A lot of people gambled on the stock market this last year and lost. But I’ll bet that this evening quite a few people gambled on Joe the Plumber and won big. I’m referring, of course, to the drinking game that John McCain graciously invited an entire nation to join during tonight’s presidential debate, with practically the first words out of his mouth.
You have to hand it to the senator from Arizona. He knew the race was lost, the jig was up, the White House forever out of reach (unless, of course, the nice folks at Diebold come through for him after all). And so, despairing of winning this debate on the merits, he had an inspiration: Why not just use his valuable time in the national spotlight to create yet another drinking game? People have been getting tired of the Maverick drinking game – been there, done that. But here was something new entirely!
All across America this evening the economy got a boost in countless thousands of bars, throughout every state of this great nation, from drink orders alone. People knew, without needing to be told, from the very first time he uttered the fateful words “Joe the Plumber”, that Senator McCain was going to use that phrase over and over and over again, as a kind of cosmic placeholder, a Mantra, a reminder to all who are in the know that we have not gathered here to engage in mere issues – no, nothing as trivial as that.
Obama, oblivious to the meta-level upon which John McCain operates, was discussing mere facts – like the fact that the $5000 you’ll get fror insurance under McCain’s policy (which is actually a brilliant mechanism to dismantle, once and for all, the entire pesky system of employer-paid insurance benefits) will actually cost you an average of $12000.
But McCain was working on an entirely more fascinating plane. He was actually proposing (while cleverly pretending to look like a complete moron by claiming to link Obama to Bill Ayers – that darling of the Annenbergs, right-wing financial backers of Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms) to invent a bold new drinking game, one that would put the “Maverick” game to shame.
In the bar where I saw the debates, many rose to the challenge, but few were up to it. Every time McCain uttered those fateful words “Joe the Plumber” another round of drinks was ordered. And another. And another.
Many hapless souls – so confident when the debate started that they could keep up – had passed out by the time the debate ended, dead drunk, lost to the world, sprawled limp and unconscious across chairs and bar stools, looking for all the world like a MeetUp group for narcoleptics.
Sometimes McCain would try to vary things, do a sort of change-up. Like the brilliant moment when he suggested that anybody coming out of the military should have the right to get a job as a school teacher without having to take those annoying examinations that everyone else needs to take.
Note: Those of you who didn’t see the debate will think I made up the stuff in that previous sentence. But actually that is exactly what he proposed. Frankly I wouldn’t have the audacity to make up something as crazy as that.
And so, while Obama talked about all those boring ideas like investing in America, making sure everyone has adequate health insurance, getting K-12 education back on track, lowering our dependency on foreign credit and foreign oil, McCain was boldly challenging the citizens of America to a drinking game, one far more challenging than any drinking game they had ever played before.
But after watching the shock and awe of McCain’s decidedly unusual gambit tonight, I am left with one question, a question that has been nagging at me ever since the debate ended: What about all those people who, trusting in John McCain, opted to play the “Joe the Plumber” drinking game, and ended up dying of alcohol poisoning? Can their families sue him for wrongful death?