FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
This is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya. It seems the National Enquirer got it right. The magazine reported a year ago that the former Senator John Edwards had been having an affair. Now the former presidential candidate has admitted to ABC News that he had a tryst with a former campaign consultant. So, how's this going to play out for the Democratic Party as a whole?
And Senator Obama is in vacation in Hawaii, while President Bush visits Beijing and chastises China for its human-rights record. Senator John McCain has criticized Obama for taking vacation. Is he right? Plus we continue our look back at the lives of Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac with Eisa Ulen. She blogs at EisaUlen.com. We've also got Ron Scott, who blogs for the Detroit News, and John McCann, the creator of the blog Book of John. Thanks for joining us, everybody.
Mr. JOHN MCCANN (Blogger, Book of John): What's going on, guys?
Ms. EISA ULEN (Blogger, EisaUlen.com): Hi.
Mr. RON SCOTT (Blogger, The Detroit News): Hi, how are you?
CHIDEYA: So, we just heard some moving tributes from Larry Wilmore about Bernie Mac and Stephen Ivory about Isaac Hayes. You know, which gentleman, if not both, do you guys resonate with? Eisa, what comes to mind for you?
Ms. ULEN: Well, it's interesting. In the earlier segment, you brought up "Wattstax." And I haven't seen that movie in so long, but I think the images in that film are really this wonderful celebration of black life, from the sacred to the profane. And I think both Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac took us to church and took us to the streets with the work that they produced. And we're all suffering a great loss now that they've passed.
I'd like to add one more thing. I think it's interesting that both these brothers were kind of young. It's not like they were 88 years old. And I wonder what health issues specifically they struggled with, and what that might mean for the black community, in us taking charge of our health. If these, you know, seemingly wealthy entertainers are still succumbing to some of the illnesses that plague our community, you know, we've got to work harder to hold onto these gems in our community longer.
CHIDEYA: I will say that I did go and see Isaac Hayes last summer at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. And he was not well then. I heard that he had been having a series of strokes, but I personally am not a medical expert on his condition. Ron or John, what do you think of that approach to the issue?
Mr. MCCANN: Well, if I'm not mistaken, I thought Isaac Hayes was a guy who was into health, and the story I read talked about him being found dead near a treadmill. Now, I know a lot of folks have treadmills and use them for - to hang up clothes on, but I was thinking he was a guy who was pretty health-conscious, if I'm not mistaken.
Mr. SCOTT: Well, I think that while that's true, I would concur with the reality of looking at health issues. Bernie Mac had had a long bout with diabetes. And even though Isaac Hayes - and you know, I had the occasion to meet him on several occasions - did really focus on health, we really don't know what kind of major issues exist in the African-American community, specifically in terms of black men. You know, when the issue about prostate cancer emerged and we found white men had it, the medical community really mobilized its resources to attempt to do something about it. And of course, we know that stroke and diabetes and respiratory illnesses adversely affect the black community in general and black males in particular, to the degree that our age expectation is so limited.
So, our age expectance is limited, and so within that context, I think that we really do need to focus more on our health. And I was listening to the segment about Isaac Hayes, and I related to that quite a bit, having been an on-air personality. And you know, he just basically - and the thing with "Wattstax" as it reflects - it changed the nature of how we related to one another. I remember a segment in that movie where Rufus Thomas...
CHIDEYA: Oh, yes.
Mr. SCOTT: The crowd went just - by just using his personality. Today, it would be very difficult to do that without having major security. So, I think, you know, as was said earlier, they represent the church and the streets and the peace and the harmony that we're seeing, unfortunately, passing away.
CHIDEYA: Well, I'm actually going to transition to something that is in the political realm. Former Senator John Edwards talked a lot about the other America when he campaigned for the presidency, but he kept his lips shut about the other woman. His wife has been battling cancer, but he had an affair with a documentary filmmaker who worked on his campaign, and the National Enquirer actually broke this story back in October 2007.
Edwards denied it. He called it tabloid trash. Now he's admitted to the affair but says he's not the father of the woman's child. So, John, let me start with you. This story has made huge ripples nationally, but you're in John Edwards' fair state of North Carolina. So how are folks locally reacting?
Mr. MCCANN: Well, I think it would be much the same as anybody else. I hadn't heard a whole lot of commentary from just local folks. The stuff I've read is just general comments, but I would tell you that if he's lying - if he lied about the mistress before, whether or not he's lying about the baby, we can only, at least to some degree, assume that hey, we should also question that. I know a lot of times when it comes to things happening in the black community, one black person can create a bad thing for everybody.
I'm wondering if this here will create that same - cast that same net toward all politicians, whereas we should say with men, unfair, fairly - no, I would say unfairly, to a guy like Barack Obama, dealing with - it would cause folks to kind of say, hey, you know, he seems to be another squeaky-clean type of politician, real smooth, and nice-looking guy like John Edwards. Do we start questioning everybody? And it would be unfortunate for that to happen, but in this world we live in, Kwame Kilpatrick's, and everything else, as far as politics is concerned, I guess it would be a valid thing to question.
CHIDEYA: You know, it strikes me that Jerry Springer is offering free paternity tests on a regular basis on his show, so this could all be taken care of very quickly.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHIDEYA: But Eisa, at this point, what does this do? I mean, we are in the, you know, kind of the courtship phase towards the conventions. The Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention are coming up starting in just under two weeks. So, does this change the game or change the focus at all, particularly for the Democrats?
Ms. ULEN: I think that people will have moved away from this story by the time we get to the conventions, and the fact that Obama will be speaking on the same - the 45th anniversary of "I Have a Dream" speech. You know, I think that there will be enough pomp and circumstance to shift attention away from this at that point, unless more information comes out about paternity. It's funny you mentioned Jerry Springer, because I have been thinking this guy, John Edwards, does not watch enough "Maury," when he says there's no way that that could be his child.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. ULEN: I mean, I've seen enough episodes of that show, I'm not ashamed to say, that I know, as much as you deny, deny, deny, it could very well be your child. So, you know, if - it's interesting that he released this information and admitted to the liaison, or affair, during the Olympics. There's a lot happening with the invasion of Georgia, to sort of shift attention away from this.
Mr. SCOTT: Right. Right.
Ms ULEN: I think by fall, we'll have moved on.
Mr. MCCANN: But the thing is, you know, if it was so calculated that he's going to release this information now, when there's so many other items in the news to take the attention away, if he's that smart a man, why was he so dumb to get into the situation in the first place?
Mr. SCOTT: Well, I think it's not a question of dumbness. I think that the situation is such that a lot of people, you know, think with various parts of their body that are not necessarily related to intelligence.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SCOTT: And I think that in this situation, I don't think it's going to cast a dim light on the convention. I think that people will move on. We know that people engage in these transgressions, and these kinds of things happen. I think it's rather unfortunate for his wife, who I have a great deal of respect for, and I just think, you know, these liaisons are happening and, you know - the best thing we find is that when people can just step up and say what happened, the public generally accepts it more readily. It's just unfortunate that it's happening at this time, but I really don't think it's going to be something that has a lot of legs to it.
CHIDEYA: All right, we're going to talk a little bit in a second about Detroit, and also catch up on Senator Obama's vacation, whether or not it's ill-timed. But for anyone who is just tuning in, you're listening to NPR's News and Notes. I'm Farai Chideya. On our Bloggers' Roundtable, we have Eisa Ulen, who blogs at EisaUlen.com; Ron Scott, who blogs for the Detroit News; and John McCann, the creator of the blog Book of John.
Ron, you also have a hometown advantage on one of our stories, which is Detroit and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kwame Kilpatrick, already under fire, jailed for violating terms of his bond, for basically crossing a commonly used route to get to Canada for a business meeting. So flesh it out for us: What exactly is going on in terms of how the city relates to its mayor?
Mr. SCOTT: Well, it's pretty much flipped. There are a number of people who support Kwame, a number of people who don't. And this whole situation, I guess I have a different perspective on it. The media here, the corporate media here, has seen fit to bolster their coverage of Kwame Kilpatrick to the degree that now Kwame has become the poster child for bad actions in terms of mayors and in terms of elected officials. You know, you got a big, black man, he was a tackle at FAM-U, and here he is shown profiled in front view. And we then make the assumption seeing this that the guy is just without redeeming social value, he's a criminal, we should be embarrassed by looking at him.
And I know Kwame, I've known him for years. One of the things I do know is that when he came before the judge - the judge he in fact had actually known and supported in the judge's run for office - when he revoked the bond and suggested that he go to court, the idea was to get his attention.
But as one of the people said who had - who was interviewed, who had formally been incarcerated in the state's prison system, he said, well, normally a person does not follow the bond if they're not a threat to society - and I'm going to speak specifically from a legal standpoint - or if they're not a threat to the community, or if they're not a risk for flight, the bond is reinstated, and normally there's a higher bond, or a higher standard set. I think the jailing just sort of was a little bit over the top, and that's why on the appeal the judge in the higher court actually suggested, hey, he should be released and give him a tether, and so on.
All that having been said, Kwame is charged with 10 charges. Mayor - I mean, the prosecutor here, Kim Worthy, has sort of thrown the kitchen sink in the hopes of getting two or three things to stick, including what I call medieval law, a common law, which relates to malfeasance in office, the Bill Clinton law, basically, in terms of lying under oath, and then perjury. They ask him in one case whether or not he was whoring around. I mean, that's open to discussion.
But I think all of this about Kwame really goes to a deeper essence. And that is, what is the future of one of the cities with the largest black populations? What's going to happen in the future in terms of who takes over? The corporate leaders and ministers are meeting almost as we speak to decide whether or not they're going to support him. The city council is gathering for a hearing to determine whether or not they want to get rid of him. The governor is going to oversee those hearings. So, it's like, literally, a good football game in the fourth quarter. There's a lot of piling on going on.
And I don't want to monopolize this, because I'd like to hear my colleagues in terms of what they have to say. But I really do think that that one - and I wrote something about this, this morning - there are a number of other important issues, and I'm glad Eisa mentioned Georgia, that could blow us off the face of the Earth. And none of this has been in the headlines, it hasn't been discussed, many people don't know the legal issues involved. And so Kwame, all things considered, still is a charged person.
CHIDEYA: Let me do what you said, and go to your colleagues on the Roundtable because we don't have too much time, but very informative. Eisa, Let me go to you next, and just ask, what do you think the ripple effects are on black politicians who are often scrutinized as to whether or not, you know, folks are ethical?
Ms. ULEN: Yeah. I think that that perspective is a really interesting one. It certainly has me thinking. I feel like there is a double standard for black elected officials and black public figures. That is absolutely true. I - and I'm here in New York, so I'm getting news from the corporate media, as you say, but from my point of view, he's making decisions, as these allegations and charges are lobbied against him, like going to Canada, that don't really make too much sense. Why didn't he get the approval prior to making the trip? If we have this double standard, and we know it's in place - and let me say this, too, I want to get away from this puritanical insistence that our elected officials and public people...
Mr. SCOTT: Right. Right.
Ms. ULEN: You know, be these holier than thou, I don't care who John Edwards slept with. If his wife wants to stay with him, that's on them. You know, the same thing with Kwame, you know, whatever floats your boat. I'll do what I do in my family and my household, and you have to do your thing. But having said that, it does seem to me that he could perhaps deal with these charges in a way that's a little bit different because so much is at stake this election cycle. However, at the end of the day, I don't think what's happening in Detroit is going to affect the convention and what happens again in the November elections.
Mr. MCCANN: As far as a double standard, it's one thing for a black person to have to work twice as hard to prove himself to beat out a white person for a job, that's one thing. But when it's a double standard as far as integrity, as far as ethics, hey, you know, put that burden on me. If it's all about making the right decisions, doing the right thing, I don't think that's too much to ask for anybody. And as far as the whole puritanical thing, hey, not that a politician has to be holier than thou, but at least try to live holy, at least a little bit. You know, we've got to get back to some morals and some scruples in this society. We've got to.
Mr. SCOTT: You know, I...
Ms. ULEN: I just don't see what that has to do with, as you said earlier, the invasion of Georgia, or whether or not people have health care. I think John Edwards is an effective spokesperson, and would be a great U.S. attorney general and advocate for the dispossessed, despite what happens in his bedroom or hotel room.
Mr. MCCANN: Yeah, but it just creates this whole thing of, how can I trust this guy now to really carry out what he's talking about doing, in terms of fighting poverty, if I can't even...
Ms. ULEN: I just think we should...
Mr. SCOTT: But I don't...
Mr. MCCANN: If he's lying to his wife, and to the rest of the country.
CHIDEYA: All right, guys...
Mr. SCOTT: But I don't think people...
CHIDEYA: Guys, I have to jump in because, you know, it's that time.
Ms. ULEN: Oh, no.
CHIDEYA: It's that time of day, but it's just like, you know, things are rolling on. I would love to continue, but we can't. Thank you all so much.
Ms. ULEN: Thank you.
Mr. SCOTT: OK.
Mr. MCCANN: OK, thank you.
CHIDEYA: We've been speaking with Eisa Ulen, who blogs at EisaUlen.com. She joined us from the NPR studios in New York City. Ron Scott blogs for the Detroit News, and John McCann is the creator of the blog Book of John.
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.