Shop Guys Talk Politics, Benny the Bull
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I am Michel Martin and you are listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop with the guys talking about what's in the news and what's on your mind. Sitting in the chair for our shapeup this week our freelance writer, Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist, Ruben Navarrette, and I'd like to welcome a new member to the shop, he is Ken Rudin, political editor for NPR. Welcome guys, I may jump in once or twice but for now take it away Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks Michel, hey, hey fellas, welcome to the shop. How are we doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey how are you doing?
KEN RUDIN: I am excited, I have never been on the show dedicated to the governor of Mississippi.
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: All right, well...
RUDIN: I am sorry got the wrong barber.
IZRAEL: That's cool bro, you are my friends. Check this out, yo, check this out, you know Barack Obama is keeping it moving in Indiana, recovering from his loss to Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primaries. Ken dog, you're first in - you know, win is a win but it wasn't a mandate by any stretch now, what's going on? How did this happen?
RUDIN: Well, first of all, from the day one Hillary Clinton had double-digit lead in Pennsylvania from, I mean, a few months ago we had twenty-point lead. It was probably down to twelve points and then perhaps the more Barack Obama campaigns in the state the more voters gets to see him, he narrows the gap. The questions is whether he closed the deal as we like to say. Pennsylvania was tough from the beginning, it's older than most states- only Florida and West Virginia are older. Barack Obama does not do well with older voters, it's wider than most states, it's eighty-two percent white. More blue-collar workers, he is not connected with blue-collar workers. I think the terrain was tough from Obama to begin with, perhaps the most favorable terrain, May 6 in Indiana.
IZRAEL: You know, it is interesting you mention how white it was, but he did OK on Iowa if I remember, Ruben, give us some perspective on this.
NAVARRETTE: Pennsylvania is like nothing we have seen before. Here is why, in every other race coming up to this - you know, sometimes you'd have three or four states in a single day, you'd have 10 states on a single day. Pennsylvania six weeks of campaigning led up to Pennsylvania. And during those six weeks a lot things happened, the Reverend Wright eruption, the whole Bosnia lie by Hillary Clinton and the sniper fire thing. Even now most recently, the ad that Hillary Clinton ran where the New York Times accused her of waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 by putting Osama bin Laden out there to scare voters. So there were these ups and downs all along, I think, you can spin it either way and say that the double-digit win for Hillary Clinton is significant. You know ten points is no small thing. But on other hand points well taken that he did, Obama did closed that gap a lot. And who knows what it was that helped Hillary clinch this deal. But it is an important win for her and it really makes Indiana and North Carolina and the states to come all that more important.
IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, you know, like Ken said, Hillary started out with twenty-point lead in many polls, Barack had it closed to about six points and I think it was the Philly debate at the National Constitution Center that was the clincher, I think that again, Hillary was able to triage and Barack didn't come out with his A game that night and it was able to creep in the double digits although, Barack's supporters would say it was 9.4 percent victory and not double digit but again, that's neither here nor there.
MARTIN: And Arsalan, who were those Barack's supporters with?
IFTIKHAR: Well being a brown civil rights lawyer from Chicago, I would have to say that would be me.
MARTIN: You know, what I am wondering, though, I want to ask you this, maybe they just felt that she had a more coherent message on the economy. Maybe they just thought that what she had to say was more specific, you think that's it?
IFTIKHAR: Let me go back to the one race thing, it's true that in states where racial disharmony is not an issue, Iowa, Idaho, Wyoming, even lily white states like that Barack Obama cleaned up. Its I think in places were race, racial animosity has a history of it. The history of racial animosity in Pennsylvania that gun owners, the blue-collar workers, the distrust among races, that's where I think the race issue plays more and the plays more against an Obama candidacy.
IZRAEL: You know, what's interesting pretty much I want to hear when I was on the ground in Philly covering the debate and...
MARTIN: Yes your movements were well-documented. I believe you are on the ground in search of the Obama girl but that's, you know...
IZRAEL: What I have observed was a sea of Hillary supporters and the demographic normally skewed older and in some cases, I saw a huge Latino contingent out for Hillary. Obama supporters were always uniformly young female and selling t-shirts for some strange reason but.. Yeah, I mean, the Obama contingent outside of the debate hall...
MARTIN: I think Senator Bob Casey might disagree that, who is a Obama supporter but we'll take your point.
IZRAEL: I am just saying what I observed. I am just wandering going forward, I mean again, you know the 9.4 to 10, whatever, is not a mandate by any stretch of the imagination. But, I'm concerned about how we - how Obama cannot run away from the Reverend Wright controversy, and his comments about the blue collar workers being quote, unquote, "bitter".
IFTIKHAR: Well, I think, you know, it's not that Barack can't run away from the Reverend Wright controversy; it's that no one will let him run away from it. I mean, again, I want John McCain to be asked at every campaign stop about Reverend John Hagee, about Reverend Rod Parsley, about his quote, unquote, "spiritual advisers" who have said as fiery and as apocalyptic of things as Reverend Wright has and again, I see a double standard here. You know, we make the African-American, the black candidate, you know, jump through hoops, but we don't place the same level as scrutiny on John McCain, or the white candidate.
IZRAEL: Let's keep it moving and deal with Republican Senator John McCain, and he is asking North Carolina GOP to not run an ad, that features quotes and controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. McCain says there is no place for this kind of campaigning, and the American people don't want them. Michel, if I'm right, we've got some tape on this, right?
MARTIN: Well, you know this is always a dilemma, because this ad was supposed to run only in North Carolina. But, the fact that it has become a news story means it's getting national exposure. So, here is the dilemma. So, do we play or do we not play? I mean since - if you want to talk about it and figure out what it is they're saying, I think we got to play it. But, I'm just telling you, that's why we're playing it, but here it is. All right. Here it is.
(Soundbite of ad)
Unidentified Announcer: For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor.
(Soundbite of shouting)
Reverend JEREMIAH WRIGHT: And they want us to sing "God Bless America?" No, no, no. Not, "God Bless America," God (bleep) America."
Unidentified Announcer: Now Beth Perdue and Richard Moore endorse Barack Obama. They should know better. He's just too extreme for North Carolina.
Unidentified Woman: The North Carolina Republican Party sponsored this ad opposing Beth Perdue and Richard Moore for North Carolina Governor.
IZRAEL: Was that below the belt?
NAVARRETTE: Now listen, it's bad news for John McCain that's in the Republican Party. That's why McCain wants to pull it. There's several reasons why they want to pull it. They don't want to get this thing out there too early, way before November to the point where - if they decide to use something like this in November, it'll be old news. Beyond that, another reason is John McCain has throughout his career, done a pretty good job of reaching out to people in his Arizona campaigns, African-Americans, Latinos and others. And I think he is this kind of new more moderate type of the republic, and he doesn't like these kind of games when their played. And lastly, get this, young voters hate this stuff. Young Voters! The same voters that John McCain says he wants to go after. Not necessarily concede to Barack Obama, they hate this stuff. Young people think that this kind of stuff represents the old politics that they want to move away from. So, those are three good reasons right there why this is bad news for John McCain, and the Republicans, and probably not so bad for the Democrats.
RUDIN: Let me give you a fourth reason right now. Where is John McCain right now? This week has been in a (unintelligible) in New Orleans.
NAVARRETTE: Right, he's on tour.
RUDIN: He was in Selma, Alabama; obviously, you don't want to have a message of racial intolerance, when you're trying to woo over African-American voters, and you know, other voters left behind in places, like Selma and New Orleans.
IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, I agree with both Ken and Ruben, I think that you know, John McCain is above the fray in terms of this sort of gutter politics. Unfortunately, I don't think that the Republican Party as a national entity is above the fray in terms of that gutter politics. I think that we're going to see more of these things throughout different states. These are - again, this is the lowest common denominator of American politics that we can get into, and unfortunately, it seems like we're in the seventh rung of Dante's political inferno.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News, and we're having our weekly visit to the Barbershop with Ken Rudin, Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette and Arsalan Iftikar. I just wondered if anybody wants to talk more about that John McCain tour. He's calling it - it's his time for action towards making stops in Selma, Alabama, and New Orleans, and Youngstown, Ohio. Do you - can I just play a short clip, if he's going to tell us why he's doing it? Want to hear it? OK, here it is.
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): In America, we have always believed and if the day was a disappointment. We would win tomorrow, as what John Lewis believed when he marched across this bridge. That's what he still believes. What he still fights to achieve. A better country, than the one he inherited. Hope in America is not based in delusion, but in the faith that everything is possible in America. The time for pandering and false promises is over. It's time for action, it's time for change.
MARTIN: Arsalan, he doesn't seem to be getting that much attention for this.
IFTIKHAR: You know, with the whole Barack and Hillary thing going on, I'd like to say that John McCain is on his, I-am-chilling presidential tour where essentially he can do whatever he wants, because he's just chilling right now, and so you know he needs to reach out to voters. He needs to reach out to demographics that you know have felt alienated by the Republican Party, and you know there's no better time then, you know, during the 15-round bout that the democrats are going through to get these voters, because I think, obviously, ones the democrats get a nominee, then going to these primarily democratic areas, won't reap the benefits for him politically.
MARTIN: But Ken, what do you think though? I mean, I wonder - you think this is a wasted effort? Because I'm just surprised that he's not getting the kind of balance for this. I mean obviously, there's so much going on the democratic side, and I wonder if it's intentional. Does he really expect to, or is this a wasted opportunity?
RUDIN: Well, I don't even know if it's much of an opportunity, because nobody's paying attention. I suspect that by doing nothing on April 22nd, John McCain may have been the big winner in Pennsylvania, because Hillary and Obama are still beating - you know they're knocking each other's heads off. But ultimately, you know he's not going to get the votes of Selma, and the 9th Ward, and things like that. But I think he makes the case like George W. Bush tried to do, when he first ran in 2000, not you know so much of the compassionate conservative, but he had a record, George Bush did, of working with Latinos in Texas and reaching across. He wasn't the right wing conservative, as a lot of people's portrayed him as in the last eight years.
IZRAEL: For my two cents, I'm not convinced that this kind of thing isn't just the cheap photo op. I mean, you know you tour in the ghetto, to take the pulse of America. Suddenly you're interested on how the other half lives. Sorry bro, you need more people. Let's move on, and talk about something really important. Benny, the Bull.
RUDIN: Yeah, Chicago.
IZRAEL: The mascot for Chicago's NBA Team is being sued, oy vey, by a fan after being injured by the lovable beefer. Now, wait a second. Arsalan, now help me out here because I'm familiar with a few laws, and I think if you get hit by a ball, or a golf stick, or anything like that when you attend the game, because basically you attended the game at your own risk.
MARTIN: Can I just tell you - a golf stick. Jimi, what's up with that? Do I need to revoke your guy card? I mean...
RUDIN: He meant the golf bat.
(Soundbite of laughter)
IZRAEL: Right, a golf bat. A golf club.
MARTIN: I just realized it's my job to point out any error.
RUDIN: Close to the folks. Close to the folks.
IZRAEL: I'm trying to cling, I'm trying to cling...
RUDIN: His clinging. He's bitter, and he's clinging to his golf bat.
IZRAEL: And hit somebody with something used in the game. Basically, your ticket buys you an audience to the spectacle, and you take your own risk by doing so. Is that right?
IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, for example being someone from Chicago who's met Benny the Bull. Benny the Bull can get a little rambunctious. I'm not going to lie to you. I mean he will get right up there. He'll jump on your head. He'll do all sorts of stuff. Now, the person in question, Dr. Don Clint from Naperville, Illinois, is actually a well-known oral surgeon. He's a dentist. He's very well off it.
IZRAEL: Can you say oral surgeon on the air?
IFTIKHAR: I believe so. Anyway, so apparently, the story is as the doc was reaching out to give Benny the Bull a high five, his arm was hyperextended and therefore, you know the crowns of his profession were not in full gear, and so he's suing for back wages of nearly 80,000 dollars in the time between the actual - the Benny the Bull (unintelligible) - it's one of those redunkulous law suits that you hear. You know the guy who sued for 2 million dollars at the dry cleaners for his pants. You know here in DC. It's kind of - I, as a lawyer, would sort of put it in that realm.
IZRAEL: Interesting. You know I mean, 'cause I...
RUDIN: So the bull is dangerous. I've heard red meat can kill you but...
IZRAEL: Go ahead, Arn.
RUDIN: I've never heard this variation before.
IZRAEL: Yeah. I mean, I don't know if part of me buys it. I mean, because you know, when you go to the game, you put your - I mean, a high five is a high five, and you don't expect to be incapacitated. You're giving somebody some props. You know, and I think if you're employed by a company, and you know you're performing a service, I think you have an obligation to know how to perform this service safely, and without injuring people. You know what I'm saying...
NAVARRETTE: Free Benny.
MARTIN: Ruben, I take it you're skeptical.
NAVARRETTE: Yeah, I'm skeptical. Leave Benny alone. Let's just - you know, this is a frivolous lawsuit for sure, but you know, I don't buy this whole motion that somehow it's in Benny's job description not to - you know, to be careful how he gives the high fives because he might hurt somebody. And I watched the San Diego chicken. The San Diego chicken is going to go mug somebody tomorrow.
IZRAEL: I think the right lawyer is going to make hamburger out of Benny. Ken dog, wrap this up, please.
RUDIN: I think this seriously affects Ralph Nader's chances of being elected president.
IFTIKHAR: A very astute observation. That was good.
IZRAEL: And with that, I think it's going to be a wrap. Ladies and gentleman, thanks so much for another great edition of the show. I have to kick it back over to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.
MARTIN: I know what I'm getting you for your birthday.
IZRAEL: What's that?
MARTIN: A golf stick.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist 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. He joined us from KOGO in San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney, and contributing editor for Islamica Magazine, and NPR's own political junkie Ken Rudin. They both joined us here in our studios in Washington. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
NAVARRETTE: Thank you.
RUDIN: This is the second best day of my life.
IZRAEL: Yup yup.
(Soundbite of laughter)
(Soundbite of music)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.