Who can fault him for trying?
He's Joe the Plumber, not Joe the foreign policy adviser. He gave it his best shot yesterday. And some would say his initial outing in answering foreign policy questions was better than Sarah Palin's inaugural attempt.
How'd this happen?
How did Joe the Plumber begin dispensing foreign policy advice?
Simple. There was a "Joe the Plumber" bus tour yesterday in Ohio. Joe the Plumber (aka Joe Wurzelbacher) teamed up with Congressman Rob Portman (who was allegedly on McCain's VP short list) and they went to five different towns in Ohio stumping for the Republican nominee.
On the first leg of the five-town "Joe the Plumber World Invasion" tour, Wurzelbacher ran into a supporter who asked Joe if he believed, "a vote for Barack Obama means death to Israel."
Wurzelbacher doesn't have handlers. Many would say, especially Palin supporters, that gives him an advantage.
So instead of practicing the age-old political maneuver of not answering the question, but answering what you want to talk about -- he replied to it.
"I'll go ahead and agree with you on that," he said.
Joe makes news
This of course made news. Wurzelbacher isn't an official spokesman for the McCain campaign, but in stumping for McCain he's kind of one.
And "a vote for Obama means death to Israel" is not a McCain talking point (we checked on his web site).
Joe on FOX
Shepherd Smith over at Fox News had Wurzelbacher on the air after he made the ominous comment. A very clumsy exchange ensued with Wurzelbacher seeming to be stumped with his own statement, putting up, at one point, the equivalent of a white flag.
"Listen, you don’t want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough probably to be dangerous," he said.
"Yeah, well that’s what I was kinda wondering," Smith replied.
What say Joe?
Where was Wurzelbacher going?
He was just articulating (poorly) a McCain position that Barack Obama is too inexperienced to become President. McCain often says that Obama's statement that he would meet with even rogue leaders without precondition is testament to his naivete.
McCain versus Obama
There is a continuous volley between the candidates on this issue. Like in the first debate:
McCain: Senator Obama twice said in debates he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Without precondition. Here is Ahmadinejad, who is now in New York, talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, of wiping Israel off the map, and we're going to sit down, without precondition, across the table, to legitimize and give a propaganda platform to a person that is espousing the extermination of the state of Israel, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying, they've probably been doing the right thing, because you will sit down across the table from them and that will legitimize their illegal behavior.
Obama: Now, understand what this means "without preconditions." It doesn't mean that you invite them over for tea one day. What it means is that we don't do what we've been doing, which is to say, "Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won't have direct contacts with you." There's a difference between preconditions and preparation. Of course we've got to do preparations, starting with low-level diplomatic talks, and it may not work, because Iran is a rogue regime.
So Wurzelbacher gave it a shot. It's not easy to ad-lib about foreign policy on the campaign trail. The McCain team even backed him up a bit by emailing a supportive statement to Fox News:
"While he’s clearly his own man, so far Joe has offered some penetrating and clear analysis that cuts to the core of many of the concerns that people have with Barack Obama’s statements and policies. Whether its Obama's willingness to sit down unconditionally with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or his plans to redistribute the paychecks of hardworking Americans, there is good reason to question the judgment that Obama would bring to the Oval Office."
So, there you go, Joe. While not Colin Powell or Warren Christopher, Wurzelbacher survived the day on the campaign trail. And although he will probably not answer questions on foreign policy in future stops, give him credit for trying.