild rebuke embedded in his reply?)
(As it happens, it turns out that Joe voted Republican in the Primary. And later when I got to some of those ancillary videos on YouTube, by this time Joe seemed to have shed that “12 and 14 hour a day modesty” that was on display earlier, and was giving a fairly hard-edged riff on “our boys in Iraq…God bless them…bringing freedom to Iraq…I don’t care anything about WMDs…we took the fight to them…and we’re winning.”
Is it possible that Joe’s reticence –that appealing Ohioan modesty– might be….(horribili dictu)– agenda-driven?
Perish the thought!
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Somebody should have told Joe that when he sticks his head out into that absolutely awesome buzzsaw that is our media –especially, flagrante– something is going to start flying. (Just as it is the Japanese nail that sticks out, that gets hammered in.)
In next to no time we were reading that Joe wasn’t even a licensed plumber –suggesting to me at least that his contemplated purchase of the plumbing business might be… a trifle premature…precipitate perhaps.
There was also mention of some tax trouble –a couple of tax liens against him and such– that might somehow play into that talk of his about being “penalized”…
But probably the most significant piece of information to emerge about Joe the (Unlicensed) Plumber was that, last year, he earned $40,000 –at which salary he would certainly qualify for just about every tax-relief that Barack was offering!
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No doubt we have not heard the end of JT(U)P. The cat is among the pigeons. Or –as my grandmother used to say– the wigs are on the green. (This is an old Irish saying, meant to indicate violence….that some “fisticuffs” had broken out in 17th C. Ireland, on the commons (the green) of some town or city, in the course of which violent activity a gentleman’s wig might become dislodged….)
Ah, yes! Wigs on the green in Toledo! What it all will mean over the next few days. And few weeks to Nov.4th –we can only guess.
Or await with some trepidation…
But, to be frank, I would not be surprised to find, looking back on all this in a few short years, that the name of Joe the Plumber –indeed, possibly along with the very name Sarah Palin– would draw only Blank Stares if they were to crop up as questions on Jeopardy or other quiz show.
If there still are quiz shows.
(Jeopardy –a show which we all are in the middle of, like it or not– is another matter)