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Disclaimer: My godfather was a plumber for 40+ years, having learned his trade in the Navy during WWII. I have great admiration for all of the trades. They have knowledge and skills I will never approximate, so this isn’t a put down of plumbers. It’s about being someone’s monkey.

Joe Wurzelbacher..your 15 minutes of fame were up last week.

I don’t know that Joe the Plumber is dumb. Maybe he’s dumb like a fox. At first I thought he was being exploited by people who couldn’t care less about his welfare. His question to Obama during a campaign swing through Ohio was seen by the McCain campaign as a gaffe about “spreading the wealth.”  Obama’s answer was treated as if it was a full-fledged policy statement and economic plan, not an off-the-cuff response to a question. Given how few openings the Obama campaign has given MCain it’s not surprising that they seized it like a drowning man lunges for a liferaft. Ironically, it was Joe who first declared the Obama tax plan “socialist.” The light bulb lit up in someone’s head–“hey, that’s a tack we haven’t tried!”   Joe the Plumber is now Joe the Campaign Strategist, Economist, and Political Scientist. What’s next? Joe the Calendar Boy?

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Who was it that cautioned, “be careful what you ask for, you might get it”?

cow copyThe Republicans wanted someone who would complement McCain’s maverick image, the free thinker, the independent, the rugged Westerner. What he got looked good in the showroom but turned out to be a bad deal, you betcha.

Governor Palin has gone from being all mavericky to being All About Sarah. Originally, her maverickosity was one of the qualities the campaign touted for her. However, what was once seen as a virtue is now turning into a thorn in the side of the campaign.
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mary-kayJust when you think you’ve witnessed the last possible foolishness from McCain-Palin, along comes Lipstick Gate.

What are we to make of a campaign that, with a straight face mind you, declares itself the party of “Joe Sixpack” while snatching up $150,000 worth of clothes and almost $23,000 worth of makeup consultation? Why would a former beauty contestant even need makeup consultation?

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paranoiaWhile ordinary politics attract people from across the political spectrum, a presidential campaign with an African American frontrunner is bound to attract a few people from the far reaches of the mental health universe. Recently I stumbled onto a blog that reminded me that not everyone experiences reality in the same time-space dimension as the rest of us.

“Texasdarlin’s” blog features many postings that highlight the vast left wing conspiracies that have coalesced to bring Obama to the cusp of electoral victory. The blog is a busy place, single-minded and shrill. It reminded me that just under the surface of the American electorate there are those who thrive on and are sustained by conspiracy theories.

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Palin
(pay-lin). From the Greek, pathos, the Greek root for suffering. (See also pathetic).

Palin
v.

1. To attempt to impress another by feigning knowledge.

Example: “I didn’t study for that Poli Sci essay test and had to totally palin it. But the prof saw that I was clueless and I got a D+.”

2. To be fooled by another’s superficial qualities.

Example: “I met this really hot guy at a party, but he palined me when he said he was a doctor. I learned after we hooked up that he was a clerk at Walgreen’s.”

3. To promote an unqualified person to a prestigious or challenging position.

Example: “That guy in the mailroom married the CEO’s daughter and got palined to assistant VP for sales. But he got fired after six months because he couldn’t palin his customers.”

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jeff_frederick copySo I’m browsing the net and visit HuffPost and there’s a story about Jeff Frederick, head of the Virginia GOP advising GOP campaign workers to compare Obama to Osama because “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.”

What is scary is that this twit has a statewide stage from which to spout such utter nonsense, and that he can do it with a straight face.  What really frosts my ass is that he’s also a sailor. We sailors can disagree on politics, race tactics, best cruising areas and brand of gin, but this is embarrassing and offensive on so many levels.

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There’s fear in the air and the scent of loathing is wafting along side it. The fear of unemployment and the loss of health insurance and housing, the specter of economic collapse, these are real issues and the anxiety is palpable. I feel it too and I vicariously experience it on behalf of my family and friends. It’s unavoidable, but it can be managed.

Unfortunately, at times like this fear also pushes some people to openly express their hatreds and prejudices. Crowds at McCain campaign rallies have been yelling ugly epithets and threats, many with racial and xenophobic overtones. People who see themselves as victims are looking for the victimizers. Obama, Hispanics, Muslims: someone must be held accountable for our plight. And are McCain/Palin trying to calm the crowds? Do they repudiate descriptions of Obama as a “terrorist?” Of course not. They seize it, capitalize on it, nurture it, revel in it. They continue to link “terrorist” “Ayers” and “Obama” in the same sentence, hardly pausing for breath. “Here are the dots, connect them yourself.”

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bus cliff 1Watching the last debate I was struck by the stylistic differences between the candidates. Obama was relaxed and confident. McCain was at times breathless and awkward, making silly comments that were largely pointless.  And what the hell was he writing on that pad? He began making notes the moment he sat down. I had to wonder if he was writing down talking points so he wouldn’t forget them. Or perhaps it was a job application. In any case, his restlessness was distracting and made me think he had too much coffee and was doing the pee dance.

Three national debates have demonstrated several points: Obama/Biden are better informed, more focused, and are running a more skilled campaign. On the other side, McCain/Palin are lurching uncontrollably towards defeat, and appear to be determined to look as unpresidential as possible in the process.

This is what desperation and a bankrupt political philosphy buys you. Neither McCain nor Palin have condemned surrogates’ race-baiting, and there are more than enough examples of sleaze, mud (slud?), xenophobia, and just plain meanness to last us until the next election. Even Cindy McCain has risked reversing her cosmetic touchups by actually speaking in public, accusing Obama of not supporting troops being deployed overseas. Nevermind that her husband opposed more generous educational benefits to returning service members.

Presumably when you’re running for office you make a point of using your best material to sell yourself and your platform. If your best material is what we’ve been witnessing lately from McCain, you’re in deep dooty and all but the Republican faithful see it.

Meanwhile, back in Alaska, more hypocrisy and corruption are oozing to the surface. Shannyn Moore has been steadfastly reporting on these events and those who think Palin is the future of the Republican party would do well to check in with Shannyn. David Brooks described Palin as a “cancer” for the party. If that’s the case, the patient is terminal or will have a very long recovery.