News Cycle

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Media Continues Attacking Joe the Plumber

with 2 comments

Samuel J. Wurzelbacher is the most famous guy in American politics today. Better known as “Joe the Plumber,” he caught up with Sen. Barack Obama campaigning in his neighborhood last week in Holland, Ohio, and had the opportunity to ask the presidential candidate about his tax program. In case you have been hiding under a rock and haven’t seen it, here’s the exchange:

Joe’s question was in a nutshell “Why should I be penalized for working hard and being successful?” At one point, after explaining the details of his plan, Obama states: “It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too,” Obama responded. “My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

That’s when the firestorm started. Sen. John McCain started to use that as an illustration of what he says is Obama’s socialist economic philosophy. Joe has become the focus point of McCain’s advertisements and debate talking points.

All of this seemed fair. The guy asked someone who is running for public office a question about his tax policy, and he got an answer that focused on that policy.

What has not been fair is that this guy’s personal and professional life has been now placed on the altar of sacrifice in the media.

He has had reporters camped out on his front lawn for days. His licensing status has been under scrutiny by no less than The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Washington Post (He says he works under his company’s owner license). He apparently owes the the state about $1,100 in personal income tax (The state filed a lien on Jan. 26, 2007, and the payment remains outstanding. But the court rep has told the media that this all may have occurred without Wurzelbacher’s knowledge). He is registered as a Republican, and voted in the state’s GOP primary in March (some media suggested that he was a plant but the video above shows Obama approached him and initiate the conversation). He previously was registered in the Natural Law Party. He has lived in McCain’s home state of Arizona, and he once lived in Gov. Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska.

Does all this matter? Does any of it disqualify him from asking Obama a question about taxes? Is there any real reason for the media to go on a full-frontal assault on a private citizen, unless it’s that the national media might want to discredit a guy who asked Obama a tough question?

Would the flip side be true? What if McCain was asked a tough question at a rally by a private citizen and then gave an answer that Obama could use in campaign ads? I would bet my bottom dollar that the national media would hold up that citizen as a hero, and never once go into a full-court investigation into his past.

Here is Joe defending his positions in an interview with Diane Sawyer. He gave good advice for voters to get answers from politicians themselves, not second hand.

Some of the media attacks on Joe have been way over the top. Bill Maher called him “Joe the Liar” on CNN’s “Larry King Live”, and said that he’s living in a fantasy world thinking he might make $250,000 a year one day. Bloggers on the Daily Kos are foaming at the mouth. Among other things, he has been referred to as a right-wing loon.. Sam Stein, writing on the Huffington Post, declares that Joe is unqualified to asked a tax question because he is not a tax expert.

Another line of attack on Joe the Plumber and his instant celebrity status is that he wasn’t properly vetted by the McCain campaign, as noted in this Politico story by Carrie Budoff Brown and Amie Parnes. Does the McCain campaign have to vet any citizen who asks Obama a question? Apparently the media thinks so.

Here’s a conversation on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”, where the consensus is that politics should be left for the media and politicians, not average citizens.

ANDERSON COOPER: So, David, is McCain benefiting from all the attention that Joe is getting?

DAVID GERGEN: (Laughs) Well, I think he was for a while. But I — when we found out he was Sam the non-plumber, it changed a little bit.

(Roland Martin laughs.)

GERGEN: I’m glad you had to — give him a chance, though, to voice his opinion, because he does — I think he does give voice to those of a lot of Americans who don’t often get on national television. So, I thought that’s fine. But I think we are going to move on pretty fast. I can’t — I — it does illustrate, as well, Anderson — I don’t understand why the McCain team didn’t vet the guy before they made such a — you know, made such a focus on him on national television. I can guarantee you that the George W. Bush campaign, you know, which ran a highly disciplined campaign, would have vetted and would have known before he went out there about his status — his personal status. You feel a little sorry for him, that he got put in this position.

COOPER: Yeah. You know, Roland, we just heard Obama kind of joking about McCain’s support for Joe the non-plumber, or sort of the plumber, or whatever he is. Does Obama, though, need to be careful? I mean, he warned his own supporters today about being complacent. Does Obama need to be careful about coming off as a little bit, kind of dismissive at times?

ROLAND MARTIN: Well, I think so. I mean, again, the — the issue is not really this individual guy and his background. It’s really what this guy represents, and so, I think what Obama has to do is — he’s not getting caught playing around with Joe, you know, the fake plumber or whatever — but, again, stay focused on the big issues. If you saw how he scored well last night — he scored well when he got to health care. I mean, numbers were off the charts — when he focused on education. Even when he gave a very strong answer dealing with the Supreme Court — if he stays focused on those issues, not dealing with the small issues, he looks larger. He looks more presidential. That’s where he has to remain and, again, get his people to the polls. Turnout is key.

COOPER: Ed, the reaction shots last night, side by side — you saw John McCain often kind of being dismissive of Obama. You saw Obama, at times, smiling and kind of laughing at some of the things John McCain was saying, kind of shaking his head. How do you think that played out, and how can John McCain have allowed himself to be caught like that?

ED ROLLINS: First of all, let me just give a little advice, unsolicited advice to Joe the plumber. Get Joe the plumber on your truck with a 1-800 number and keep your mouth shut and go make a fortune doing plumbing work.

(Cooper, Gergen, and Martin laugh.)

COOPER: Get a license to be a plumber, and start doing it.

ROLLINS: Absolutely. Be a plumber. Do what you do well.

So, the advice from CNN is that: Joe, stay out of politics, you’re not qualified. Just be a plumber and leave politics to us in the media.

Here he is in an AP report by John Seever talking about what the experience has been like for Joe:

Wurzelbacher, 34, said he doesn’t have a good plan put together on how he would buy Newell Plumbing and Heating in nearby Toledo.

He said the business consists of owner Al Newell and him. Wurzelbacher said he’s worked there for six years and that the two have talked about his taking it over at some point.

“There’s a lot I’ve got to learn,” he said.

Wurzelbacher said he started his day with an early morning workout and came back to his suburban Toledo home to do live interviews with TV networks.

Reporters camped out by his house overnight and by midmorning there were 21 people on his driveway surrounding him, holding cameras and notebooks.

Wurzelbacher said he’s feeling overwhelmed.

“I’m kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. Everybody wants to know about it,” he joked.

Seems like an average guy who wants to learn as much as he can about his profession and work hard to get ahead in life. That used to be the American Dream.


Written by newscycle

October 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Joe the Plumber

2 Responses

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  1. Nice smarmy put-down from David Rodham Gergen. I despise the media elites, but after January 20 of next year, they will be back to having a monopoly on the dissemination of information in America.


    October 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm



    October 18, 2008 at 6:49 pm

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