... Running with thinly-sourced or unconfirmed allegations about Wurzelbacher's personal life--his financial records, his license situation, his marriage--goes too far. Wurzelbacher doesn't seem particularly skittish about speaking his mind or getting attention for it. But there's no way he could be prepared for the kind of scrutiny that comes with being the political world's most famous talking point.
As a result, writers should allow Wurzelbacher a bit more privacy than they would the typical public figure. And when printing anything that touches on his personal life, even remotely, they should be sure to confirm it first. So far, it seems, writers haven't always done that.
One reason I feel strongly about this is that I've seen it all happen before. As you may recall, back in 2007, a young boy from Baltimore named Graeme Frost was tapped to give the Democrats' weekly radio address. Congress was in the middle of debating whether to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Frost, who relied upon the program to cover ongoing medical treatments from a severe car accident, used his story to argue for the program's growth.
Within days, though, right-wing bloggers started digging into the Frost family story in order to prove he didn't really need S-CHIP. To make their point, they published "revelations" based on hearsay, hasty public records searches, or mere suspicion. The Frosts had new marble countertops in their kitchen! They had enrolled their kids in one of Baltimore's toniest private schools! They could have bought insurance if they wanted it!
And yes, to echo Tyler Cowen, in an ideal world this whole controversy would prompt politicians to stand up against the mandatory licensing of plumbers - and of quite a few other occupations as well. (Cutting down on licensing requirements is one of the many small-bore notions we float in Grand New Party, and one of the least likely to be realized.)
Update: My apologies to both Jons for the mix-up.