In The Beauty Shop: Politics And Adultery

Sarah Palin’s endorsement power, Tiger Wood’s divorce and other pop culture happenings are up for discussion in the program’s regular feature ‘Beauty Shop.’ A roundtable of journalists join the conversation: US News columnist and former presidential speech writer Mary Kate Cary; Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post writer Robin Givhan; Ana Marie Cox, GQ magazine's Washington Correspondent; and Galina Espinoza, Editorial Director of Latina Magazine.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALLISON KEYES, host:

I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

It's time to make our way into the Beauty Shop. And joining me this week to weigh in on some recent items in the news where we figured, well, we needed a woman's touch, are Mary Kate Cary, she's a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, now a columnist and blogger at U.S. News and World Report; Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor at the Washington Post; Ana Marie Cox the Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine; and Galina Espinoza, editorial director of Latina magazine.

Welcome, ladies, to the program.

Ms. MARY KATE CARY (Columnist, U.S. News and World Report): Thank you.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Editor, The Washington Post): Good to be here.

Ms. ANA MARIE COX (Washington Correspondent, GQ): Good to be here.

Ms. GALINA ESPINOZA (Editorial Director, Latina Magazine): Good to be here.

KEYES: So I think we're going to have to start, Mary Kate, way north in the Alaska primary. Some people are shocked that the Sarah Palin-backed candidate there, Joe Miller, is leading incumbent Lisa Murkowski. No idea yet who won yet because there are more votes coming in. Should we be surprised she has so much influence?

Ms. CARY: I think there's a little more to the story there. I was just in Alaska last week for Ted Stevens' funeral, and saw Senator Murkowski give a great eulogy for him. But she is part of the political dynasty up there that Stevens was a part of as well. There's no love lost between Sarah Palin and Lisa Murkowski. Palin beat Frank Murkowski, Lisa's father, for the gubernatorial primary a few years back.

But what else is going on, on that particular ballot - which may or may not have gotten told yet - is there was a parental notification measure on the ballot for teens who want to get abortions. And that actually brought out 131,000 votes.

KEYES: Wow.

Ms. CARY: And only 90,000 people voted in the Senate race. So far more people turned out for the ballot measure than they did for the Senate race. And Joe Miller, the guy who is leading right now, was opposed - I mean, excuse me, supported the parental notification. Murkowski did also, but Murkowski's known as a pro-choice Republican. And I think that motivated his people to come out and tip the scales towards him in what would've otherwise been a low- turnout primary.

Now, is that Sarah Palin at work? I'm not so sure. I think there were other factors in play. Same thing in the Arizona race: Sarah Palin campaigned for John McCain, but is she considered the tipping factor in that race? Probably not.

KEYES: So in other words, you're not sure this is going to be a tipping factor across the country.

Ms. CARY: Yeah, some of it's kind of coincidental, I think.

Ms. COX: Yeah, I think that's right. Also, a main factor in the McCain race is money. I mean, that's actually the story of the night as far as...

KEYES: This is Ana Marie, by the way.

Ms. COX: Yes, sorry. This is Ana Marie Cox. And the main story of the night, to me, less than incumbent versus, you know, resurgence or establishment versus Tea Party was money versus money. McCain spent $21 million. He outspent his opponent, J.D. Hayworth, eight to one.

KEYES: And people were thinking Hayworth was going to give him quite the run at first.

Ms. COX: That's true. I actually never thought that was going to be the case.

KEYES: Really? Why not?

Ms. COX: Well, there's a solid - like, 20 percent of Arizona that's always going to vote against McCain, and they're all Republicans. And those are the people that got polled, and that's what made it look closer. But I think that, you know, he still has the appeal that he has. And also, he just hammered J.D. Hayworth. And J.D. Hayworth is a terrible candidate. I mean, let's just face it. He's kind of stupid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Why do you say that?

Ms. COX: He's kind of dumb. He's entertaining.

Ms. CARY: Well, the infomercial didn't help. Yeah.

Ms. COX: He's very entertaining, but he's kind of dumb. He has a long history of like, all these kinds of gaffes that he could - they could pull from. He did an infomercial where he talked about getting free government money. That doesn't, you know, go over well with Republican primary voters.

KEYES: Note: The host did not call the candidate dumb. Go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COX: It was someone else that called the candidate dumb. But I think - I was going to say that I think in Alaska, I think your analysis makes a lot of sense, especially because the kind of people who would be receptive to a call, you know, to support a parental notification law are Sarah Palin, you know, kind of people.

She is - let's not forget, she is actually deeply unpopular in Alaska as a whole, and deeply unpopular in the country. Most people would not trust her to run for office. I think we need to be very careful in overestimating her power. This is - unfortunately, I think there's a much less sexy sort of storyline here. And it's one that doesn't apply to tonight, but sort of is we're just going to see it play out in midterms overall, which is things are going to be generally bad for Democrats, and generally less bad for Republicans.

KEYES: Right. Robin looks skeptical.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, no. I mean, I was just sitting here, sort of thinking that, you know, there's been so much emphasis on who Sarah Palin has endorsed, what Sarah Palin has last tweeted or posted on her Facebook. And I've still yet to sort of see that - sort of definitive, or at least sort of starter - sort of survey that really talks to people and says, you know, does she actually make a difference in the way that people think?

KEYES: Although people aren't turning down her endorsements. Let's be real.

Ms. GIVHAN: Right.

Ms. COX: She can bring in money, again, yeah.

Ms. GIVHAN: Or is it just purely a matter of, she is a spotlight magnet. And wherever there's spotlight, money also flows. And so it's less about people actually listening to her, listening to her thoughtfully - because frankly, she hasn't really said anything thoughtful. And I say that because most of her remarks have come in the form of 140-character tweets.

Ms. COX: Or on Facebook.

Ms. GIVHAN: And it's difficult. Yes, and a Facebook paragraph.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: So I don't know if it's more, she brings attention and thus, she brings money; or it's actually that people think wow, she's really smart. She really represents how I feel; I need to listen to her.

KEYES: Galina, what are you hearing from your readers? I don't want to leave you out because you're not sitting in the room here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ESPINOZA: Well, I think that there is definitely a lot of anti-incumbency fervor going on. I mean, Hispanics and this has been reported in the last few weeks are increasingly turning against Obama. And is that having implications for the party overall? Absolutely. I think that most Hispanics feel incredibly let down by the administration. Let's not forget that nearly 70 percent of Hispanics supported Obama in the election. And I think that they did so, in large part, because of his promises on immigration reform.

The fact that, you know, it's more than a year later and this issue, there's been a real failure of leadership in the eyes of many Hispanic constituents, I think you're going to see the consequences of that playing out in the midterm elections.

KEYES: Before we move on to Florida, Ana Marie, I just want to ask, so do you think that this means the influence of the Tea Party has been overestimated by pundits basically everywhere?

Ms. COX: Well, yes, I think it actually has something to do with what Robin was saying. I think that the Tea Party is a really fun story to cover. Sarah Palin's a really fun story to cover. The fact that she brings money and therefore, a spotlight is exactly right. And the problem is, we need to be careful in how you said there's been a lot of attention paid to Sarah Palin, I think. That's the evil, the passive voice. We in the media pay a lot of attention to Sarah Palin. When you put an active, you know, participating...

Ms. CARY: We're talking about her right now.

Ms. COX: We're talking about her right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COX: I actually for a while tried to be when I was going to go on chat shows on television, I tried to say I was going to boycott talking about Sarah Palin until it actually looked like she could win something. But that meant I didn't get booked to go on TV very much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COX: And it's very important to my employers that I occasionally do that. So I had to give in and talk about her. But I just have do a pro forma - like, she is really she polls very badly. No one trusts her to run government. We should all just say that every time we mention her.

KEYES: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: So we're going to move on to Florida - again, host not saying that. Robin, Kendrick Meek is now the first black Senate nominee in Florida after defeating Jeff Greene. And so we have African-American Democrat running against a Hispanic Republican, Marco Rubio, another Tea Party, and Governor Charlie Crist, the Caucasian independent. Is race going to play out in this race with the, you know, little...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: Race in the race. Well, I mean, I don't know that there's ever been an election that has involved a non-white male in the U.S. that hasn't in some way involved race and/or gender. So it certainly, I think, will have an impact. But, you know, and perhaps someone else can speak to this more specifically, but I have to think that Florida is a very complicated state when it comes to race because it's not just you know, it's not black versus white. I mean, there's the Hispanic aspect. There's the Cuban I mean it's very you have to parse it very finely, I think. And the result could, in fact, be that in some ways, it negates the impact of race.

KEYES: So we're going to move on to Virginia, where Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion requiring first-trimester abortion clinics to meet hospital standards. Mary Kate, I think you have written something...

Ms. CARY: I did write a little...

KEYES: ...saying that you don't understand why there's drama about this. Because?

Ms. CARY: Yeah. My take on it was that the reaction from the pro-choice crowd -I should back up. The attorney general wrote a legal opinion that got released yesterday, that was authorizing the state health board to write regulations on abortion clinics in Virginia.

KEYES: That would cause them to have to be up to hospital standards, which many of them currently are not.

Ms. CARY: Right. Hospital standards meaning doctors who have privileges at hospitals, counselors who are professionally trained, and I think some sort of building code-type stuff.

KEYES: Right.

Ms. CARY: And that's the part I'm not so sure of what that means. If these opponents had come forward and said this is onerous, this is expensive, this is unfair, something like that, I would've been, like, well, okay, I understand that. The problem was, they came forward and they said, this is extremism; this is reckless; he's an ideologue - all this sort of stuff. And my attitude was, well, all he's saying is if you're going to get an abortion in your first trimester, it should be safe, which is what I thought we all have been saying for years: safe and legal.

KEYES: What about the argument that many are making, that it's going to cause clinics to close and make it more difficult for women to get abortions?And Ana, go ahead. You're just like, ah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: She's almost pounding her hands on the table here.

Ms. COX: I would say that I haven't maybe read as deeply as you have because what I have been seeing is not people - there are people out there probably saying it's onerous and he's extremist, and whatever. Or that he's extremist and this is, you know, unjust.

But I just see it personally, looking at the history of abortion in America, as onerous, and as an attempt to it's something called the trap strategy, which is the targeted regulation of abortion providers, which is sort of the strategy that abortion opponents have latched onto in the past 10 years or so, which is not criminalization, but to simply make abortion more and more expensive and harder to get.

KEYES: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Allison Keyes. We're in the Beauty Shop - you know, the counterbalance to the Barbershop. We're speaking with Mary Kate Cary of U.S. News and World Report, Robin Givhan of the Washington Post, Ana Marie Cox of GQ Magazine, and Galina Espinoza of Latina magazine.

And Galina, what do you think about this abortion issue?

Ms. ESPINOZA: I completely agree with Ana on this. I think that this is yet another attempt for them to get around federal law. I mean, by their own admission, they don't have the right to tinker with that. And yet this is another way of attacking it of getting around it. And I think that that's something that, again, that we're seeing this is a strategy being employed across the country.

We see it in Arizona, you know, with their attempts to regulate immigration policy, which is - again - under the behest of the federal government. And yet they are finding loopholes that they can attack. And I think that that's exactly what we're seeing in this case.

KEYES: I hate to move from abortion to something so - well, you know, tabloid-y, but Tiger Woods' divorce is final.

Ms. COX: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COX: I'm okay with moving away from it. I mean...

KEYES: And his ex-wife has now spoken with People magazine and she says, I felt stupid as more things were revealed. How could I not have known anything? Elin's home country of Sweden is offering her congratulations. Robin, do you?

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, you know, I congratulations, I think it would be in order if this is, you know - not to be cliche, but if this is sort of the best way for her to move forward, then good for her. But I mean, I do think that it's, you know, it's interesting that there's this kind of subtext of, how could she not know? And to me, when you raise that question, it's almost like you're assigning just a little bit of blame. So, how could you not...

KEYES: You mean, to her.

Ms. GIVHAN: To her. How could you not be attentive enough to know? How could you not be perceptive enough to know? How could you not be involved enough in the relationship to know? And I think that's what sort of bothers me, when people sort of raise that question. Because I think it's completely possible to be very involved in your relationship and very committed to it and still not know - because people lie.

KEYES: Come on, Galina.

Ms. ESPINOZA: Yes. I have to say that I'm also amazed because I've heard that a lot from women and from readers, and from people posting online, where people fundamentally have a hard time accepting that she didn't know that he was being unfaithful.

In fact, I've heard conspiracy theories - that she knew all along, and that she had accepted it...

KEYES: Eww.

Ms. ESPINOZA: ...and that it was part of some sort of negotiation in her marriage, and that she was staying in it for the money and for the exposure. And the incredible backlash that she has faced, I have found very telling about our culture.

KEYES: Ana Marie, what do you think about that? Is there a backlash against her for this?

Ms. COX: I think maybe there is. I have to say one - just cliche thing, which is that divorce is always more fun as a spectator sport.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Wow.

Ms. COX: No, just because I'm a child of divorce, and I'm married. And I, you know, I just there's a part of me that when it gets covered in the tabloid and we talk it about it being a fun topic away from abortion - like it's, you know, it's terrible. And I think that's the part where I almost cringe at offering her congratulations, because if she's a human person, if she's human at all, I don't think she probably feels good about this, you know.

KEYES: The thing that struck this for me, I guess, was watching all the fun that was being made of her, the whole "Saturday Night Live" skits and everything. And I'm not married, you know. But I'm thinking if I am this woman that's going through this, do you really want people just mocking you on national television for what's got to be the dissolution - whether or not you were in it to win it, shall we say, or in it for real - that's got to hurt you. I mean, don't you think, Mary Kate?

Ms. CARY: Yeah. I mean, I read the People Magazine piece some advance copy got out this morning, and so I was reading it. And she sat for those interviews for 19 hours. And the People Magazine guy who was reporting it, really kind of jumps in with his own opinion and says, she was so gracious, so shocked by all this, but yet not bitter. And he thought she was just a model for other women who have been through this.

And we've seen a bunch of high-profile divorces lately where the women were not exactly models. And I think, you know, she's young, and I don't want to say congratulations either, because I wouldn't wish it on anybody. But I think she's...

KEYES: Except for the alleged $750 million part.

Ms. CARY: Well, right.

KEYES: There's that.

Ms. CARY: But I don't get the sense she was in it for that. Maybe I'm misreading it, but this conspiracy stuff is just kind of sad. Like, nobody would wish that on anybody.

Ms. COX: I feel like anyone who's ever been in a relationship, you must know it's not just having - being married, but, like, having been in relationships, you always want to believe the best about your partner.

KEYES: Right.

Ms. COX: Like, it's so believable to me that she didn't know. I feel like, you know...

Ms. CARY: And especially the whole golf lifestyle those guys are never home, you know?

Ms. COX: Oh yeah, she was busy raising the kids.

Ms. CARY: Even the guys who live in town and play golf are never home, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: So wait - so Galina, should she have left? And fairly briefly - should she have just packed up and gotten out?

Ms. ESPINOZA: Oh, I think it's too hard to ever speak for someone else because you really don't know what goes on behind closed doors. And I do know that she herself was a child of divorce, and always felt very strongly that she never wanted that for her kids. And I certainly believe, in reading this interview, that it was for the kids that she stayed and tried to work it out, and was hopeful that it was going to work it out. It was a real marriage for her, and she thought she could put her family back together. But obviously, this was one situation that could not be repaired.

KEYES: Robin, briefly, do you think she should've just bailed? And I mean briefly.

Ms. GIVHAN: Yes, I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: Based on the evidence that I have, I think she should've bailed. I don't think it was reparable.

KEYES: Okay. Mary Kate Cary is a former presidential speechwriter, columnist and blogger at U.S. News and World Report. Robin Givhan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor for the Washington Post. And Ana Marie Cox is Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine. They were here in our studios in Washington. And Galina Espinoza is editorial director at Latina magazine. She joined us from New York. Thank you, ladies, for a scintillating conversation - as always.

Ms. CARY: Thank you.

Ms. COX: Thank you.

Ms. ESPINOZA: Thank you.

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