Joe the Plumber fights for ‘practical good’Written by Julie Ryan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Six weeks after he became a household name, Samuel Wurzelbacher was making a sandwich in the kitchen of his Holland, Ohio, home. His son sat on a couch in a nearby room. Suddenly, it hit him: He was “Joe the Plumber.” He had caused a controversy and was sought after by reporters across the nation — and worldwide — all because of one question.
“I realized how sad we had become when just a straight question caused so much controversy,” Wurzelbacher said.
On Oct. 12, Wurzelbacher had the opportunity to ask Barack Obama one question during Obama’s campaign stop in Toledo. He questioned Obama’s tax plan and how it would affect his plumbing business. The Democratic nominee gave an answer that Wurzelbacher said sparked the controversy.
“I hate how politicians double speak and don’t give straight answers — that goes for Democrat or Republican,” Wurzelbacher said in a Feb. 16 telephone interview. “The questions I heard being asked were not very difficult and he was just hitting them hard. My boss and I, about two weeks before this, were talking about putting the wheels in motion for me to buy the company, so those thoughts were on my mind. Otherwise, I would have asked about immigration.”
The event gave the media, especially FOX News, the chance to make Wurzelbacher famous and cause his name to evolve from “the plumber” to “Joe the Plumber,” a representative of conservative middle America.
In his new book with co-author Tom Tabback, “Joe The Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream,” released Feb. 6, Wurzelbacher encourages Americans to step up to hard work to combat politicians from “spreading the wealth” and driving America to socialism. Americans don’t need a New Deal for the 21st century, he writes, but instead they must take care of each other — by hiring and avoiding laying off workers — and realize the American Dream.
In the book, Wurzelbacher answers the questions the American people ask about him: Is he a deadbeat Dad? Does he have a plumbing license? Tax evader? Racist? He weaves in his political ideas and beliefs that politicians are corrupt.
Throughout the book, Wurzelbacher, a native of Northwest Ohio, shares the life experiences that shaped him into a man inspired by his faith, family and ideals.
“This is an American who has lived the American experience. He is not a kid, he has had his share of life’s challenges, and he believes in the American Dream,” Tabback said.
Wurzelbacher explained many of these challenges, such as his naiveté with the media and the issues surrounding his former boss, Al Newell, and his work as a plumber — which he said he had the credentials to be.
Tabback and Wurzelbacher wrote the book shortly after the election season. However, it was the weeks leading to the election, and the time Wurzelbacher spent on the campaign trail, which made him a household name.
In October, Wurzelbacher committed to campaigning with McCain.
“When my name hit public airwaves, a lot of people wanted to interview me and talk to me. I had the RNC in Toledo stop by and interview me. But I didn’t want to support anyone. I didn’t like McCain’s politics, but Obama’s scared me more.
“As it got closer and closer it looked like McCain needed more and more help. People kept calling me and I decided I would go, so I said, ‘I’ll come with McCain and do what I can to help.’”
Wurzelbacher joined Sarah Palin Oct. 29 in Bowling Green, where he spoke with her and her husband.
“I think Sarah Palin is just too big for the things that McCain wants to do,” Wurzelbacher said.
Wurzelbacher said he followed and admires Palin’s desire to serve the country. Her work in Alaska interests him, as the state is his favorite place in the world ever since reading Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” at age 8.
The next day, McCain addressed an audience in Defiance. Assuming Wurzelbacher was there, McCain asked for him to stand.
“I was at Schmucker’s on Reynolds eating pancakes and eggs when McCain called from Defiance,” Wurzelbacher said.
He said the McCain campaign hadn’t asked him to be in Defiance. In his book, Wurzelbacher describes communicating with the campaign like “pulling teeth.” His willingness to attend the rally was lost when the McCain campaign failed to confirm with him.
Along with facing the media, and miscommunication with the McCain campaign, Wurzelbacher faced a new challenge when the director of an Ohio human services agency wrongly authorized searches of his personal records.
Ohio’s inspector general issued a report Nov. 20, stating that Helen E. Jones-Kelley, director of Ohio’s Department of Jobs and Family Services, wrongly authorized searches of government databases and records of Wurzelbacher’s child support payments, unemployment benefits and temporary aid to families.
Wurzelbacher is working with James Peterson, an attorney with Judicial Watch in Washington, D.C., to file a lawsuit at the end of the month.
“We are preparing a lawsuit to address the violation of his rights by state officials accessing confidential information merely because Mr. Wurzelbacher exercised his First Amendment rights,” Peterson said.
Miriam Wilson, visiting instructor of political science at the University of Toledo, said she watched the Wurzelbacher saga unfold in the media.
“What I think the McCain campaign was trying to do was really portray him as being an average Joe who would vote for Republicans, which would make the Republican Party seem to be a party not of the elite and the wealthy but of the people. In that regard, I think it was effective for a certain segment of the population,” she said.
Wilson said Wurzelbacher captured the “American Dream in his head but not the American reality” and that he would have been better off voting for Obama instead of pursuing an ideal situation where he could work hard to get ahead.
Yet Wurzelbacher committed to McCain. He said he thought going on the McCain bus was the right thing to do because of what he believes, not what McCain does.
He pursued opportunities as they came, joining McCain at his stop in Cleveland and interviewing on television shows such as “Hanity & Colmes.” Through it all, though, Wurzelbacher said he wanted to use his popularity for “the practical good.”
“When everything happened, the book was the last thing on my mind — until I went to the “Huckabee” show where I had about four different people ask me for the rights to my book and I said, ‘Well, what book?’ ”
Wurzelbacher said he felt like these publishers were treating him as a “shiny piece of metal” and trying to make the most of his 15 minutes of fame.
“I didn’t pay much attention to it. My phone was ringing off the hook and actually broke. I had to get a new phone because I received so many calls,” he said.
Tabback approached Wurzelbacher and introduced himself as a small publisher who could not offer many benefits — including an advance check — but said he could write a good book.
“We found Joe like the rest of America did: his story on the news,” Tabback said.
“We felt he had a compelling story to tell — it was just a hunch — but something more than the tabloid story. We called Joe up, said, ‘we want to write your story. We will write you a story that is meaningful and has a purpose.’”
Wurzelbacher was impressed and said he and Tabback clicked with each other over their religious beliefs, interest in home schooling and ideals.
“We worked on it for a month. Tom flew up and we were joined at the hip for the ride of the election. Tom was on McCain’s bus and at the Palin rally. We were taking notes and talking the whole time and coming up with ideas for chapter headings. He went back to Texas and we would be on the computer for half the day together.”
For Wurzelbacher, the book touches on a personal note. He said the main idea of the book is “striving to do what is right even if doing right is hard,” a lesson he also tries to instill in his 13-year-old son, Joey.
“Tom Tabback pulled a lot of information out of me,” Wurzelbacher said. “He pulled a lot of stories from my life that I would never share with anybody because I am a very private person.
“The book talks about how hard work is the way of going about things. Getting things easy is never worth it. I learned a lot of my lessons hard, like a lot of people do. It talks about a lot of the different trials I went through growing up.”
Wurzelbacher said his life changed at age 17, when he was trusting science to solve life’s struggles. Monte McCune, his Toledo area youth pastor, pointed out to him, however, that his science book was revised eight times, and the Bible had no new edition coming out.
“Man is always revising: We thought it was this but now it’s this. The Holy Bible is what it is. I believe that it’s factually what our country was based on. And I believe it’s what you need in order to have a good life,” he said.
A good life
Wurzelbacher tries to keep his “good life” private and said his son has already been overexposed to the media while they camped outside of his home hoping for an interview.
“I have a mom and dad and a great son, two beautiful labs and a brother who is a baseball coach in Holland. We’re very involved in the community — that’s where it all starts at.”
Just like Wurzelbacher, the book is about being an American and traditional American values, Tabback said.
“It’s a book about here are the challenges we face today as Americans. We need to get ourselves out of this mess. We need to turn back to our tradition American values.”
Tabback said the book challenges Americans to not give in to government bailouts, but to think independently and remember the traditions America was founded on.
“The book is insightful because Joe, a plumber, always on the lower end of the middle class, is someone who doesn’t believe in government bailouts,” he said.
For the next month, Wurzelbacher will put the “grassroots” ideals of his book into action as he launches a book tour. At the end of the month he will be in Washington, D.C., for a book signing and the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he will sit on panels and attend Q&A sessions. Wurzelbacher will travel to West Chester and Fairfield, Ind. before heading to Wisconsin, Texas and California in March.
Through it all, Wurzelbacher said he remains true to his ideals.
“When people talk to me on an individual basis, they realize I’m just a regular guy.”