News Of Sotomayor, Burris Make For Active Week In Politics

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The guys in this week's Barbershop offer their take on the week's headlines, including Judge Sonia Sotomayor's historic nomination to the Supreme Court, the release of recorded conversations that put U.S. Senator Roland Burris back in the hot seat, and the latest scoop on reality TV stars Jon and Kate Gosselin, of the TLC program "Jon and Kate Plus 8."

JENNIFER LUDDEN, Host:

I'm Jennifer Ludden, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin's away. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and executive editor Nick Charles. Hi, guys.

JIMI IZRAEL: Hey, what's up?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Hey.

NICK CHARLES: Hey.

IZRAEL: Jenny from the block, what's up?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LUDDEN: I may or may not be able to get a word in edgewise here and there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Yeah, yo everybody, welcome to the shop. How we doing, all right?

NAVARRETTE: Hey, hey, hey.

CHARLES: Hey, what's up?

IZRAEL: Man, you know what? President Barack Obama put Judge Sonia Sotomayor up for a seat in the Supreme Court. And you know, it's just weird because Gallup is reporting that, you know, nearly half of all Americans are giving her the ups, right, but her views on abortion and right to privacy are kind of like - I mean, nobody really knows. And our people are wondering, you know, will she have any problems being confirmed. The R, what do you think? You know what? I think you called this some time ago, didn't you?

NAVARRETTE: I called it wrong, yeah. I called it wrong.

IZRAEL: My bad.

NAVARRETTE: What I said was - I was not alone. I was not alone. A lot of folks out there thought that he would not choose a Latina or a Latino.

IZRAEL: Really?

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, that President Obama had said something about how he didn't feel weighed down by demographics and other suggestions. But all that's obviously, you know, for not now. He did choose, I think, a highly qualified Latina who was - let me just do this quickly - summa cum laude from Princeton University, Yale Law Journal, 17 years experience on the federal bench, more than Sam Alito or John Roberts. And she's heavy-duty in every sense of the word, just like Barack Obama is heavy-duty in every sense of the word.

I don't think this goes down a road where they start talking about judicial activism or, you know, even some of her liberal views. I think what this is going to be about is this speech that we all have now heard, this conversation that she had at Berkeley some years ago where she flat-out said that she thought a Latina would be wiser in adjudicating cases than a white male who didn't have that experience. And we are now going to get sucked into, ready or not, yet another argument over affirmative action and racial preferences.

And one of the things that's discouraging is, I would think that white males wouldn't be so incredibly thin-skinned and insecure, but they are. And we saw that during the presidential election with Barack Obama, when people came forward and said that if he was elected president, he'd only be looking out for black folks and nobody else.

LUDDEN: But how come you never hear that when a white candidate's up there? No one makes that accusation.

NAVARRETTE: You tend to never hear that, exactly right, and I think what it is is, you know, it's a new thing to have a black president, to have a Latina on the Supreme Court. Anytime someone introduces something new, there's going to be a learning period. And during that learning period, there will be incredible amounts of ignorance, stupidity, just some racist stuff being said. It happened with Obama. It's going to happen with Sotomayor, and it's already started.

IZRAEL: You know what, Ruben? All those credentials, she's kind of cute, too, and we've got some tape, don't we, Jenny?

LUDDEN: We do. Oh, that has - I haven't heard that since high school.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LUDDEN: We do. We have Sonia Sotomayor at her nomination ceremony, and she's speaking before an audience that included her teary-eyed mother.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: My mother has devoted her life to my brother and me. And as the president mentioned, she worked often two jobs to help support us after dad died. I have often said that I am all I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is.

CHARLES: Wow, wipe the tear from my eye, damn.

IZRAEL: Nick, Nick, man, you know what? Is this a choice that's going to make everybody happy?

CHARLES: It's not going to make everybody happy. You already have some little nonsense coming from people like Rush Limbaugh and saying she's a reverse racist. This woman is, in this, like, really bad economy and this really bad time, she's the American dream writ large. It has come back to life. She is the personification of it.

Now the Republican Party can do anything they want to do. They said they're going to take the filibuster off the table, but they're still going to be, you know, checking to see if she has liberal views.

If they challenge this woman and go down the dirty, muddy path that they usually do, that spells a death knell for the GOP. Latino folks said they want to say that they support them in the midterm elections and in the next elections, and it's going to go wait a minute. If the best of our best can't get past these barriers, who else do you want us to put up?

IFTIKHAR: Well, and this is Arsalan.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: I think you know the biggest ace in the whole that the Obama administration has is that Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate in 1992 without opposition after being appointed by the first George H. W. Bush. And she was voted for, like, by people like former Senator Rick Santorum and others. And so, you know, anybody who goes out for a political vendetta on this one I think their laundry's going to be aired quite quickly.

LUDDEN: And hasn't she always been described as a centrist?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. And one of the cool things that I wanted to mention is that most people don't know that she in 1995 basically saved the sport of baseball when she stopped baseball owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with players thereby ending the longest...

IZRAEL: Hmm.

IFTIKHAR: ...professional lockout in history. So sports fans like her.

CHARLES: Yes. We love her. That's when, 1996 that's when we had the baseball came back. People talked about Souter, he was, they said he was a closet liberal. So maybe she has, you know, some closet conservative opinions but I don't think that disqualifies her at all. That's pretty good. If she is that kind of person who can also go her own way. I think she doesn't take any guff, she's not going to be cowed or intimidated by anybody on the courts, Scalia, and or Clarence Thomas, any of the ones on the right hand, on the right. So I think that's a great think.

LUDDEN: Is it, do you guys think it's possible though that the administration could make an argument that, you know, Hispanics are 15 percent of the nation right now and growing more all the time, and it's the largest minority and it's about time? I mean, in the way that you can make a case for a woman on the court, do you not hear that that would politically possible?

IFTIKHAR: I mean I think it's a viable argument that you make. Again, I think that you know the fact that she was confirmed in '92 by the Senate, you know with overwhelming Republican support and a lot of those senators that are still serving in office today, I think that is going to be the biggest political ace in the hole.

LUDDEN: If you're just joining us you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Jimi Izrael, Nick Charles, Ruben Navarrette, and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop. Jimi?

IZRAEL: Jenny from the block. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Yo, A-Train, my man, you know, Senator Roland Burris, he's man; he's like a menace to Chicago man.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: I mean...

IFTIKHAR: Oh.

IZRAEL: I mean we haven't had anything coming through Chicago since R. Kelly, like your boy because dude is caught on tape talking that talk about exchanging cash for favors. We got some tape somewhere, right?

LUDDEN: We have tapes secretly recorded by the FBI on...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

LUDDEN: ... November 13th, 2008.

ROLAND BURRIS: Rob, I'm in a, I'm in a dilemma right now wanting to help the governor.

ROB BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I mean I, you know, I have been with him on all of the issues and I'm now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes.

BURRIS: I know I could give him a check...

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes.

BURRIS: ...myself.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURRIS: In my law firm and we will try to do something at the law firm. I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm-hmm.

BURRIS: Okay because Tim is not looking for an appointment. Okay?

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: But I, but Fred and I...

BLAGOJEVICH: Uh-huh. Mm-hmm.

BURRIS: ... look, actually I go to call you. I have, I have not.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: Because I didn't know how to deal with this situation.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well I, you know, I'll standby. I mean if you want to write a check and have Fred write a check or have someone else write a check that'd be great. I mean...

BURRIS: Mm-hmm.

BLAGOJEVICH: ...we're just trying to do some cleanup here.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

LUDDEN: All right and that was...

IZRAEL: Wow.

LUDDEN: ...Roland Burris before he was senator...

NAVARRETTE: Clean it up baby.

LUDDEN: ...speaking to the brother of Governor Robert Blagojevich.

IFTIKHAR: Right. Robert.

IZRAEL: Thanks Jenny. Yo, why does A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: Yes.

IZRAEL: Look man, this cat's from your neck of the woods.

IFTIKHAR: Indeed.

IZRAEL: Why doesn't he just resign? I mean because, I mean the calls are coming from near and far to get this cat out of there. What's up, man?

IFTIKHAR: Well because he's Roland Burris. And on behalf of...

IZRAEL: Okay.

IFTIKHAR: On behalf of the...

IZRAEL: That's good enough for me.

IFTIKHAR: ...on behalf of the Barbershop and the city of Chicago...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: ... I'm going to give him both the ridunkulous(ph) award and the come on man award...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF CLAPPING)

IFTIKHAR: ... because honestly, like, I mean he was tainted from the beginning. I think he is you know trying to what we would call it, run an end around, where he knows, I mean everybody in Chicago knew that Rod Blagojevich was a crook politician. And so any sort of overt official contact between him in terms of donations, fundraising, things like that, you know, would've raised red flags immediately. And so what we heard on the tapes here was essentially you know Roland not doing the quid pro quo literally or doing the pay to play literally, but sort of trying to run an end around. And - because he said, you know, he's like, my law firm partner, Tim Wright's not looking for an appointment, which means that I am looking for an appointment so...

IZRAEL: Right.

NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

IZRAEL: Hint. Hint.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: ... he gets the ridunkulous(ph) award and the come on man.

LUDDEN: Well I think he actually answered the call saying, oh, you're going to make me king for a day or something, right? He, I mean he right off the bat...

IFTIKHAR: No he right. It wouldn't surprise me.

LUDDEN: ... he had that in mind.

IZRAEL: The R.

NAVARRETTE: Okay, here it is. The problem with this story and the problem for Burris is the perjury, the idea that he may have committed perjury.

IZRAEL: Right.

NAVARRETTE: Because he said, he, I saw, I remember the testimony. A lot of us do. Sitting before the Senate, he answered questions where he said under oath that he had never had any conversations with anybody related to Blagojevich or his staff or his campaign about this Senate seat. Now that's a pretty definitive statement which seems that it's now been you know undone by this audiotape that's surfaced. So I went to bat for Burris at the beginning because I don't think that the Senate, and Harry Reid and Dick Durbin had any power to deny him to be seated and I think that was never a fight they should've fought and he deserved to be seated. Now I think he deserves to be unseated.

IZRAEL: Nick?

CHARLES: Well you know, he has a trifecta today, which is my really player, really award. Because when...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Nice.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLAPPING)

NAVARRETTE: He's going home with the trophy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHARLES: Roland Burris is an embarrassment. He was an embarrassment when he was trying to get seated and maybe Ruben is right that legal, legally he could've gotten seated and nobody should've opposed it. But in fact, for being unseated he's going to go the way Rob Blagojevich. He's going to get you know impeached because...

IZRAEL: Right.

CHARLES: ...the guy has told so many lies he can't keep the story right.

IZRAEL: Right.

CHARLES: You know we have him on tape and there's no way to deny that this guy is hinky. Well he's from Chicago, see, everybody's hinky.

IFTIKHAR: Hey.

CHARLES: But, we don't need to have...

IZRAEL: You know what? You know what?

CHARLES: ...you don't need to have the junior senator from Illinois being this dirty.

IZRAEL: All right. You know what? It's like Fat Albert might say, you know Roland Burris, you like school on Sunday. No class.

CHARLES: Class.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHARLES: Nice.

IZRAEL: Okay. You know what? But seriously, in all seriousness in other news, the rowdy TV couple behind "Jon and Kate Plus 8" are on the rocks man. Say, say it isn't so?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: We got some tape, right?

LUDDEN: Yes. I think we can now call this rubbernecking TV now. We have tape of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" and the TLC Network. This is the season opener. The storyline was supposed to be about the sextuplet's fifth birthday party, but we also saw an interview with Jon. He's apologizing for bad behavior that led to rumors he cheated on his wife, rumors he denies.

JON GOSSELIN: I'd like to apologize to my family for my actions. Like I said, it was wrong place, wrong time. But I didn't understand the ramifications of everything and how it would greatly affect everything. You know, I should've thought about more what I did and where I was going and stuff like that. And everyone knows what I'm talking about.

KATE GOSSELIN: I'm doing the birthday by myself. Have to have a birthday. Have to have a party. Have to go on no matter if you have help or not.

NAVARRETTE: Good lord.

IZRAEL: I love the jaunty guitar in the background as their lives come crashing to the ground. Thank you for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHARLES: The really sad thing about it is that...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Nick.

CHARLES: ... is they had the highest ratings ever...

NAVARRETTE: Yes.

CHARLES: ... when the show aired on Monday. Ten million people actually tuned in for this.

NAVARRETTE: Now I...

IZRAEL: Okay.

CHARLES: ...and it...

IZRAEL: Okay. Hold on. Hold on fellas. Straw poll, right? You just, right quick. Straw poll, can anybody name a couple for whom reality show was a good thing? Can anybody name that couple?

NAVARRETTE: Right. Well, yes.

IZRAEL: I didn't think so. We, I think...

NAVARRETTE: I don't know.

IZRAEL: I mean it seems like everyone of these couples that gets on reality shows always gets broken up.

CHARLES: But this is not a couple. This is a family.

NAVARRETTE: This is a family.

IFTIKHAR: It's a family.

CHARLES: And this day and age like...

IZRAEL: Well I mean...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Well I guess it's not a couple. You're right.

CHARLES: This is bad "Brady Bunch." This is the "Brady Bunch" gone crazy, gone wild because...

NAVARRETTE: Now guys. That's right. Right. Mike and Carol pulled it off but these guys can't pull it off. No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHARLES: You have three shows like this, "Table for 12."

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

CHARLES: And then you have "18 And Counting."

NAVARRETTE: Right.

CHARLES: And then you have this "Jon and Kate Plus 8."

IZRAEL: "18 And Counting?"

NAVARRETTE: Yes.

CHARLES: And at this day and age they seem to applaud this. And, of course, then we have the Octo Mom, which everybody shuns...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

CHARLES: ...but they applaud these guys. And from what's coming out is that he's a nightmare, the wife is a nightmare...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

CHARLES: ... and they're getting paid and they're getting great ratings, and so they order up another 40 episodes of this and now people are hooked in.

IZRAEL: A-Train? Oh, I'm sorry.

IFTIKHAR: Guys I'm, in the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are avid watchers of "Jon and Kate Plus 8."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Oh man.

CHARLES: There's other stuff on TV.

IFTIKHAR: I'm going to get the Facebook messages now, but, so I, you know I, we love the kids and honestly, like I feel worse for the kids. I mean these kids who are now like the sextuplets are five years old, the twins are nine years old. You know, these guys are being taken for a ride by both their mom and dad who have - like you've seen the devolution of this family into, you know, two competing diva personalities. And it really, honestly, at the end of the day, you know if you're dealing with the "Bachelor" and the "Bachelorette" you're dealing with two adults. But here you're dealing with eight children who know nothing of what's going on and are going to Google things and watch videos and DVD's of themselves as kids and just watch their family disintegrate.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: It's so sad.

IZRAEL: I wrote about this some time ago on the root.com. But you know I propose a moratorium on having children involved in these reality show crackups because...

IFTIKHAR: Yes.

IZRAEL: ...you know these kids not know not what they sign...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

IZRAEL: ...when they support these shows.

LUDDEN: Well it's up to their parents.

IZRAEL: Also I don't...

LUDDEN: It's their parents who have to sign and they're in.

IZRAEL: It's and it's and I was writing about when the singer, Keith Sweat wanted to keep his kids off of that one reality show, "Real Housewives of Atlanta," and I was like, amen, brother because I wouldn't want, you know, look my...

NAVARRETTE: I bet you want a reality show.

IZRAEL: You know I wouldn't want to put my kid on no...

NAVARRETTE: I bet you want a hey...

IZRAEL: ... reality show. Are you serious?

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: Go head. Go ahead, Ruben.

NAVARRETTE: I bet you all the family's being paid by the kid obviously. You know pay me eight (unintelligible) by the kid.

IZRAEL: Per kid.

NAVARRETTE: I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what. This, I don't understand the whole allure of people watching this show. I guess the novelty was, you know, a family with these eight kids, right? On behalf of the Latino community, let me tell you, it's been done. It's been done.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: You know I think we all know the allure of these, of all these reality shows. It's like look, your life could be so much worse.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: And what these reality shows do is they turn up the volume on whatever these people's conflicts and personal issues are. They turn up the volume, they edit it, they market it, they package it, you know and you're getting your moment of, you're getting your catharsis. You're getting your moment of exhale. You know, because it's like Dag, you know, I'm broke, but look at these cats.

NAVARRETTE: Yes.

IZRAEL: These got eight kids and the dad's cheating on the wife. So my life isn't so much worse.

LUDDEN: And how does he have time for that?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: Well, and as a society it also shows our collective infatuation with celebrity. They will become famous by any means necessary and, you know, it doesn't matter who they take out along the way.

NAVARRETTE: Also, I don't get this, you have eight kids and you have energy to cheat on your wife?

LUDDEN: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I don't think so.

IFTIKHAR: Exactly.

IZRAEL: Man look, if you ask me to make eight kids...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: ... I mean, hello.

IFTIKHAR: But if you're taking care of eight kids.

LUDDEN: Can't even think of that let alone.

NAVARRETTE: I have one kid and I'm tired of talking about potty training and he has eight kids? Please.

IFTIKHAR: Right. Forget it.

IZRAEL: Dude's got Red Bull on tap. That's what it is. So, all right well, in the spirit of keeping it real, I think that's a rap, right?

LUDDEN: All right and next week we will ask for honest answers. Who watched the show next week?

IZRAEL: Go get them Jenny.

LUDDEN: Jimi Izrael, a freelance journalist who writes for the Root.com and TV1 online joined us member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette, who writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com joined us from San Diego. Nick Charles is the executive editor for the Green Living site ecomii.com and he joined us from our bureau in New York. And Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of themuslimguy.com and a civil rights attorney. He joined us right here in our studios in Washington. Gentlemen, all, thanks so much.

NAVARRETTE: Peace.

IFTIKHAR: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup. Yup.

LUDDEN: You just heard the Barbershop guys offer their take on the latest headlines. Now we want to hear from you. Do you think the newly released taped conversations between Roland Burris and Robert Blagoavich, the former Illinois governor's brother implicate Burris of wrongdoing? Do they cross the line, and if so, should he resign form his controversial appointment to the U.S. Senate? Also, is Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor being unfairly criticized by the Republicans or is it all just politics at its best?

To tell us more about what you think you can call our comment line at 202-842- 3522. Again, it's 202-842-3522. Remember to leave your name. Go to NPR.org, click on TELL ME MORE and you can blog it out. And that's our program for today.

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