11/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated 4 days ago

Weekly Roundup, Readers Drowning in the Mud of McCain's Campaign

So a Naval veteran, a law professor, and a plumber walk into a bar in Ohio...

Please forgive the half a joke because I, like the rest of the country, am waiting for the punchline.

As one Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher enters the race with the shock and awe of a laser-guided roto-rooter annihilating the ideological clog currently plaguing the McCain campaign, the joke may ultimately be on John McCain.

The burning question: has he cried wolf one too many times for anyone to even care at this point?

While Barack Obama continues to outspend and outcool his way to national polling margins that are increasingly insurmountable by even the pesky Bradley Effect specter, John McCain has latched on to Joe the Plumber as his last vestige of hope while his campaign continues the all out barrage of negativity through ads and robocalling:

"I've been getting robocalls from the McC/P campaign, and I don't mind that too much (I like to hear what tripe they're spreading) but today's was over the top: 'The American People have to know about Obama's close association with Bill Ayers, a radical terrorist whose organization bombed the Capitol and killed policemen!'" - Skip Mendler

"Received a call on my answering machine from the RNC. It stated that during the economic crisis a few weeks back, Obama was partying with the elites from Hollywood and didn't have the leadership ability to return to Washington DC to tackle the issues facing the nation's economy." - Steve Koval

Off The Bus submitters have certainly taken notice of these trends, with many going through great lengths to return the favor.

"As the Queen has mentioned more than once: The Republican candidates have a long history of projecting who they are onto their opponents," wrote Elizabeth Barry just before rattling off names such as Joe Vogler, Rev. Thomas Muthee, G. Gordon Liddy, Saddam Hussein, and William Timmons as guilt-by-association quid pro quo.

"It's amazing how the Republican Party accuses everyone else of the things that they do," echoed Kiku Botura.

Sticking with the "reciprocity's a bitch!" theme, "Sarah and Todd Palin are Reminiscent of the Confederate South" was the title of a submission by Les Scarborough, after which he launches into a diatribe about the Alaskan Independence Party.

Whether such insinuations are just the left-leaning equivalent of Ayering dirty laundry is not to be decided here, but it is worth noting that the Obama campaign has not touched either the AIP or Sarah Palin's questionable church-goings.

And still, the Muslim thing persists. As my colleague Hanna pointed out in her extremely prescient op-ed here last week, even as Obama beats the rap, the word itself has been likened to the worst racial epithets around.

Ed Cohen wrote in with a report from his wife in Reno that McCain canvassers knocked on at least one door and said point blank that Obama is a Muslim. Completely unverified, of course, but would it be shocking in the least?

Last week we asked our writer pool to report on how Muslim communities are reacting to this wanton slandering and in the midst of many interesting submissions, Thomas Hanson snuck this one in: "You'd think with an article about Muslims and Arabs, you'd mention The first Middle eastern presidential candidate in this countries history." Yikes.

An honorbound McCain finally eschewed his staff's marching orders and repudiated (to use his word) people at his rally who shared these extreme views. He was also very visibly upset by the John Lewis comments during that portion of the debate, and most certainly stung by the dredging up of the Keating Five. He has said his time in Vietnam was better than the Keating hearings because he left the POW camps with his honor intact. Sadly, he is a man at odds with his own campaign rhetoric.

Left to (bitterly?) cling to a few swing states where his reputation among moderate Republicans and independents is not wholly tarnished, he paraded out his new best friend, Joe the Plumber during the debate. A self-described undecided Ohio voter who took Obama to task over the senator's tax policy's implications for a plumbing business he wants to own outright is just the mascot McCain needs for his own personal surge to nowhere. Right?

As is becoming par for the course, Leon Freilich sums up the readership sentiment in four lines:

Calling Joe the Plumber,
John the Testy's provoked;
Smells defeat is nearing--
Issue-pipes are choked.

Yet even a straightforward indictment of Joe the Plumber's exploitation assumes he is who he says he is (Denny Crumb, care to comment?). The media scrub of Joe, however, has rapidly revealed that his first name is not Joe, he is not a licensed plumber, he voted Republican in the primaries, and he owes a couple grand in back taxes. I will now stake my claim as a writer NOT ending that report with "Say it ain't so, Joe!"

Full circle: And so it seems that the joke is actually on poor Joe. He asked a decent question at the wrong place and wrong time and was thrust into the center of it all as a sounding board for economic policy during the most severe financial crisis since The Great Depression. He missed his chance at true relevance by misrepresenting himself, and in doing so, found his common ground with John McCain.

And lastly, but not leastly, a two part dose of Fringe Wisdom from Peter Falvey to take you into the weekend in style:

Just how important is temperament in a president and what can be done with those who have life long temperament problems, but still want to be president? Certainly we have had other presidents with disabilities like the one with Alzheimer's, the one with a sex disorder and now the one who is so cognitively impaired he, "can't renumber," if he did coke, but said he thinks he, "would renumber," if he had done any drive bye shootings. Presidential impairments are the subject of a recent edition of The 6:01 News that I forward to you.