Some Obama defenders have pointed out that Joe the Plumber made himself fair game for the exposure of his personal information by insinuating himself into an election when he asked a question of candidate Obama. Others have said that Obama himself can’t be faulted for what happened to Joe; after all, it was the press digging into Joe’s past, not Obama. Some have even blamed McCain for using Joe’s exchange with Obama to make some points in his final debate against Obama.
The press is most definitely at fault here, first and foremost. In this election the MSM has almost entirely abdicated its responsibility to objectively inform the American people. It has done this through its naked and unashamed partisanship, its willingness to learn more and expose more about average guy and non-candidate Joe the Plumber or John McCain’s wife and her previously-well-aired difficulties than it has ever wanted to know (or wanted us to know) about the myriad and truly troubling associations and background of Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
What about John McCain’s responsibility? The best evidence so far is that he failed to mention to Joe that he would bring him up in the debate, although he had called him prior to that to ask him to appear at a campaign rally and Joe seems to have acquiesced, indicating that Joe had no problem with becoming more visible and vocal in the campaign. The linked article from the pro-Obama Politico seems to think McCain should have completely vetted Joe before mentioning him at all, as though he were some sort of candidate. I disagree.
Why? Because if that’s the requirement, then we’re finished as a nation in terms of freedom of speech. It is logical to think that this incident and its aftermath have had a chilling effect on anyone else who might want to ask Obama tough questions that might elicit embarrassing answers. And though this may be good for Obama, it’s not good for the rest of us. I cannot understand why partisanship blinds people to this simple fact. I strongly feel that I would think this way even if I were still a Democrat, and I strongly feel that I would think this way if it were Republicans benefiting from the dirt the press is digging up on this man.
Joe’s background is not the issue (although it does turn out that he is in fact an apprentice plumber, I can’t see what his owed back taxes have to do with anything, and it also turns out that a plumbing business can gross that much if it is successful and employs several people). And Joe was no Rovian plant; Obama went to his house, so unless the evil puppeteer Republicans are controlling Obama’s movements, it’s certain that Joe was just a random encounter.
There was nothing really remarkable about Joe’s question, anyway (except that Obama is rather unused to being asked any challenging ones; the press certainly doesn’t do it). What really matters here is Obama’s answer—“spread the wealth”—and what it revealed about him.
What also matters is Obama’s response to the later furor about Joe. He has yet to condemn what the press has done, so one can assume he approves of it. Obama even piled on in a somewhat nasty way when he got into the act of mocking Joe.
Another thing that matters is that this is a pattern with Obama. He has used the press before as surrogates to do his dirty work and allow him to maintain plausible deniability (I suppose other candidates might do the same if they could, but they rarely get the opportunity because the press is not in their pockets).
I refer to how Obama got his start in national politics. The difference was that his earlier fling with the press digging up dirt on someone involved not a random questioner but his political rival Blair Hull, who at least was fair game because he was a candidate. The most important part of the story in terms of Joe is the method by which Hull was targeted: it later came out that Obama’s campaign was directly involved in what the press did to torpedo Hull’s chances (and lest you accuse me of right-wing extremism, please note that the link and quote is from the NY Times):
[Obama’s campaign manager] Axelrod is known for operating in this gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle. It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contest between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, The Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull’s second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obama an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had “worked aggressively behind the scenes” to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role — that he leaked the initial story.
And then there’s the matter of Obama’s next opponent, Jack Ryan, to whom the same thing happened. I must be careful here; there is documentation that Obama’s staff pushed and promoted the Hull revelations by the press, but there is no evidence so far of the same involvement occurring with the Ryan outing. However, unless it’s a strange coincidence (always a possibility), it is mighty suspicious; Obama’s staff certainly had the tools, the connections, the motivation, and the experience.
Here’s a discussion of Axelrod’s modus operandi, which may sound familiar:
What kind of campaign can we expect from Axelrod in the general election? Overtly positive themes and public posturing complemented by covertly delievered and mercilessly negative “stiletto” attacks against key people around John McCain that are not directly traceable to Axelrod. The model for this strategy is the previous Obama senatorial campaign in Illinois, where Obama’s two most formidible, centimillionaire, rivals, Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan were personally destroyed in the primaries when salacious details from their sealed divorce records were mysteriously leaked to the media, which then pressured for their full release, notably in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.
No single fact about Obama would matter so very much were it not for the existence of patterns. For example, one shady association would be forgivable; Obama seems to have far more than his share. From Frank Marshall Davis to “spiritual mentor” Wright (remember him?), from Ayers to Rezko, from Odinga to Jim Johnson to ACORN to…oh, enough already.