The McCain-Palin Melodrama - Cue The Finale? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

With more than ten days to the election of a new president, it's probably premature to attempt to decipher the missteps of the McCain campaign. At the same time, given the theatrical nature of the candidates erratic endeavor, it's not unusual for critical reviews to precede the cancellation of a poorly constructed production. The fact that the dogged director assumed it would be possible to indiscriminately insert and remove actors as if they were interchangeable only exacerbated the inevitable panning of the performances.

As I've sought to define the differences between the McCain and Obama campaigns, I've been forced to return to the issues of authenticity (believability) and character construction. It strikes me that the McCain campaign's prevailing problem has been an inability to portray the presence of either. Instead, those in charge have lurched to and fro while latching onto a litany of incoherent cameo caricatures.

One late appearing actor precipitated my decision to predict that the lights would soon be switched off on what may well be recorded as one of the most disjointed debacles in political theatrics. Enter Joe the Plumber with nary a week's worth of rehearsal, an unvetted vitae absent an iota of acting experience, and a hastily assembled set of scripted lines. John McCain's decision to write Joe into his debate dialogue and make him a fixture of his final act only attached an exclamation mark to his dubious and drama filled fiasco.

In short order, it became obvious that Joe the Plumber was miscast and unable to carry the arc of McCain's suspect story line...a stilted path that might evoke an abundance of pathos were it not the result of a reckless commitment to disassemble comity while utilizing an inordinate amount of conflict to carve out a constituency critical to his campaign's continuance. Sadly, the use of Joe the Plumber hasn't been any more authentic than the other tactics employed by the message challenged campaign.

From the outset, Joe's words didn't sync with his circumstances, and thus, rather than support McCain's effort to inject a much needed pivot point into his script, the plumber without papers simply highlighted the suspicions that John McCain's ambitions had eclipsed his ability to adhere to authenticity. In truth, if his goal was to attach a name and a face to an "everyman" meme, he needed to find one that fit. Instead, the haste with which he selected Joe undermined his sincerity; making him look more manipulative than measured.

Take a look at one of Joe's most recent remarks.

In an online chat session, a participant asked Joe the following question:

Hi Joe. If you are making the average plumbers' salary, you will get a greater tax break under Obama ~4x greater than McCain as well as an education credit to get your plumber's license. Will this help or hinder your dream of owning your own plumbing business? When you do start your business - according to your business plan - when do you anticipate personally clearing greater than $250,000 income/year?

This was Joe's answer:

Whether or not his tax plan, as he states it today, would help me, it still comes down to principles. I don't want someone else's hard earned money. How can you be sure they're not going to change their minds and decide you make too much money and want to take more of it to "spread" to someone else. Unfortunately, as much as Obama says he wants to help out small businesses, this small business opportunity is now dead.

As I read the answer, I was struck by the last sentence in which Joe suggests his small business opportunity is now dead. Rather than bring clarity, all I could wonder was why? In stating as much, he only accentuates the degree to which his situation is consistent with McCain's seemingly incoherent message. In retrospect, not only was Joe's original question of Obama an abstraction, it now seems as if it were little more than a stunt. As such, nothing McCain sought to demonstrate through Joe has felt real, which means Joe was just another in a long string of McCain's curious contrivances.

As one attempts to draw conclusions, it's the difference between lauding the believability of an Academy Award performance and laughing at the overdone and obtuse affectations of an actor in a "B" movie. The latter has been the nature of the McCain campaign while the former equates with the error free execution of Barack Obama's candidacy. This contrast leads us to see McCain as increasingly inauthentic while Obama's consistency strikes the observer as all the more genuine.

In the end, it's all about the audience. In John McCain's effort to pander, he has underestimated the profundity of the patrons, which meant his play and it's performers appeared superficial and suspect. Instead of invoking an air of inspiration, it left his audience hungry and unfulfilled...with more questions than answers...with more doubt and less hope.

As November 4th approaches, the critics are beginning to speak. In short order, the scarcity of ticket sales will begin to sink in. As the curtain is lowered for the last time, the lights will go dim and darkness will signal the death of a dismal drama. It's time to cue the finale.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Joe The Plumber, John McCain, Sarah Palin

Daniel DiRito | October 24, 2008 | 5:47 PM
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1 On October 25, 2008 at 9:18 AM, Ben in oakland wrote —

"It's time to cue the finale"

God almight, I hope so.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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