Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Joe the Plumber meets the political buzzsaw

The continuing saga of Joe the Plumber is living proof that Andy Warhol’s declaration that we’ll all get 15 minutes of fame still holds.

The media storm over Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher and his conversations with Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, Wurzelbacher being mentioned in the final presidential debate, and interviews by a number of media outlets show what happens when a politician decides to use an ordinary citizen to make his or her point.

It needs to be understood that the basic nature of politicians is that they are “users.” They use people, usually their family and relatives but also people they meet on the campaign trail. Putting others’ business on the street is the way politicians pretend that they are closely connected with their problems and challenges, and I suppose a family with a politician in its orbit has to watch what it says or does around the politician for fear it will end up being all over the news.

Wurzelbacher awoke one morning to find a horde of media vehicles outside his home, and the transcript of his conversation with Obama being parsed by reporters and editors of major media outlets. I have always been of the view that politicians seek to avoid unscripted exchanges with ordinary citizens as well as the news media, but this shows that for ordinary citizens, such an exchange can be hazardous for them, too, especially if the politician decides to use it in a public forum like a nationally televised debate.

Of course, politicians love to exaggerate and extrapolate the stories they hear to fit their own agendas. Minor ailments become major diseases; one-person companies become small businesses; and someone serving in the military becomes a soldier in the global war on terror.

I suppose politicians’ families are accustomed to being in the midst of someone who can twist their words and stories into a form acceptable to a candidate, but it must be disconcerting. I wonder sometimes if the families of politicians talk in a private code to keep some things from being overheard or used.

The only consolation is that soon the election will be over, and all those citizens who got their 15 minutes of fame will fade back into obscurity. Of course, the candidates will always be with us.

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October 19, 2008 - Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , ,

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