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An interview with Joe the Plumber

Published: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Updated: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 07:11

John McCain and Man


Every presidential election has distinct images and words that come to people's minds when they reminisce. In 1960, it was the New Frontier. In 1980, it was Morning Again in America. In 2008, it was Joe the Plumber.

On a warm October afternoon, Joe asked Sen. Obama if his tax plan would cost him more and whether it would conflict with the American dream. Obama responded, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." Joe quickly became a hero among conservatives for his courage and his honesty. In the third presidential debate, Joe the Plumber was mentioned 26 times, while the economy was mentioned 16 times and Iraq just 6 times. For the remainder of the campaign, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin represented themselves as the party of average people like Joe the Plumber. I shared a very nice phone conversation with Joe, during which he elaborated on his opinions.

Question: There has been some confusion amongst the media with regards to your name and occupation. Could you provide some clarification?

Answer: All right. Well, my name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. I go by [my] middle name Joseph and shorten it to Joe and have gone by that since I was born and have always been called Joe. With regards to my occupation, I was a plumber in the military for the United States Air Force. I used to teach plumbing in the military. A lot of times the licenses that are obtained in the military world do not transfer over into the civilian world.

There is also a little bit more to the story. I have a son who is 13 and have made sure that he was my number-one priority. Wherever my ex-wife traveled, I moved in order to be closer to my son. On my last move, I moved with my ex-wife from the state of Arizona to Ohio so my son and I could be together. I attended [plumbing] school for three-and-a-half years when the school went out of business. I had enough on-the-job training as far as time and service to master as a plumber … So I am a plumber. Am I licensed in the state of Ohio as a plumber? Absolutely not. I have tried to clear that up on a lot of radio and television stations.

Q: Could you please explain and elaborate on your encounter with Sen. Obama?

A: My son and I were playing football in the streets. All of a sudden, a crowd rushed by on the street. This was weird because usually you do not see that in the neighborhood. My son and his friend went to see what was going on and exclaimed that Barack Obama was here. I thought to myself that that was kind of cool. I had my mind made up for the most part [on] who I was voting for, but I still thought it was pretty amazing that Sen. Obama would come door to door talking to people.

As he started getting closer and closer to our house, I went over to my neighbor's house to hear him. I heard some of the questions being asked. I am thinking that the questions being asked were quite silly. I thought what me and my friends had talked about actually asking a politician, and making him answer straightly; usually they have a problem with doing so. A week prior to this happening, my boss and I talked about me taking over the business, and what it would require for me to make that happen. Essentially, that is why that question was at the forefront of my mind. I went up to him and yelled, "Barack." He looked and acknowledged me, and the crowd quickly parted for me. Immediately, I questioned him.

Q: Why do you and so many other Americans find the words "spread the wealth around" so troubling?

A: Well, I am fairly well read and have read Karl Marx's work, and spread the wealth around is something that he mentions quite often. If you look up the word [socialism] in [Webster's] Dictionary, the definition may not mention "spread the wealth," but community work and sharing of goods all plays into it. Obama's health-care plan is a very socialist experiment. [Obama's plans] all revolve around socialism, and that's what scares me about it.

Q: How did you feel when you became such an important factor in the final presidential debate and the campaign as a whole?

A: Initially, I thought it was completely absurd. I was glad that I could be used as a focal point to possibly bandy around some ideas, and maybe people would open their eyes to Obama's socialist ideology. However, there were so many important issues to be discussed other than the "Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber." [The debate] was absolutely ridiculous. After a while, I actually got tired of it. Not so much the "Joe the Plumber" I am tired of, but there are other issues that need to be discussed.

Q: To many Americans, you have become a symbol. What is it that you think that you represent?

A: Until I started receiving letters and phone calls, I did not try to represent anything. I am a lower-middle-class average guy who happens to have some common sense and wants a straight answer once in a while instead of a dissertation for an answer that when you're done listening to it you're wondering what the first word was. People identify with the fact that I give straight answers and ask for straight answers.

Q: You had the opportunity to campaign with Sen. John McCain in different areas of Ohio. What is your opinion with regards to Mr. McCain?

A: This is a tough question. [The McCain campaign] is trying to throw Sarah Palin under the bus. They are trying to allude to the fact that she is the reason that John McCain might have lost this election. That does not sit well with me. John McCain has not come out and said that Sarah Palin is an honorable woman and has not protected her. In terms of my opinion, he has my respect for being a war hero, and I told him that personally, but you got to get along to go along or go along to get along. Washington has been ingrained with that mentality.

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Wed Dec 17 2008 17:18
This is hilarious. Dude should go into standup, if you ask me. Why limit this kind of comic genius to a book and the odd interview here and there?
Wed Dec 10 2008 12:07
still not working?
Tue Dec 9 2008 14:38
Tue Dec 9 2008 14:04
Ms Vicki states: "Any information on Joe was conducted illegally and by a democrat! Go figure."
Ms Vicki, you are quite mistaken about this. Most of the negative information about Joe's brushes with the law in the states of Ohio and Arizona, including a bench warrant being issued for his arrest for failing to appear in court on one of his own cases, are available to anyone on the Internet who knows how to type in his name, for example at:
Tue Dec 9 2008 14:02
Are comments no longer being accepted here? I post and they don't appear.
Lifelong Republican
Mon Dec 8 2008 19:19
I said: "Our party will not be successful until we go back to using intelligent leaders and intelligent folk heroes to state our cause. Not people like this Joe, an opportunist at best."

to which Ms Vicki said: "Are you sure your a republician (sic)? You truely (sic) sound like a Dem!"

This is a very revealing comment. Is this what our Republican Party has come down to - if you make suggestions as to how to improve our Republican Party and you criticize its present course, then you must be a Democrat? No wonder I am worried about the party! With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Sat Dec 6 2008 13:52
Dear Lifelong Republician!!!!
Are you sure your a republician? You truely sound like a Dem! And I don't believe you really care about the our youth it was a way to get a dig in.. Any information on Joe was conducted illegally and by a democrat! Go figure. If you don't have anything nice to say I suggest you not visit this sight! This is a positive thing going on here and I wish for it to remain that way Dear Mr or Mrs NO name! You need God in your life!
You go Joe!
Sat Nov 29 2008 04:44
One thing's good about Joe the Plumber: despite what you may think of him and his intelligence, I think he might actually cause some good, intelligent discussion about issues that actually matter.

As for the comment from the lifelong Republican, well, what the Republicans need is to actually stop being fake conservatives who waste so much tax money on so many unnecessary things that expand the size and power of government. Like the unconstitutional war in Iraq, for one thing. Now, they have the opportunity to actually bring back meaning to the word "conservative" and stop the Obama-supported bailouts... if they do it, perhaps the Republican Party will live. If they don't, it would be better for the party to just disappear and give way to one that's actually still conservative like the Libertarian Party.

Thu Nov 27 2008 16:54
As a lifelong Republican, I have read and studied everything that Joe has said and I regret to conclude that he is a very poor example for our party. Up until the election of Bush, Jr. our party nominated and elected intelligent people who knew what they were talking about and what they were doing. But now, after Bush was in office, we as a party to ridicule the members of our party who are intelligent and instead make heroes out of people like Joe, who clearly does not understand the difference between gross revenue and net taxable income; who doesn't understand how the income tax works even though it was designed by TR, a great Republican President and reformist who believed in capitalism and was certainly no socialist.

In addition, Joe is a very poor example for our young people, with his tax non-payments, his excuses about being unlicensed, his delinquency in supporting his son, etc. Once he made himself a public figure, all that information was bound to come out, especially after he said he was going to run for congress. Nobody forced him to go on television and out on the campaign trail. He should be embarrassed instead of whining about it.

Our party will not be successful until we go back to using intelligent leaders and intelligent folk heroes to state our cause. Not people like this Joe, an opportunist at best.

Mad in Oregon
Sun Nov 23 2008 16:48
Good interview of a wonderful man- what a breath of fresh air! Agree that it is scary and disgusting for the officials in Ohio to use their positions illegally: this is an abuse of our democracy that has to be stopped before it escalates. Even if I were a Democrat, I'd be upset. We should stay focused on this until the people who did these illegal searches are fired and prosecuted. Thank you Joe, for what you are doing for our country.
Sun Nov 23 2008 14:59
FreddyP - --

Does Joe make you defensive and angry?

Why is that, FreddyP?

Sun Nov 23 2008 14:48
EO ---

Wow. Comparing apples to apples isn't in your grasp.

School work and the reward for the work towards achievement in school work.

So, say the infantryman works hard, performs well, and the slacker baggage they need to drag around in their unit gets promoted.

Or, the performing teacher sacrifices themselves and advances the learning abilities of their students, and the under-performer gets to slide by protected by the Teacher's Union.

Think, EO, think. If your head hurts, don't stop trying, just take an aspirin.

Fri Nov 21 2008 23:33
get a clue posted: "He has put himself out there now. He has put himself in the public eye. He could have said no to interviews and it would have ended."

So he should have kept his mouth shut after Obama came and knocked on Joe's door? The fact is that the "investigations" into his personal, professional and financial life had nothing to do with the issues he raised, but everything to do with intimidation. This is the "hope" and "change" that I fear we'll see for the next 4-8 years under an Obama-Biden administration. Indeed, we saw stuff like that under the Clinton-Gore administration, and I'll bet we'll see it under any Democrat administration that ever occupies the White House in the future.

get a clue
Fri Nov 21 2008 13:36
Your right, all the dirt digging was wrong to begin with. But it happened. The symbol of JTP is real and his rights were violated-but it is the wrong man for that symbol. He has put himself out there now. He has put himself in the public eye. He could have said no to interviews and it would have ended. He is the one continuing the game. If people are going to support someone shouldnt they know the truth, like he is saying. He is pretending to be something he is not. For people to support that, is crazy. Find the answers. Just believe what someone says- with how the world is today. Liars, and people are out for themselves,money hungry, he is just another one like that.
Fri Nov 21 2008 10:39
I find it very interesting that because he asked a direct question, Joe has been the subject of a multitude of investigations. Even to the point of an elected official using the taxpayers time and equipment for the sole purpose of discrediting him. Doesn't that frighten you? He asked a straighforward question and was given an unrehearsed answer. So the 'Big Brother' machine is ground into motion. Don't you think it strange that such intense efforts have been employed to 'dig up' some dirt on him. ? Joe's civil rights have been violated and the ACLU isn't jumping to his aid. Doesn't that infuriate you? And.............. who's to say YOU won't be next? We need Joe and more people like him. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK JOE and Thank you.
Thu Nov 20 2008 18:31
Liar-Most Americans that is a joke. JTP no license-owes back taxes-claims to want nothing to do with the media, but is all over the place-married-not divorced-Welfare-Wife beater-Writing a book about values(these are not positive values)-Giving this person air time-Let this person educate people. It is a shame that people are listening to someone like that.
Ginethea McDowell
Thu Nov 20 2008 17:55
What should Joe have read to have been more accurate in his opinion? Joe seems to be what he says he is, average middle, lower middle economic American. He loves America, his family (son), and the promises of "We the people in order to form a more perfect union...". He wants to work and be paid for his work. He wants to have limited taxes taken from him, as do we all. He wants to keep his freedoms and his rights as per the "Bill of Rights". He wants to not make alliances with bad apple nations. He wants to be free to express his opinions without penalty. Why can't people say, "I disagree with you and here is why", rather than attacking another persons character, intelligence, way of life or whatever?
Jerry The Licensed Union-Dues Paying Plumber
Thu Nov 20 2008 11:47
Joe may have read Marx (probably the "Communist Manifesto" a tiny little pamphlet) but it seems he never read Adam Smith. The part of "communism" (a political system) and socialism ( management system) that relates to "redistributing wealth actually comes from "The Wealth of Nations". Smith argues for a "progressive income tax" since the poor live "close to the bone" and cannot make the expenditures to support the investments needed to generate "The Wealth of Nations". So actually the "redistribution of wealth" is an essential part of capitalism...and of any viable economic system.

I wonder if Joe went to public schools (or private schools that received State or Federal grants)? If so he was a beneficiary of wealth redistribution. When he was using that road to play football...he was using a "socialist project". When he worked for the military he was involved in a venture to redistribute wealth...our tax his pocket.
He has not finished the necessary qualifications to obtain a license (yes...he has his excuses) but then makes a statement about some "A" student having to share the benefits of their hard work to help a "C" student. But isn't he doing the same thing? He's taking work away from someone who HAS undertaken the work to obtain a license...and denies them the benefits of their efforts.

Thu Nov 20 2008 09:09
He needs to pull his head out.
Thu Nov 20 2008 08:42
In the interview he sounds like a decent guy.
It's a shame he so intellectually and factually deficient.
And God only knows which Marx book he's reading. Or which Websters. And the links with terrorists? Really? And his comment on connect-the-dots foreign policy - genius for a 3rd grader. Does he even know what preconditions are? No of course not. So much ignorance and so little time.

Decency in an individual is a strong characteristic. Unfortunately, this does not balance out blatant ignorance, as in this case. For a man concerned with the ethics of Washington, he certainly didn't mind Sarah Palin's colored past, nor the hate-mongering sponsored by McPalin. So maybe he's not that decent, just ignorant and well-intentioned.

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