The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

Oct 16

Wow, the last 24 hours have been quite the whirlwind for Joe the Plumber. Turns out his name isn't Joe, he's not a plumber, he's a registered republican, (though republican challenges to Ohio voter rolls may make him ineligible to pull the lever) and there's a conspiracy theory suggesting that Joe is related to a key figure from the Keating 5. I guess "Sam the guy who does plumbing-related activities and would get a tax break from a President Obama and, by the way, might be a republican plant," doesn't have the same ring to it. After watching the final debate, I now know why McCain has, as of yet, failed to break through: The man thinks his shit doesn't stink and that we should stick our faces in the bowl and take a big whiff and agree with him. I bring this up because of one of McCain's most frequent debate moves is where he says, "I know how to (insert issue)." In the first debate he used this formulation better than a dozen times, including the following: "And spending, I know, can be brought under control because I have fought against excessive spending my entire career." "And Pakistan is a very important element in this. And I know how to work with him (sic)." "But the important thing is--the important thing is I visited Afghanistan and I traveled to Waziristan and I traveled to these places and I know what our security requirements are. I know what our needs are." "We have to make sure that our technological and intelligence capabilities are better. We have to work more closely with our allies. I know our allies, and I can work much more closely with them." "I know the veterans. I know them well. And I know that they know that I'll take care of them." And from his final statement, a flurry of "knows": "I guarantee you, as president of the United States, I know how to heal the wounds of war, I know how to deal with our adversaries, and I know how to deal with our friends." Second debate: "I know how to get America working again, restore our economy and take care of working Americans." "I know how to fix this economy, and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and stop sending $700 billion a year overseas." "I know how to do that. I have a clear record of reaching across the aisle, whether it be Joe Lieberman or Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy or others." "I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel." "I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him. I'll get him no matter what and I know how to do it." And once again, in his final statement: "I know what it's like in dark times. I know what it's like to have to fight to keep one's hope going through difficult times. I know what it's like to rely on others for support and courage and love in tough times. I know what it's like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbors and your fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight." Last night: "I know how to save billions of dollars in defense spending. I know how to eliminate programs." And that's it, probably because--thanks to the format of last night's debate--Bob Schieffer quickly asked, "Which ones?" and McCain brought up, wait for it... something called the "marketing assistance program," which recent surveys show to be the 1,457,833-ranked issue this campaign in terms of priorities. Darwin once said, "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge," by which I think he's saying, beware the guy who says he knows everything because he probably doesn't know much of anything. I'm not saying McCain is fully ignorant, since unlike the rest of us he's aware of something known as the "marketing assistance program," but I am suggesting that McCain's biggest flaw is that he's convinced of his own awesomeness. The obvious irony is that going in to the general election, the knock against Obama was that he was a mere cult of personality, an empty hope vessel while McCain was the experienced man of substance. It turns out that the only substance McCain has is a towering self-regard. I think this explains the seething and facial gymnastics on display during the debate. It explains his habit of snickering at his own dingers nanoseconds after they escape his lips. It explains his campaign "suspension" stunt. He's got a bad case of hero worship, the biggest problem being, he's his own hero.

TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner

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