It’s Going To Take a Lot More than Joe the Plumber

mccain-surge.gifHow much do I not like John McCain now, because of this final debate in Campaign 2008? Let me count the ways – which, at this point, number far greater than the components of a well-equipped plumber’s tool collection.

I’m struck, immediately, by two moments. No, the now-famous Joe the Plumber was nowhere in sight in either case. I’m struck by, and I’m stuck on, the following statement by John McCain: “I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies.” Whoa. You’re proud of that, Senator McCain? Really? You’re proud of the rabid crowd that grows so inflamed that it spews out random belches of anger and racism and murderous violence like molten comets zooming skyward from the bowels of an erupting volcano? How would YOU characterize the hollering of “kill him!” during GOP stump speeches when Barack Obama’s name is mentioned, Senator McCain? You can’t get away with blaming one or two bubbles popping at the surface of the boiling pot of oatmeal for being hot, and excuse the rest of the pot from having reached the boiling point.

The other involved a second incendiary topic – the choice issue. Moderator Bob Schieffer dared to tread through the treacherous turf of abortion. Soon enough, the talk turned to late-term abortions, and Obama’s opposition to them except in the case of the health or life of the mother. And there was John McCain twitching his fingers in the air to put the word “health” in quotation marks – at once insulting and stunningly dismissive. A woman’s “health” is something to be demeaned or discounted? A woman’s “health” is so trivial that you put it in visual quotation marks as a wink-wink nudge-nudge type of thing? Excuse me?

Schieffer caused many of the softest sore spots to be laid bare. William Ayers came up for discussion, in what appeared to be an easy point scored for John McCain. Everyone knew or suspected that Ayers would be brought up somehow or other. McCain attempted to use him as a charging bull in a bullfight, with Obama as a sort of matador, brushing the bull past any danger zones with a flourish of his bright red cape. And it was a very fair point Obama made, observing how Ayers has become a main focus, if not an obsession, with the McCain campaign – which he said tells you more about the McCain campaign than it does about Obama himself.

One of the tender spots for McCain was Obama’s reference to the fiscal recklessness and wreckage of the past eight years. McCain almost growled “I’m not President Bush,” adding that if Obama had wanted to run against Dubya he should have done so in 2004. As if a single pointed retort in a single debate could reverse a long and obvious track record of McCain’s embrace of the most unpopular and incompetent chief executive and mmaverick-and-maiden.gifost misbegotten policies ever. The rest of us could think back, too. I could return to sometime in 2001 as the time to start asking “why can’t we have accountability?” instead of waiting until mid-October, 2008, as McCain did at the Hofstra University debate.

And Congressman John Lewis’s name came up again – clearly John McCain is still smarting from the angry, divisive rhetoric in his and Sarah Palin’s campaign appearances that recklessly stirs up audience members. Truth hurts, I guess. In my opinion, Lewis said nothing to apologize for, nor does the Obama campaign have anything to repudiate. The civil rights icon, who remembers how horrifically high the political temperature during that tortured time in American history, made a fair comparison between the hate-filled environment back then and the vapors being exacerbated among the desperate and misguided now. For McCain then to huff and whine, childishly, to the effect of – “well, YOU did it TOO” made me wonder when the real adults we once heard so loudly boasted about by Republicans in the dawn of the Bush 2.0 era will be back in charge.

For an answer, one was left looking, yet again, at the opposite side of the debate table where Barack Obama sat. Once more, actions spoke louder than words. Will anything ever unspool this guy? He’s been through dozens of debates with every imaginable contender by now, and weathered every challenge, put-down, rash accusation, and kick to the groin, and he’s still standing without even a visible bruise. He was consistently a study in grace under fire offering gentle corrections when he felt McCain misrepresented his record, whether it involved tax policy, William Ayers, or ACORN, and holding his fire when given a justified opportunity to slam Palin for being the wrong shade of green (and we’re not talking about her environmental record). It became clearer than ever whose hand would be, and so far has been, the steadiest at the controls.

The debate drinking game crowd was probably disappointed – not one mention of the word “maverick,” and only one “my friends.” However, if you were listening for such campaign stump standards as “giving 750 billion dollars to countries that don’t like us very much” and variations on the “I know how to (fill in the blank here),” then you probably got a nice buzz out of the evening. But anyone could have gotten thoroughly plowed on the insults, leers, angry-nearly-to-apparent-derangement facial expressions, Dubya-reminiscent smirks, and overall condescension from McCain’s side of the table. At 72 years of age, he behaves like a spoiled brat and sore loser on the playground. Sorry, but I can’t picture that demeanor sitting across a delicate negotiating table with a dicey international adversary, or “reaching across the aisle to get things done” with political opponents here at home – and accomplishing much of anything.

What struck me while watching the CNN broadcast (with its live reaction meters) was how McCain and Obama behaved toward each other. While watching them react to one another, Obama reminded me of a weary but still patient dad watching his unruly two-year-old throw another tantrum in public. McCain, on the other hand, looked at Obama (yes, he actually did look AT Obama from time to time) as though he were some lab specimen. There were two particularly nasty little putdowns wrapped in contrived compliments purportedly praising Obama’s eloquence while trying to skewer him with it. The people meters, interestingly enough, showed again how women seem to warm to Obama’s positions, and their reactions went south every time McCain went on the attack. It remains to be seen whether the now-legendary Joe the Plumber can tweak the pipes enough to clear the blockage in McCain’s now-constipated campaign.

mary-lyon.gifSo did mine. But admittedly, I was already there, anyway. I’d still like to like John McCain, especially since I once did – to some degree anyway. And with every day on this marathon, in every speech, and every debate, I’m less motivated to do so. Mercifully, at least the debate portion of the season is now over.

Mary Lyon

Mary Lyon is a veteran broadcaster and five-time Golden Mike Award winner, who has anchored, reported, and written for the Associated Press Radio Network, NBC Radio “The Source,” and many Los Angeles-area stations including KRTH-FM/AM, KLOS-FM, KFWB-AM, and KTLA-TV, and occasional media analyst for ABC Radio News. She began her career as a liberal activist with the Student Coalition for Humphrey/Muskie in 1968, and helped spearhead a regional campaign, “The Power 18,” to win the right to vote for 18-year-olds. She remains an advocate for liberal causes, responsibility and accountability in media, environmental education and support of the arts for children, and green living. In addition to The Northeast Democrat, Mary writes for OpEdNews,, World News Trust, and’s “We! The People” webzine. Mary is also a parenting expert, having written and illustrated the book “The Frazzled Working Woman’s Practical Guide to Motherhood.”

Articles by Mary Lyon


  1. Corwin says

    Your sentences run on.And the fears you have may not,in fact be rational.Since I’m rather poor presently,perhaps i should be a Democrat.But,I’m extremely competent and others value my services.Lois,would you care to enter the famous Ehrlich wager against me?We’ll decide in 5 years.

  2. Lois H. says

    Okay, Mr. Corwin, I stand corrected on the spelling of your name, which is obviously much more important to you than the contents of Mary Lyon’s piece. I might suggest that it is you who need to take an MMPI, although it appears that you must be some kind of Psychiatrist or Psychologist, so you would probably be able to beat the test writer to your advantage. If you are unable to recognize your completely condescending tone towards Mary Lyon, who you described as not having much experience in the “knowledge intensive field” as being similar to the attitude of Senator McCain towards Barack Obama (obviously the neophyte in his eyes and unworthy of his respect), and prefer to describe my emotionally charged reaction to your comment as someone who has little self knowledge, so be it. Your total arrogance underwhelms me. I, too love reading, so you and I actually have something in common. Your apparent lack of compassion for Ms. Lyon’s heart-felt reactions to McCains’s debate performance is unfortunate. You are obviously all “mind over matter”. Well, it is time for a Leader with a great spirit and heart, as well as a great mind. I think we have found him in Obama.
    Oh, and it is “McCain”, not “McClain”. Hope you don’t mind being corrected.

    • Lois H. says

      P.S. The fact that I am a mother, and now a grandmother, is important because my love for my “offspring” is what makes me so concerned about the future of our country and our planet. It tends to infuse me with emotion about the truly important issues that affect their future, i.e. the unsustainable environmental and socially unjust policies of this transformed and dangerous (in my opinion) NeoConservative Republican Party. They are all for the rich, and everyone else be damned! They have transformed our Republic into an Empire and it is destroying us. I am hopeful that an Obama presidency can help to change this trend and awaken the dreamer in all of us by changing the dream for our Democratic nation.

  3. Corwin says

    First,It’s Corwin.A fine name.Perhaps not as fine a name as Harrigan(“dinne a man can say a word against him”),but still not unknown in certain Shadows.I’m not sure I launched personal attacks.
    But there are things that perplex me.Why do you bother to list a mother and a grandmother as qualities that affected your reading of Ms Lyons’ column?Could you give a specific,and how it might have been diferent had you not had offspring?
    Secondly,sci fi Grand Master Harlan Ellison once wrote a story for his “Dangerous Visions’ titled,”I Have No Mouth Yet I Must Scream”.
    I mention it because it was termed’pure emotion’.This is a category your letter fits too.I was making the point that True Believers can’t thiink well;i.e. conflicting messages enrage them.Look at some of the epithets you used in a remarkably content free reply.
    And as a post script;I don’t hate Sen Obama.I consider him a remarkably light weight individual.(By the way,I consider Gov Palin almost as bad)I do think the job of POTUS requires a lot more than the ability to duck tough questions.But we’ll see how things finish.And my comments on Ms Lyons and lack of self knowledge could very well be applied to you.

  4. LoLo the Concerned Grandmother says

    This comment by Corman infuriated me! It is the most dismissive, arrogant, disrespectful piece of garbage that I have ever read. His “closed mindedness” and lack of “self knowledge” accusations hurled at Mary Lyon’s opinion piece is a perfect example of the Right Wing tendency to launch a personal attack on anyone who may disagree with their positions or views. As a woman, a mother, and now a grandmother, Mary’s article spoke volumes to me, as I had experienced the same reaction to those two specific parts of McCain’s debate performance.
    Mr Corman, you have demonstrated perfectly what Ms. Lyons was describing in her article about the way John McCain treated Senator Obama. It made him look petty, narrow-minded and as pathetic, not to forget UNappealing, His further dismissal of women’s “health” issues as being completely beneath his consideration or concern made Mr. McCain look callous and chauvinistic! If any woman in this country would consider voting for “that man” after that demonstration, needs to have her head examined!
    So, Corman, when your return to “snicker” at another editorial in the L.A. Progressive, spare us all from one of your condescending, pompous & inane reviews. Oh, and your list all those items that the Democratic Party are against is laughable. True Progressive Democrats are just against the way the Republicans have screwed up all those important issues. Barack Obama offers an open-minded, intelligent and steady hand to lead this country into the light of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness once again. I hope that no one forgets to get out and vote for this remarkable man!

  5. Carl says

    I’d have to categorize this piece by Mary Lyon as the clearest commentary I’ve seen in this emotionally charged atmosphere of political reportage. With both sides yelling at one another pointing fingers out of clenched fists, this election cycle at times has more resembled a preamble to the second american revolution. Todays endorsement of Barack Obama by Colin Powell, who by this observers account quit the Cheney/Rove/Bush administration over damage to his own reputation by his role in the selling of a war based upon a presentation littered with verifiable malfeasance, will HOPEFULLY temper some of the hatred currently being directed at Obama from the extreme right, whose giant steps backwards to the days of white hoods and burning crosses have publicly disgraced America in the eyes of the world. I for one, am pulling for Vince Bugliosi’s prosecution of Bush for murder. Let the reckoning fall on the guilty for once.

  6. Corwin says

    I’ve come to this site on occasion to snicker at Charlie’s “exposes”.I’d originally thoiught they were a satire.I’d like to give an idea of why you are upset by Sen Mc Cain.In psychiatry,there is a concept caleed cognitive dissonance,when two forces emotional forces collide.I don’t think most people would doubt Sen Mc Clain has done some very admirable things ,in both his public and private life,To wit,his adoption of a young girl,his bravery as a POW,his not accepting and indeed opposing earmarks,his repeated calls to bring Fannie and Freddie under control early in this decade.But,you may be unable,to logically accept any criticism of Sen Obama.I think it’s obvious voting ‘present’ in the Illinois senate isn’t the behavior of a leader,but doubt you would want to explore that.Secondly,Sen Obama’s inability to give an example of when he opposed his party’s leadership reminds one(Well,me ,anyway) of Pirates “leader of the Queen’s Navy”eg.I always voted at my party’s call .And I never thought of thinking for myself at all”.
    A brief scanning of your credentials makes me believe you haven’t much experience in what I ,and others call knowledge intensive fields.That isn’t meant as a slur,simply my estimation.I’d like you to try to gain a little self knowledge.There was a mid 20th century novelist,Edwin O’Connor,who had a character in his novel”All in the Family” .who was a state governor. He trumped up a weekend hospitalization of his brother for a fictitious mental breakdown so he could be protected against any accusations of political malfeasance.The point being,the Gov’s mind was so closed,he couldn’t trust anyone’s word-even his brother.(Actually,the point is a little more subtle,and I do recomend the book)But,I wish you would take an MMPI.It’s computer scored and not going to be manipulated by SCOTUS,Karl Rove,or any of your bogeyman.And I think it might give some self awareness.

    Now,as to the election.I think it’s going to be a Democrat landslide.And then we will be able to evaluate whether they can govern.I doubt it.My feeling is the Dems have become the organ of sound bites and easy anwers,in a time when thought is needed.But we’ll see.

    But some things you might ponder.
    The Democratic party is against free trade,secret ballots for union elections,school choice,equal admission /promotion standards,choice on a portion of your SSI(and how,exactly is that privatization?),any kind of foetal protection and competition of ideas on public airways.

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