Spitzer, Ferarro and Kilpatrick Fuel Political Drama

The guys in this week's Barbershop — Jimi Izrael, Nick Charles, Ruben Navarrette and Arsalan Iftikhar — comb through the week's news. They weigh in on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, Geraldine Ferraro's comments on Sen. Barack Obama and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's lamentation.

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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 whatever's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, editor and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, and media executive Nick Charles. Hi guys. I may jump in from time to time, but for now, take it away Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Hey, Michel, thanks so much. Fellas, what's up? Welcome to the shop!

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: What's happening?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Hey.

NICK CHARLES: Hey man how are you doing?

IZRAEL: Yo, check this out. Geraldine Ferraro resigned from Hillary Clinton's campaign after refusing to back down off disparaging comments she made about Barack Obama. All right. A-train. What is on Geraldine Ferraro's mind? She's all about, you know, Barack's got it great! Well, you know, what's that about?

IFTIKHAR: If we had to make this into a movie re-make, I would call it "Grumpy Old Women," and I just think she's gone far beyond being a surrogate of the Clinton campaign...

MARTIN: I'm sorry, can I throw something in here please? That was so rude!

IFTIKHAR: If it was a guy, I'd say "Grumpy Old Men." I mean, it just seems like it's not helping the Clinton campaign obviously. She had to step down from her position there. I'm just kind of perplexed as to why she went there.

MARTIN: I dunno, Ruben, what do you think?

NAVARRETTE: There's a lot here, Michel. There's a lot here, but I'll just take two swipes at it. First of all, when you boil down her comments, what she's talking about is dismissing all the appeal, all the skill set, all the gifts that Barack Obama has and that's insulting to millions of folks, millions of Americans, particularly African-Americans. But the other thing I'd say about this is that it's really a great educational moment because I have tried for so long to convince Latinos and African-Americans they need to look at both parties because the Democratic Party wants their votes and really doesn't give them any regard. From now on, I'm not going to have to make that lecture. I'm just going to have to say two words. Geraldine Ferraro.

IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: But I also have to say, she also began this interview that we're talking about now with this newspaper in California by saying that the only reason she got picked is that she's a woman and she said if my name were Gerald Ferraro, I wouldn't have been on the ticket. I don't know about you guys, but to me, as a woman, OK, why are you dogging yourself?

IFTIKHAR: That's sort of a graven approach to things.

IZRAEL: Nick, get a piece of this.

CHARLES: You know, I think the thing is, she's a three-time loser. She lost - she helped Mondale lose 49 states, she lost two other races here in New York State. The fact of the matter is that right now, there's a struggle for the Democratic Party, and I guess Ruben is rubbing off on me because I agree with him. Are you going to bring this party, the party of Lyndon Johnson, or the party of Andrew Johnson? The fact of the matter - are we going to go back to when Andrew Johnson took over when Lincoln got assassinated and basically tried to destroy Reconstruction and put blacks back in their place by killing civil rights, or are you going to move forward like the Great Society did in the '60s and give everybody a franchise? This is the real struggle. It's not Obama, it's not Clinton, it's about do Democrats really care about people of color, particularly black folks, or have they been riding, skating by for all these years on smiles and promises...

IFTIKHAR: And anti-Republican votes.

CHARLES: Exactly, but Bill Clinton was getting 90 percent of the black vote and nobody said anything. But now, Obama's getting it and it's because he's black.

IZRAEL: Speaking of people talking bad about your boy, Obama, yo, Representative Steve King talking bad - about how terrorists would celebrate if Democrat Barack Obama were elected president. A-train, what's up with that?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, it's one of the right-wing surrogates for McCain pandering again to the politics of fear.

MARTIN: But to McCain's credit, he did immediately disavow it.

IFTIKHAR: Yes, he disavowed it. But it's plausible deniability. It's the ability for your surrogates to get out there, get the message of hate and fear across, and then you can distance yourself later when it's already in the public domain.

MARTIN: Well, but both sides have had surrogates, and not to the same extent - I would argue that Samantha Powers trying to say off the record that Hillary Clinton is a monster isn't the same order of magnitude, but she had to resign...

IFTIKHAR: Sure, it was a politically foolish move, but what I'm saying is when you're actually pandering to the politics of fear itself, you know, I think that's going to the lowest common denominator.

NAVARRETTE: It's also logical. If in fact, if we were to elect somebody named Barack Obama president of the United States, that's like holding up a big huge banner to the entire world trying to make the argument for the virtues of representative democracy, of Western civilization, he's a great advertisement. People should think of it that way.

IZRAEL: Let's keep it moving and talk about ohhh snap! Governor Eliot Spitz!

IFTIKHAR: Wow.

IZRAEL: Yo, he dipped out of office amidst reports he paid over 80 grand for the services of prostitutes. He paves the way for his number two, David Paterson, to become New York's first black governor, and now wait a second now, a word about Paterson. He's a Harlem native, but he's Brooklyn born, stand up Brooklyn.

MARTIN: What's up Brooklyn? Brooklyn in the house!

IZRAEL: Now, he may be legally blind, but he'll be the second New York governor with a major disability to hold office with FDR being the first.

IFTIKHAR: That's fantastic.

IZRAEL: FDR had polio. Ruben, what's up with your boy Spitz?

NAVARRETTE: Look man, I had the same thought when you all heard that he had spent 8,000 dollars on hookers at least.

IZRAEL: 80 grand.

NAVARRETTE: Which is basically that I'm not making enough money apparently. OK?

IFTIKHAR: Oh yeah, just wow.

NAVARRETTE: If you have that kind of money to burn...

MARTIN: That's like two years of college tuition.

IFTIKHAR: He's spending what I make in two years as a salary.

IZRAEL: OK, hold on. A word about the woman in question. Her name is Ashley Dupre, CNN's reporting her name is Ashley Dupre, and she's 22 years old. She's an aspiring singer, of course, and she has a 3500 dollar a month apartment that she can no longer afford to pay the rent for. She's out of a job, and she has a public defender. Yo, paging Billy Martin. Nick?

CHARLES: She's not out of work for long.

IZRAEL: She needs a good lawyer.

IFTIKHAR: She needs a good agent.

CHARLES: Yeah, she needs an agent.

IZRAEL: Really?

IFTIKHAR: Oh yeah.

CHARLES: Her price has just gone up. She's got a book coming up.

IFTIKHAR: The tell-all. She won't need to sing for the rest of her life.

IZRAEL: Go ahead A-train.

IFTIKHAR: As the resident lawyer, I have two very quick observations. One is as a lawyer. In the second day of law school, they teach you about interstate commerce. They teach you that if you're going to commit a crime, you do not cross state lines; otherwise you're screwed.

NAVARRETTE: Literally.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: And so, on behalf of every lawyer.

IZRAEL: Is that in the textbook? You're screwed?

IFTIKHAR: For me and for some other lawyers out there, we scratch our heads and we wonder if this was not sort of a thrill-seeking experiment that he could get away with the same laws.

IZRAEL: I think he was set up. I do think it was a set-up. I think it was a honey-pot set up...

NAVARRETTE: Thank you Marion Barry.

IZRAEL: OK, just wait a second, Now Marion Barry, Eliot Spitzer? Listen, all right.

MARTIN: But you know, if you know people are out to get you, don't be guilty. Don't be guilty.

IFTIKHAR: One more thing really quickly guys, I want to speak about his wife, and I want to speak about all the wives. I felt - I saw Dina Matos McGreevey, the former wife of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey when he admitted to having an affair. I am so sorry to all women out there that...

CHARLES: No, no, no, no, no.

IFTIKHAR: Hold on. I'm going to say it. Eliot Spitzer did not deserve to have his strong loving wife stand next to him.

MARTIN: As the only wife represented here, I understand why we have the right to have a private opinion, but I kind of feel like it's not really our business.

NAVARRETTE: A lot of it is not our business.

MARTIN: Yeah, and if she wants to stand there to support her husband who is the father of her children to make a statement.

IFTIKHAR: No, absolutely, it does make a statement.

NAVARRETTE: It's a private thing.

IFTIKHAR: And again, it's not even about the prostitute. He broke federal laws.

CHARLES: Most people are so pop culture averse. If, for instance, he were to watch at least two episodes of "The Wire," he would know better.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Hold up, hold up. If you're just joining us, you're listening to Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Nick Charles, and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks Michel. You know what, speaking of sex scandals, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is still holding court in Detroit. He's still holding his seat. After his sex scandal with his former chief of staff, he claims there's a lynch mob afoot. Yeah bro, it's in your pants. Michel, we got some tape on that right?

MARTIN: Yes, I think we do. Here's Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at his state of the city address on Tuesday, March 11th. But I have to warn you, there's some language in here. I just want to give you a heads up.

KWAME KILPATRIK: In the past 30 days, I've been called a [beep] more than anytime in my entire life. In the past three days, I've received more death threats than I have in my entire administration. I've heard these words before, but I've never heard people say them about my wife and children. I don't believe that a Nielson rating is worth the life of my children or your children.

CHARLES: Oh, this guy!

IZRAEL: Ruben, wha- what? This cat is sitting there trying to cry us a river and he got busted basically with his zipper down. What's wrong with this guy?

NAVARRETTE: This was an error in judgment, and he's responsible for this. This idea that somehow it's about Nielson ratings and the media, the media made me jump in bed with my chief of staff.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: And then the race card. What's that about?

CHARLES: That's brilliant because that's Marion Barry track, the race card. You know, the mayor of Newark is going to use it now in his trial, his corruption trial in New Jersey.

IZRAEL: Well check this out, me as the devil's advocate. Although, I call for him to step down. I kind of admire his chutzpah. There's something about me that admires a politician that's willing to kind of stand through the fire and say you know what, I feel like I'm doing a good job. I feel like I'm doing a good thing for Detroit, and I'm going to kind of bear the brunt of this.

IFTIKHAR: But Jimi, that's not chutzpah, that's political arrogance. You know, when Eliot Spitzer came out to apologize...

IZRAEL: Tomato, tomah-to.

IFTIKHAR: Well, no. Eliot Spitzer did not look the least bit contrite. He looked like...

IZRAEL: Busted!

MARTIN: I am intrigued by his demeanor. Not knowing the man at all, I'm intrigued by it.

CHARLES: I have never seen anybody apologize and yet be so arrogant at the same time.

MARTIN: I'm struck by the letters in the New York Times today by so many people saying I believed in this man. I'm one of these people who thinks this stuff is none of my business, but I'm devastated because I thought he was there for me and he's throwing the whole thing out the window.

IFTIKHAR: He was Elliot Ness! He was Elliot Ness. He was the untouchable. He was supposed to be...

CHARLES: Like everybody else, I was swept up when Spitzer was doing all this stuff against all these Wall Street barons. I was like go Eliot because it's hard to see the little guy getting screwed. But on the back end of it, when you get caught with your pants down, jumping through the window, you don't come back to the microphone and basically yeah I got caught, I'll see you guys in the next life.

IZRAEL: Let me say this, now you know what, dude he messed up. Spitzer messed up.

IFTIKHAR: You think? You think?

IZRAEL: Hold on, hold on. This is really between him, his wife, and God.

MARTIN: I don't agree. Now the people who voted for him, voted for him with the expectation that he would fulfill the duties of his office, and he put himself in a position where he couldn't do that.

IZRAEL: He apologized. He doesn't owe anybody a pastry or a Hallmark card. There's nothing he can say. This whole thing is terribly subjective to me.

MARTIN: I'm thinking that it's just that what we expect of men is more complicated than we understand.

CHARLES: Michel, explain that.

MARTIN: I'm just saying on the one hand, you know, if a guy shows a lot of emotion and so forth in the performance of his duties we think oh what's his problem? Show-off and then in a situation like this, we're like, oh why isn't he more emotional? I don't know.

CHARLES: I don't want to demonize Eliot Spitzer. People have been writing letters and the blogosphere is like evil this. Look, the man loves his wife, he's a family guy. He still is. You can still love your wife and do this crap.

NAVARRETTE: Free Eliot!

IZRAEL: You know what, as your boy Eliot Spitzer probably said earlier in the week, I think that's gonna be a wrap ladies and gentlemen. Thanks so much, thanks so much for being in the shop this week. I got to pass it back over to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.

MARTIN: I know who I'm not going to look for for sympathy if anything bad every happens to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHARLES: We'll stand next to you, Michel.

MARTIN: Thank you. Jimi Izrael is a freelance reporter who writes for theroot.com. He joined us from WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and cnn.com, and he joined us from San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor for Islamica Magazine and a civil rights attorney, and he was here in our Washington studio. And Nick Charles is vice president of digital content at bet.com, and he joined us from our bureau in New York. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

IFTIKHAR: Thank you, Michel.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you, Michel.

CHARLES: Thank you, Michel.

IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

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Ferraro Quits Clinton Job After Obama Comments

Geraldine Ferraro is resigning her fundraising position with Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign because of comments she made about Sen. Barack Obama.

Ferarro — the 1984 vice presidential nominee — suggested in a recent interview that Obama would not be where he is in the presidential race if he were not black.

Obama said the statement was an attempt to divide America with "slice and dice" politics, and he called on Clinton to denounce the statement. On Tuesday, Clinton said she "did not agree" with Ferraro's remarks.

Ferraro said her comments were misinterpreted.

This is just the latest example of how race and gender issues are complicating the Democratic race for the White House.

Michele Norris talks with Christopher Edley and Maria Echaveste about that comment and the ensuing war of words.

The two are married. They both teach law at University of California at Berkeley, and they both worked in the Bill Clinton White House — but their political allegiances are split this year. Edley is an adviser to Obama, and Echaveste is advising Clinton.

They agree that the campaigns have to be extra-sensitive to comments about race and gender, but they differ on whether race and gender can be avoided completely.

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