Shop Talk: 'Keep Your Tiger Woods In Your Pants'

Freelance writer Jimi Izrael, editor and founder of the MuslimGuy.com Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson. They discuss whether President Obama's acceptance of the Nobel Prize will restore any of his political clout in Washington and the latest with defamed golfer Tiger Woods and his ongoing sex scandal.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

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 attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and joining us in the shop, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson; he's a columnist at the Washington Post. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Freelance Writer): Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How we doing?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Editor, Founder, MuslimGuy.com): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Syndicated Columnist): I'm good, man, hey.

Mr. EUGENE ROBINSON (Columnist, Washington Post): Doing fine.

Mr. IZRAEL: E.R., what's up, man? Welcome to the shop. Your first time in, really?

Mr. ROBINSON: Thanks, thanks, yeah. I want a little bit off the top and pretty close on the sides.

Mr. IZRAEL: It's a little late for that, brother.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Ouch.

Mr. ROBINSON: Oh, man. It's cold in the Barbershop.

MARTIN: I thought we were talking about the peace prize.

Unidentified Man #1: I was going to say, I love Gene Robinson, but I don't remember an afro on top of that dome, I just don't. Oh, I love Gene.

Mr. ROBINSON: Oh, oh, this is my kind of barbershop.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, in other ironic news, President Obama was in Norway yesterday to accept his Nobel Prize for Peace. He accepts this award just a little more than a week after committing 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, really? Michel, did President Obama say anything in his acceptance speech to restore some of his political clout back home?

MARTIN: Well, I'll let you guys decide that. He did acknowledge what you talked about, Jimi. For example, I mean, it was obviously a 30-minute speech, we can't play all of it. We certainly have a link to it on our site. Let me just play a short clip for people who missed it, where he talks about exactly the issue you raised. Here it is.

President BARACK OBAMA: We are at war. I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. And some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict, filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

MARTIN: That gives you the sense of it as a very serious speech. It was a very serious speech. Gene, I know - what did you think? You're also a veteran foreign correspondent, for people who don't know.

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah, I still have questions about the policy in Afghanistan, but I thought it was a terrific speech as a piece of rhetoric. He gave a huge, broad sweep of the history of warfare, and he went through what must have been his thinking process as he decided on the escalation that he ordered last week of 30,000 extra troops and the policy going forward.

So I thought it was very well-delivered, and it's getting him a lot of props back home from erstwhile opponents of everything he stood for, like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. And the conservatives are very happy with what they heard, this vigorous defense of America's role in the world.

MARTIN: Jimi, do you mind if I ask Arsalan? Because I think you were not so pleased. I remember, well, you - well, I remember that after, particularly after the president's speech about Afghanistan, you said, you know, where is my anti-war president?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, you know, President Barack Obama, you know, had famously said that I'm not against every war, I'm just against dumb wars. And, you know, it's interesting to note that, you know, he didn't mention the debacle in Iraq. You know, we went in looking for weapons of mass destruction, and we couldn't find a wiffle ball bat. And so, you know, for me, his speech in Oslo seemed like a, you know, philosophical lecture on Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." And, you know, he laid out his paradigm of what constitutes a just war.

And, you know, a political headline the day after, you know, in big letters said conservatives praise Obama because essentially, he put forward that sort of pax Americana, you know, military-might-makes-right sort of doctrine. And, you know, sadly he - you know, many in his Democratic base, myself included, you know, felt as though our president, especially in terms of foreign policy thus far, has pretty much abandoned his Democratic base.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right, Ruben. You know, don't taze me, bro...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: ´┐Żbut here's me, I'm wondering if he should have begged off the award. You know, there's precedence for that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, I mean, Le Duc Tho in 1973, he won with Kissinger, you know, for the Paris Peace Accord, but he said you know what? That's ridiculous because there's still war in Vietnam, so I'm going to back up off, bro. I'm wondering if Obama just should've said, you know what? Thanks, but no thanks.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: For two reasons: I think if he had done that, he would've gotten enormous political benefit from that for two reasons. One is...

Mr. IZRAEL: Absolutely.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...as Arsalan just laid out. I mean, you are a war president now, and this paradox of being a war president who goes and gets the Nobel Peace Prize is hard for a lot of folks to avoid parodying, right?

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So there's that. And then also the fact that even he acknowledges, obviously, that he had not done enough to deserve this award, and he made light of that and joked about it and said: After I heard the introduction, I almost believed for a second I deserved it. So I think there could've been enormous political benefit. But it's done. It's done. He accepted it.

I think both Gene and Arsalan make very important points, and I think that Gene's right, that as a piece of rhetoric, like all of Obama's speeches, this was very well done and very well delivered. But the problem, I think, with folks in the Obama camp is they're only going to be successful if you root for Barack Obama if voters disconnect the man and his policies from his words.

If you take him literally at his words and the words he speaks, then you're going to have the problem that Arsalan alluded to, which is all the liberal base out there is taking his words literally - and maybe that's not wrong - and they're saying, oh, my goodness. What happened to my president? He's gone to the right. He's become a war president.

MARTIN: Or, or, or...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And for me, the cringe moment was when he praised Ronald Reagan.

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: He praised Ronald Reagan.

MARTIN: Wait a minute. Wait. Hold up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You have praised Ronald Reagan.

Mr. ROBINSON: Not really.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah, but I'm not Barack Obama.

MARTIN: Thing one, you have praised Ronald Reagan. Thing two, you support his policy in Afghanistan.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, no.

MARTIN: Thing three, is it the real issue that liberals have projected their values and beliefs onto him when he never held them to begin with?

Mr. ROBINSON: Exactly.

MARTIN: He's never been a pacifist.

Mr. ROBINSON: (unintelligible) and hold on to what he said.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Let me go to that last...

MARTIN: Go ahead.

Mr. ROBINSON: I mean...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The last point is - I'm sorry, Gene.

Mr. ROBINSON: No. No. Go ahead.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The last point of projecting onto the - the liberals projected onto him because he allowed them to do so, because he's a blank slate. He said I want your votes. There's enough - if you are a liberal who's anti-war, you could point to various Obama speeches during the campaign that would say: This is how I got to the impression that this guy was anti-war.

So I think that - I think he does have a problem now with his liberal base because when you do things like praise Reagan for reaching out to the Soviets, you know, the last generation of baby boomers are scratching their heads saying, wait a minute. You know, I don't remember it that way.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, and let's not forget also that, you know, when conservatives are praising Barack Obama, that just - I mean, these are people who are not going to vote for him in a million years. You know, let's not forget that...

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: ...Ronald McDonald could run for, you know, Republican president...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And he may.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right and...

MARTIN: Doesn't everybody project onto political leaders?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Of course they do.

MARTIN: I mean, isn't that what they do?

Mr. ROBINSON: Of course, they do. That's what we do.

MARTIN: I mean, can you really avoid it?

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, Eugene.

MARTIN: Go ahead.

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead and speak your piece.

Mr. ROBINSON: No, we do project on him. And I think if we had listened to what he said about the use of force, for example, about war from the very beginning, it's been fairly consistent, actually. It just was not hard for him to get to the left of Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries. And I mean, that was easy for him.

MARTIN: I mean, I just remember how distressed some people were when he stood up for professor Henry Louis Gates after the whole thing with - that whole thing in Cambridge, where Gates was arrested in his own house for allegedly breaking into his own house. And some people were shocked, you know, that he was governing while black, that he actually picked up his head and said, you know, actually, I know a lot about this. I've A, worked in Chicago; B, I'm a young black man myself; C, a constitutional law professor. I know about this.

People are like oh, my God, how can he talk about this? Oh, my God. And now, it just seems to me that people's - and he actually talked about this on Letterman when he said, you know, actually, I was black before I became president...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: ...so why are people now shocked? You know what I mean? I just, I don't know that you can avoid, as a political leader - I see this with women, for example, with women leaders. People are shocked when they're not huggy-feely, touchy, nurturing, and they govern in a different way. People are shocked. Like, why aren't you mommy? I don't know. One more point on this.

Mr. ROBINSON: There's just one little - one thing - and one more point on this is that I do believe there is a point sometimes when any new president becomes enamored of the generals and kind of, you know, they're inside the security loop, they listen to what the generals are saying. And what I hope is that this is not the product of an infatuation, or an extraordinary infatuation with the idea that military force can solve more problems than it really can.

Mr. IZRAEL: Geez Louise. Ironies abound. This just in: Mike Tyson nominated for poet laureate, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Stop.

Mr. IZRAEL: Only in America, right? Well, check this out. You know, five American men from the Washington, D.C., area, you know, they were arrested on Wednesday in Pakistan. They had allegedly been in contact with extremist jihadist groups with links to al-Qaida. Or is that al-Qaida?

MARTIN: Al-Qaida. I don't know. I don't know.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank you.

MARTIN: This is a tough - this is a very complicated story, and we don't have enough time to really give it justice. We talked about this earlier in the program. But Arsalan, because - what I was struck by is the fact that these - the families of these young men went to CAIR - the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for which you formerlu worked. And then that kind of put in motion part of the investigation. I was just interested, briefly, in your take on that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, I think the only silver lining that I got from this case thus far is the fact that community policing does work, and especially here in the United States. So, you know, here you had five different families of five different, ethnically diverse backgrounds who, you know, saw that their kids were missing. They immediately went to their local mosques and local civil rights organizations, who directly, that same day, got them in touch with the FBI.

We find out that these five kids were arrested in Sargodha, Pakistan - which is about 90 miles from Lahore, and between Islamabad and Lahore - and essentially are now being held by Pakistani officials and being interviewed by joint -jointly by the FBI and these Pakistani officials.

What's interesting is that, you know, one - a Muslin - a famous Muslim deradicalizer here in the United States is saying that it seems like these kids are sort of falling into this trap of what's know as quote-unquote, the new jihadi cool, which is sort of like the wannabe gangbangers.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Great. Good. We need that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, right.

MARTIN: They have - what did you call that, an anti-what? Anti-radicalizer?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: A deradicalizer. They're...

MARTIN: Deradicalizer? They have those?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: They do. There are professional deradicalizers here that are trying to sort of get into the pathology of what the, you know, what these potential, you know, extremists might be going through.

MARTIN: Forgive me for jumping in, just because I want to save time for the other thing I know you all want to talk about.

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 Arsalan Iftikhar, Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette and Gene Robinson.

Back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank, Michel. Four! The Tiger Woods hit list keeps on growing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Now if you're keeping count, I think we're up to 13, and yes...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yup. Yup.

Mr. IZRAEL: ...that includes a couple of cocktail waitresses, club promoters and yes, even two porn stars. (Singing) Wow-chicka-wow-wow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: But you, you know what?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And allegedly some hookers on the side. You just don't have time.

Mr. IZRAEL: What? What?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: There's not enough hours in the day.

Mr. IZRAEL: But wait a second.

MARTIN: You know, I have no idea what he's talking about.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: The one thing they all have in common...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Hold on a second. The one thing they all have in common: They're white. What's up with that? As if it matters.. Michel?

Mr. ROBINSON: You know...

MARTIN: Well, you know, Gene wrote a column about this. I'm going ask him to sort of weigh on this. And you know what? I noticed, Gene, you had like 600 comments by...

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah. It was more than that.

MARTIN: ...lunchtime. No. No. By lunchtime.

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah. I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So this actually hit a nerve. So what are you trying to say?

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah. Well, what I actually wrote - and I'm not going deny and be disingenuous and say that race wasn't in it. But I wrote: Why are they all Barbie? And so it's not just that they're all white. They're all a specific type that the whole Barbie thing going on here...

MARTIN: Let me just read what you said: No offense to anyone who actually looks like Barbie, but it really is striking how much the women who've been linked to Woods resemble one another. I'm talking about the long hair, the specific body type, even the facial features. Mattel could sue for trademark infringement. Oh. And while you also went on to say that his aim wasn't variety, but some kind of validation.

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. I...

Mr. ROBINSON: Go ahead.

Mr. IZRAEL: Gene, I think you got that wrong, bro.

Mr. ROBINSON: Hmm?

Mr. IZRAEL: I mean, I think those kind of, you know, plantation presumptions, just - they're sexy, but they don't work anymore. I mean, so what? You mean because he has a type, you know, that this somehow gives us some look into his psyche? I don't - nah, I don't get that.

Mr. ROBINSON: Well, I, you know, I don't have a microscope to look inside his mind, but I think maybe it does. And I think maybe it tells it because the specific kind of Barbie, Hugh Hefner-popularized type...

Mr. IZRAEL: So he's got a type, right?

Mr. ROBINSON: Well, he's got a type, but man, I mean, that's...

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what?

MARTIN: Does it stand out more because he's more or less African-American? And I say that because he doesn't describe himself that way. I mean, I would say he was African-American, but he has this made-up term that he uses. So does it stand - I mean, if he were white and he favored a particular type of person, would we notice? Would we even notice? I mean, if he were anybody - any other big-time athlete, say Greg Norman? You know, whatever.

Mr. ROBINSON: Well, I think if he were white and he only slept with black women, I think we would notice that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Rob De Niro.

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah. And we...

Mr. IZRAEL: Do we care? Do we care?

Mr. ROBINSON: We notice.

Mr. IZRAEL: We don't care. It doesn't say anything about Rob De Niro. It doesn't say anything about the women that he slept with. Chris Rock allegedly had an affair.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Jimi, you know, this doesn't say about...

Mr. IZRAEL: Hold on for a second.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: When Chris Rock allegedly had several affairs with two white women, does that...

MARTIN: You don't know that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Does that...

MARTIN: Well, first of all...

Mr. ROBINSON: OK.

MARTIN: ...two isn't several, dear.

Mr. ROBINSON: Exactly.

MARTIN: Three is...

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, two is more than one.

MARTIN: OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: Here, what we have here is a data set, OK? This is not like one or, you know, one affair, and it's not like it's separated by years or whatever. This is kind of, you know, I'm - now I'm done with golf for the day. I'm going to hunt for Barbie, you know. And it's - I just think that's interesting, that this is a very approved, kind of almost sanctioned, desirable object in our society.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Or the other piece of it is, is that where Tiger hangs out and the circles where he rolls, there aren't a lot of sisters. So that could be the other piece, right?

MARTIN: True. Well, Ruben, what did you want to say?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, I think the - you know, I take Gene's point because there's a difference between what Gene is saying about the Barbie stereotype, the Barbie prototype and what I heard Michael Eric Dyson say - sociology professor at Georgetown - who, I think it's safe to say, sees everything through a black-and-white lens.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And he said, basically, he said - brilliant though Mike Dyson is, he said - you know, he went further and he did make it a race thing. He said this somehow relates to Tiger's sense of himself, you know, himself that because Tiger doesn't see himself as a real black man, you know, I'm not particularly black, that it's easier for him to - and as if to say only, you know, only real black men go out and when they have affairs, they cheat with other black women, you know.

Mr. IZRAEL: And that's a real problem.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: In reality, the real lesson is real men don't cheat at all. So...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So I think that's a mistake.

Mr. ROBINSON: Well, that would be the lesson.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Arsalan? Arsalan, go ahead.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I also don't think that black, to be fair here, if you've gotten a look at these women, OK, that they're - you put a brain in that head, and you've got a real special girl there. I mean, there is not a lot here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And you do not want - black women. I think, have more self-respect - at least the women I know and have known for many, many years - than to want to be included in that brothel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh. Well. A lot going on...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: If you want to be included in that group. And so this notion...

MARTIN: Well, you, I mean...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The notion that somehow they want to get into - this isn't the Yale Club you're trying to break into. I mean...

MARTIN: True that. True that. Arsalan, really fast.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean, spring boarding off what Ruben said, I think this is, again, another cautionary tale against infidelity. To all married men out there, please, please, please keep your Tiger Woods in your pants. I mean, this is...

MARTIN: Oh, no.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No, seriously, after the July 4th...

MARTIN: But they're not going to.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I know.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Keep the little Tiger at bay.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, on the 4th July, you know, we all remembered the murder-suicide of former Tennessee Titan quarterback Steve McNair. I mean, we don't - there are good men out there who don't cheat and, you know, unfortunately, I think we're becoming desensitized as a nation to the concept of infidelity, whether it comes from a man or a women. You know, infidelity as, you know, a paradigm is just wrong.

MARTIN: I don't know if we're insensitive to it. We seem to be talking about it a lot.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Desensitized.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: I don't know.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I think we have become...

MARTIN: Wow. Well, anyway. OK. Kind of - my head is spinning here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, thank you...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Next week's guest is John Edwards. Be sure to tune in.

Mr. ROBINSON: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist. He writes for TheRoot.com. He's also a presidential fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland.

Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist. He writes for CNN.com and the San Diego Union Tribune. He joined us from San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of themuslimguy.com and a civil rights attorney. And Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post. They were kind enough to join us from our Washington, D.C., studios.

Gentlemen, thank you all so much.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

r. ROBINSON: Thanks for inviting me. I'll be back.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup. Yup.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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