Monday, February 11, 2008

No, you can't

Okay, another one.

This Yes, You Can parody isn't as drop-dead funny as the one downthread, but it's good.

However, the main reason I am posting it is because it refers directly to a statement from McCain that I critiqued here almost two years ago. On April 4th, 2006, McCain was speaking to a group of unionized tradesmen when he received a question about illegal immigration. His answer, a condescending attack on his audience's work ethic, demonstrated a political tone deafness that I found surprising.

    Not content merely to sacrifice his dignity to the religious right, presidential hopeful John McCain took his Straight Talk Distress routine to a new low: insulting the work ethic of unionized American tradesmen.

    A speech Tuesday to the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department was punctuated by boos from the crowd. McCain succeeded in laughing off most of jeering.

    But, he stumbled onto rocky ground during the Q & A when he tried to put the hot-button issue of immigration into context with one of the standard GOP talking points.

    The first questioner seemed to challenge his commitment to organized labor. When McCain started to praise a particular labor group in Arizona, the crowd booed again.

    "Stop!" he said with a smile, drawing laughter from the crowd. "I surrender."

    But he took more questions, including a pointed one on his immigration plan.

    McCain responded by saying immigrants were taking jobs nobody else wanted. He offered anybody in the crowd $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona.

    Shouts of protest rose from the crowd, with some accepting McCain's job offer.

    "I'll take it!" one man shouted.

    McCain insisted none of them would do such menial labor for a complete season. "You can't do it, my friends."

    Some in the crowd said they didn't appreciate McCain questioning their work ethic.

    "I was impressed with his comedy routine and ability to tap dance without music. But I was impressed with nothing else about him," said John Wasniewski of Milwaukee. "He's supposed to be Mr. Straight Talk?"
    It might behoove one of McCain's advisors to tell him it isn't a good idea to develop a reputation as someone who is hostile to American workers. That's a bit more counter-intuitive than a man seeking the oval office can afford to be. Condescension doesn't play well in union halls.

    As corporate-minded as Bush is, he pretends at least to care about the plight of working people. It's all lies, but it got him elected twice to the White House.

    McCain should hire a speechwriter who can give him some sweet-sounding, if content-free, rhetoric about how much he loves and appreciates the hard-working men and women who built this country with the skill of the their hands and the sweat of their brow, or somesuch. It won't convince the vast majority of skilled laborers that he really has their best interests at heart, but at least it might keep a significant number of them from hating his guts and working actively for his defeat.

    And, one more point about picking lettuce. McCain wanted to know if anyone in the crowd would do it for $50 an hour. Does McCain even know how much money that is? I would pick lettuce for 50 bucks an hour. I would pick fleas out of a baboon's fur for 50 bucks an hour. Could he sound more clueless?

    So far, between debasing himself to curry favor with the religious right and alienating organized labor, "presidential hopeful" John McCain is starting to look more like "presidential hopeless.
I don't remember the 50-bucks-to-pick-lettuce blunder generating much controversy at the time. It's nice to see it reappear. It deserves another look.