Bob Schieffer moderated debate #3, which is the first one that John McCain really showed up for. He was animated and engaged, a little too wordy at some points (stepping on his own points on occasion), but much better than in previous debates. He took it to Obama on the over-the-top accusations of John Lewis, and the best line of the night was "I'm not George W. Bush. If you wanted to run against him you should have run four years ago."
As an aside, while I liked McCain getting on Obama about the falsehoods and distortions, McCain lacks the carpe jugulum (Latin - seize the neck) attitude that his running mate displays pretty well. He made his attacks but did not press them. He landed blows but refused to try to sit on Obama's rhetorical chest and continue pounding until Obama could not reply. It's just not in him, I guess. I have heard it is a generational thing, but either way McCain keeps letting things like Obama's "cut taxes for 95% of taxpayers" line float past unmolested.
The star of the third debate, who wasn't even present, was undoubtedly Joe the Plumber, better known as Joe Wurzelbacher, a Ohioan who Barack Obama had the misfortune to stumble upon and engage in conversation while being videotaped.
Joe the Plumber asked Obama if he was really going to raise taxes on him, Joe was considering purchasing the small plumbing business where he works but was worried that the increased taxes would make it unprofitable to work beyond the 10-12 hours a day he already put in.
Obama, foolishly, was honest. As quoted at Fox News:
"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
Oops. In one comment, Barack Obama may have undone four months of careful tacking to the center on economic issues. We may have a problem or even a series of problems in the economy right now, but when one of the people that could be President starts speaking in language dripping with socialist overtones I believe Americans will start to listen a little more critically.
Sensing an unforced error, John McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" nine times in the third debate, with Obama forced to mention him twice. The election has a poster child, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Now what makes this infuriating to me is that immediately the left side of the blogging community and the media set to "vetting" Joe the Plumber as if he did anything other than ask a question of Barack Obama.
Within 48 hours we now know that Joe Wurzelbach's actual name is Samuel J. Wurzelbach, he is twice-divorced and does not have a plumber's license, though he does work for a plumber. His home address has been published, his tax lein (filed in 2007) publicized and his local plumber's union notified, lest he actually work as a plumber somewhere near where he lives. He has cameras all over him, and he doesn't have to worry about any of his secrets being revealed. If you can find it online, it's going to be revealed about him.
The real question I have is why Joe the Plumber is getting the third degree? And why is the Obama campaign so completely silent on the public strip-and-cavity search that its allies are performing to a "civilian", a voter? He's just a guy, or he was before he committed the unpardonable act of making Barack Obama flub a question in front of a camera.
I see this as tremendously not-helpful for Barack Obama, because it doesn't bode well for free speech or even criticism should he become President. Apparently the rule is that if you question Barack Obama or his policies, then you make yourself the subject of inquiry. The question to be answered is not, "What is Barack Obama's reply?" but rather, "What makes you think you have standing to ask The One a question?"
At this point, would you want Barack Obama to come up to you and say, "Hi, do you have any questions I can answer?" In essence, he would be asking you if you think it's worth your privacy in case he gets stumped. Joe didn't even set himself up to be a rival of Barack Obama, Barack came to his house and because Joe didn't kiss the ring and move along, he gets both barrels from the press and the left wing.
The vitriol directed toward Joe the Plumber is pretty similar to that directed toward Sarah Palin, in that neither of them were considered to have sufficient stature to question Barack Obama's policies or conclusions. There was a collective, "Who the hell are YOU?" response, as if Joe or Sarah sat down at the cool kids' table in junior high school unbidden. What I find so interesting is that it is the alleged egalitarians and Friends of The Common Man, the leftists, who are the most incensed when an unelite person skewers one of the anointed.
Well, I have a tiny little soapbox, but when the press comes calling I will stand up and say, "I am Joe the Plumber." Somebody has to stop this kind of thing. We need to get in the habit of making our questions and criticisms known, so that maybe an potential Obama government will worry about trying to stifle dissent.
Polls are tightening. If you're of a GOP or conservative bent, keep your powder dry and be sure you vote. This is far from over.