Palin Does Oprah, Oprah Calls It Quits ... For Now

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Freelance journalist Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin give their take on the latest headlines. This week, the guys discuss former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's return to the national stage, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try 9/11 co-conspirators in civilian court and Oprah's big announcement that "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will end In 2011.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. 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 and attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and NPR's own Political Editor Ken Rudin. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Freelance Journalist): Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, welcome to the shop. How we doing?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil Rights Attorney): Jimi, doing good man, hey.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Syndicated Columnist): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. IZRAEL: Hey man, making it do what it do. Well, oh, she's back. That's right. While President Obama was away this week hobnobbing in Asia, guess who decided to step back into the spotlight? Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Peyton -Palin, sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Peyton as in Peyton Place? Were you having a moment?

Mr. IZRAEL: Right, exactly. She's promoting her book, and as it happens, she's around my way, and if I wasn't on the show, I'd probably be camped out trying to get my copy of �Going Rogue.� Michel, what do you think about that?

MARTIN: Oh, Ken, what do you think about that? I guess the question I think a lot of us have is do you think she's really running? Is she testing the waters for another political career?

KEN RUDIN: Well, you mean on Earth? Well, see, the problem is, I mean, Jimi's saying that she's back. She's never left. I mean, the thing is, of course, she has this book �Going Rogue,� and of course, that was the title that the McCain people gave her because McCain the maverick didn't like the fact that Sarah Palin was even more of a maverick.

So you know, the book, there's some things about the book that you almost feel for her, the abuses that she took about her children, the - I think the over-the-top questions about whether it was her real child or not. Some of the questions were really beyond the pale. But when it comes down to the basic questions, why did you resign as governor of Alaska, as Peyton would say, why did you - why couldn't you answer the Katie Couric question about what books and magazines or lawn signs you may have read in your life, there were so many things that she didn't answer.

So you'd think that ultimately she is leading towards a 2012 candidacy. You saw her involvement in that Upstate New York congressional seat, where she played a major role in marshalling conservative support, and yet on basic questions, she still doesn't seem to have the kind of answers one would expect in a presidential candidate.

MARTIN: Ruben, what do you think?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think she's a fascinating person to watch, and whether you love her or hate her, people can't look away from her. I think some of the reasons she's going to generate all this money and has generated money in books and speaking fees and the like, people - even media outlets that don't like her, and I have to work for one of them - I think it's fair to say CNN does not have a positive opinion of Sarah Palin - and yet when you go onto the Web site, you see that her stories are prominently displayed because everybody makes money from Sarah Palin, even people that don't like her, because we have this fascination with her.

I think one of the most important things to come out of the debate, frankly, was what we learned about class differences and elitism. And interestingly enough, the one defender that Sarah Palin had of note was Bill Clinton, who doesn't agree with her politically on many issues, but Clinton said to the elitists in the Democratic Party and around the country, he said, you know, I got the same sort of treatment in 1992 when people saw me coming from Arkansas. This is really dangerous stuff, he says, because what you are missing is that there's a reason that 20,000, 30,000 people show up at rallies for Sarah Palin.

And I think that was a very profound thing for Clinton to say, because I remember in the day, in �92 when Clinton was first running and first gone national, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, his opponents, they all sort of, like, put him off as coming from the back woods, and come on and all this other stuff with Gennifer Flowers and all this. And I think that Clinton was hitting on something really important, which is we have a tendency as Americans to look down on one another, and just like folks look down and underestimated Bill Clinton, so they're estimating Sarah Palin.

MARTIN: Okay. But that gives the lie to the notion that this is somehow because she's a Christian conservative, you know, evangelical. I mean because�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: See, I don't think that at all.

MARTIN: �she's says oh, there's a double standard. There's a double standard because I'm a Christian. It's a double standard because I'm a woman. Bill Clinton is a Christian but he's not a conservative Christian. He's not a woman�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: �and yet, it is true. He had to face some of the same questions. And the other thing that I would point out is that, you know, her chief antagonists are within her own party.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Totally.

MARTIN: The people who first started leaking negative and critical�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Totally. The same thing with Clinton.

MARTIN: �information about her�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Totally.

MARTIN: �were people who were ticket that selected her.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Absolutely. Same thing with Clinton.

MARTIN: So I guess I just think that, you know, what's the issue here? That nobody's allowed to - I don't know. Arsalan, you want to get into this?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well�

MARTIN: Arsalan's giving us these really weird like he can't decide like�

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Oh no. I�

MARTIN: �if he just wants her to go away or�

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I mean I can decide. I mean I am completely sick and tired of hearing about Sarah Palin and I think that, you know, there are many people�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Hater.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Listen, I think that�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: �there are�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Socialist.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: There are a lot of people, you know, who, you know, again, you know, she essentially is a political has-been in the sense that, you know, we didn't see Lloyd Bentsen after, you know, he lost, and you know, as the vice presidential candidate.

But, and more importantly, you know, when you talk about all this you know, hateration against Sarah Palin, I think it revolves around the fact that in terms of political substance, she has as about as much political substance as Ken Rudin's pinky finger. And now, you know, she's going on her little honky-tonk, badonkadonk book tour, you know, you know, promoting her book. You know, she's making money.

RUDIN: How dare you insult my pinky finger.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wait. Wait. Hold on. Hold on.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Sorry.

MARTIN: But she has a right to make money.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No. Absolutely.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: But what I'm saying is that, you know, for someone who can see Russia from the back porch of their house, you know, it's a�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Who said that? Tina Fey said that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: What?

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what? You know what? A-Train�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: She never said that. Tina Fey said that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Stealing from �Saturday Night Live� now.

MARTIN: But she did say well, in one of her interviews with, I can't remember whether it was with Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey she did - I think it was with Barbara Walters who talked on more - talked more political topics with her, she did talk about her credential being Alaska's proximity to Russia. She actually kind of defended the concept.

But anyway, Jimi, you were trying to say something.

Mr. IZRAEL: I was just saying A-Train, you know, you're really hard on Sarah Palin. And I don't know that anybody going to mistake me for a Sarah Palin supporter. But, you know what? Don't count her out because her appeal was also her Achilles heel. Her appeal is that everybody knows Sarah Palin. They know a Sarah Palin. She's the neighbor. She's that woman at the beauty salon.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

RUDIN: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: She might even be the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly. You know, but the problem is the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly probably wouldn't run, you know, on the Republican ticket as the vice presidential candidate. And for me, she was thrown in by the McCain camp as kind of this - it was a convenience thing. She wasn't prepped properly. But I don't know. I wouldn't sleep on her. I wouldn't sleep on her in 2012 because she is - she taps into that every person, every man, every woman quality that a lot of people want back in the White House. So be careful. Be careful.

MARTIN: Except that - I agree with you on that in terms of her personal biography. But where she doesn't tap into that every man, every woman quality is with a lack of empathy. I mean she has this very unusual biography but she seems to have very�

RUDIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: �little interest in people who's - other people whose biographies are unusual. The way she ridiculed Barack Obama as community organizer, for example, saying oh I - that's like I was a small town mayor. I guess that's like being a community organizer with actual responsibilities. What if he'd been a missionary? Would she have ridiculed him?

Mr. IZRAEL: No.

MARTIN: What he had been a missionary and doing the same thing a community organizer does?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Empathy's important.

MARTIN: So that's what�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Empathy's important. There's a lot of�

MARTIN: Well, that's the thing that�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Empathy's important Michel, but there's a lot of folks out there, I could list 10 off the top of my head -successful Democratic politicians who lack empathy. And I think that that's not necessarily a disqualifier. What's always bothered me is the double standard. I mean we'll go forward in the media and say, you know, she got all these things wrong.

But every time Joe Biden made a flub or a mistake or just, you know, flat out said Teddy Roosevelt went on or Frank Delano Roosevelt went on television, you know? Then people like Clarence Page, my friend at the Chicago Tribune would shrug and say oh, that's just Joe. That's just Joe.

MARTIN: I don't agree with you. How do you know about these flubs? It's because people wrote about it?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: That's just double standard.

MARTIN: Anyway, Ken wanted to get into it.

RUDIN: Plus the fact that we're talking - if we're talking about her lack of empathy well, take a look at another vice presidential candidate, John Edwards who faked empathy. Who talked about his empathy�

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

RUDIN: �towards women and you saw what he was doing to women behind his back.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Oh, yeah.

RUDIN: So no. So I think there's a real�

MARTIN: Who is the only national politician less favorably approved of than Sarah Palin.

RUDIN: But for a long time, but I mean but Arsalan talked about her as a has-been. When John Edwards' ticket lost in 2004, he wasn't a has-been. He was a frontrunner for 2008 until somebody like�

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

RUDIN: � Hillary and Barack Obama came along.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Not until you cheat on your cancer-stricken wife�

RUDIN: Exactly.

MARTIN: There is that.

RUDIN: So there's empathy, there's a lack of empathy, and there's fake empathy. I don't know which one is worse.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, so anyway, if you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our weekly visit to the Barbershop with Jimi Izrael, Arsalan Iftikhar, Ruben Navarrette and Ken Rudin.

Just - can I ask, briefly, are you guys going to read the book?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No.

RUDIN: Absolutely.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup.

RUDIN: I'm totally going to going to read the book.

MARTIN: Jimi, yes. Jimi, yes.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No, I don't think so.

MARTIN: Ken, yes. Arsalan, no. Ruben, what about you?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No.

MARTIN: No? Really?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No.

MARTIN: How come?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I mean. No. I'm defending her, but - I mean, you know, you're asking me if I'm interested in the subject matter. I think we understand what's in this book already. I think we, if you pay attention to enough interviews, you're getting a lot of what's in the book.

MARTIN: I'm going to read it. Ken, you're going to let me borrow your copy?

RUDIN: Yeah. Absolutely.

MARTIN: Absolutely. Okay. Because, you know, times are still tough around here. Anyway, Jimi, you had something else you wanted to talk about.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, you know what? Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision to try five coconspirators in the 9/11 attacks in a civilian court New York. Michel?

MARTIN: Yeah. So, the question is, of course, should he be tried in civilian court and do you think that - I mean obviously, this is causing all kinds of angina for people who think - and Arsalan, �cause you're our civil rights attorney in the mix.

And the question is, is this the appropriate venue and does this expose this - whatever venue is selected for a trial - does it expose him to additional risks and are those risks warranted by whatever principle is at issue by holding a civilian trial? So what's your take on this?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, those are very good questions, Michel. And generally speaking, within the American legal system, both civilian and criminal trials and military criminal trials are essentially the same except for the rules of evidence.

You know, the matters of the military criminal justice are usually governed by the Universal Code of Military Justice, or the UCMJ. Now let's not forget that there are five other people who are going to be tried in military commissions for the attack on the USS Cole, in 2000, in Yemen.

And so essentially, the sort of philosophy that the Justice Department is taking is civilian trial for civilian crimes or civilians victims and military trials for military victims. The USS Cole off the Port Sunnai(ph) Yemen was a purely military target. Let's not forget Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not captured on the battlefield. He was actually arrested by Pakistani security forces in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on an arrest warrant.

And so, you know, to me it's funny. The argument that I always bring up to, you know, my conservative debaters when I do debate them, is that had President Bush had, you know, decided that KSM and his, you know, four people were going to a civilian court, I hardly think we would be hearing a peep from the neo-conservative crowd.

I think they'd be touting, you know, how great our American justice system is and if anybody challenged you know, the veracity of that, you know, we probably would've been called unpatriotic. But now that we have - I think there is a double standard.

MARTIN: I don't know. I don't know. I mean, I don't know. It's kind of an hypothetical, but let me just play a short clip from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Attorney General Eric Holder was called before the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk about the security risks. And this is what Lindsey Graham had to say. Here it is.

Representative LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): Under domestic criminal law, the moment the person is in the hands of the United States government, they're entitled to be told they have a right to a lawyer and can remain silent. And if we go down that road, we're going to make this country less safe. That is my problem with what you have done.

MARTIN: And I'll just play short clip of Attorney General Eric Holder's response. Here it is.

Mr. ERIC HOLDER (Attorney General): I'm not going to base a determination on where these cases ought to be brought on what a terrorist � what a murderer � wants to do. He will not select the prosecution venue. I will select it and I have.

MARTIN: You know, one of the problems that kind of jumps out at me right here is that, Ruben, you talked about this. They've already convicted him in their public utterances.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yes, they have. Yes, they have.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: That's right.

MARTIN: So that raises some questions. I don't Ruben if�

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Here's the deal. I could make very easily the Lindsey Graham argument attacking this from right. I think that that exchange between Graham - Graham's a smart guy. I think Graham - that exchange with Holder was an important one. A lot of Americans don't like the idea - 70-80 percent of Americans don't like the idea of Mirandizing - you have the right remain silent -terrorism suspects. Okay, so that's I think a loser for Holder.

But I'm going to take this on from the left, not from the right. The fact that during an NBC interview with Chuck Todd, the president would, in China, say that people are going to feel better about what happens to KSM when he is convicted and given the death penalty. Okay, prejudging his guilt and the punishment is problematic from a legal point of view. Already appeals are kind of coming up, the president's already done this. Close the door.

RUDIN: Right. How do you get a fair trial? How do you get a fair trial?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: What happen - and then a fair hanging, right?

MARTIN: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So the point is what happened to innocent till proven guilty? The whole fig leaf somehow that the reason they move on to civilian court is so that they can have all these glorious, you know, U.S. protections, American protection in our judicial system? One of them is innocent until proven guilty? Obama that shot that to heck.

The other thing is Holder went before Congress and said, as a way - see, Holder and Obama are being pushed by the right wingers to be real hard line on this. And so what Holder said to Congress was we will not let anybody go. Even if they're acquitted at trial we're not going to let them go if we think they're a threat to Americans. So basically what you've said there, now, is due process out the window. So this thing's a joke, the fact that somehow you move KSM to civilian court but then you summarily take away all his rights. I mean what are we doing?

MARTIN: The case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both Ken and Arsalan wanted to get on this. I'll ask Arsalan, briefly, then Ken.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well Ruben, you bring up some great points and the FBI has formed things called clean teams, essentially, to look at the evidence that was procured before the 183 times that he was water boarded, and so they obviously thought - think that they have the evidentiary burden of proof to be able to get that conviction, which is one of the reasons why they're bringing him to civilian court.

And most importantly, let's not forget Ramsey Yusuf, who was convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who also happens to be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's nephew, is already serving a life sentence in super max in Colorado in solitary confinement, and we haven't heard a peep from him since.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Arsalan, push back on this a second.

MARTIN: Wait a minute.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The civilian target business, this is a fig leaf again in the administration. Explain to me why, on 9-11, when the Pentagon was attacked, the Pentagon is not a military target? You don't become any more military target than the Pentagon.

MARTIN: Now�

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No. But again, KSM was not a member of any military. He was captured by civilian forces in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: But you said it had everything to do with the targets. You bought the Holder line. That's a lie.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No. No. No.

MARTIN: Wait a minute. I'm sorry. We need to give Ken a chance to get into this and then�

RUDIN: Just two quick things. First of all, Giuliani said the argument against having KSM tried is that suddenly New York City would become a major terrorist target as if New York City is not a terrorist target anyway.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Amen.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

RUDIN: Exactly. And two, that KSM was allowed to have these talking points and it would excite, you know, Jihad all over the world. That's kind of ridiculous. But Ruben's point is - and it's not from the left because I think the right should say the same exact thing that - remember when Richard Nixon, I think, convicted - was it William Calley? Or no, it was in the Tate-LaBianca murders, and he said he's guilty and everybody went ballistic.

Barack Obama and Attorney General Holder have already convicted KSM and so much for the right of a free trial.

MARTIN: And yesterday, and finally just it's such a very different topic, but it is something that I know a lot of people want to talk about. Jimi, I'm just going to ask you this. Yesterday, of course, the diva of divas, Oprah Winfrey announced she's going to shut down her syndicated show that's shown on the networks all across the country in 2011 after 25 seasons on the air.

Jimi, I know you've been heartbroken about this and I just wonder if there's any way you could possibly recover from this loss.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And go on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, you know, I'm on record, you know, I'm pretty down on Oprah as being, you know, anti-black male, anti-family and pro-Oprah. But that said, you know, she brought something to network that we hadn't ever seen before her.

You know, the reason she was able to kind of elbow Phil Donohue out the way is that she brought empathy and confessional TV into zeitgeist. And, you know, I don't know, we can argue whether that was a good thing or not. But I don't know who's going to take her place. I don't know if we need anybody to take her place, frankly.

MARTIN: Jimi? Well, Jimi Izrael.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I'm glad that Jimi approved that message because nobody else did. So�

Mr. IZRAEL: Hey. Hey.

RUDIN: Somebody can take her place After Allen Iverson has a very successful career on the New York Nicks that'll go on for at least 15 seconds, then he can have his own talk-show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. I was just down on the way Oprah - she just really didn't let people think for themselves in my opinion. You know�

MARTIN: Oh, please. Please. Well, I'm sorry, did she have truth serums coming through the airwaves?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I got to say props to Oprah.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I have something to say.

MARTIN: Please. Go ahead, Ruben. Final thought quickly.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: What you got to understand about Oprah is that she was told at the very beginning 25-30 years ago you're never going to have a career in television. You're the wrong color. You're overweight. All these things are a matter of fact. They come out in biographies about Oprah. And it's inspiring that she, you know, lived by Eva Peron's seven-word mantra, it doesn't matter what the morons say, baby�

MARTIN: That's right. Tell it. Preach, preach, Ruben.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Diva Oprah.

MARTIN: Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist. He writes for CNN.com, and the San Diego Union Tribune and he joined us from San Diego. We were also joined by Jimi Izrael, a freelance journalist who writes for theRoot.com. He's also a presidential fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and he joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland.

Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of themuslimguy.com and a civil rights attorney. And Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor, our political junkie, and they both joined us here in Washington, D.C. studios.

Thank you all so much for joining us. I'm off next week to cook, so Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace. Gobble. Gobble.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

RUDIN: Speaking of being overweight and the wrong color, thanks for having me on the show.

MARTIN: Oh, thanks a lot.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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