Liberal snobbery was on the warpath on the Times' op-ed page Sunday, as guest columnist (and former reporter) Timothy Egan pronounced Joel Wurzelbacher (aka Joe the Plumber) unworthy of publishing a book, fixing a toilet, or even citizenship, in "Typing Without a Clue," on Joe the Plumber's upcoming book.
The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?I didn't think so. And I don't want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor's gate.
Joe, a k a Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, was no good as a citizen, having failed to pay his full share of taxes, no good as a plumber, not being fully credentialed, and not even any good as a faux American icon. Who could forget poor John McCain at his most befuddled, calling out for his working-class surrogate on a day when Joe stiffed him.
With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion.
This is Egan unmasked - note the snobbish liberal obsession with credentialism. If you need a license to fix a leaky toilet, then does Egan need a license to write for the Times? Egan, incidentally, is the author of several earnest books on worthy-sounding topics like the New West and the Great Depression that probably weren't big best-sellers.
There's his obligatory crack at Sarah Palin, who somehow managed to become governor of Alaska despite being totally incoherent.
Next up may be Sarah Palin, who is said to be worth nearly $7 million if she can place her thoughts between covers. Publishers: with all the grim news of layoffs and staff cuts at the venerable houses of American letters, can we set some ground rules for these hard times? Anyone who abuses the English language on such a regular basis should not be paid to put words in print.
Obama's vice president Joe Biden is not very coherent himself (and his 1988 plagiarism scandal suggests that any coherent piece of Biden's writing should be examined closely) but that didn't make Biden's 2007 campaign book "Promises to Keep" useless in Egan's eyes.
Egan praised Barack Obama the writer, who apparently qualifies as a worthwhilescribe solely on his ethnic heritage, ratherthan any actual accomplishment.
Our next president is a writer, which may do something to elevate standards in the book industry. The last time a true writer occupied the White House was a hundred years ago, with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote 13 books before his 40th birthday.
Barack Obama's first book, the memoir of a mixed-race man, is terrific. Outside of a few speeches, he will probably not write anything memorable until he's out office, but I look forward to that presidential memoir.