10/15 Changed Everything

By Jesse Taylor
Friday, October 17, 2008 14:08 EDT
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imageMichelle Malkin is excoriating “liberals” for attempting to destroy Joe the Plumber. It isn’t just the pot calling the kettle black, it’s the pot wandering into the pot store and declaring all other pots black-tinged traitors to our great nation, then offering to run the pot reeducation camp to bring them in line with acceptable and decent container values.

The inherent problem with the Joe the Plumber schtick isn’t anything related to scandal. I got a little gleeful yesterday about the immediate and crushing blows to Joe’s credibility, which, as I thought about it, really wasn’t the issue. It turns Joe into another (far less egregious) version of Graeme Frost (albeit one who is getting judged on his own characteristics rather than his parents).

Where Plumber Joe became problematic was sometime between when John McCain decided that he was a perfect example of what was wrong with Barack Obama’s tax policies and when McCain decided that he was perfect for everything. It’s easier for us to put ourselves in the shoes of Everyman when Everyman is a series of vague and readily applicable qualities – struggling to pay bills, dissatisfied with our health insurance, worried about the state of the world – than it is when Everyman becomes a real person, because the numerous differences between our lives and everyone else’s become far more apparent. Look at the example of Everywoman, Sarah Palin. The McCain campaign tried to sell her as YOU in the White House, a woman who understood the struggles that each and every woman in this country goes through. Unfortunately, most women lack the governorships of sparsely populated states as a feature of their current employment. They don’t have five kids, husbands who are champions at obscure sports, a penchant for moose hunting, backgrounds as sportscasters or any of a number of other biographical elements inherent to Palin’s life that most women simply don’t share. It’s the uncanny valley of populism – the closer you get to making someone seem like an average person, the more apparent it becomes that their circumstances differ from yours.

The first look we got at Joe the Plumber already made him somewhat alien to many of us – he’s a tradesman, and as much as the media loves to fetishize people who work with their hands as real Americans, those are the very jobs leaving our country in droves and/or experiencing massive slowdowns in the economy. A man whose primary concern is how his quarter-million dollars in future profits from the business he wants to buy will be taxes isn’t like most of the rest of us. The more McCain continued to hammer home Joe the Plumber’s concerns the more it became clear that McCain’s concerns about capital gains taxes and small businesses were tailored towards the particular quirks and demands of Joseph T. Plumber’s life. The risk is run whenever a person is plucked out of obscurity to become an example of how I Understand The Problems of People Like You – with McCainesque levels of demagoguery, is becomes the dictation of how These Are Your Problems. And chances are, a plumbing company employee with designs on purchasing the business and earning five and a half times Ohio’s median household income isn’t quite the situation most of us find ourselves in.

None of this, however, quite lets the right off the hook for deciding that the left has become the new Reich, based in no small part on the fact that Politico won’t publish a vaguely intimated story about something involving Barack Obama that has some airtight anonymous sources and some other…you know…stuff.

The source was considering dropping his demand for anonymity. Thus likely moving the story forward. (He wasn’t considering going forward with the Politico, by the way: but with the other, more important organization.)

And now, today? After witnessing Politico, among others, savage Joe Wurtzelbacher?

Cold feet.

The Politico has this story. They’ve had it for a while. They don’t want to run it with the guy’s anonymity kept intact.

Gee, I wonder why he wanted to keep that?

They’re willing to endlessly vet anyone who even asks Barack Obama a question, but not Barack Obama himself.

Actually, Obama’s probably the most vetted candidate in history. But when you put your credibility on the line making a bombshell charge against someone, can you have a serious expectation that your credibility isn’t going to be assessed? I mean, if not, then I’ve got a great story about the depraved underage sex orgies John McCain had in his Senate office, and I’ll even give the National Review first crack at it.

Putting someone out on the public stage inevitably opens them up to questions about their credibility and honesty. It just does. The difference being, of course, whether or not we assess them based on what they tell us and what’s relevant to the claims they make…or if we start giving out home addresses and their respective countertop materials. Godspeed, JoeSam the (Not) Plumber. Godspeed.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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