Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain, Palin, and Joe the Plumber

I watched John McCain at the Alfred E Smith Dinner on Thursday. He was funny. He was relaxed. And, most of all, he was natural – the John McCain of old.

There was a time when John McCain was different. He stood up to the extremes of Washington and was the darling of the media. Well, the latter, at least the eastern elite kind, may not be as important, but in all fairness, McCain was a genuinely likable politician.

Then came campaign 2008. It was a complete turnaround. McCain gave in too much to the orthodoxy of the Republican right wing.

Take Sarah Palin, for example. Of all the able candidates in the Republican Party, McCain picked someone that he had met only once before. And that too, it seems, without an extensive vetting process. No matter how passionate Palin might be, or how much she might have energized the base, it is quite obvious that Palin is not even close to having the experience required to be the VP, let alone stepping into the presidency if situation required.

Even at her Saturday Night Live appearance last night, Palin did nothing to step up to quash her sub-par perception. Rather than deliver the punch lines herself, she was simply a bystander, who let Alec Baldwin tell her that she was “much hotter in person.”

It was surprising that someone who seems so at ease to deliver “misleading-at-best” lines about Obama and his campaign had nothing much to say during the much anticipated appearance. Self deprecating humor is good, but I don’t know if being steamrolled by the SNL cast helped the McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign seems confused about what message to adopt. It appears that they are ready to let some volleys out and see what sticks. Yes, the campaign is in deep crisis, but a constant stream of tactical blunders is not going to get the campaign anywhere. Imagine McCain at the Oval Office, in the midst of a deepening financial crisis and throwing unrelated ideas after ideas into the problem hoping that something works. Not a very pleasant scenario!

After spending over a week on Bill Ayers and ACORN, the McCain campaign’s message now seems to have focused around Joe the Plumber. It is not surprising that like Palin, Joe wasn’t vetted properly either. For someone who is the center piece of McCain’s counter argument against Obama’s tax plans, you’d have expected the campaign to pick someone they knew better than a face on YouTube.

But no. In another “mavericky” move, McCain brought up Joe the Plumber 21 times during Wednesday’s debate. Then God knows how many times Joe’s name has been invoked in campaign rallies. The story that Joe’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar business would face higher taxes under Obama is neither a good one nor accurate.

It’s like a slow five-foot-six person talking about becoming an NBA player. Apparently Joe, whose real name is Samuel, owes $1,200 in back taxes to the state of Ohio, made only $42,000 in 2006 (far from the $250,000 that he talked about with Obama), and doesn’t even have a plumbing license.

Instead of refining their story around someone or something more credible, the McCain campaign lashed at the Obama camp for attacking Joe! Well, it’s the same campaign that lashed out against Katie Couric for asking Sarah Palin what magazine she reads and which Supreme Court decision she disagrees with.

In any case, the real John McCain would be different. But would he? The bigger question is who is the real Jon McCain? Or better yet, who is in charge of John McCain’s campaign?

The elections are only a sixteen days away. From picking Sarah Palin to declaring that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” a mere 24 hours after Lehman Brothers collapsed, John McCain has shown poor judgment to lead this great nation, especially at a great crisis that it is facing. It won’t be a surprise if voters don’t send him to the White House on November 4.

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