Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy


Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy

John McCain accused Barack Obama of being an elitist. He then trotted out "Joe the Plumber" to symbolize that he, unlike Obama, stood in solidarity with the American middle class. That made for great theater, but like John McCain himself, it soon became clear that Joe the Plumber maintained a strained relationship with truth.

In an October 11 encounter with Barack Obama, Joe the Plumber, or Joseph Wurzelbacher, told Obama that he was a plumber who was about to buy the business from his employer. He said the business generated between 250 and $280,000 a year. It turned out, however, that none of that was true. Wurzelbacher's scenario was contrived in an attempt to show that Obama's tax plan would hurt those in the middle class who were struggling to improve their plight.

The fact is "Joe the Plumber" has neither a plumber's license, nor has he ever served an apprenticeship as a plumber. The United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics Union indicated that he applied for an apprenticeship in 2003, but never completed the program. It was also revealed that he only made $40,000 a year, and thus, probably not in any position to buy a business. In fact, he's currently in debt to the government for $1182.92 in unpaid taxes.

In another case, Ashley Todd, a 20 year old college student and one of McCain's paid organizers, reported that she was robbed and assaulted by 6'4" Black man. She claimed that she was at an ATM when a Black man came up behind her and put a knife to her throat. She said she gave him $60 and started to walk away, but then the man saw a McCain sticker on her car and hit her in the back of the head, knocking her down. According to Tood, the assailant said, "You're going to be a Barack supporter," as he kicked and beat her. Then he said, I'm going to "teach you a lesson for being a McCain supporter." He then held her down and scratched a "B" on her right cheek.

It was a graphically compelling story. There was only one problem–it wasn't true. The "B" that was scratched on Todd's face was what probably gave her away–it was backwards, as though done while looking into a mirror. Todd later admitted that she made the whole thing up.

Both Joe the Plumber, and Ashley Todd, are perfect metaphors for the lying, hypocrisy, and lack of integrity that's been a pervasive part of the McCain campaign–and the campaign seems to recognize that. The "straight talk express" notwithstanding, the McCain campaign seems to be made up of two separate camps–one supporting McCain, and the other supporting Palin–but in their wisdom, both camps seem to have enough sense not to trust the other.

It has become clear that truth, character, and integrity, to both McCain, Palin, and many of their supporters, represents whatever they can get away with. They're like a den of thieves, whose only loyalty to one another is in pursuit of their unconscionable ambition and greed. They've become so desperately engrossed in their rampant thirst for power that they've lost all perspective on political, or any other kind of reality.

Even as the McCain camp was criticizing Obama for what some surrogates characterized as the arrogant extravagance of using his campaign jet to fly to the bedside of his gravely ill grandmother, McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was strutting the catwalk in her new $150,000 wardrobe that had been purchased by the campaign. They had completely lost touch with the fact that such extravagance wouldn't play well while they were trying to align themselves with Joe the Plumber's middle class. How could they possibly claim that they were in touch with the plight of the middle class, when they spent $23,500 more on Sarah's clothes than Joe the Plumber had on his home? And beyond that, they paid Sarah's stylist $23,800 for just two week's work. Now, who's the elitist?

And now that they've been caught with their skivvies around their ankles, the only thing they can think of is to cry sexism. They're contending that if Sarah was a man clothes wouldn't be an issue.

How elitist and out of touch can one group be? They must think the American people are so stupid that we don't realize that clothes are not the issue here. The issue is their recklessly vulgar spending while Americans are losing their homes. And besides, how can they reconcile their claim of sexism in light of all of the fuss Republicans made over Sen. John Edwards' "designer haircut"? Was that sexist as well?

Elitism is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as follows: "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources." I'd say buying Sarah a wardrobe that cost over $23,000 more than many of your supporters' homes easily meets that standard. I'd also say, spending $23,800 to have Sarah's hair done for two weeks meets that standard as well.

And beyond that, how can a man whose father, and grandfather, were both admirals in the navy, thereby, giving him a free pass through the naval academy–in spite of severely "challenged" academic qualifications–call a man who had to struggle through life, and get through college on scholarships, an elitist? Superior intellect alone doesn't make one an elitist–the lack of humility is an indispensable component. On the other hand, having to refer to your staff to find out how many homes you own, and calling $250,000 "pocket change" puts you right there in the ballpark.

So just the thought of McCain calling Obama elitist is ridiculous, and it clearly demonstrates two things–first, we've allowed Republicans to redefine the word; and secondly, McCain is so elitist himself that he thinks the American people are stupid. And you know what? To a very real extent we are.

We've allowed the Republican Party to convince us that intellectual curiosity, and the active pursuit of excellence through knowledge is elitism. We've also allowed them to teach us that in order to be good Americans, we have a moral obligation to remain stupid, and anyone who isn't should be suspect. They would have us believe that anyone with an ounce of sense, couldn't possibly be "one of us."

Eric L. Wattree

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