There are three suggestions I would make to anyone trying to manufacture a “Joe the Plumber” moment in a national political campaign.
First, don’t do it: Obama’s meeting with Joe Wurzelbacher was devastating for the candidate because it was an unscripted moment with a real person that Obama completely fumbled.
You can’t manufacture that sort of moment, you just have to hope you have a camera on the candidate when something like that occurs. As part of our new political reality of the past several election cycles, campaign “trackers” hold just that very role, following candidates in their every waking moment hoping to catch such a moment on tape to be mercilessly exploited.
If you decide to abandon all common sense and try manufacture a relationship to attack a candidate on, it is important to chose a spokesman who doesn’t have glassy eyes and halting disjointed speech that suggests he shared bong hits with the camera crew directly before taping.
Third, if you are going to make absurd claims, try to make sure that you’ve done the basic research so that the claim doesn’t blow up in your face. Hayes claims:
“My name is Richard Hayes, and I pick up Mitt Romney’s trash. We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize that the service we provide — if it wasn’t for us, it would be a big health issue, us not picking up trash.
“Residents do come out and shake our hands. Sometimes they give us hugs and thank us for the job we’re doing, hand us water and Gatorades. Tell us we’re doing a good job and keep up the good work. Picking up 15, 16 tons by hand, that takes a toll on your body. When I’m 55, 60 years old, I know my body’s gonna be break down [sic]. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that.”
Don’t claim Mitt Romney doesn’t know or care about garbage men when he devotes a specific mention about them in his book, right down to the line about being invisible:
“During my campaign for governor, I decided to spend a day every few weeks doing the jobs of other people in Massachusetts. Among other jobs, I cooked sausages at Fenway Park, worked on asphalt paving crew, stacked bales of hay on a farm, volunteered in an emergency room, served food at a nursing home, and worked as a child-care assistant. I’m often asked which was the hardest job – it’s child care, by a mile.”
“One day I gathered trash as a garbage collector. I stood on that little platform at the back of the truck, holding on as the driver navigated his way through the narrow streets of Boston. As we pulled up to traffic lights, I noticed that the shoppers and businesspeople who were standing only a few feet from me didn’t even see me. It was as if I was invisible. Perhaps it was because a lot of us don’t think garbage men are worthy of notice; I disagree – anyone who works that hard deserves our respect. – I wasn’t a particularly good garbage collector: at one point, after filling the trough at the back of the truck, I pulled the wrong hydraulic lever. Instead of pushing the load into the truck, I dumped it onto the street. Maybe the suits didn’t notice me, but the guys at the construction site sure did…” (251)
The AFSCME claim isn’t just poor agi-prop, it was directly refuted before it was ever written.
Now, if Richard Hayes and the AFSCME union—which has pledged to spend 100 million dollars to reelect Obama instead of providing Richard with the healthcare he needs—wanted to really impress Americans, perhaps they could find an example of where career liberal elitist Barack Obama even pretended to have a service industry job, or spent time volunteering to help people.
Mitt Romney isn’t a perfect candidate, but he is a far better man than the President, which much more depth of character and more genuine empathy for his fellow human beings when the cameras are off than Barack Obama could ever pretend to have.
If this union or other unions want to blow $100 million playing into Romney’s hands like this, I hope the new President is considerate enough to invite them to his inauguration.