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If Joe The Plumber Knew Bill Ayers

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October 16, 2008

The final Presidential debate turned an ordinary, hard-working American into a cult hero.  Not since the introduction of Sarah Palin onto the national political scene, have we seen such an “overnight sensation”.  Once again, we have John McCain to thank.

It all started on Sunday, October 12.  Senator Barack Obama was working the crowds in the battleground state of Ohio.  While meeting the people in Holland, Ohio, the television camera crews caught an exchange between Obama and a gentleman named Joe Wurzelbacher.  On the evening of Wednesday October 15, after the debate, the Associated Press informed us that Joe had been interested in buying a plumbing business.  He was concerned about Obama’s tax plan.  Apparently, this plumbing business generated enough income to put it over Obama’s $250,000 tax threshold, although not significantly above that.  Joe would likely be getting “the worst of both worlds” under the Obama plan:  He would have to pay the 39-percent tax instead of a 36-percent tax and as a result, he might pocket a net income lower than what the business would get if that company had earned less than $250,000.  According to the Associated Press report on the conversation, the following exchange took place:

“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” Obama said.  “I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance at success, too.”

At a later point in the discussion, Obama said:  “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.  But listen, I respect what you do and I respect your question, and even if I don’t get your vote, I’m still gonna be working hard on your behalf because small businesses are what creates jobs in this country and I want to encourage it.”

McCain seemed excited that the Obama campaign had abandoned that huge demographic of small business owners earning between $250,000 and $300,000.  His campaign finally found its target audience!  Better yet, Obama had used the expression:  “spread the wealth around”  — a catch-phrase validating the claim that “liberals” are on  a mission to redistribute the wealth.  Of course, this concern resonates only with rich people.  It has never caused America’s (now disappearing) middle class to lose any sleep.

Joe Wurzelbacher was identified during that final debate as:  “Joe The Plumber”.  He would become the archetype for those segments of the voting public, not yet ready to accept Obama as their choice for the Presidency.  If Obama wants to sweep all 50 States (and The District) in this election, he will need to win the support of “Joe The Plumber” and most of Joe’s peers.  Joe appears to be a man who is very street-wise.  He resembles the character on the label of Mister Clean, an ammonia-based cleaning solution that many of us recall from childhood.  He might not be from a big city like Chicago … but he knows how to “read” people.  We could see this during the video clip of his conversation with Obama.  After the Democrat placed his left hand on Joe’s right shoulder – Joe immediately recoiled, folding his arms over his chest.  That was some great body language!  McCain’s handlers must have loved this.  Joe saw through the “politician’s trick” of attempting to win the trust of a voter by touching that person.  Joe was not about to be “played” by a politician on national TV – Presidential candidate or not!

Poor Joe is now being set upon by a mob of bloggers, reporters and wonks.  They will be in his face from now until Election Day.  Rest assured that during the final weeks of this campaign, Obama will be presenting his case to the Joe Wurzelbachers of America.  News analysts will be dissecting the candidates’ tax plans to determine which is better for Joe.  For his part, Joe will suffer through a huge invasion of his own privacy.

In a perfect world (my imagination) the non-stop interviews would eventually turn up an interesting coincidence:  that Joe had once crossed paths with the vilified Bill Ayers (the other star of that final debate).  If only …       The press would ask Joe about this and he would say:

I worked a job about ten years ago.  I did the plumbing for a redevelopment effort in Gary, Indiana, to help the neighborhoods affected by the closing of the steel mills there.  It was called the Community Rescue Advancement Project.  We just called it “The Project”.  We couldn’t use the initials.  That Bill Ayers guy was a leader of the project.  It was a charity.  His real job was a college professor or college dean or something.  I met him a few times.  In fact, he signed the checks I got.  He didn’t really sign them himself … It was just his signature printed by a computer.  You know:  embossed – like with the little holes punched into a multi-colored signature that said: “William Ayers”.  I found out later that he was a radical from the 1960s.  They use the term “terrorists” now but we used to just call them: “Hippie Radicals”.  The first real terrorist here was the guy in Oklahoma City who blew up that Federal Building.  These hippies just fought with the police and blew off bombs that damaged equipment and stuff.  I don’t know if they really hurt anybody.  In fact, I read somewhere that all of these 60s radicals were actually working with the CIA and using police officers as guinea pigs to test riot weapons they could use to overthrow communist dictators in the banana republics and stuff.  These hippies ended up getting stock options from the companies that made these weapons – really weird stuff, you know: like mace with LSD in it  — kinky, perverted stuff like the CIA would come up with.  Anyway, these guys are all jillionaires right now.  Look at Jerry Rubin!  He’s a HUGE guy on Wall Street!  Anyway, I learned during the campaign that this Ayers guy used to be a radical.  When I met him, he didn’t seem like a hippie.  His hair was short but he did have John Lennon glasses.  I couldn’t imagine him fighting the police because he looked … you know, uhh … kinda’ gay.  Besides, he was too old to be fighting police when I met him.

Unfortunately, the real “Joe The Plumber” will probably not have any such information to share with his bothersome inquisitors.  In a perfect world, he would.  In a perfect world:  the Dow Jones would be climbing past 14,000.  In a perfect world  . . .

Our Generation Got Old

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October 13, 2008

As John McCain’s Presidential campaign goes swirling down the toilet during the final desperate weeks of its existence, we see its surrogates cling to the non-issue of Obama’s contact with 1960s radical activist, Bill Ayers.  As I said on October 2, McCain missed his chance to take control of this race by opposing the 700-billion-dollar “bailout bill”, which has yet to inspire the confidence of the investing public, foreign markets or the banks.  By reuniting with his old ally from the “campaign finance reform” days, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, as well as Democratic rising star, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the “Blue Dog” Democrats and the so-called “House Republicans” led by Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pence, McCain could have secured his position as the man who would take the Republican Party into the new century.  Instead, he chose to follow the advice of the lobbyists who run his campaign:  Steve “Skinhead” Schmidt and (Jeffrey Dahmer look-alike) Rick Davis.  These “Guys on the Plane” (if I may steal an expression from Peggy Noonan) have their careers rooted in the negative campaigning strategies created by Lee Atwater and refined by Karl Rove.  These operatives have no other cards to play.  They have no experience in successful reliance upon a strategy, based solely on portraying their own candidate in a positive way.

As the nation’s economic condition becomes more perilous, the McCain campaign leans more heavily on its claim that Obama’s contacts with Bill Ayers should determine the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.

At this point it’s starting to get funny.  Worse yet  … it is an indicator (to me, at least) of how old I am and how old my generation has become.  Back in my old home town (a place called Chicago) there is a writer for a local paper called the Chicago Tribune.  His name is John Kass.  Kass is an outspoken opponent of Chicago’s current mayor, Richard M. Daley and Kass has a nickname for him, just as I have nicknames for such worthy characters as Senator Joe “The Tool” Lieberman.  On Sunday, October 12, Kass expressed his outrage that Marilyn Katz, Ayers’ fellow member of the 1960s radical group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), is involved in Obama’s Presidential campaign.  Kass took particular umbrage at the fact that Marilyn Katz now has a successful public relations firm called: MK Communications.  According to Kass, MK Communications now represents the Chicago Police Department, City Colleges of Chicago, the city’s “Law Department” (actually referred to as the Office of the Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago), and numerous other city departments  … including the venerable “Streets and San”.  Kass seemed like a shoe salesman trying to fit an old foot that was accustomed to the “militant radical” style of the 1960s, into the new, 21st century, “Terrorist” model. It  doesn’t fit.  The militant radicals of the 1960s used small bombs to make political statements.  There is an absence of information about the number of alleged casualties or injuries resulting from such bombings.  Today, “terrorists” use small bombs to take down airplanes and they use airplanes to take down skyscrapers.  The use of the “terrorist” label to a 1960s radical is an obvious stretch.

The rant by the Tribune’s Kass about how former radical, Marilyn Katz, has become a “mainstream” figure in Chicago’s Public Relations business community, reminded me of an old song.  On August 17, 1969, Grace Slick and her band, Jefferson Airplane, woke up the crowd at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair with what she described as “morning maniac music”: the title song from their upcoming album, Volunteers.  Included among the song’s lyrics was the following passage:

One generation got old.
One generation got soul.
This generation got no destination to hold.

The Marilyn Katz story and the Bill Ayers story tell me that our generation got old.  The former radicals of that era are now playing important roles within what they used to consider an archaic milieu, referred to as “the establishment”.  Nevertheless, many members of this latest “establishment” generation are in a fight to retain the claim of having “soul” by helping to bring an African-American to The White House for the first time in this nation’s history.  The crowds at the McCain and Palin rallies have expressed their fear of what an Obama Administration might bring to America.  These McCain supporters have been able to replace their fears of how they are going to economically survive from day to day and how to fund their retirement plans with the fears conjured up by Schmidt, Davis and their ilk.  The ball is now in the court of the Obama campaign to help establish a legacy for these people and all Americans – by righting the ship capsized by the “perfect storm” of greed, corruption and deregulation.  Another three-pointer would be nice.