McCain tells Letterman 'I screwed up'; but no apologies for Joe the Plumber
The guy known as Joe the Plumber, lauded by John McCain while accusing Barack Obama of tap dancing around negatives of his tax plan "like Sammy Davis Jr," isn't really a licensed plumber, wouldn't pay more taxes under Obama's plan and isn't even really named Joe? (okay, his FIRST name isn't Joe)
When a leading presidential candidate hangs glowing words on a guy like this, you know you've entered a strange land.
Everyone knew Joe's story was too poised to be true -- an uncommitted voter doesn't show up asking all the right questions to cause trouble for the Democratic candidate without a hidden punchline somewhere. And it is a sad example of McCain's impulsiveness, that he would embrace a guy complaining about taxes who turns out to owe more than $1,000 to the government, already.
At least journalists were able to learn enough about Samuel J. Wurzelbacher to add perspective to his story. But I worry that we media types are spending too much time on these sideshow characters, instead of probing the concerns of truly representative people in the last days before the election.
It took late night host David Letterman to push McCain Thursday on the question of why he's railing against Obama for loose connections to former Weather underground leader Bill Ayers, when the GOP candidate is friends with Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy -- who has told his radio show listeners to shoot government agents if they attempt to take their guns and joked about using images of Bill and Hillary Clinton as targets for shooting practice.
McCain tried to smooth things over in his appearence on Letterman Thursday, made necessary because the late night host kept grousing about the GOP candidate's insincere cancellation of an appearance last month. "I screwed up," McCain said, when Letterman asked him to explain what happened (though he never really detailed why he told Letterman he needed to rush back to Washington when he actually just appeared on a different show, Katie Couric's newscast). "What else can I say?"
Though early rumors characterized the appearance as a rapproachment, Letterman pressed McCain on his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, his connection to Liddy and some of the incendiary language at some GOP rallies. As McCain's appearance ended, you got the feeling Letterman wasn't satisfied; I'm betting the anti-McCain jibes continue, and not just because they may boost ratings.
Still, between Joe the plumber and the black guy who hates Obama, the media is getting crowded with marginal figures who reporters like because they are unusual. But blanket coverage of their perspective -- which often seems calculated to draw attention -- turns public discourse to a sideshow, rather than subjects more conventional voters care about.
For some reason, CBS has isolated its own YouTube upload of McCain's appearance last night, making it a private video. Here's a sample from another source: