I'm sure good at fighting database fires though.
This probably is at the heart of the answer to the question "how could this programmer with such a long resume have botched this interview so badly?" It would be insane to believe they've never added value to any organization and have just been coasting along all this time. Maybe your interview sucks and isn't good at finding value.
I know you did not mean it this way, but in some ways that's even worse. If that type of thing were routine enough to merit asking every interviewee that question, I would seriously reconsider working there.