Republicans' friends on the airwaves reduced to powerless spluttering


The McCain campaign is now relying on Joe the Plumber and conspiracy theories, writes Kevin Cullen

THE LAST half of the last month of this interminable campaign has started to resemble the second half of last month's All-Ireland hurling final, in that the only thing in question is the margin of victory.

As John McCain tries to prove the pollsters wrong, his campaign has been pretty much reduced to this: Joe the Plumber and conspiracy theories.

It turns out that Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes of fame have turned into something much longer, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has had a plumber come to their house: watch him work for all of 15 minutes, then get a bill for a full hour.

Joe the Plumber appeared on any and every right-wing radio and TV programme in America last week. His grasp of economics isn't exactly Keynesian, but the McCainites have come to regard Joe's plain-speakin' critique of Obama the Great Redistributor of Wealth as their last best chance.

This, in itself, is the first clear sign that this race is good and truly over.

The second sign was the depths to which the right-wing ideologues on radio and TV have sunk in their desperation and utter despair over the fact that a sizeable majority of Americans do not regard Obama as the anti-Christ.

Besides Joe the Plumber, the other guy in great demand on Fox and the radio airwaves was a lawyer named Philip Berg.

Berg claims Barack Obama cannot be president because he wasn't born in the US. Now, every official record in existence indicates that Barack Obama was born 47 years ago in Hawaii, which was then and still remains part of the US.

The right-wingers have screamed themselves hoarse pointing out that Mr Berg is a Democrat and feels so strongly about his accusation that he has filed a lawsuit stating his claim in a federal court. They have been less anxious to point out that party affiliation has little to do with being a loon and that you can walk into any court in America and, as long as you're willing to pay the fees, file suit claiming to be Marie Antoinette or the Man on the Moon. It's, like, a free country, dude.

Even in Boston, the capital of the bluest state in the union, all the talk radio hosts were foaming at the mouth, expressing utter disbelief that Americans don't know or don't care that Obama is a foreigner and thus barred by the constitution from serving as president.

This comes after weeks of foaming at the mouth in utter disbelief that most Americans couldn't give a toss that Obama is friendly with a one-time violent radical named Bill Ayers and months after much foam was spewed over the Rev Jeremiah Wright. These talk radio guys have more foam than an airport fire brigade.

One caller suggested the real cover-up is not that Obama is an illegal alien, but that he is a real alien, as in right-off-a-spaceship alien. To be honest, I always suspected Obama's ears looked a little extra-terrestrial - and last week he mentioned that he needed to "phone home". It's all making sense now.

Joe the Plumber's ubiquity has become slightly disturbing. There's talk of him running for Congress. If McCain gets elected, he might make Joe the secretary of state. I can see it now, Joe sitting down to lunch at Iveagh House with the minister for foreign affairs on his first official visit to Ireland.

"So, Mee-hawl, tell me," drawls Joe, "what size pipe do you Paddies use in the jax?"

If the polls are accurate, though, Joe the Plumber's future employment seems more likely as a cast member of Survivoror, if he really wants to stretch, the US version of Strictly Come Dancing.

As if the polls weren't bad enough, the biggest newspaper in Alaska endorsed Obama, snubbing their own governor, Tina Fey.

The McCain crowd had to spend considerable time downplaying the prospect of Republicans, even former Bush administration officials, publicly endorsing Obama.

When Colin Powell backed Obama, with an eloquence that escaped him when he repeated Bush's lies before the United Nations five years ago, Rush Limbaugh did on his radio show what comes natural: he played the race card, saying Powell was just tryin' to help a brother out.

It was harder to explain away Scott McClellan, who, as White House press secretary, spent a good many years lying for - um, strike that - speaking for President Bush. Laura Ingraham, a former Reagan speechwriter and syndicated radio talk show host, dismissed McClellan as a liberal in disguise.

"Scott McClellan was always friends with those in the elite media," said Ingraham, who makes millions of dollars a year by talking a few hours a day but clearly doesn't count herself among those snobby media elites.

Obama played all this like a boxer who is so far ahead on points that all he wants to do is stay away from the centre of the ring so his opponent can't land a lucky knockout punch. In fact, Obama stepped out of the ring.

He left the continent and flew to Hawaii, he claimed, to visit his ailing grandma.

But it's obvious he really went there so he could make more copies of his phoney birth certificate and put more camouflage on that spaceship, lest anyone stumble across it in its tropical hiding spot.

Entering the home stretch, Obama has a huge advantage when it comes to paid TV advertising.

Ah, the irony. We've spent all this time talking about Obama being black, and when it comes to media this final week, it's all about him having more green.

• Kevin Cullen is a columnist for the Boston Globe.