Monthly Archives: October 2008

Presidential campaigns and marathons

A perfectly clear morning. I hit the concrete at 5 a.m. surrounded by stars. Just a great fall morning to run. And I was thinking that I would like to be in New York City Sunday to run the marathon. That ain’t going to happen now. Most likely never. But it’s a nice thought. And I was thinking that running in a presidential campaign must resemble in some ways running a marathon: loads of planning and commitment, periods of elation and self-doubt, the constant need for support and motivation, and then either reaching your goal — or not.

Either John McCain or Barack Obama will achieve his goal on Tuesday. And for the one that doesn’t, I can’t imagine that it won’t be a tremendous disappointment. Unlike a marathon, just finishing a presidential campaign I’m sure isn’t accomplishment enough. Both deserve credit for going for it — win or lose.

You can say the same thing about each of the 39,000 or so who will run the New York City Marathon. For example:

  • Maybe Zola Budd is still running at age 42 to put behind her the incident at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Her very appearance at the Olympics at that point was controversial because of the racial politics and policies of her native South Africa. And then running barefoot, Budd became tangled with America’s hope in the 10,000 meters, Mary Decker Slaney, sending Slaney crashing to the track and ending her Olympic dream.
  • Last November Ryan Shay was one of the favorites to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic team this past summer in the marathon. Instead, during the trials in New York City, he collapased about five miles into the race and died of a heart attack. He was 28. Sunday 19 of his former cross-country teammates at Notre Dame will run the marathon as a tribute to him.
  • Matthew Long is a NYC firefighter and a former triathlete and competitive marathoner. In 2005 he was hit by a chartered bus while biking to work. According to an article in the New York Times, Long was injured so badly that he had to learn to walk again and must still use a cane. Before the accident, he ran the marathon in a little over 3 hours and 13 minutes — about seven minutes a mile and change. Last May he ran his first mile since then — in 24 minutes. Sunday he is going to run the marathon and says: “I will finish if it’s physically possible, whether it’s 8 hours or 10.”

Good luck to Long and all the others.

And good luck to McCain and Obama.

Sometimes it takes real courage and commitment just to try.

The Obama campaign and robocalls

I received another nice e-mail message from Barack Obama this morning. He must know that I get up early. The now-regular e-mail I receive from either him or Michelle is generally the first thing I see when I fire up the computer at 4 a.m. Here’s today’s message.

From: Barack Obama

Subject: It’s in your hands, Rob

Rob –

The next 6 days are going to be the toughest we’ve seen, and I need your support to reach as many voters as possible.

Donate $5 or more today to strengthen this movement for the final push.

This campaign is in your hands.

Thank you for everything you’re doing.

Barack

Wow. No pressure there. The campaign is in my hands. I was actually thinking about ordering some frozen food from the company at mccain.com. Maybe I better reconsider and send Barack a five spot.

Actually, I give Obama and his advisers credit for how well they have used online media and communication tactics. They announced the selection of Joe Biden as the VP candidate via e-mail. They have raised millions of dollars online. And they are very effectively using e-mail now to encourage people to vote — and to volunteer with the campaign if only for a few hours next Tuesday. I’ve received those e-mails as well.

I’m impressed. And it will be interesting to see if he uses online media as a way to communicate directly with the nation once he moves into the Oval Office in January. Maybe I can send him an IM every once in a while.

I’m less impressed with the campaign strategy — used by Republicans and Democrats — involving “robocalls.” Here’s how Wikipedia describes a “robocall”:

Robocall is American pejorative jargon for an automated telemarketing phone call that uses both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered recorded message. The implication is that a “robocall” resembles a telephone call from a robot.

I’m at home a lot these days, either working or napping. And those calls really are annoying. I had two yesterday from George Voinovich. I imagine he dialed my number by mistake the second time. I expect I’ll hear from Joe Biden, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama before next Tuesday. Hope I’m home and awake when Sarah calls. And I guess it’s a blessing that where I live in Copley, Ohio, doesn’t appear to have any representation in the U.S. Congress. Otherwise I would be getting those calls as well.

So I give Barack Obama credit for his online strategy. And I know that not everyone is tethered to the computer all day like me. So the calls, I guess, are necessary. Yet here again Obama has a big advantage. Apparently the Obama Girl is making calls on his behalf. As Jimmy Carter said, life isn’t fair.

Hope I’m home when the Obama Girl calls.

Sarah Palin and the horizontal mambo

Journalism pretty much bites these days. Wait, first a disclaimer. I’ve already voted for Obama. And another. While I was watching Dancing With The Stars last night I kept thinking it would be fun to do the horizontal mambo with Sarah Palin. I know. I’m losing it.

But, hey. That’s far from the nastiest thing anyone has said about Palin in the last few weeks. And at least I had the hockey pucks to put it in print where readers would know who said it — namely, me. All too often these days you see something in print or online and you have no idea who is saying it. Or if it is even true. Who is to say that a reporter/writer just doesn’t make something up to support the point he or she wants to make? It happens. And regardless of whether the quote is unattributed or made up, it bites.

Here’s an example. Rachel Weiner, writing in The Huffington Post, Palin a “Whack Job,” Top McCain Adviser Says:

One of John McCain’s advisers recently called his running mate Sarah Palin a “diva” after she went off-script at a rally, and suggested she was looking after her own political future over the current campaign. Now another adviser ups the ante in a conversation with the Politico’s Playbook, labeling Palin a “whack job.”

Wow. Two unnamed McCain advisers in one paragraph. Sweet. And I tried without luck to find the original story on Politico’s Playbook, without success. But Chris Mathews was talking about it on his show, Hardball, so it must be true. Well, maybe not.

At least two problems here. Are the statements even true? And if so, what’s the credibility of the “advisers”? That’s a matter of journalism ethics. It should be important, but I get the sense that it’s not really these days. And it will most likely become even less so as the old media give way to the new.

Second, I think it is fair to criticize Palin — and any other candidate — on her or his record and experience. I think Palin’s resume is way too thin to be a serious candidate for vice president. There, I said it on the record. But I didn’t have to be nasty, or uncivil, about it. And that’s a problem.

We are so polarized as a nation that we can no longer have a thoughtful debate on important issues. That’s a shame because this election should be more than about clothes and associations with people from the 60s. Good grief. And even if Obama and the Democrats in Congress sweep the elections and govern with a real majority, we’ll still be a nation very much divided red state and blue.

The reason: civility. I’ve written about this previously and I believe it is important. We can teach — or at least try to teach — accounting, finance, management, public relations strategy, whatever — but apparently we can’t teach civility or ethics. Maybe we should try.

Oh. I was thinking about this while running in the cold and drizzle this morning. Ted Stevens says he isn’t going to abandon his bid for re-election to the Senate in Alaska despite the annoyance of a criminal conviction. Suppose he wins — and then the Senate forces him to resign?

Could Sarah Palin appoint herself to complete his term?

Then she would be a Washington insider — and ready to go in 2012.

In that case, ah, just kidding about the horizontal mambo reference.

National City Bank — I’m shocked

Well, not really. My bank of nearly 40 years, National City, now sleeps with the fishes. So it goes. I guess that happens when management decides to swim with the mortgage sharks. Unfortunately, thousands of National City employees are now going to be looking for new jobs during what is certain to be a long and devastating recession. Note to W. It’s a recession!

Wonder if Alan Greenspan finds that at all shocking. The “Maestro” is now conducting a new tune — telling members of Congress last week that he was “in a state of shocked disbelief” that the Captains of Industry and Finance couldn’t self-regulate with billions of dollars at stake.

What a hoot. He was the conductor of the nation’s economy for 18 years. And he’s shocked? Oh, well.

Apparently he never watched the great film Casablanca. That might have been more helpful to the Maestro than all the economic and finance textbooks he apparently poured over — without gaining much of any insight into human conduct or ethical behavior.

And the stock markets in Asia tanked again Monday, with indexes in Japan reaching 26-year lows. Wall Street futures are down 4 percent before the opening bell. General Motors and Chrysler are meeting to try to avoid bankruptcy, even though a merger could mean the loss of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs in Ohio and elsewhere.

Shocking.

Obama and education — part two

Gee. I went to Obama’s campaign website yesterday to see what he was saying about education. And already I’ve received two urgent e-mails asking for a campaign contribution. It appears that Obama’s advisors are huddling this weekend to decide where and how to allocate staff and other resources during the final days of the campaign. My $10 would make the difference. I guess.

I also received a nice note from Michelle Obama inviting me to visit with her during a campaign stop at Buchtel High School this afternoon. Tempting. But I’ve found of late that a mid-afternoon nap on Fridays is a nice start to the weekend.

Haven’t received anything as yet from John McCain for President. Or from mccain.com — the home of the Canadian producer or frozen food products. So it goes.

Maybe Michelle will talk to the students about how our education system is failing them — and the implications that has for their future and for the future of our economy and democracy.

Barack Obama has it right on this issue. And again the disclaimer: I’ve already voted for him. And his position on education is a major reason why.

He points to the problems with No Child Left Behind — and the soaring college costs that present a real barrier these days to students and their families.

But mostly he focues on teachers. Obama points out that teacher retention is a problem: 30 percent of new teachers leave within their first five years in the profession.

Well, yeah. Aside from when you were a student, when was the last time you spent any time in a classroom anywhere in the United States? Folks, teaching is hard work, without tremendous financial reward. And the fact is that as a nation we have devalued teaching as a profession to the point where it is difficult to hire and retain excellent teachers.

That’s not just my view. I had a long conversation recently about this problem involving teachers with Tony Wagner, the Harvard education professor, consultant and guru and writer of the insightful book, “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need — And What We Can Do About It.

On this issue, Obama gets it. Here’s what he says:

Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America’s Teachers

  • Recruit Teachers: Obama and Biden will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location.
  • Prepare Teachers: Obama and Biden will require all schools of education to be accredited. Obama and Biden will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama and Biden will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.
  • Retain Teachers: To support our teachers, the Obama-Biden plan will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. They will also provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices.
  • Reward Teachers: Obama and Biden will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.

Fixing education in a way that benefits students, the business community and our nation as a whole is a huge problem. It involves a host of social, economic, political and emotional issues. Maybe that’s why we have been working on it for more than 25 years without great success.

So why don’t we start where we could really make a difference: in the classroom. Let’s educate, hire, train, mentor, pay, reward and support teachers. Let’s make teaching a valued profession again.

Obama and education

I’m convinced that improving education is the key to our strengthening our economy. And keeping America competitive in what really is a global economy these days. Yeah, reforming K-12 education, and making higher education more accessible and affordable, won’t come easily or quickly. We’ve been a nation at risk now for 25 years or more. Still, why isn’t education — and helping our young people succeed in school and on the job — more of a concern during this presidential campaign?

OK. We’re in a recession; I guess even W. has to agree with that at this point. Companies are aggressively cutting jobs. Our savings — for retirement, college expenses, houses, etc. — are evaporating. The free-market Republican capitalists have now nationalized the banking industry — with the auto industry in the queue. And we’re debating about socialism — and redistribution of wealth? OMG.

Let’s talk about education. Here’s from a speech I helped write for Donna Klein in Vancouver, Washington, at a conference of School’s Out Washington. If you are interested, the entire speech is available on the Corporate Voices for Working Families website.

Here’s an overview of the problem facing our young people, our businesses and our nation.

•    First, jobs are changing. The United States is continuing the transition from an industrial- to a knowledge-based economy.

•    Second, our demographics as a nation are changing. Baby boomers are beginning to retire and exit the workplace – taking with them years of experience and expertise. And most estimates indicate that there will be far fewer young people entering the workforce to replace retirees.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that between 2010 and 2025 up to 95 million baby boomers will leave the U.S. workforce – but only 40 million members of Generations X and Y will be available to replace them. Simply stated, we’re facing a shortage of workers in the not too distant future.

•    Third, as a nation, we experience unacceptably high dropout rates. Almost one-third of ninth graders do not complete high school in four years – and in many urban areas the number increases to one-half.  That’s more than 1.2 million students a year – and according to the National Commission on Adult Literacy, the United States is the only nation among 30 free-market democracies where a lower percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds have received high school diplomas than 45- to 54-year-olds. And high school dropout rates are particularly alarming for African American, Hispanic and Native American young people – with only 50 percent of 9th graders graduating on time.

•    Fourth, new entrants to the workplace are not prepared. Corporate Voices and three partner organizations in 2006 surveyed more than 400 employers on a broad range of workforce readiness issues involving young people. And we issued a report, “Are The Really Ready To Work?” The answer, quite simply, is no. Employers tell us that 42 percent of high school graduates lack the skills they need to make a successful transition to the workplace of the 21st century. And even among recent college graduates, employers said only 24 percent had an excellent grasp of basic knowledge and applied skills. And while a college degree is not a requirement for successful entry into the workforce, employers do project that they will hire more new employees with a college degree and fewer with only a high school diploma.

Folks, we are going to have to do better. Otherwise, we put at risk the ability of young people to improve their standard of living over the course of a working lifetime — and we put at risk the competitiveness of American businesses and the very future of our democracy.

So what are the candidates — Obama and McCain — saying about education? Well, not much — at least publicly. So I went to their campaign websites.

Here’s the link to the Obama site.

Here’s the link to the McCain site. Oops, that’s mccain.com — apparently a Canadian company that manufactures frozen food products. (No wonder John McCain is behind in the polls.)

Here’s the link to the John McCain for president website.

Full disclosure: I’ve already voted for Barack Obama. But this is the first time I have gone to either his website or John McCain’s.

I’m convinced Obama has a more specific and better plan to strengthen our country by strengthening education.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you why.

Kent State and the Golden Buckeye

When you write like I do about really serious issues — the financial meltdown, the lack of integrity of many business and political leaders, the pathetic early season performance of the Cleveland Indians, etc. — it’s difficult not to become a little cynical about things. You know. It’s not just that the glass is always half-empty. It’s that some asshole is drinking out of your glass while you’re not looking.

Well, my faith in the greatness of this nation was restored yesterday during a visit to Kent State.

I’m helping the Wick Poetry Center with its celebration plans and communications during this its 25th anniversary year. And I’m even posting regularly on another blog — one designed to spotlight the Wick Poetry Center and serve as a resource for poets and other writers.

After finishing our noontime meeting, I headed back to get my car at the Student Center. When you are no longer a member of the faculty, you quickly learn that the most important benefit of teaching is not tenure, but a parking pass. So I headed to the exit with my parking ticket and folding green in hand.

But wait. A sign below the window on the toll booth (or whatever it is called) proudly proclaimed: We honor Golden Buckeye Cards.

Say what? OK. Another life-defining moment. Do I or don’t I? I caved — and handed my Golden Buckeye Card to the parking attendant.

The gate magically swung up. I was free to go. No charge. All I could do was wave at the attendant — and snicker at the guy in the car next to me who was calmly giving up several of his hard-earned dollars.

Jimmy Carter’s right. Life isn’t fair.

And clearly this is a great country where someone like me can park free on a college campus. While students who are for the most part working or borrowing money to attend classes have to pay.

Note to Obama. Don’t even think about putting pressure on Strickland and his pals in Columbus to get rid of the Golden Buckeye. You can only take this notion of redistributing wealth so far.

The crisis facing all of us: education

“Tip” O’Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said it best: “All politics is local.” Maybe that’s why there is so little attention being paid to the crisis in education during this presidential campaign. And that’s a shame. The crisis in education involves our young people, the viability of American businesses and the very future of our democracy.

Wow. I guess the absurdity of debating whether or not we are drifting toward socialism after we have just nationalized the banks and Wall Street (and with the auto industry lined up at the public bailout trough) provides more compelling fodder for the TV talking heads. But folks. The issue should be education.

And it is getting some attention — locally. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, is now tackling the very serious problem of high school dropouts. Some are even going door to door “personally encouraging students to stay in the game for their own good — and for the sake of the city.”

Consider this. Research sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group and a partner of Corporate Voices for Working Families, shows that in the nation’s 50 largest cities, the graduation rate is just 52 percent. In the time it took me to write this — about 40 minutes — about 300 teenagers will have dropped out of high school, never to return. That’s on average 7,000 each and every day.

This has implications for young people who will struggle to find and hold jobs and who will forfeit as much as $300,000 over the course of a working lifetime. It has implications for businesses that will need at some point to replace the someday-to-be-retired baby boomer generation. And it has implications for our democracy where we rely on informed decisions and citizen involvement.

These are the issues McCain and Obama should be addressing.

If not, then we are going to have to hope that “Tip” O’Neill was right and that the solution to the education crisis — like politics — is local.

What would Warren Buffett say?

Well, Warren Buffett had plenty to say in an op-ed article in The New York Times Friday, “Buy American. I am.” I was thinking about what he had to say while running over the weekend and again on this chilly fall morning. I also read over the weekend Words That Work, a best-selling book by Dr. Frank Luntz.

Luntz’s book won’t change your life. But for communications professionals it contains some points that most of us know but that our clients and employers rarely let us apply in practice: simplicity matters, use short sentences, credibility is as important as philosophy, consistency matters, on and on. And for those not toiling in the communications vineyard, Luntz shows up regularly these days on talk shows, explaining how important it is to use words to frame political issues. Say international trade, not foreign trade. Say exploring for oil. Not drilling for oil. You get the idea.

Anyway, that’s a gross oversimplification of a thoughtful and insightful book. And his point is this. “It’s not what you say, it’s what other people here.”

That gets me back to Warren Buffett. And George Bush. And Colin Powell.

Buffett may be the world’s most successful investor and business manager. He talks and writes simply and with a considerable measure of common sense. At the same time he has credibility. When he says something, people listen. Here’s what he has to say about the current financial debacle.

The financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.

So … I’ve been buying American stocks. This is my personal account I’m talking about, in which I previously owned nothing but United States government bonds. (This description leaves aside my Berkshire Hathaway holdings, which are all committed to philanthropy.) If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.

Why?

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.

I have no idea whether Buffett is right or wrong. Time will tell. But it is certainly the most positive and reassuring statement that I have heard in a month. And we’ve had plenty of others attempt to be reassuring, including members of Congress, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and George Bush.  Without credibility and believability, Luntz has it right: “It’s now what you say, it’s what people hear.”

Take George Bush.

Just about every time he talks about the economy or the stock market things get worse. Here’s from an article by Richard Wolf in USA Today.

WASHINGTON — President Bush cautioned business leaders Friday not to expect instant results from the government’s “extraordinary response” to the worst financial crisis in more than a half century.

“It took a while for the credit system to freeze up,” Bush told about 300 business representatives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters. “It’s going to take a while for the credit system to thaw.”

That was apparent soon after Bush finished his remarks, as the Dow Jones industrial average took another sharp nosedive in early trading. The dip followed by two days a staggering 733-point drop, wedged between equally volatile gains.

Bush spoke as the financial meltdown on Wall Street threatened to envelop Main Street with rising unemployment and declining consumer spending. Most economists now expect a full-fledged recession carrying into next year. The president’s remarks, as always, were intended to help restore confidence in a gradual recovery.

Bush has given pep talks about the economy almost daily since mid-September, when his administration first warned Congress about its imminent collapse. On most days, his words have done little to calm the markets, and Friday was no exception.

I heard the Prez today, oh boy. Sell. Sell. Wait, I digress.

And just so you don’t think it is just me, here’s Gail Collins writing in The New York Times Saturday.

Now is the October of our discontent.

First of all, George W. Bush showed up on TV Friday morning to reassure the nation. What could possibly be worse?

Everybody knows that anything our president says is very likely wrong, and certainly won’t happen. If he announced: “I’m sending government agents to Spokane to arrest the looters,” we would expect that the officials would get lost, nobody would be arrested, and the looters probably never existed in the first place.

So hearts sunk throughout the nation when Bush appeared at a Chamber of Commerce gathering to say that the economy would recover.

“America is the most attractive destination for investors around the globe. America is the home of the most talented and enterprising and creative workers in the world,” said the president, who also insisted that “democratic capitalism remains the greatest system ever devised.”

Which translates into: all the money is going to Asia, nobody will ever get a job again and Karl Marx was right after all.

Bummer.

Bummer — to say the least. Note to W. Give us a break and just go mountain biking until Jan. 20. Our economy — and retirements — may depend on it. Luntz again: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

And then there is Colin Powell. His endorsement of Barack Obama yesterday was dramatic enough (apparently) to push Joe the Plumber off the front page and airwaves. For me, Powell used to have a lot of credibility. Once upon a time, in 2003, he went before the United Nations as our Secretary of State. He indicated the world was at risk because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And I thought wow. Bush, Cheney and the other neocoms, nah. But Powell. Must be true. Go get ‘em guys.

So either Powell was duped — or he was complicit. Either way, what he says now about Obama or anything else doesn’t have quite the luster.

As Frank Luntz might put it: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe

Well, it’s all about Joe the Plumber. All day. All night. Up close and personal. Wonder what happened to Iraq, education, Social Security, Medicare, on and on? I was thinking about that while running this morning. Remind me to never ask a candidate a question.

I understand why Joe is news — at least during this 24-hour cycle. His name came up more than 20 times during the presidential debate. But I wonder if reporters are the least bit embarrassed about camping out in his driveway and fighting over each other to get his opinion on various issues. What a hoot. Better the talking heads had spent their time in journalism school studying public relations. At least they could have pursued honorable work.

And apparently news organizations have staff and resources to rush to the home of Joe the Plumber. Yet these days, according to Howard Kurtz, only five newspapers — The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — have reporters regularly traveling with the McCain and Obama campaigns. Oh boy.

Here’s a typical broadcast, from the CBS Morning News:

Amazing that Joe the Plumber can push Britney Spears off the front page.

Then McCain shows up on David Letterman’s show last night — with apologies all around. First to Letterman for standing him up in a previous broadcast. And then to Joe the Plumber. Here’s from Politico, “McCain to Letterman: ‘I screwed up'”:

McCain also apologized to Joe the Plumber, the undecided voter the Arizona Senator mentioned in last night’s debate who’s become an overnight media sensation. “Joe, if you’re watching, I’m sorry,” said McCain, who called average Americans, like Joe, the “victims of a drive-by shooting by Washington and Wall Street.”

As those who read this blog regularly know, there is no possible way that I could ever stay up late enough to watch Letterman. So I’m not certain about the context of the “victims of a drive-by shooting by Washington and Wall Street.”

Does McCain think it’s rediculous that Joe the Plumber has received so much media scrutiny that he now has to deal with the fact that he is not a licensed plumber, not a member of the plumber’s union and owes more than a $1,000 in back taxes?

Or does McCain mean that it’s a shame that the policies and decisions of the Bush administration have made it virtually impossible for Joe the Plumber to buy a business, own a home and save enough to send his children to college and someday retire from the plumbing business?

Joe probably won’t remain in the spotlight long enough for us to find out.

Unless he tells all in a forthcoming book. Gets his own radio talk show. Or when he runs for Congress in the 2010 elections.