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Joe the Plumber Meets Sarah the Energy Expert

02/28/2009 12:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Now that we know "Joe the Plumber" isn't licensed as a plumber, isn't capable of buying the business he works for, earns far less than advertised and has a financial lien against him over state income taxes, it begs a question: why did this stranger personally deceive Barack Obama last week in Toledo and why did John McCain then incessantly invoke his name in the final presidential debate? First question answered: Joe obviously wanted his 15 minutes of fame, and a look at the transcript shows that Obama has begun to sniff this out. After McCain brought him up the first time, the candidates discussed their tax plans. The Plumber then disappeared for a while, and they addressed other topics. Later, however, McCain brought him up again, and we got another cup of Joe, leading to this from Obama:

OBAMA: "I just described what my plan is. And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine -- zero. You won't pay a fine, because..."

That's dryly amusing of Barack. By that point, after 92,000 McCain references to "my old buddy Joe," Obama was showing a hint of exasperation, and was starting to question the very existence of this Joe the Plumber. Turns out the senator from Illinois was on to something. Joe's a real person, certainly, but a charlatan touting fake bona fides.

Second question answered: How McCain's operation could make this guy the centerpiece of the third debate without nailing down his credentials is campaign malpractice, plain and simple.

It's a pattern reminiscent of offering the vice presidential slot to the governor of Alaska. The closer we get to Halloween, McCain shows himself to be more and more frightfully unprepared.