Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain Hearts "Joe the Plumber" in Last Night's Last Presidential Debate

In last nights presidential debate, Barack Obama was the winner hands down. He was steady, personable, expressed deep and credible concern for the middle class, and talked knowledgeably about his focus on the economy. (See C-Span video.)

John McCain was scattered and attempted to rely on a conceit: "Joe the Plumber". To understand what McCain was talking about, you have to understand the back story: Recently, while Obama was walking through a middle class neighborhood and knocking on doors, a man accosted him and insisted that Obama intended to raise his taxes (while implicity John McCain would not). The video of this encounter is making the rounds of YouTube and the television networks.

John McCain might have hoped to rattle Obama by mentioning "Joe the Plumber" (he didn't), but then McCain returned to the "Joe the Plumber" storyline more than half a dozen times at different times during the debate, as if the phrase had some magical quality that would convince voters of McCain's sincerity or of his contention that Obama might raise taxes.

McCain made some very important concessions. He conceded that the Federal Budget had exploded over the last eight years, but he insisted he and his pal George W. Bush were not responsible for it. Meanwhile, McCain also insisted that if Obama 'wanted to run against George W. Bush, he should have run four years ago.' Once again, McCain effectively conceded that the Bush years are a disaster and McCain's only political hope is to try to disassociate himself from them, as Gore tried to disassociate himself from Clinton in 2000. As Geraldine Ferraro attempted unsuccessfully to disassociate herself from her husband's shady tax returns in 1984.

Meanwhile, normal Americans are feeling the hurt. Although the Social Security Administration announced today an abnormally large increase of 5.8% in 50 million Americans retirement incomes,
"Right now many senior citizens are feeling depressed because things seem out of control. They feel like they are in a boat being whipped around by rough seas," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at the Smith School of Business at California State University. "Their purchasing power has been going down because of higher prices for food and energy and a lot of other things while their savings have taken a hit because of what is happening in the markets." Yahoo News
In last night's debate, Obama, without specifically mentioning George W.Bush, reminded voters several times in several contexts that the last eight years' economic policies have not worked, and voters can see this plainly, grimly with their own eyes, in their own finances. McCain, in response, rattled off a list of ways in which he had been independent from Bush, like torture (old news and irrelevant to the current crisis); Iraq (a war that McCain supported and continues to support, and which is similarly irrelevant to the current economic crisis, except as one of the obsessions that has distracted the Republicans from the US economy), and so on and so forth.

By asserting incredibly that the has been independent in other ways, but without mentioning the economy, McCain effectively conceded that he has been a Bush lackey on what now matters most.

John McCain began his response to a question by mentioning offhandedly and irrelevantly that he had attended a professional sports game last weekend (probably in a battleground state), and Obama interjected crisply, "Congratulations!" The economy is in full meltdown mode, and John McCain spends his afternoon at a football game. So, now we know McCain's priorities. Unlike McCain, America thinks it's important that we resolve the meltdown in our economy, not play games.

Did I mention "Joe the Plumber"?

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