Why Are Democrats Attacking Joe the Plumber?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: There you have it. With just 18 days away from election day, and the newest political star, Joe the plumber, is seeing the dirty side of politics. Joe, an Ohio plumber, became a household name after he questioned Barack Obama's tax plan. Now, since then he's been criticized about everything, from not having a plumber's license to owing money in back taxes, and today Senator McCain defended Joe at a rally in Florida.

Let's take a listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The response from Senator Obama and his campaign yesterday was to attack Joe — was to attack Joe. People are digging — people are digging through his personal life, and he has TV crews camped out in front of his house. He didn't ask Senator Obama to come to his house. He wasn't — he wasn't recruited or prompted by our campaign. He just asked a question.


HANNITY: Joining us now is the cofounder of Real Clear Politics, Tom Bevan, and radio talk show host Dennis Prager will be joining us in a minute, and also joining us, Obama supporter Michael Brown.

All right. Now before we get to anything here, it's — all he did was ask a question. Now he's had a full background check and smear and attack and besmirched, this poor guy.

Let's watch as Biden and Obama mock him, and listen to the laughing in the crowd as we play this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for. How many plumbers do you know making a quarter million dollars a year?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: John continues to cling to the notion, the fact that this guy, Joe the plumber. I don't know how many Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year and are worried.


HANNITY: I think to attack this man who asked a simple question, that if he starts a business, you know, and to mock him and let the crowd mock him and to let the media investigate him, you know, didn't pay back taxes, this is so fundamentally despicable.

Why can't you as a Democrat say you know what? Leave Joe, the plumber alone. He's out there swinging a wrench for 12 hours a day, probably six or seven days a week. Do you think it's unfair what's happening to him?

MICHAEL BROWN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Yes, I do, Sean. We and I are probably going to agree on this issue.

Video: Watch Sean and Alan's interview

HANNITY: Good for you.

BROWN: Now frankly, it doesn't really matter much. I don't think voters necessarily care, and frankly, Senator Obama and Senator Biden I don't think are really putting that much into it. Clearly, you've taken some snippets.

HANNITY: Snippets? Yes, I know, Jeremiah Wright snippets. Bill Ayers snippets.

BROWN: But at the end of the day — at the end of the day, Sean, voters don't really matter or care about this particular issue. They do care about — they do care about the folks who are wondering how they're going to get their next job...

HANNITY: All right. But then why mock — wait a minute. You can't have it both ways. Here's the difference. And let me go to Tom on this. You can't have it both ways. You can't mock, you know, Joe the plumber...

BROWN: No one's mocking him.

HANNITY: They were mocking — I don't know any plumber that makes $250,000 a year. The guy wants to own his own business.

And Tom, the way I see this race, and maybe — maybe Sean Hannity is in a different direction than the rest of the country. The guy who had to drop out of college, the guy that was scrubbing pots and pans — that's me — when I was 12 years old, you know, trying to make my own way in life, that I was told, "You need a helping hand, look down at the end of your arm." That's your helping hand.

But what I'm trying to — I think America has a choice in this election. Either we're going to become European socialists, we're going to be France, and wave the white flag of surrender, and we're going to nationalize health care and we're going to spread, redistribute the wealth, that's our patriotic duty, or we're going to be Americans with individual responsibility. Is that a fair choice that I'm outlining for the American people?

TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I mean that's the distinction, the contrast that John McCain has been trying to draw with Obama, the sort of traditional liberal-conservative. But he's been terribly ineffective at it until Joe the plumber came along and served as a sort of vehicle in asking this question.

Because the fundamental issue here is not Joe the plumber or even the question he asked. It's really Obama's response, spreading the wealth around. McCain's been able to key off that to his advantage, I think, over the last couple of days.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Tom and Michael — Michael, McCain and Biden — I should say Biden and Obama were not mocking Joe the plumber. They were mocking John McCain — excuse me. They were mocking John McCain and his use of Joe the plumber and trying to hold this guy up. John McCain vetted Joe the plumber about as well as he vetted Sarah Palin. That's what the problem is.

BROWN: And you know...

HANNITY: That's a cheap shot against Sarah Palin.

COLMES: No, it's not against Sarah Palin, Sean. It's against John McCain's lack of vetting of a candidate and a bad choice for a vice- presidential...

HANNITY: She's the most popular governor in the country.

COLMES: You've got a — we don't need the guests on. We're going to go at it now. You've got a bunch of conservatives going after Sarah Palin. You've got Kathleen Parky (ph). You've got, you know, a whole bunch of conservatives...

HANNITY: Two people.

COLMES: ... going after and saying she shouldn't be on the ticket. But that's not the issue here. The issue is Joe the plumber, Michael, and it wasn't he who was being — that was not the target of the comments of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. He wasn't vetted properly by the McCain campaign.

BROWN: Well, I would bet the McCain campaign now are talking about Joe the plumber as much as possible, because any time they can get off the issues that matter to the American people, they think that's a winner for them. Any time they can do distraction politics, they think that's a winner for them.

So Joe the plumber, you're going to hear about that from John McCain and Sarah Palin for quite a while now.

But Barack Obama and Joe Biden are going to focus on things that matter.

COLMES: Also Tom — yes.

BROWN: Education, gas prices, the economy, foreign policy. Those are things that really matter now to people, not Joe the plumber. I'm sure he's a nice guy and he shouldn't be slandered.

COLMES: He's probably a great guy and works very, very hard.

BROWN: But Sean, that's a very small issue.

COLMES: And Tom, you know, this is a guy who, it turns out, is not a swing voter. He's not an independent. He's a registered Republican. He's not a licensed plumber.

And, in fact, forget about McCain or anybody else here, you've got the — or Obama or Biden throwing him down the stairs. You've got the head of his local union saying he's not licensed, he didn't take training, and he shouldn't be calling himself a plumber. That's the head of his union there, not anybody in a political campaign.

BEVAN: But Alan, that's not necessarily the issue. And the idea that the McCain campaign would have to vet a private citizen for asking questions is somewhat ridiculous.

And now you've got a situation where you've got John McCain out there defending this guy, who happens to be a working class guy from Ohio. He may not be a swing voter. He may be, you know, a conservative, but that's not the issue. The atmospherics of it are, that you've got McCain defending those kind of voters, and Obama's now kind of mocking them or making fun of them.

COLMES: Well, I think he's not making — again, I think he's making fun of McCain for using them, not for the guy himself. But thank you very much for being with us, both of you.

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