Not My Job: N.J. Sen. Cory Booker Gets Quizzed On Old Jerseys
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask important people about very unimportant things. Sen. Cory Booker began his public career as mayor of Newark, a city that people said could never come back. But he went there, and he famously repainted the entire city - himself. That got him elected to the U.S. Senate. He joins us now from a terminal at Washington National Airport. Sen. Cory Booker, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME.
SAGAL: So - so you grew up in New Jersey - as I did - and both of us got out. And you went back. What brought you back? Did someone have some dirt on you?
CORY BOOKER: (Laughter) Listen, don't get my Jersey pride going. We are the most densely-populated state in America 'cause some many people who know the secret want to live there.
SAGAL: Oh, is that why?
SAGAL: So you were - you became the mayor of Newark as a relatively young man. And Newark at that time did not have a good reputation.
BOOKER: No. I think that was one of the problems. We were one of America's most underestimated cities. It was a city that had a lot of challenges. But after all eight years of work, it's had its biggest economic development boom in 60 years. I'm really proud.
SAGAL: Yeah, yeah, that's so great. Tell us about the Hot Pockets.
SAGAL: No because I - this is - one of the great things about your career as the mayor of Newark is you were constantly, like, doing stuff for people. You were out shoveling walks and - but there was an incident during - it was during Hurricane Sandy, right?
BOOKER: Sometimes I'd get the strangest requests. And during Hurricane Sandy - I couldn't believe it, but I saw somebody tweet me and asked me to bring them some Hot Pockets. So I jokingly told them hey, this is a problem you can handle. I believe in you. But the next thing I knew, the company Hot Pockets sent me a thousand free coupons for Hot Pockets, which I donated to a food pantry, except for I gave a few to the young man who was bold enough in the midst of a hurricane to ask me for Hot Pockets.
SAGAL: Did you ever actually stop a crime in progress, like Batman?
BOOKER: I am definitely not Batman. And in fact, as I write about in my book, I did stupid things. So yeah, a couple of times I got involved in some foot chases and other incidents.
SAGAL: Oh, wait a minute, like what?
BOOKER: Well, in my first couple weeks in office, I was coming out of City Hall and there was an armed bank robbery going on. And so I gave chase to the robber who had just held up a woman who was making a deposit. Then he got caught by a police officer, swung at him with his knife. Thank God it only ripped his shirt. And I came upon the situation while the officer had drawn his gun on a crowded sidewalk and just thought to myself this is a bad situation. And very imprudently, I decided I didn't want the officer to shoot so that I would sprint at the man with the knife. And he fortunately did what I hoped he would do, which is not to stand there but actually turn and run.
SAGAL: Wait a minute.
SAGAL: So - so a few moments ago when I asked you if you ever actually prevented a crime and you said no, what you really meant was yes that you actually...
SAGAL: ...Apprehended a bank robber.
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: No, he said he's not Batman.
ADAM BURKE: Now that's government in action.
SAGAL: It really is.
BOOKER: Yes, yes.
SAGAL: But that sounds like fun. So now you're in the Senate. How miserable is that, Sen. Booker?
BOOKER: Well (laughter) it's a lot easier to chase down Mitch McConnell then it is...
BOOKER: No, it's - look, it's a challenge. We have a government that has problems that are well-celebrated. But despite all that, you know, I've gotten legislation passed with everybody from Ted Cruz to even today worked with Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner.
SAGAL: Wait a minute, Marco Rubio was there?
BOOKER: No, but we have legislation together.
SAGAL: All right, so you've worked with Ted Cruz. I have to say - I've never met the man; I've read a lot about him; he doesn't seem popular with his colleagues. Do you get along with him? Do you like him?
BOOKER: You know, in America, our differences matter but our country matters more. That's the attitude I wanted to take to the Senate. And it's been fruitful so far in the first few years.
SAGAL: So what I feel you're saying - what I feel you're saying, senator, is that he's a total jerk face.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: No Peter, what the senator is too modest to say is that everybody likes him. He likes everybody. He's little Mr. Sunshine. He's gorgeous.
SAGAL: Hang on a second. Now, you actually - Roxanne, thank you for bringing this up - Sen. Booker, you were one of Town & Country Magazine's Top 40 Bachelors. You were named that. You're a well-known single man about town in Washington. What's it like - what's it like in Washington, you know, when the world is your oyster, you've got no strings attached?
BOOKER: Well, it's not the best thing. I don't recommend it if you want a date to be a United States senator. There are definitely a lot of constrictions. It's not the kind of job where you just jump on, you know, match.com or Tinder or something like that and try to meet people. It's...
SAGAL: Why not? Can you imagine how exciting that would be for the young ladies of Washington to be looking at their Tinder and going oh my God, it's Cory Booker - right, right, right, right.
BURKE: Also - also, think back to your mayor days when you showed up at peoples' front door with a present. Like, just do that.
BOOKER: I have a feeling that this whole conversation my mom put you up to it.
BOOKER: You know, this is taking a turn in a direction I did not (unintelligible).
SAGAL: No, no, no, can you tell us what you're looking for? Maybe we can find out if one of our - I'm guessing if you like people who listen to NPR, we can help you out.
BOOKER: Well, can I tell you about criminal just reform or tax reform instead?
SAGAL: Yeah, yeah, I think a lot of people listening just decided to maybe go hit on the Dick Durbin instead.
SAGAL: Well, Sen. Cory Booker, what a pleasure to talk to you. We've asked you here to play a play game called...
BILL KURTIS: New Jersey? I Prefer Old Jersey.
SAGAL: Yes, senator, you're a life-long resident and champion in New Jersey. But what do you know about old jersey, specifically old sports jerseys? Answer two of our three questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey playing for?
KURTIS: Gary Currier of Oregon City, Ore.
BOOKER: All right, I'm ready.
SAGAL: Fans love - love - the jerseys of their favorite players. You know that. One fan expressed his fandom in a very sincere way. What was it? A, one Christopher Lackner of Chicago, Ill., every day has his wife shave the number 34 into his back hair, in honor of the late Walter Payton, B, in 2005, a prisoner successfully lobbied to have his prison sentence raised from 30 to 33 years in honor of number 33 Larry Bird, or C, an Atlantan named BJ Maxwell only dates women who are 31 years old in honor of number 31 on the Braves, Greg Maddux.
BOOKER: Wow, OK.
BOOKER: I cannot believe I'm saying these two words on a national radio show - back hair.
SAGAL: You're going to go for the guy who has the number 34 shaved into his back to honor sweetness, Walter Payton?
SAGAL: No. I'm afraid no. It was actually the prisoner.
BOOKER: It was a guy in Oklahoma, and he got sentenced to 30 years. And he said no, I want 33 'cause he said if I was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey number. All right, you still have two more chances here, senator.
BOOKER: OK, this is pressure. Go ahead.
SAGAL: Yeah. There are tributes out there to athlete's jersey numbers that you may not know about, such as one of these. Is it A, Colt 45 malt liquor named not for the famous gun but for football player Jerry Hill, number 45 for the Baltimore Colts, B, Heinz 57, named for Pittsburgh Pirates legend Frank Bork, or C, Adele's record "21," which she named for Manchester United star footballer Ander Herrera.
BOOKER: Wow, wow. I've always thought Colt 45 was the weapon, and I would love the opportunity to talk with you about sensible gun safety.
SAGAL: You know...
BURKE: Nicely done.
SAGAL: Sen. Booker - Sen. Booker, no offense but as we talk, I'm getting a clear idea of why you're single.
BOOKER: I'm really disappointed you don't think infrastructure is sexy.
SAGAL: All right, so you were just about to make your choice. So which is it going to be?
BOOKER: I'm going to go with the Colt 45 with the understanding that we're going to do more to get guns out of the hands of...
SAGAL: You are...
SAGAL: You are incorrigible, sir. You're also right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: It turns out - we were surprised, too.
SAGAL: Colt 45 named not for the gun but for a Baltimore Colts star of yesteryear, number 45. All right, last question. If you get this right, you win. Archie Manning - he's the father of Peyton and Eli Manning and some other more boring kids. He wore number 18 when he was a football star at Ole Miss, a fact everyone there in Oxford still remembers. Why? A, because they carved the number 18 into the back of Jefferson Davis' jacket on his statue in the middle of campus, B, because the campus speed limit at Ole Miss is at an annoyingly-slow 18 miles per hour in his honor or C, because to this day you can buy his favorite meal - a dozen boiled crawfish and a can of Abita beer for 18 cents.
BOOKER: Wow. OK, well, number one is definitely not it. And in this day and age in America and our economy, I don't think you can get much for 18 cents anymore. So I'm going to stick with traffic safety 'cause it might give me a chance to talk about the importance of infrastructure.
BURKE: That's amazing.
SAGAL: You - honestly, Sen. Booker, you are unstoppable. And you are right. The answer was the speed limit...
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: And not only has it been 18 for years because of Archie Manning, in 2012, it was slowed down to honor his son, who wore number 10. And drivers were not happy. Bill, how did Sen. Booker do on our quiz?
KURTIS: He won - 2 out of 3, senator. Congratulations.
SAGAL: Thank you, very well done.
SAGAL: Cory Booker's book "United" is out now. Sen. Cory Booker, thank you so much for joining us here on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
BOOKER: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thank you, sir. Take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE JERSEY BEST")
JOHN PIZZARELLI: (Singing) I've been a lot of places, seen pictures of the rest. But of all the places I can think of, I like Jersey best.
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