Tag Archives: debate

Killing the messenger: Out for Joe’s blood

Predictably enough, the Associated Press and similar outlets have declared war on Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA “Joe the Plumber,” AKA the guy who dared ask Barack Obama an uncomfortable question when people were watching.

Questions have been brought to light about Wurzelbacher’s status as a plumber, his tax returns, his income, his voting history, and the size of the business he wants to buy.  The New York Times had a whole medley of sinister tales from the underbelly of the Wurzelbacher household in yesterday’s edition.  Joe himself has come under more scrutiny in the last two or three days than the press has bothered to exercise on Sen. Obama for two years.  All the result of a question Joe had the temerity to ask Obama before the senator could set up his TelePrompTer and focus-group the potential answers.

The Associated Press and its cohorts have missed the story yet again; they can villainize “Joe the Plumber” to their hearts’ content, but Obama’s response to him in Ohio still has a life of its own.

Looking back, Obama’s off-the-cuff answer to Joe’s worry that his taxes would rise under Obama’s tax plan is one he would doubtless like to “revise and extend.”  The senator slipped smoothly into professor mode and lectured the t-shirt-wearing “average guy” archetype in front of him on the virtues of “spreading the wealth around” through hideously lopsided taxation.  If Obama didn’t know it then, he surely has learned now that a blue-collar worker trying to pull his way up the economic ladder by the sweat of his own brow is probably not the ideal audience for a high-flying ode to the virtues of redistributionism.

The aftermath of Obama’s gaffe was the last thing he needed in the last 24 hours before the final debate.  Joemania — and I don’t mean Obama’s running mate — was front and center at Hofstra University as each candidate fought to yank away the mantle of “Champion of Joe the Plumber” (the man does have a last name, guys, by the way).  John McCain seemed to wear that mantle much more comfortably, as Obama spent most of his Joe-wooing time trying to persuade the audience that he didn’t really tell Joe what the videocamera says he told him in Ohio.  The post-debate consensus that McCain came across as Joe’s better bet of the two was confirmed in the new effort to discredit Joe Wurzelbacher as…well, it’s hard to tell, but the point appears to be that Joe’s question doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t have been asked, or something.

Lost in all of this new personal infodumping about Evil Joe Barackbane is the substance of his original conversation with Obama.  Here’s the thing:  what hurt Obama about that conversation isn’t who Joe is; it’s what Obama told him. His “spreading the wealth around” comment provided a rare insight into Obama’s feelings about the role of government in directing the economy and the relationship of the government to private citizens who work for a living.  Overtaxing businesses and individuals for the purpose of passing on the proceeds to the less fortunate, executed on a governmental scale, is a recipe for economic disaster.  It’s been demonstrated in the past, and it’s part of long-established American conventional wisdom.

The ominous “spreading the wealth” rhetoric was the weapon McCain brought to the debate against Obama, not “Joe the Plumber,” which was no more than a pleasing marketing package.  Tearing down Joe Wurzelbacher doesn’t change a thing about that unscripted glimpse into Obama’s fascination with redistributionist economic doctrine.  In fact, the tarnishing of the “Joe the Plumber” brand will force McCain to rely more on the phrase “spreading the wealth around,” which goes more to the heart of why the home video of that exchange in Ohio went viral so quickly and led to so many second looks at Barack Obama.

It’s not about who likes “Joe the Plumber.”  It’s about who supports the government’s “spreading the wealth around.”

UPDATE: Captain Ed has more insight on the perils of questioning The Anointed.  Miz Michelle christens “Operation Destroy Joe the Plumber” (I’m a little disappointed…she couldn’t have come up with something better?  Operation Rip Out the Pipes?  Operation Plumbing New Depths?  Operation Kitchen Sink?  You’ve got gold here, Michelle, c’mon…)

UPDATE II: Oh, good gawd.  Daily Kos and other leftward blogs (none of whom I’ll dignify with a link) are soiling themselves over unconfirmed reports that some relative of Joe Wurzelbacher’s is Charles Keating’s son-in-law and a GOP donor.  (Joe’s reported response: “I don’t know anything about that.”)  So what would this mean?  That Obama worked his way along a rope line and picked himself a McCain plant for a question?

Presidential Debate Liveblog! v3.0 UPDATE: He DID! He DID! He DID say “Senator Government!”

Final debate, Hofstra University in Long Island.  McCain’s last chance to turn things around, if the Obama campaign’s carefully disseminated talking points memo is to be believed, which it apparently has been by most of its recipients at the networks.

Pundits upon pundits today have piled an avalanche of advice on McCain for tonight:  stay on the economy, stay on Obama’s character, keep Rev. Wright on the table, keep Rev. Wright off the table, and so on.  Frankly, I’ve given up trying to predict what McCain’s going to go with tonight, though I can’t say I’m optimistic about his chances, given that tonight’s debate doesn’t look to be any more spontaneous than the previous two snooze-fests; a condition that favors Obama.  (I’m surfing past Fox News Channel now, on which Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume are both complaining about how the formats for the other two debates were so full of strictures and constraints that spontaneity of any kind was a practical impossibility.)

No co-livebloggers in DC this evening; this time it’s just me and my flatscreen back home.

Full liveblog, wrap-up, links, and an UPDATE below the break.

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Well, guess we don’t need the debate, now…

The Drudge Report has fired off some Flash Traffic with a bit of good news:  we don’t need to have the debate tonight!

The Obama campaign was kind enough to release a full complement of talking points to the press, 12 hours before the debate has even started.  The talking points memo comes in an email from Sean Smith, the Obama campaign’s communications director for Pennsylvania.  As Drudge notices (and I’ve been noticing all day),

The memo oddly mirrors much of the main press analysis and theme of the current campaign.

Who’da thunk it.  Man, they don’t even try to hide it anymore…they just keep a “marching orders” email list to send to their press contacts, and wait for the parroting to begin.  I’m halfway to hoping Obama loses just for the sake of keeping the press from thinking they can fix an election.

View the text of the memo as reported by Drudge, and further links, below the break.

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Presidential Debate Liveblogging! (Part Deux) UPDATE: “Playing with fire” follow-up

[Click here for the brief back-story on this group liveblog in D.C. for an upcoming PBS documentary.]

Allrightythen, I’m situated in a lovely townhouse in Washington, with the leading lights of the liveblogosphere surrounding me (or at least tonight’s leading lights):  Quin Hillyer (blogging for American Spectator), Leslie Carbone (liveblogging on Twitter), Laura Clawson (for Daily Kos), Lynette Long (who provided the venue for tonight…thanx, Lynette!), and Mary Beth Ellis (of Blonde Champagne), with our documentary host: historian, author, and snappy dresser Rick Brookhiser. Looking around, I think I’m the only one who doesn’t write for a living, at least in part.  Fantabulous.  Pray I don’t embarrass myself.

(Roundup from Instapundit, plus reactions from Power Line, Hot Air, Miz Michelle, Gateway Pundit, The Anchoress, and Ann Althouse.  Don’t forget to check out the work of my fellow Hamiltonian livebloggers linked up top!)

Blow-by-blow liveblogging with after-debate discussion for the cameras (plus a follow-up from a previous post) below the break.

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Playing with fire at the town hall debate?

Miz Michelle raises the specter of the embarrassing YouTube-sponsored debate during the Democratic primary, after which evidence emerged that the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards campaigns had all made use of planted supporters in the question-submitting audience, under the false guise of “undecided” voters.

John Dickerson at Slate is also wary, anticipating a tendency for audience members to grandstand.  He writes an article entitled “Beware of Ponytail Guy,” in a reference to the pony-tailed opening questioner at the town hall debate between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992.  The questioner, a “domestic mediator” name Denton Walthall, scolded the two candidates ahead of time against going negative during the debate, imploring them to treat the audience as they would their own children (he actually used the sentence, “Could we cross our hearts?”).  I remember watching that debate 16 years ago, and my gorge still rises at the memory of this man simpering for the cameras as if he were addressing 5-year-olds.

I think that’s a risk you take in a loose format like this one.  When the audience controls the questioning, the chances of a sideshow, or (as in the YouTube debate) a hijacking by a campaign mole, go through the roof.  If the news is to be believed, it appears the Democrats have a longer track record of plants in town hall debates, but John McCain has been pushing for this format for months now (he is said to thrive in a freewheeling environment), and Obama has been ducking him every step of the way since early summer.  Now that the Democrats have coalesced further behind Obama since McCain first proposed his series of town hall debates (i.e. there’s less chance now of Obama getting unfriendly questions from primary-opponent plants), we’ll see if McCain doesn’t look back thinking maybe he should have watched what he wished for.

However, Dickerson at Slate points out that there’s a factor at play this year that wasn’t present when Denton Walthall reared his pony-tailed head at the town hall in 1992 — the blogosphere:

On Tuesday night, if Son of Ponytail Guy asks a question, he can rest assured that he will receive a thorough going-over in the blogosphere. So I suggest all prospective questioners Google themselves, make sure they’re on good terms with their co-workers, and wipe clean their Facebook page.

May the best troll win!

CNN calls Obama camp on relationship w/Ayers

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and correspondent Drew Griffin have done some digging into the ongoing claim that Barack Obama had a negligible relationship with former Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers.  The Obama campaign’s claim that the 1995 political event at the home of Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn that launched Obama’s public career was a coincidental meeting of Obama and Ayers, arranged by Ayers and Obama’s political patron and predecessor, State Sen. Alice Palmer, and that Obama was simply a bystander, also comes under scrutiny.  The upshot?  CNN is not convinced.

In what Captain Ed calls a “random act of journalism” by CNN, Griffin does the following:

  • puts the lie to the Obama camp’s image of a fleeting relationship between Obama and Ayers, in favor of a documented story of a close collaboration over many years between them on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund;
  • gives airtime to Stanley Kurtz, the scholar and writer who broke through the wall of bureaucratic red tape thrown up around the CAC archives and found out the true nature and extent of that relationship (including some eyebrow-raising educational approaches spearheaded by Ayers and subsequently funded by Obama, the chairman);
  • relies on witnesses at the 1995 event at Ayers’ and Dohrn’s home, including former State Sen. Palmer herself, in concluding that Palmer played only a peripheral role in the event, having simply been invited and made an appearance for a few minutes, and was not responsible for arranging it as Obama has claimed.  That event was by Obama, of Obama, and for Obama.

Kurtz has had a lot of trouble getting media attention paid to his hard work investigating the connection between Obama and Ayers.  When he was invited onto a radio talk show in Chicago, Obama partisans flooded the phone lines with calls hostile to Kurtz in an effort to shut the interview down. (The station, WGN, had called the Obama campaign office to offer them equal time during the show; they refused, but used the advance notice to email supporters, rallying them to smother the interview.)  To see CNN give time to Kurtz in a setting immune to grassroots thuggery is refreshing, to say the least.

I’m still betting against McCain bringing up this subject at tonight’s debate unless one of the audience members brings it up (the debate will follow a town hall format with audience questions), but the story of Obama and Ayers now has sturdier legs than it had before, now that news organs like CNN are finally starting to take this question seriously.  I’m sure that Hillary Clinton, who also brought up the subject of Obama’s shady friends during the primary, is savoring the bitter irony.

Stay tuned…

Posting will be light Tuesday, as I’ll be trekking down to D.C. to participate in a mass liveblog of the presidential debate.  The livebloggers will be part of a documentary by Manifold Productions about Alexander Hamilton, which will be hosted by eminent historian and columnist Rick Brookhiser, who will be chatting with us for the cameras before and afterward.

The blogging segment is intended to draw a parallel between the upstart journalism and pamphleteering that defined Hamilton’s activism in the Revolutionary era, and the citizen journalism, watchdoggery, and lightning fast back-and-forth of the blogosphere today.  Yes, I am psyched.

Don’t miss the liveblog on WitSnapper, Tuesday at 9pm ET!