Guys Talk Clinton's Memory Lapse, March Madness

The guys in this week's Barbershop — Arsalan Iftikhar, Nick Charles, Roy S. Johnson and Eric Deggans — have a lot to say about Sen. Hillary Clinton's conflicted account of a trip to Bosnia, Chelsea Clinton's snappy response to a question about Monica Lewinsky during a recent campaign stop, the latest song release by the "Obama Girl" and the NCAA's March Madness.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to 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. The week's been full of politics, sports, and culture news. So no doubt there's a lot on their minds. Sitting in the chairs this week are editor and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, media executive Nick Charles. Some new guys in the shop, not new to the program, but new to the shop, Roy S. Johnson, editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness Magazine and media critic Eric Deggans. Jimi Izrael and Ruben Navarrette seem to be getting their shape-ups elsewhere this week, but guys, thanks for coming.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey hey, what's going on?

Mr. NICK CHARLES (Media Executive): Hey, what's going on?

Mr. ROY S. JOHNSON (Editor-in-chief, Men's Fitness Magazine): What's going on?

Mr. ERIC DEGGANS (Media Critic): Glad to be here.

MARTIN: So, why don't we just talk politics? Hillary Clinton didn't have such a great week, did she Arsalan, did she?

IFTIKHAR: No, she didn't. The whole Hillary/Bosnia debacle where apparently on a 1996 trip to Tuzla, Bosnia, Hillary Clinton, first lady at the time, decided - was actually told beforehand that there was sniper fire around the area. And apparently when she was landed she was greeted by an entire delegation of schoolgirls and one of them proceeded to read a poem about her E-Z Bake Oven.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And that's not how she talked about it on the campaign trail.

IFTIKHAR: That is not how she talked about it.

MARTIN: You want to hear it? Here's a clip.

IFTIKHAR: Sure.

MARTIN: A lot of stories about this. Let's hear it.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I remember landing under sniper fire. There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars and that is what happened.

Ms. SHERYL ATKINSON (Reporter, CBS News): Problem is, that's not what happened and we should know CBS news accompanied the first lady and her daughter Chelsea on that Bosnia trip. There was no sniper fire either when Senator Clinton visited two Army outposts where she posed for photos. And no sniper fire back at the base where she sang at a USO show starring Sinbad and Sheryl Crow.

MARTIN: So that was CBS's Cheryl Atkinson saying that - a little Pinocchio action going on.

Mr. DEGGANS: You know what I love about this, and this is Eric talking, you know what I love about this is that the person who broke the lid on this story is Sinbad.

BARBERSHOP GUYS: (In unison) Sinbad!

(Soundbite of laughter and chatter)

Mr. DEGGANS: And what I love about this story is that Hillary had been telling this story on the stump for so long that all the reporters covering her were joking about it. I mean, they were - you know, she told it all the time. So why did it take Sinbad to remind Cheryl Atkinson that they hadn't experienced sniper fire when they were there in 1996? I don't get it.

Mr. JOHNSON: That's what's amazing to me - this is Roy - it's a big deal to me because the small things say the most about us. If you cannot tell the truth about something as simple and clear as this, how can we believe you on the larger issues?

Mr. CHARLES: A lot of people have lost jobs embellishing their resume. She's embellishing her resume.

IFTIKHAR: And the greater issue here guys, is that you know, this whole time she's been touting her foreign policy experience and her ability to be commander in chief. If you're escaping from sniper fire in Tuzla, Bosnia in 1996, that's foreign policy experience. If you're listening to poems about E-Z Bake Ovens while you're serving as first lady that is not foreign policy experience, that will not make you a better commander-in-chief.

Mr. JOHNSON: The funniest cartoon that I've seen, this is Roy, that I've seen throughout this election was one in which Hillary and Bill were sitting at the kitchen table and I believe it was about 2016 and Bill was saying by now Chelsea has 27 years of foreign policy experience. That is how they view experience, just by being in the family.

MARTIN: Speaking of Chelsea, it is interesting to see her more out on the campaign trail. She's always been very sort of visible, and she's traveled a very great deal. This is an interesting thing. She was asked about Monica Lewinsky at Butler University in Indianapolis. This is what she said, well do you want to here what she said?

BARBERSHOP GUYS: Sure.

Ms. CHELSEA CLINTON: Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the - I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses I've been to. And I do not think that's any of your business.

BARBERSHOP GUYS and MARTIN: Snap!

Mr. CHARLES: I thought she said nothing.

MARTIN: What do you think about that?

Mr. DEGGANS: What I do think is interesting about this...

MARTIN: Is that Eric?

Mr. DEGGANS: Yeah, this is Eric. They put her out on the stump and they want her to press that her parents are wonderful, but the when people try and challenge that by asking questions the way they would of Bill Clinton or Hillary, all of a sudden, well, you know, she's the daughter. She can't answer any questions. I'm sorry. She's in her 20s, she has a career, she's making political speeches, and you have to face up to the questions of the electors. And there's a way to say you don't want to answer that question without insulting the person who asked it.

MARTIN: Hold on. Nick?

Mr. CHARLES: I think she answered the question honestly. I think she answered it from her heart, and I think she has the right to do that. And quite frankly, I do believe that we have gone into dangerous territory with regard to private lives. Those of us in New York have been following the debacle involving Governor David Paterson and it was just ridiculous.

IFTIKHAR: I agree, I agree.

Mr. CHARLES: I agree with that to some extent, but not totally. But I disagree with you, Eric. Because my thing is, when this happened she was a teenager, a young teenager. She wasn't like 18, she was like 13, 14, or 15. And I don't think - even if they put her out there to stump for her mother, I don't think it's her position to defend the illicit affair of her father.

MARTIN: Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: You know, and you'll rarely hear me say anything nice about the Clinton campaign, but I think Chelsea did the right thing here. You know, again, this was a personal issue. This was about her family's personal private affairs, and she very, you know, confidently said, you know, that's none of your business.

MARTIN: It's interesting because we - I think a lot of people wonder whether she has a future in politics. And it is interesting to kind of see her get her sea legs. I think a subtext to this campaign is, is there personal business? And whether they've got, you know, their act together. And whether his personal - her father, the former president's personal behavior is going to become an issue again? It's a very different job, you know, being the spouse, than being, you know, the principal, but I just sort of wonder if maybe that's why the sensitivity. I don't even know - I can't believe I'm even bringing up Obama girl. I can't even believe I'm bringing it up.

IFTIKHAR: It seems to be the most influential thing in this entire campaign.

MARTIN: A new "Obama girl" video. Am I really asking? I mean, without Jimmy here...

IFTIKHAR: Yes, yes, yes. I will explain to you why.

MARTIN: OK, go ahead. Arsalan's going to explain to me why.

IFTIKHAR: OK. The great thing about the Obama girl phenomenon, first of all, it's based on a website called Barelypolitical.com. And that's what it is, is barely political. It's reaching out to the 19-year-old college sophomores smoking the peace-pipe, listening to Outkast, and Thievery Corporation in their rooms saying, listen guys, get off your backsides and help change our country.

MARTIN: And it definitely is guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IFTIKHAR: Well, you call a spade a spade. Yes. And so I think, you know, the 18 to 29 demographic, in terms of voting has been abysmal. And as someone who's been a part of that generation for so long, you know, we want to see the 15 to 18 percent voter turnout turn into 30 and 40 percent so that we can be a swing demographic.

MARTIN: You know, I've got to play this for you. But what's interesting to me is how these videos have gotten more pointed politically, because the first was a just, hey, I like Obama, hey, you know. And then this one actually has a fairly sophisticated message. Let's play it. We'll play a little bit of it because I don't want to get you all worked up, but here it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DEGGANS: This is a radio.

Mr. JOHNSON: We can't see her.

Mr. DEGGANS: It's radio.

Mr. JOHNSON: She looks really nice in this one too.

MARTIN: OK. Here it is.

(Soundbite of Obama Girl Song)

Ms. AMBER LEE ETTINGER (Obama Girl): (Singing): I'm just hoping to hear about Obama. I'm sitting in on his speeches, getting high off all the drama. But then I watch he's standing there, always showing one of your rallies. I just can't keep my eyes off the CNN ticker, can't keep my eyes off of the tallies. He's got the delegates locked down, let him Barack this because he ain't just another Mondale, John Kerry, or Dukakis. He's got the superpowers to change the world. And he's ready at three a.m., steady. By the phone.

MARTIN: This is called "Woman to Woman", and the whole premise here is that she's telling Hillary to drop out.

Mr. DEGGANS: It was a good beat. It's a good beat too.

Mr. JOHNSON: But Michel, I think...

MARTIN: Roy, go ahead. Roy.

Mr. JOHNSON: You're missing one point. That clearly this is aimed at men. If you've seen the videos, she's very attractive. But this is an empowered woman. This is a woman of this time. She has a point of view, and she is not afraid to speak it, and particularly one in which in this video, she is not just buying into the sisterhood thing, she is saying, look sister, you need to step back. You need to step aside. It is time for a change.

MARTIN: That is so touching, Roy, but don't they always call the playboy centerfold a coward? No disrespect, no disrespect.

Mr. CHARLES: No, no. Michel.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Nick.

Mr. CHARLES: That's not fair because she has actually turned the girls gone wild dynamic on its head, because she's using the same kind of methods of scantily clad, very attractive, but she's saying very important things. And she's saying them in a very witty way with a nice beat behind them. And she's saying it for our generation.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Arsalan.

IFTIKHAR: Just because, you know, Timbaland might be the producer and it ends up looking really good, I mean, that's not - it's not empowering when you know that somebody, a girl is ratting around in her Daisy Dukes and her bikini. You know, perpetuating every stereotype that we know to man.

Mr. CHARLES: What's wrong with Daisy Dukes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DEGGANS: He's a lost cause. Don't even try.

MARTIN: Arsalan, you're not failing it, you're not failing it. You think it's not thoughtful.

IFTIKHAR: I'm sure Nick looks great in Daisy Dukes, but I know I wouldn't.

Mr. JOHNSON: That's not an image I came here for.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: Send your letters to...

MARTIN: Hold on one second. Let's just pause for a second. If you're just joining us, it's our weekly visit to the Barbershop, with Nick Charles, Arsalan Iftikhar, Roy S. Johnson and Eric Deggans. Go ahead.

Mr. DEGGANS: What is interesting is to see how YouTube and all these various video-sharing websites have become a real big part of the political dialog. If you want to go back to the Reverend Wright video, at first, we saw these videos with very short clips of the sermons. And then we saw a video circulator where there were longer clips of the sermons, and you could see for yourself the points that he was trying to make and how they had been distorted by the initial reporting. And that's one of the things that I find very interesting, is that reaching this young demographic, you have to use these media platforms, so they can see it on their text message, or they can get it on their cell phone, or they can see it online. Because the traditional ways of reaching this - particularly this demographic - just don't work as well.

Mr. JOHNSON: The internet has become the coffee shop of this generation. Well, if you look at college campuses and these central locations where people came together and debated or shared their views, it's now the Internet. It's now these file-sharing methodologies, it's text messaging. They don't really talk anymore. It is how they're getting their news.

MARTIN: I am curious why the Clinton campaign doesn't answer?

Mr. DEGGANS: There's a music video by a group called The Clintons. And you know, they're sort of taking the, you know, acoustic folksy. I mean, they obviously don't want to replicate the Obama girl, you know, the Clinton boy. It's not the same.

MARTIN: OK. One more thing I wanted to run past you guys, which is - it's interesting, we're talking about YouTube and kind of, new media. An old media story. The Los Angeles Times had a story about an attack on rap superstar Tupac Shakur. Apparently, they had to apologize for it because it was based on fictitious documents. I don't you, are you guys familiar with this? Nick, you must have followed the story.

Mr. CHARLES: Yeah, it's a story that L.A. Times actually took some prisoner-doctored FBI document, send it to them and said, well, I can implicate Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in an attack in 1994 in New York City on Tupac Shakur, where he got shot, he didn't get killed. He died, you know, a couple of years later he got shot in Las Vegas. But the fact of the matter is that, you know, this - I don't know what mainstream media is doing, but there's not going after the real news, which makes me to wonder what are they up to? You know, they're talking about the newspaper business dying, well, they're helping kill it.

MARTIN: Eric, you were going to say something.

Mr. DEGGANS: Well, I just want to say, first of all, I'd be very careful about taking specific instances where newspapers have made mistakes and expanding that to the entire media because the New York Times also broke the story that Eliot Spitzer spent money on a prostitution ring. And whatever you think of the personal nature of that story, he was somebody who prosecuted people for participating in prostitution rings, and he was doing it himself. And that was a story that I think that voters of New York deserved to know, and the New York Times broke it and it was very solid.

The other thing I'll say is that as far as Chuck Philips, the reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who's a Pulitzer prize winner and broke the story, there've been people in the rap community and the hip-hop community who've had problems with Chuck's reporting in the past. And I'm not saying that I know that he has a history of getting things wrong. He actually has a pretty good reputation in the mainstream media. But there have been people who have complained about the way the L.A. Times has covered the Tupac shooting, the one in Las Vegas, you know, before. So this is not a new thing. And they really need to clean house in that newspaper and make sure that what they're doing when they write about this issue is accurate.

MARTIN: OK. We've got to do one more thing before we go which is, we've got to be careful about our brackets.

IFTIKHAR: It's not a Barbershop without March Madness.

MARTIN: That's right, Arsalan. Break it down, break it down.

IFTIKHAR: Oh my goodness. Well, I've...

Mr. CHARLES: Georgetown. Bye.

MARTIN: I know, I'm sorry. I'm still in - that was cold, whoever said that, that was cold.

Mr. CHARLES: That was me. That was me, Michel.

MARTIN: Thank you, Nick. Because you know, I'm still in mourning over my team. I just tore up my sheet. I just tore up my sheet last week.

IFTIKHAR: And that's the great thing about March Madness. It's about the proverbial underdog. I think for any true sports junkie out there, I think if you ask them what one of their favorite things about the NCAA March Madness is it'll be the number five versus number 12 first round game. Stephen Curry from Davidson...

Mr. CHARLES: That's my boy. Go Davidson, go Davidson.

IFTIKHAR: Dell Curry, the former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry's son. The kid looks like he's 12 years old and 140 pounds, but the guy is unreal. I want him to win.

MARTIN: I had to give him his props. So I'm going to put all of you on the spot. Call it for me.

IFTIKHAR: I'm thinking the upset Final Four is Davidson, UCLA, Stanford, and Louisville. I'm picking Stanford to win it all with the Lopez twins.

MARTIN: Wow.

Mr. JOHNSON: I don't know if I could go all that way. I love the Lopez twins, I love the job that Trent Johnson is doing out at Stanford, but I just don't know if they can handle Texas. Texas has got the Great Guard, and D.J., and I think he's going to be able to...

MARTIN: Final Four, Roy, Final Four. Break it down.

Mr. JOHNSON: I love Xavier.

IFTIKHAR: They're good. Xavier is gangster.

Mr. JOHNSON: And Kansas, Kansas is just solid. I think Bill Self is going to make it from the Midwest. And then Louisville, I think Louisville is going to upset North Carolina. I love the way they play. And if you haven't played against a Louisville team, it's hard to make that adjustment.

MARTIN: Eric, go ahead. No, no. Nick, I'm going to give you the last word. Eric?

Mr. DEGGANS: No, go ahead man because I have no idea. I just like watching the games.

MARTIN: All right. All right. Go ahead, Nick.

Mr. CHARLES: I just want to inject some reality. North Carolina is going to win it all because North Carolina has the best team and the best talent, and they're very well coached. Kansas - good team. UCLA - good team. North Carolina wins it all. My Final Four, I go UCLA, I'll go MSU, Michigan State, because I think they can upset Memphis with a better coach. I'll go with Davidson for my heart to the final.

IFTIKHAR: There you go! It's our George Mason of the year!

MARTIN: A sentimentalist.

Mr. CHARLES: And then North Carolina, but North Carolina wins it all.

MARTIN: I'm with you, Eric. I tore up my sheet. That's what I'm saying. OK. Nick Charles is vice president of Digital Content, at bet.com. Roy S. Johnson is editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness Magazine. The joined us in our bureau in New York. Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times. He joined us from Pointer Institute from St. Petersburg, Florida. And I was joined by Arsalan Iftikhar, civil rights attorney and contributing editor for Islamica Magazine. He was here in our Washington studio. No Jimi to say, yup you, but gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yup yup!

Mr. CHARLES: Yup yup!

Mr. DEGGARS: Yup yup!

IFTIKHAR: Yup yup! There you go, they all got it. Peace.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today.

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