His campaign bus sputtering and unable to find traction on the road to the White House, John McCain is attempting to find notes that resonate with voters, but he's looking in all the wrong places.
Never mind that most of what Joe said ain't so. Joe the Plumber is a symbol now, the poster guy for John McCain's tax offensive against Barack Obama, even if the case is founded on fiction.
It's just the latest example of the way in which McCain leaps onto an initiative before thoroughly examining the possible outcomes. I suspect there will be several more before we reach November 4th.
By mentioning "Joe the Plumber" 21 times during last Wednesday night's debate, John McCain made an instant celebrity out of Joe Wurzelbacher. McCain explained Joe's plight, but unfortunately the facts weren't -- uh, "factual" -and instead of having a real American example, McCain is once again using mythology to sell his ideas.
What ain't so about Joe is most of what McCain said about him in the final campaign debate. He is not really getting ready to buy a plumbing company, although he'd like to someday. He would not be subject to the tax increase Obama proposes for people making more than $250,000 a year. Indeed, he has said since the debate that the Obama plan probably would cut his taxes.
Political campaigns always are looking for case studies, average Americans they can point to as examples of what people would face under their policies or their opponent's. It's a gimmick, and in this case, a catchy one. Republicans are waving household plungers and chanting "Joe" at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies. You can buy "Joe the Plumber" T-shirts. The McCain campaign has a Joe the Plumber Internet link to the Republican candidate's economic proposals. Obama has one too. Click it and you get a calculator set up to figure your taxes under the Obama plan.
All this fuss is about Samuel J. Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio, who questioned Obama about his tax plan at an Oct. 11 campaign stop, saying, "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000 to $280,000 a year. Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"
After the debate in which McCain talked about him, Wurzelbacher said he didn't get a clear answer from Obama that day but, rather, a tap dance worthy of Sammy Davis Jr.
I watched the exchange, and Obama's answer was clear to me - but poor old Joe just doesn't get it.
Unfortunately for Joe, John McCain is now on Joe's side.
McCain regularly invokes Joe's name and calls him the big winner of the Oct. 15 debate. It might not feel that way to Joe. His sudden celebrity has led to the disclosure that he does not have a plumber's license - he said he didn't need one but his county requires it - and that he owes $1,182.98 in back taxes to Ohio.
That's his business, as is his bent version of his business and federal tax prospects. But the personal becomes a spectator event when a presidential nominee makes an average guy into a campaign figure. Apparently nobody in the McCain operation thoroughly checked him out. They saw the exchange with Obama on the Internet and made Joe a talking point in the debate.
Since facts are relegated to fine print in a campaign in which each side regularly accuses the other of lying, the details about Joe the Plumber don't make any difference as Republicans retell the story. To say, as Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden did, that the police officers, grocers and plumbers in his neighborhood aren't making $250,000 a year is, in the words of a McCain spokesman, an attempt to bully Joe the Plumber. Never mind that it is true that those kind of jobs don't pay that kind of money.
McCain says that Wurzelbacher is under "political attack," with people digging through his personal life just because he asked a tough question of Obama. But Joe didn't wind up in the middle because he asked a question. McCain put him there by using his name and tale some 20 times in the debate with Obama, who finally started addressing Joe too.
By trying to put a "Joe the Plumber" face on the rich who would would be effected by rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and rolling them back to pre-Bush levels as Obama proposes, McCain misses the mark. "Joe the Plumber" is not representative of those effected by the rescinding the tax cuts, and yet the GOP lie machine just keeps on spinning.
But what's most telling about McCain is that by not checking the facts, not considering his options, not "looking before leaping" to the defense of an unlicensed plumber making $40,000 a year who isn't anywhere close to buying his own business, John McCain once again demonstrates his penchant for poor choices.
He's also ignoring the fact that the Bush tax cuts Obama wants to rescind have done nothing to boost the economy or create jobs during the period they were rescinded, demonstrating again that McCain's claim that rescinding the tax cuts would be harmful to the economy is built on myth. The facts betray McCain again.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!