'Barbershop' Reviews DNC Highlights

In this week's Barbershop, Jimi Izrael, Michael Bowen, Robert George and Charles Robinson comb through the highlights of the Democratic National Convention, including Sen. Barack Obama's historic acceptance speech. The men also pause to commemorate third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation along the Gulf Coast.

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CHERYL CORLEY, host:

I'm Cheryl Corley. This is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin has been in Denver all week covering the Democratic National Convention. A little later in the program, we'll remember the city of New Orleans. It's the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which hit the Gulf Coast and ravaged that city. But first, it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. And sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, reporter Charles Robinson, columnist Robert George and blogger Michael David Cobb Bowen. I must mention, since we've gathered to talk early in the day, we will not be talking about Republican John McCain's pick for the vice presidency. And I may jump in here and there, but for now go ahead and take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: C-Love, thank you so much. Fellas, what's up?

Mr. MICHAEL DAVID COBB BOWEN (Blogger): Hey, what's up?

IZRAEL: Welcome to the shop.

Mr. ROBERT GEORGE (Columnist): Good morning, it's my first time here in the Barbershop. It's good to be here.

IZRAEL: Everybody's all bright-eyed and bushytailed. Robsky's in the house first time. Welcome so much. And Cobbsky's back. Thank you, Cobb. Let's jump right in. You know, this week we wrapped up the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. C-Rob, give us a view from the ground.

Mr. CHARLES ROBINSON (Reporter): I wrote a blog that said that Denver is chocolate city.

IZRAEL: Word?

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah man, it was out there, man. More black Democrats were at this convention than I've seen in a long, long time.

Mr. BOWEN: Wow!

Mr. GEORGE: C-Rob, I have to tell you this. I've been to Denver. Two black...

Mr. ROBINSON: I know, it's only four percent black. I know that!

Mr. GEORGE: Two black - two black people walking down the street would be more black people than they have in Denver.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOWEN: Now don't forget Wellington Webb. Now, he did a good job.

IZRAEL: Hold on.

Mr. BOWEN: Has his pictures all over DIA.

CORLEY: Now guys, it is not that bad.

Mr. BOWEN: Wait a minute, wait a minute. You got to see...

IZRAEL: OK, OK.

Mr. GEORGE: Land of the snow people.

IZRAEL: Hold on, hold on. C-Rob, continue please, continue please. Go ahead.

Mr. ROBINSON: As they say in that George Clinton tune, God bless chocolate city and its vanilla suburbs. It was all that and more this week here. But, you know, the bottom line was is that, look, a lot of people, this is like a hajj, if you will. People were coming here like it was Mecca. They were - and they didn't have tickets to anything. They were just, like, we want to be in the room. We want to be here. And the thing was is that, you know...

Mr. GEORGE: Even the presidential nominee's middle name, I don't think you should call it a Hajj.

Mr. ROBINSON: You know, I don't care, Rob. That's what it was. People were coming here, man. I met people like had left Arizona talk about, you know, I don't know what I'm going to do when I get there. I met a woman came all the way from England who said, I'm coming. And it was at that point that I realized that this is much bigger than just a political thing. Older gentleman of about 70 years old told me - he said, Charles, I never believed I would ever see a person of color running for president. And I think that's a sentiment that's been running through a lot of what we've seen here this week.

IZRAEL: You know what - you know what I thought was interesting? Earlier in the procedures they gave - they marked the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. You know what? I thought that was risky given that although he's - I mean, Dr. King is well-loved, but he's also a polarizing figure. Robsky, jump in here man. What did you think about that?

Mr. GEORGE: You know, I don't think so. I think that Martin Luther King is not a polarizing figure anymore. I mean...

IZRAEL: OK.

Mr. GEORGE: Martin Luther King is claimed even - you know, Republicans who talk about the need to get rid of, you know, what we would call racial preferences. They look at that speech and talk about, saying, well, Martin Luther King was the man who said, he'll judge us by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. So Martin Luther King at, you know, 45 years down the line is an all-inclusive figure. I don't think there's any risk in that.

IZRAEL: Cobbsky, my man, what do you think?

Mr. BOWEN: I agree with Robert that there is no risk in Martin Luther King. But you know, I kind of expected...

Mr. GEORGE: Malcolm X. Now that might have been going a little bit too far.

Mr. BOWEN: Well, not for some conservatives.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Cobbsky. Go ahead.

Mr. BOWEN: I would have thought, though, Barack would have jumped on that a little bit more. I mean, I kind of expected a I kind of feel your dreams, or I'm living your dreams, or the dream was about to happen.

Mr. GEORGE: I think - I think he - I think what he did - I think his choice there was absolutely perfect there. Talk about mixing in his own biography plus the plans that he has for the country. And then bringing in Reverend King at the very end as a grace note. I think that was the absolutely perfect pitch selection.

Mr. ROBINSON: That was the way to do it. That was the way to do it.

IZRAEL: Speaking of right pitch, you know, it was strange to me, and also kind of interesting that he went out of his way, he bent backwards to give props to Senator John McCain and his military service. But you know what? He didn't - he didn't not give him a jibe or two. C-Love, we got a clip right? When he kind of takes a jab at McCain?

CORLEY: Yes, we do.

IZRAEL: Look at some Osama bin Laden. Can you drop that?

CORLEY: Yeah, here we go.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell. But he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. BOWEN: This was not the kinder, gentler Obama last night.

IZRAEL: You know what? You know what? You know what, those people - if Osama has some student loans, they'd be able to find him. Go, go ahead, Robby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GEORGE: It was very - the Democrats were very smart. That every time got ready to do a slam on McCain, they prefaced it by saying, you know, this is a great hero, you know, he's done great service to his country. But, I mean it was like, it was your classic, you know, I'm not here to, you know, Mark Anthony is an honorable man, you know that kind of thing.

Mr. BOWEN: No disrespect, but you're an idiot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GEORGE: You're talking to me?

Mr. ROBINSON: Oh give the man some love. Give the man some love. Give the man some love.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: Hey look, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, C. Rob.

Mr. ROBINSON: Look, there was so much - you know the number 40 played so much and then 40 years from, you know, having the speech...

CORLEY: Forty-five.

Mr. ROBINSON: Forty-five. Forty-five. Forty-five, thank you very much. The 40 years wandering in the desert, Moses. You know this is kind of like one of those - people were talking about, you know, this is like messianic. I was going like, you know, I don't think it's quite that.

Mr. GEORGE: I noticed - I noticed you didn't mention the 40's that were being smuggled into Mile High Stadium last night, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: Oh no, no, no. No, no, no. You got to understand that. That was not happening here.

Mr. BOWEN: I don't know. I was one of the crowd here.

Mr. GEORGE: I know, but it was too good of a line to pass up. I'm sorry, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORLEY: Let me introduce you guys again because you're having so much fun. If you're joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm Cheryl Corley and with us is Jimi Izrael, Michael Bowen, Robert George, and Charles Robinson in the Barbershop. You know, on the note that you were talking about this messiah - not exactly.

Mr. ROBINSON: No, messianic. I don't call it messiah, you know.

CORLEY: OK. Messianic message there. We have another clip where I think that Barack Obama tried to downplay that idea just a little bit. And here's what he had to say.

Senator OBAMA: I realized that I'm not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America, something is stirring.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Senator OBAMA: What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's about you.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

IZRAEL: C-love. C-love, thank you for that. Go ahead. Go ahead, Robsky.

Mr. GEORGE: You know, that was so great, you know because, you know when you're, you know, when you're getting out of a relationship, you tell the person it's not you, it's me. But he wants to get into a relationship with America.

Mr. ROBINSON: Well, he's hot for a life, man.

Mr. GEORGE: No. No. He wants to get into a relationship...

Mr. ROBINSON: All right, hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

Mr. GEORGE: With the United - with Americans who aren't so sure about where he's coming from. So, he's putting it away from himself now. He says, it's about you - it's actually about you. It's not about me. And the other thing that was very, very interesting there was this was the very first convention, because it was outside, usually when you have the nominee giving his acceptance speech, you see all these signs with the candidate's name on them. That wasn't there. It was all American flags.

Mr. ROBINSON: Change, my friend.

Mr. GEORGE: And that was just.

Mr. ROBINSON: Change.

Mr. GEORGE: That was a really great way of doing it. And I was saying...

Mr. ROBINSON: Change.

Mr. BOWEN: And he's also, he's also...

IZRAEL: Hold on, hold on, hold on. One at a time, please. One at a time.

Mr. ROBINSON: OK.

IZRAEL: Rob, you are...

Mr. GEORGE: Yeah. I was - yeah, I'm done. Good.

IZRAEL: Good. OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Cobbsky, see obviously Robsky has had his - he had his coffee this morning. Cobbsky, jump ahead, give us your impression.

Mr. BOWEN: It's a clever thing to do because I compare that to Clinton speech, and Clinton was a lot more wonky, a lot more on the job and this is what I'm going to do and this is what went wrong the last time. I mean, he did - even on the last piece, it's very clever that you know, over Pervez Musharaff's dead body, he says, OK, now maybe we're going to go into Pakistan. But he didn't mention the world, he didn't mention very specific things about it and he didn't say, this is how I'm going to lead. And so, we didn't get a feeling for it. This is the executive, this is how I'm going to execute. We understand all - we all understand what the problems are. But he didn't get into any specifics, he didn't talk about immigration, he didn't talk about how he's going to fix the credit crunch. And so, he can say, well it's not all about me, it's all about you.

IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. BOWEN: Because it doesn't sound like he has an execution point.

Mr. BOWEN: Well, I'm not...

IZRAEL: Speak - speaking, hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Ease back. Speaking of the Clintons, yo C-Rob, you were on the ground in Denver. I mean, was it too much made of that rift between Obama and the Clintons?

Mr. ROBINSON: You know what?

IZRAEL: I mean, what was the temperature you were taking on the ground?

Mr. ROBINSON: I'm looking at this as a television show.

IZRAEL: Go ahead.

Mr. ROBINSON: I'm looking at this as a television show. You got 90 minutes to get out and guess what? You know what the end of this is going to be. And I kept telling folks, and they'll say well, you know, they might have a fight. There's no fight. This is a scripted television show. Someone at the end has got to get out because the network is going to punch out if you don't punch out. And I always remind folks that you got to understand, these huge productions, you know, I was kind of teary-eyed when, you know, he showed up with Biden and you know, and you see him talking to Clinton and say how wonderful she is. You know, someone's writing this crap.

Mr. GEORGE: Yeah, but still - it is still, it's still, it's still a reality show as well. And every reality - at these reality shows, even though they're - script it as much as they can, you sometimes get a little bit of a deviation. But I think the - now, the Clintons played - the Clintons played the good soldiers, they were the - they made a one two punch where Hillary, you know, tries to get all of her pumas in line and talks about their historic right.

Mr. ROBINSON: There aren't enough pumas as to fill a room, Rob.

IZRAEL: OK. Well, hold on, hold on.

CORLEY: Let me, let me ask you this, guys.

IZRAEL: C-Love, get it.

CORLEY: Yeah. I just want to ask you - a little interesting note was made about you know, specifics being made and generally these types of speeches where a candidate's accepting a nomination, you don't hear them get as detailed, I think as Obama did during the speech, and you know, he spelled out tax breaks for the middle class and independence from foreign oil, investing in childhood education, you know, things that you might hear in like a State of the Union address or something. What did you think about this tact?

Mr. ROBINSON: This is my third political adventure where I go to buffing it and Rob has done that too.

Mr. GEORGE: Yeah.

Mr. ROBINSON: And normally, it's broad strokes. You really don't want to get in per se. You want to set a vision and both parties usually do that. This was a first time. I mean, we're really in uncharted waters. Think about it. We're in an outdoor arena, you know, nobody's ever done that. Usually it's happening in an arena where the delegates and everybody else gets to see. So I think he took this chance thinking that people were going to ask questions and at the end of the day, they needed answers. Let me give that to them.

CORLEY: And...

IZRAE: Well, you see Rob, that's...

Mr. GEORGE: You have to keep in mind. You have to keep - his critic is - the major criticism against Obama had been and the McCain people were taking good advantage of this over the last month or so was that there was a lot of - there was not a there, there. There were no great speeches. Very good style, but there wasn't a lot of substance. And he I think put a fair amount of substance on the domestic side. I think he left the foreign affairs with the exception of Iraq, you know, a little bit vaguer but there was definitely, I would think a little bit more on the substance side that you usually do get in somebody going for their first term as president.

IZRAEL: I think we're all...

CORLEY: Enough for Republicans to really pay attention to the speech and use it against him?

Mr. BOWEN: Oh, they...

Mr. ROBINSON: No. They got a right. They got to write a new speech. They have to write a brand new speech.

Mr. GEORGE: Yeah.

IZRAEL: I think, I think we're all looking forward to what the Republicans are going to say. You know, but to a storm of a different kind, ladies and gentlemen, you know, today we mark the third anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Is America any more prepared for a tragedy of that magnitude? C-Rob?

Mr. ROBINSON: I don't think so, Jimi. You know, I think people want this administration to hurry up and get out of office because they don't trust it in this kind of calamic(ph) events, you know. You know, think about the flooding that was in the midwest. You know, the president didn't come until three days later. Come on.

Mr. GEORGE: Right.

Mr. ROBINSON: You know. I think people what their president...

Mr. GEORGE: He doesn't like white people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: You watched the Comedy Central skit, too. I see.

IZRAEL: Hold on, Rob. Hold on, hold on, Rob.

CORLEY: I was just going to say they seemed to have learned, don't they though? I mean, there's a storm approaching now, and they have folks on the ground quickly.

Mr. ROBINSON: You trust FEMA? You'll really trust FEMA right about now because I don't.

IZRAEL: Cobbsky, this is your president, man? He's your president.

Mr. BOWEN: Well, you know, as the famous poet Andre 2000 said, you can paint a pretty picture, but you can't change the weather.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOWEN: So, I think anybody's going to...

Mr. ROBINSON: Yeah, that's classic, boy. That's classic.

Mr. GEORGE: Little Outkast dropping in here. That's great.

CORLEY: About 30 seconds, guys.

Mr. BOWEN: They're going to try to paint a pretty picture over this as much as possible. The president's pledged 60 billion dollars, and it's not...

Mr. ROBINSON: Where is that money? I don't see it.

Mr. BOWEN: Spend that kind of money. And it's not, well, you know, I wish he'd done something like he did with the stimulus package. Just cut a check. And those people would be able to do something better. But you know, FEMA has got its charter and...

Mr. GEORGE: And we got your stimulus package right here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: And our prayers are with those people. Gentlemen, thank you so much for going in the Barbershop. I got to - I got to...

Mr. ROBINSON: Thanks for letting me actually let me come in here.

IZRAEL: My man. Decaf, two words.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: I got to throw it back. I've got to - I got to throw it back to C-Love.

CORLEY: Thank you so much. Jimi Izrael, freelance journalist who writes for the root.com and TV Went On Live. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Michael David Cob Bowen is a blogger and founder of the Conservative Brotherhood who joined us from NPR West. Robert George, a columnist for the New York Post joining us from NPR's New York Bureau and Charles Robinson, a reporter for Maryland Public Television and a regional director for the National Association of Black Journalists joining us from Denver. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

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