MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's time for a special visit to the Barbershop here in St. Louis. I'm at KWMU studios for this broadcast. Sitting in the chairs for our shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil-rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar. We're also joined by political science professor Lester Spence, and I'd like to welcome Rene Vences. He's the editor and co-owner of El Mundo Latino here in St. Louis. It's a bilingual, bi-weekly paper that focuses on issues of particular concern to the Latino community. He's here with me in the studio. I may jump in here or there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.
Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Freelance Writer): Thanks, Michel. Hey yo, fellas, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How we doing?
Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil-rights Attorney): Hey, hey, hey.
Mr. LESTER SPENCE (Political Science Professor): Hey, what's up?
Mr. RENE VENCES (Editor, Co-owner, El Mundo Latino): Hey Jimi. What's going on?
Mr. IZRAEL: You know what? I'd be remiss if I didn't say happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, and you, too, Michel.
MARTIN: Why thank you.
Mr. IZRAEL: All right, that's a bet. You know what, Colin Powell and Rush Limbaugh going at it, with Powell saying Rush is bad for the GOP. And you know what, Limbaugh is advising Powell to just stop fronting and just become a Democrat. You know, this isn't the first time they've gone at it. You know, your boy Limbaugh took some shots at Powell back in the day, saying that Powell had switched up, supporting then-candidate Obama because, you know, just on racial solidarity, you know, and that's…
MARTIN: Do you want to hear that? I actually have that clip. Would you all like to hear that?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Drop it.
Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah.
MARTIN: Just to be sure that - just so you know Jimi's telling it like it really is.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Okay, here it is. This is Rush saying, well, this is why Colin Powell's mad at him. That's his version. Here it is.
Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Host): He's just mad at me because I'm the one person in the country who had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama. It was purely and solely based on race. There can be no other explanation for it.
Mr. IZRAEL: Wow. Oh man, Rene.
Mr. VENCES: Yeah, I know.
Mr. IZRAEL: What's up, man? Que pasa?
Mr. VENCES: Nada, chico. Soy bien. Oh my God, that statement. He really blew it right there. I don't know. I don't know what to think about that.
Mr. IZRAEL: Well, I mean, you know what? My whole thing…
MARTIN: Is anybody surprised? Is anybody surprised?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: No, of course not.
Mr. VENCES: He's been doing that for a while.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well I mean, let's not forget, guys, that…
Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-train.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, this is Arsalan. Rush Limbaugh is the guy that, you know, said that Michael J. Fox is exaggerating his Parkinson's Disease and then Donovan McNabb is, you know, only a good quarterback in the NFL because of his race. You know, what I find interesting is the fact that, you know, he talks about Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama as being based purely on race. Then the same argument could be made that his endorsement of McCain was made solely on race.
And so, you know, I'm going to have to give him the ridunculous award of the week because here we have a former secretary of state, Colin Powell, versus, you know, our secretary of distaste, Rush Limbaugh.
MARTIN: Well, you know what a better example might be Joe Lieberman. What about, like, Joe Lieberman? Does anybody say that - I think because the better example might be somebody crossing party lines to endorse a person of the opposite party. So would he say that Joe Lieberman endorsed John McCain because he's white?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, he should, but of course, you know, we don't expect that sort of, you know, moral clarity from Rush Limbaugh.
Mr. IZRAEL: You know, this is last year. This is bad for everybody. This, of course, is bad for the Republican Party. The Republican Party's numbers are tanking in every region except, like, the South, right. So they're becoming a minority party, and this is, to the extent that people like Colin Powell actually do move to the Democratic Party, this makes them more conservative, right? I mean, so I don't see how anybody win - the only people who win - the only person who wins in this argument is Rush Limbaugh and his supporters. And it's just really bad for the country.
MARTIN: But Colin Powell said he had no - Colin Powell wasn't talking about becoming a Democrat. What sparked this is that he gave a speech this week. He said the Republican Party, in his view, has drifted too far to the right, and I also would mention that this is something that John Danforth just said, like, a couple of minutes ago on this program, and he said he has said that before. He said a big part of the problem is that people like Rush Limbaugh have become the voice of the party, and Limbaugh was reacting to that.
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah, and that's the challenge, right? I mean, so what Colin Powell said is absolutely right. And what Rush Limbaugh - Rush Limbaugh is looking at his numbers, right, because he's not a political figure. He's an entertainer, right? Well, he is a political figure, but he's really an entertainer. I mean, he's looking at his numbers, and it's like, my numbers rise when I go off on these guys and move the GOP further to the right than what it is. But when he does that, they become less of a player in the political arena, and everybody laughs at them.
Mr. IZRAEL: You know what, and to Limbaugh's point - and don't tease me bro -but what has Powell done lately for the Republican Party? You know what I'm saying. I mean, he's not the strongest spokesman for the Republican Party. I'm sorry, bro.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: I mean, he's just the Secretary of State for the United States of America.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, well there is that. There is that. But, you know, I mean, but my man is flipping. He's flipping and he's flopping, you know, one week he's Republican, next week he's Republican but he's on the Democrat's side, you know, and then he comes out against Limbaugh. You know, Limbaugh, you know what he's not the - you know, he should not be the face of the GOP. He's not the strongest advocate for his position but, you know, to his point, he's trying to save a dying party, you know, so I guess, again my question becomes, you know, what's Powell doing for the Republican Party?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, I think he's trying to take - he's trying to give the Republican Party a soul which is what Limbaugh is trying to suck out of the Republican Party.
MARTIN: I think he's trying to move them back to the middle. I think he's trying to say that a more effective electoral strategy to be move to the - I remember both parties always have this argument particularly after they've lost an election big. That this is - this is sort of the inevitable thing that results when you've had bad results, is people sort of take these shots at each other. Speaking of people taking shots at each other, Jimi…
Mr. IZRAEL: Oh man, yeah, Elizabeth Edwards - Dr. Spence, you'll be particularly interested in this item. Elizabeth Edwards came out spilling the T on her husband and his peccadilloes in a new tell-all memoir. Now, you know, if memory serves me, Dr. Spence you were a big John Edwards dude. I think you even got a John Edwards tattoo. I could be wrong about that.
Dr. SPENCE: No, I got two (unintelligible), no tattoo though.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. IZRAEL: But I'm wondering if you're dude should have been a little bit more upfront about the affair because, you know what, it's one thing to get busted out on "Meet the Press" but it's another thing to get busted out by the National Enquirer. Doh!
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah he should have been and I'm of mixed feelings about the tell-all book because the book is about resilience, right. And the things is, in this moment what we really need are stories of people who are able to overcome tremendous odds and to live lives that still have wonder and joy in them, right? So in that way I think that what she did was okay, but the other thing is there are some things - I mean people are complicated so to the extent...
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Thanks, Dr. Phil.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Dr. SPENCE: …Ha ha - to the extent that she's divulging really, really private and intimate details in order to sell books it's just…
Mr. IZRAEL: Wait, wait, wait. Let me push back on that, bro. It's not to sell books. This is part of her truth.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right, that's true.
Mr. IZRAEL: Unless we forget, there's a baby out there and the (unintelligible), we still don't know who's the daddy, you know, so what…
Mr. VENCES: Oh come on, we all know who's the daddy?
Mr. IZRAEL: Well, we really don't, because - because Rielle Hunter, the mother has steadfastly refused to give the child a DNA test, so I mean, Dr. Spence this is part of her truth too. You know, I don't know if it's fair to come out there and say that she's trying to push the book.
MARTIN: But here's my question. Here's my question is should he have run, I mean, he knew this was part of the story, so the question I have for Lester is…
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah.
MARTIN: …should he have run? I mean can you really keep something like this secret in this day and age?
Dr. SPENCE: Umm.
MARTIN: I mean it didn't emerge until after the campaign was over.
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah.
MARTIN: But had he been selected for the ticket, had he been selected for the vice presidential ticket, this could've completely…
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah.
MARTIN: …thrown the election into chaos, so the question is, I mean, should he have run and the question I have for Elizabeth Edwards is she knew about it. Should she have encouraged him not to run?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, if you - this is Arsalan again, those of us who watched the Oprah interview yesterday, you know, she said that she was first told about the affair two days after he had announced his candidacy for president and, you know, had he removed himself from the campaign two days after he announced that he was running, then obviously, you know, it would have started a lot of stuff. I mean, I feel absolutely terrible for Elizabeth Edwards.
You know, I think that I agree with Lester. I think this - I mean I agree with Jimi, this book was, you know, trying to get her story out. I mean this home girl was embarrassed in front of an entire nation and, you know, I think, you know, that, you know, it was important for her, for her closure, you know for her kids, I just think for her legacy to, you know, get everything out there and I think the biggest loser in all of this was John Edwards.
Dr. SPENCE: Let me revisit this, because I think you guys are both right and helped change my opinion on this. This is Lester. I think the challenge is in telling that story. There are a number of ways you could have tell - told that story and a number of ways you could have conducted that interview. So she actually didn't even mention the other woman by name.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.
Dr. SPENCE: Right? As if this is all her fault when she's married to the person who made a choice, right? So there's a way to tell the story about resilience that doesn't absolve anyone from guilt that really makes - that helps people to grow and that's the challenge I have with that.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know what…
MARTIN: I can appreciate not wanting to name the other party, I mean, the fact is by naming her in a way she does take the onus on her as opposed to her husband who is the decision maker, who was the married party. I mean I can understand that on a human level, can't you?
Mr. VENCES: I think she wrote this book just based on therapy. I think she just needed it to get it out - out there, you know, to prove herself, you know. Yes I can do it, you know, I can - I can get out of this depression myself.
MARTIN: Can I ask one - can I ask you while I have you here, can I ask you a question about something completely different off the topic. Jimi, excuse me for one second. There was this movement afoot by some of - a group of Latino Evangelical ministers who are urging their undocumented parishioners not to participate in this census and they are saying that the census information is abused - it's used to - even though, of course, the census doesn't - believe that, but they feel the people use that information to criticize illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants.
And what they're saying is that they want the members of their churches to boycott the census if they are undocumented until Congress and the new administration pass immigration reform. I'm wondering if you think that's an effective strategy to pressure that forward.
Mr. VENCES: Michel, it's going to take a lot of (unintelligible) to the whole community. We have in 2000 when there was the census, I think over two million were missed just by the undocumented immigrants and if we do the same mistake in 2010, we're taking about twelve million people - undocumented immigrants might not be registered or counted.
And this is going to be very important for, you know, for the whole United States, you know, and especially Missouri. We are showing a growth from two percent in 2000. We are expecting to be about 8 percent in 2010, so the growth is tremendously and by doing the boycotts, I honestly - it's a lot of leaders out there that they wanted to do it just for the fact to show immigration reform, to pass the law and to go out there and say you know what let's do it, you know, before move on to count you.
MARTIN: You don't co-sign that and the reason I'm asking is because as a co-owner of a paper - the ethnic papers - which serve the Latino community have been asked to really participate in getting people to participate. So I just wondered how you were - you feel ambivalent about it.
Mr. VENCES: I definitely feeling the fact that everybody should participate in the - on the census and no one should be afraid of immigration, you know, it's illegal for, you know, for the census to pass this information to INS or to the ICE, so I highly recommend everybody to be part of the census in 2010.
MARTIN: And Lester, can I just ask you just really fast, what do you think about that as a strategy for forcing Congress to focus on immigration and the administration to focus on immigration reforms? What do you think about it?
Dr. SPENCE: I think this is another case where - where elites are using, they are moving discussion away from how the state can help. Right? I mean so how does - so the census ends up giving people stuff, right? So cities that have over a million people get more resources than cities that have under a million people because of the census, right? So every person that's not counted means less stuff for that constituency and for the state that that person lives in. So to that extent what people are - what elites are saying is well, we want you to boycott and the fact we want you to boycott and the less stuff we end up getting will end up coming back on us in another way. I mean that's really complicated.
MARTIN: I understand what you're saying. Let me jump in really fast to say if you're just joining us, you are listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin and I'm speaking with Lester Spence, Rene Vences, Jimi Izrael, and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop, a special Barbershop from St. Louis. Back to you, Jimi.
Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks Michel. You know, I'm having my questions about the census. I'm just trying to stay off the grid, so we'll see if I can stay off the…
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: You're here, Jimi, you're on a stadia, that's the grid.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. IZRAEL: You don't know me. You don't know me. Anyway, yo, wow, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he is this year's NBP but who can possibly deny my boy, last night he plucked the Atlanta Hawks 27 points, five assists, four steals, three treys and one from over - just over half court. Hello gentlemen, ladies, I love this game.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.
Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, A-train, go ahead.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: I think on behalf of the Barbershop we can say to King LeBron James that we are all witnesses as well.
Mr. IZRAEL: Well.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, 109 out of a 121 first place votes for LeBron James followed by Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul (unintelligible) of the New Orleans Hornets. You know LeBron James is - he really is that transcendental player who is just above the rim and what I love most about this is that, you know, instead of, you know, accepting his award at the stadium, he went to his high school, St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, to show love to the people that he grew up with and show that he truly is basketball's best player in the league.
Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, you got to love that about him. He's never forgotten. He's never tried to claim Cleveland as his home, you know, I mean, because Akron is ooh, Akron is real serious right about now. But he's still embracing it as his - well that's where he's from. L-spence, my man, don't cry bro, I mean maybe next year it will be your Pistons.
Dr. SPENCE: Kid, the thing is people in Cleveland, Akron need anything they can get and that's on the real. That's on the real, right? So the fact that he brings it every night. There are a whole group of people who basically live off of his exploits. I mean, they make it to the next day because he got off, right. So this is a great thing. He's an absolute. He's one of the best players to come. He's the best player to come down the pike in the last 15 years. Mr. IZRAEL: And not just that, he recently just told ESPN that, you know, although he'll be a free agent in 2010, he's here to stay. Rene, do they even play basketball in St. Louis?
Mr. VENCES: We do but…
MARTIN: You don't have to take that from him.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: I know you're trying to be nice…
Mr. IFTIKHAR: …only straight razors in the Barbershop.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Who would you like for the - who would you like to…
Mr. VENCES: I was wondering about Kobe being you know, with James. Here you know Kobe was the, you know, better shooter during the season, but James you know totally took the (unintelligible). So I don't know what you guys think about that, about Kobe?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: The thing is…
MARTIN: The blood's just drained from Arsalan's face but go ahead.
Dr. SPENCE: What LeBron James brings to the table is size, right? So Kobe is a killer, stone cold, but what LeBron James brings is Magic Johnson's height and court vision with Michael Jordan's athletic ability and killer instinct now, and you just - that's a combination that Kobe can't compete with.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: He is King James. He should be on the Barbershop sometime.
Mr. IZRAEL: All right Michel, back to you.
MARTIN: All right, thanks Jimi. Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for TheRoot.com and TV1online. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland, as if you didn't figure that out. Lester Spence is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. We also want to mention he is celebrating a special anniversary today, his 16th wedding anniversary. Congratulations, Lester.
Dr. SPENCE: Thank you.
MARTIN: Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and a civil rights attorney and Lester and Arsalan both joined us from our Washington D.C. bureau. And Rene Vences is an editor and co-owner of El Mundo Latino. He joined me here at KWMU. Gentlemen thank you so much.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.
Mr. VENCES: Thanks, Michel.
Mr. IZRAEL: Yup, yup.
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American public radio consortium. Let's talk more on Monday, we'll be back in Washington.
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.