Thursday, October 23, 2008

John McCain's Imaginary Friend

So John McCain is taking his imaginary friend campaigning with him in Florida. Candidate McCain has just kicked off a bus tour called the “’Joe the Plumber’ Keep Your Wealth Bus Tour.” Joe, being imaginary, will not actually be on the bus. The real Joe, as everyone knows by now, is not named Joe, does not have a plumbing license, and is a tax delinquent. Or he was until a sympathetic Oregon radio host raised $1,200 to pay his tax bill, Queen-for-a-Day-style.

In his famous exchange with Barack Obama, Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher fretted that his ability to buy a business would be undermined by the Obama tax plan – although in fact, an Obama administration would improve Wurzelbacher’s bottom line. Since he earns around $40,000 a year, he actually would get a bigger tax cut under Obama’s plan than under McCain’s, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. []

You’d think that these revelations would enough to make the Republican to tiptoe quietly away from their new Everyman. But wait, there’s more! As one blogger put it in a headline, “Joe ‘the Plumber’ Wurzelbacher related to Charles ‘the Crook’ Keating.” Oops.

It turns out that Joe is a close relative of Robert Wurzelbacher, son-in-law of Charles Keating of the infamous savings and loan scandal that tainted McCain’s early political career. You might think that the campaign would have done a better job vetting the man they planned to reference 22 times in the final debate. You might also think that Joe the Plumber was a Republican plant.

Either way, it makes no difference. A week later, the real Joe’s story is out there, his tax arrears, his unlicensed status, his disreputable relations. Yet Joe the Plumber has transcended these inconvenient facts and become Joe the Political Metaphor. A story in yesterday’s Miami Herald reports on a Florida polling phenomenon they call the “Joe the Plumber Effect,” which apparently has improved McCain’s standing in Florida.

For an imaginary friend, Joe seems to be working out pretty well for John McCain. Better than his imaginary enemies anyway.

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