Week in Review: Primaries Play Leapfrog
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week, key states are playing leapfrog in the skirmish for early primary dates, some personal questions for presidential candidates, world leaders take a holiday, but not the leaders of Iraq and Iran. They're meeting face to face. And the federal government says that black on black crime remains a daunting problem. And, of course, the all-time home record - home run record fell.
Dan Schorr is on vacation. So our friend Juan Williams joins us. Juan, thanks for being with us.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: What do you make of this game of chicken right now between South Carolina and New Hampshire, and what about the primary date just moving up and adjust earlier and earlier in the season?
WILLIAMS: Well, I hope you like a white Christmas because maybe all the political pundits will be in New Hampshire and Iowa for Christmas because that's when they all have caucuses and primaries now…
SIMON: There's a real chance that at least one of them will go to December.
WILLIAMS: Unbelievable. To me, it's a little crazy. But I see that in the polls, most Americans say this frontloading process doesn't bother them. Right now, you have a situation where if you look back at the play(ph) of the year 2000, you had only 10 primaries and caucuses by March 1st. This year, you're going to have more than 30. And the idea is that by, I'd say, February 5th, it's likely we will know who the nominees will be for the general elections.
So you're going to have an extended period then of, kind of, laying fowl before we get excited and more heated about the general contest, more opportunities for an independent candidate, therefore, to launch a candidacy to get involved. And I think Iowa and New Hampshire, all those states that used - are used to going first, sort of a vanity fear, they're going to lose all of that status because going first just doesn't have the same power anymore.
SIMON: I want to take advantage of your presence with us because you appear at almost as many presidential debates as Jim Lare. And I want to ask you about a couple of questions that came up this week, and I don't - (unintelligible) to put them in the same ball of wax, but Governor Romney, former Governor Romney was asked, if you're in favor of the surge, why aren't your sons in the military. We should note most of his sons are in their 30s.
And then a panel of black reporters at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Las Vegas, I believe, had a panel asking, is Obama black enough. I'm not going to say that this question is fair. We know any question is fair. Are they useful for fair (unintelligible) and not something?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it reminds of a little bit of what we start at talking about, which is the importance of those early primaries because what happens is that in retail politics when you can get into someone's living room and see a candidate, you come to know the person intimately. And if you think back, historically, people like Muskee, when, you know, Muskee was in New Hampshire, who I thought he was going to win big, then all of a sudden, people realized the guy has got a little bit of a temper. He doesn't quite do as well.
And I think this is the modern version of that. We don't get as many people into our living rooms today, but we start asking personal questions. And in the case of Romney, you know, if you're a war hawk, what about your sons, you know? Did your sons, being in their 30s as you say, ever sign up, ever go to fight the war and make that sacrifice? Or in the case of Obama, exactly how do you relate having a white mother, an African immigrant father, how do you relate to black people in this country as a black man?
I think this the way for people to try to penetrate the veil, the spin.
SIMON: Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran this week. What did they talk about, if we have any idea, and the reaction of this administration?
WILLIAMS: Well, what they're talking about is, obviously, the war in Iraq and a possible - the continued presence of Iraqi - of Iranian arms going into Iraq, which is a great concern to the U.S. because they're being used against U.S. soldiers, but being used by Shia militias much more so than the Sunnis or al-Qaida in Iraq.
And so there's all of that on the table, but I think that what you see is al-Maliki concern, what happens once the U.S. leaves? Obviously, Iran is the major player in the region. What kind of relationship will exist? Do the Shia in both states now join hands or do you have a continued sovereign Iraq on the map? It's a great concern to U.S. policymakers, I got to tell you, Scott.
WILLIAMS: All week this has been their primary concern because if, in fact, what you're seeing is this kind of Shia coalition forming, it really is bad news for the idea of creating a stable democratic government in Iraq, which was the U.S. goal.
SIMON: More news about, at least, two tragic killings in - a series of tragic killings in Newark and in Oakland this week. As the Justice Department comes out with a study that says nine out of 10 Africans-Americans who were murdered are killed by other African-Americans, though, it wasn't necessarily reported that way.
WILLIAMS: No, you know, it's funny. I think this political correctness takes over and says, you know, black Americans more are likely to be victims of crime, but the horrible thing is more are likely to be victims at the hands of other black Americans. And I think, in large part, it's due to this culture of, you know, gangster life and thug life that's become so accepted, acceptance of crime, acceptance of drug dealing, the no-snitch campaign, this kind of thing that I think is just poisonous for young minds because that's who's doing it, young people often involved in fighting over drug turf, killing each other.
SIMON: Barry Bonds broke Henry Aarons lifetime career home run record. You were jilting?
WILLIAMS: No. I'm totally upset by that. I mean, I know you're at Chicago and you watched Sammy Sosa's, you know…
SIMON: And I feel fooled. I feel chagrined, I - at my own idiocy, at not understanding what was going on.
WILLIAMS: And people say to me, you know, wait a second. You know, African-Americans are more likely to support but, I'd say, look, you know, it's a little bit to me like O.J. Simpson. I think people see Bonds as the outside of the rebel so they want to support him. But the fact is Pete Rose is in the Hall of Fame because he wasn't honest, he was a cheater. And Barry Bonds is a cheater, Scott.
SIMON: NPR's Juan Williams, thanks very much.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome.