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 whatever's in the news and whatever is on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape up this week are freelance writer and reporter, Jimi Izrael, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, and new to the shop, Pennsylvania State Representative Josh Shapiro. I may jump in once or twice but for now, take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks so much, Michel. Hey, fellows, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How are we doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Doing good, man.
Representative JOSH SHAPIRO (Democrat, Pennsylvania): Hey.
IZRAEL: Well, check out this, man. The presidential candidates mixing it up this week in the last debate on the docket, now. It's kind of like your boy, McCain kind of manned up and stepped up a little bit and his supporters are kind of counting this in the win column. But that's not what they're saying on the streets but I'll tell you what. I've never heard a plumber referred to on television more times in the history of television. Joe the plumber. And we got some tape on that, right?
MARTIN: Yeah, we do. We have apparently Joe the plumber who became apparently a third party to the debate. Here's a little sample.
(Soundbite of a 2008 presidential debate clip)
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Candidate): He's a plumber. His name is Joe, works for burger.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): The conversation I had with Joe the plumber...
Senator MCCAIN: Joe...
Senator OBAMA: The plumber...
Senator MCCAIN: Now, my old buddy, Joe....
Senator OBAMA: Joe, if you want to do the right thing...
Senator MCCAIN: I want Joe, you to do the job....
Senator OBAMA: And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there....
Senator MCCAIN: Joe, you're rich. Congratulations.
Senator OBAMA: My friend and supporter Warren Buffet, for example, could afford to pay a little more in taxes.
Senator MCCAIN: We're talking about Joe the plumber.
MARTIN: Joe the plumber, ladies and gentlemen. So anyway, the exchange was of course, everybody who watch the debate knows was about tax policy.
NAVARRETTE: I'm sorry, what was the plumber's name again? I'm sorry, Michel.
IZRAEL: Thanks so much, Michel.
MARTIN: There you go. But it was about tax policy and whether Obama's plan would raise taxes on people like Joe.
IZRAEL: Thanks so much. Cool J, Josh, my man. I thought it was real smart to evoke Joe the plumber because, I mean, Joe the plumber is kind of every man and I thought it kind of McCain a leg up in the game. How do you feel?
Rep. SHAPIRO: I don't know that it gave him a leg up, and I'm not sure as you said he manned up. If that's manning up, I'm a little concerned for John McCain. I mean, look, the reality is relative. When you really look at the situation, the average Joe, so to speak, that John McCain was trying talk about would do so much better under Barack Obama's tax plan which is what they were talking about. Remember, 95 percent of the American people who pay taxes today will get a tax cut under Barack Obama's plan. John McCain is going to reserve his tax relief to people making more than a quarter million dollars a year and big corporations like Exxon Mobil. That's not who needs the relief. Barack Obama is the one who's talking about the issues that can help the average Joes and the Joe the plumbers all across America.
MARTIN: Now, I'm sorry. This might be a good time to mention that Representative Shapiro is a Democrat.
Rep. SHAPIRO: No, I've given it away. What a shocker.
MARTIN: Just thought I'd throw that in. Who is supporting Barack Obama? Just thought I'd mention that. Ruben.
NAVARRETTE: I think that the Joe exchange was really important for the following reasons. For those folks who do make over $250,000, Obama says he's going to increase your rate to 39 percent federal which he says was the same level that Bill Clinton had when Bill Clinton was the president. In California, we have an additional ten percent state income tax. So for people who fit that category in California, they'll be making 50 percent for the government, 50 percent for themselves. And I think a lot of people deserve to hear that. They do deserve to hear that's part of the discussion.
MARTIN: Can I just ask a question, though, Ruben. I mean, John McCain also says he's going to balance the budget in four years.
NAVARRETTE: That's totally a lie, Michel. You're right. And I have another one that he lied about. John McCain said during the financial crisis that he'd like to get to a point where he would just scrap the entire tax code and put it all on the index cards so we could all do our taxes ourselves. At that point, I knew he had jumped the shark. John McCain had oversold it. He had oversold it. He had promised too much. And that's clearly what both of these guys do. But my vantage point says that it's worth having a discussion about whether people who make a lot of money, you know, should they necessarily give all that money back, or more back, in taxes so that people who don't make as much money get a tax benefit? Back home, I've got some pretty worthless cousins who don't deserve my tax benefit.
IZRAEL: And they love you. And they're on line one right now.
MARTIN: Thanksgiving's going to be interesting at the Navarrette household this year.
NAVARRETTE: I think they'll be there early because they ain't got jobs.
MARTIN: Arsalan, was the Joe the plumber thing what stood out for you from the debate?
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean, I think if you look at the debate holistically, again being the sports junky that I am, I would sort of make the analogy that Barack, like Mohamed Ali was playing a rope-a-dope, and John McCain was playing the hack-a-shack where, you know, Barack's in the lead...
IZRAEL: Can I have a translation please?
IFTIKHAR: Well, I'm going to explain. The rope-a-dope is a technique that people who are ahead use that basically allows their opponent to tire themselves out. And then they're just going to put the beat down on them. Now, the hack-a-shack is a tactic that teams who are losing or people like McCain who are losing, you know, if they're down by 12 points with, you know, a minute left, they're going to hack and foul and put people like Barack on the foul line. I think at the end of the day, you know, before we go out and, you know, buy a centerfold calendar about Ohio plumbers of the year, to me the whole Joe the Plumber thing was more code.
I think that, you know, if Joe the Plumber had a last name, it would be Joe the plumber Six-pack. I think that, you know, we didn't talk about Sally the Teacher or Hector the Accountant. I think that this was again, in my opinion, you know, and John McCain sort of appealing and pandering to his base. And I think something that a lot of people aren't talking about is, you know, John McCain looked like Oscar the Grouch. You know, if you looked at the CNN split screen, he was rolling his eyes, and his chattering teeth were going to pop out any second, you know, at different things. And, you know, that's not the kind of, sort of, you know, president...
MARTIN: Do you think people care?
IFTIKHAR: I think they do. You know, of course they care. When you have a commander in chief who's going to be the chief diplomat of your country, you know, with foreign leaders, you don't want them, you know, rolling their eyes and cursing under their breath, you know, any time somebody else said something.
IZRAEL: I'm going to disagree with that. I think there's a portion of America that really wants to see that kind of a hardcore, no-nonsense guy running the country, not necessarily somebody that - I mean, because the biggest knocks against Obama...
MARTIN: Jimi, I was going to ask you. Yeah, Jimi, I was going to say, he didn't seem like McNasty to you?
IZRAEL: I didn't get that. If anything, I got that he came to play.
NAVARRETTE: For 16 years we've had these emotional presidents. I think it spoke well of Obama that he could be a grownup, could take it. At the end of the day, I think it was a mistake in the long run. I think that McCain did come off as unlikable.
MARTIN: Yeah, I just need to jump in just for one second to say that if you're just tuning in, I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Josh Shapiro and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Yo. Comedian Sarah Silverman, she was attached to Jimmy Kimmel for all you all that don't know that. It's catching a little bit of heat.
MARTIN: I'm sorry. Does she not have her own show on Comedy Central? I just thought I'd mention that.
IZRAEL: I mean, but she was - you know, she was dating Jimmy Kimmel.
MARTIN: Was that her job? Is that on her tax return?
IZRAEL: I don't think so.
MARTIN: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Well, anyway...
MARTIN: But I digress.
IZRAEL: Yes, she does have her own show on Comedy Central.
MARTIN: Comedian Sarah Silverman who has a show on Comedy Central...
IZRAEL: Comedy Central. She's catching a little heat for her viral video intent on convincing older, Jewish voters to vote Obama. Now, she's calling it "The Great Schlep". She's trying to convince young, Jewish hipsters to go down to Florida and cajole their older relations into voting Obama. I believe we have some tape.
MARTIN: Yeah. Do you want to hear it?
IZRAEL: Drop it.
(Soundbite of viral video "The Great Schlep")
Ms. SARAH SILVERMAN: I'm making this video to urge you, all of you, to schlep over to Florida and convince your grandparents to vote Obama. It can make the difference. Explain to them that we're all the same inside. You know, you could compare an elderly Jewish woman like Nana to a young black man. They may seem totally different, but on paper they're the same.
IZRAEL: What paper is that? Thank you, Sarah Silverman.
NAVARRETTE: Did you hear that Nana was pulled over by the cops last night?
IZRAEL: Right, exactly!
(Soundbite of laughter)
IZRAEL: Yo, Cool-J. She's catching a little bit of flack. I read on Jezebel.com where somebody said - declared her not very Jewish or declared her not a Jew, that she's anti-Semitic and all this kind of stuff. How does it read to you?
Mr. SHAPIRO: I don't know that she's anti-Semitic. I thought it was funny. It was a little over the top, a little inappropriate at times. But, I mean, the serious issue here is that there has been so much misinformation spread to the Jewish community about Barack Obama about his positions, and I think it's important to try and get the word out. And you know what? Frankly, who is the best vehicle for the message to grandparents? Their grandchildren.
Look, I've been helping Barack for a while in the Jewish community. And one of the things we've done is we've made young, you know, grandchildren write letters, go talk to their grandparents, and we have found that that has had great success in getting their Jewish grandparents to support Barack Obama. So the sort of point of what Sarah Silverman's trying to accomplish is good. She went a little over the top, but in terms of the message, getting older Jews to vote for Barack Obama, it's a good one.
IZRAEL: The R.
NAVARRETTE: Yeah, listen, here's the thing. The problem I have with "The Great Schlep" as it's called is it implies, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of Jewish folks in Florida, older Jewish people, are racist and won't vote for a black person unless, you know, their grandkid comes up and sits down and has matzo balls with them. I think that's offensive. I also think that there's a lot more to the concerns of older Jewish people about Barack Obama beyond the fact that he's black. And it starts with this. They were big time for Hillary Clinton. They were big time for Hillary Clinton.
They were a strong group of supporters, and they didn't turn on a dime necessarily when Hillary said all is forgiven, I'm with Barack Obama. They didn't necessarily all turn and go that way. Another thing is Israel. I don't know a single Jewish person over 50 who doesn't take seriously the state of affairs in Israel and doesn't look for constant reassurance no matter who they're voting for that we'll be prepared to step up and do the right thing with a country like Iran, for instance. Because we know that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, we know exactly where they're going to send them, and that's to Israel.
And lastly, after 9/11 you saw a spike in the Jewish vote for George Bush in 2004. He got something like 20 percent of the Jewish vote, which is unheard of, precisely because after 9/11 a lot of Jewish people thought that this was a message to our leaders to take terrorism very, very seriously. So there's a lot of stuff going on in here. And I think I'm offended by this notion somehow it all comes down to the coloring line. It's much more complicated than that.
IZRAEL: Go ahead, Josh.
Mr. SHAPIRO: I think, I - in the Jewish community, like any community, there is unfortunately still racism, and that is something that we all try and combat each and every day. You raised three issues, Israel, Iran, and this sought of being tough on terrorism. And Barack Obama has the exact same voting record as Hillary Clinton and John McCain on Israel. He has said that we have to engage with Iran and talk with them so that we can stop them from getting nuclear weapons which would threaten Israel and threaten the United States security. And in terms of being tough on terrorism, there are few people out there that would still say today that George Bush's approach to the war on terror was the right approach. The issue is trying to make sure that the facts are out there about Barack Obama's views, which are different from George Bush's, but it's a welcome change.
NAVARRETTE: What I'm responding to is the caricature that Sarah Silverman has drawn out that there's only one reason why grandma's not voting for Barack Obama. If you listen to the spot, it's all about the fact that Nana and this 20-something-year-old black person, they're really the same thing beyond the skin color. There is something more there...
MARTIN: Wait a minute. Let me ask you this, Ruben. Sarah Silverman isn't necessarily talking to all Jewish people. Maybe she's talking to those people who do have those feelings. I guess what I'm curious about is the implication is that one is not allowed to speak about racism unless you're talking about everybody in the group. I mean, could we not agree that there are some members of every ethnic group in this country...
NAVARRETTE: Absolutely, sure.
MARTIN: Blacks, Latinos, Jewish people who may be racist. And therefore, why can't you speak to those people within the group without implicating everyone?
NAVARRETTE: Well, how would you feel if we had a white candidate, and we went into black neighborhoods and told the black people it's OK to vote for this white person? Well, that would be ludicrous.
MARTIN: Don't we do that? When Steve Cohen was running in Memphis, did he not have people to stand up for him and say, even though you're running against an African-American and your sympathies may be with that person because she's African-American, this is a person who stood with us, who deserves your vote. What's the difference?
NAVARRETTE: I think the difference is Sarah Silverman has painted it with too broad a brush, this notion that somehow any Jewish person over 50, any grandparent out there in Florida, if they have any problems with the Barack Obama - any suspicions about Barack Obama, it has nothing to do with any of his associations or affiliations. It has nothing to do with who's on his side of the ticket, and nothing to do with the fact that they used to support Hillary Clinton. It has everything to do with skin color. That's just not, I think, fair.
MARTIN: I'm sorry. Here's a newsflash Ruben. She's a comedian. I'm sorry, she's a comedian.
NAVARRETTE: Yeah, but she's...
MARTIN: She's not like the mayor of Kansas.
NAVARRETTE: She doesn't get to fall back on that. She's a political commentator in this instance.
IZRAEL: And actually, Michel's point gets to why I feel like, you know, a lot of entertainers should stay out of kitchen-sink punditry, you know, because again, in the end, I'm not sure she's doing more harm than good. So...
MARTIN: But this leads me to this other question that has emerged. And this is something that, Arsalan, I'm curious about your take on this. Is this whole question of the Bradley effect, about, you know, the polls now show that Barack Obama has a lead. And there are those who question, have been questioning all along whether you can really trust the polls where race is involved. I don't know. What do you think about that?
IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, if you look back to the New Hampshire primaries, you know, when Hillary was still in the race and, you know, you had Barack up by nine points on a lot of election day polls and he ended up losing by a few points, the Bradley effect is not only alive and well in America today, but it also is alive and well within certain Democratic circles.
I earnestly believe that, you know, there is still an element of racialism, you know. It might not be, you know, black and white racism, but you know, the whole, you know, insinuation that Barack is some sort of crypto-Muslim or the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, you know, somehow casts him as part of the other. And one of the things, you know, you look at Sarah Palin when she talks about Barack Obama, quote, "palling around with terrorists," I would actually focus on the fact that she said terrorists, meaning plural, not just William Ayres.
NAVARRETTE: Arsalan, I would agree with you that there is this fear campaign going on. And you and I were on the same page nine months ago when we were talking about the fear campaign at that point being waged by Hillary Clinton, Hillary and Bill Clinton actually. They were the first people to bring up William Ayres. They were the first people to sort of try to demonize Barack Obama and imply he may have been a drug dealer or all that stuff. The race card was certainly...
Mr. SHAPIRO: But Ruben, how's that differ...
NAVARRETTE: Played by the Clintons, no doubt.
Mr. SHAPIRO: Look, the reality is, I think, most people, particularly in this economic climate, particularly given what's going on in the world, care less about who Barack may have been around, or who John McCain may have been around, but rather what views they have as a result of the totality of their life's experiences. You know, a lot of people talk to me about the Jeremiah Wright situation. You know, they say, Josh, how could you vote for a guy who sat in that church for 20 years?
Well, if he subscribed to Jeremiah Wright's views of Jews, Israel, or anything else as it relates to some of the controversial things he said, well, I wouldn't be for Barack Obama. But I'm impressed that after listening to him, after having the life experiences he's had, he's outright rejected those views, based upon the type of campaign he's running, the positions he's had, and the votes that he's cast in the past. And I think that that is a great testimony to the fact that people in America are willing to look past that. And it goes to the Bradley effect issue that Michel brought up. And I think we are going to wake up the day after the election and be very proud of ourselves as a country.
IZRAEL: And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I think that's a wrap. Thanks so much for coming to the Barbershop. I have to kick it over to the woman, the Martin effect in the house. Ladies and gentlemen, Michel Martin.
MARTIN: Why thank you. Jimi. I like that. The Martin effect.
IFTIKHAR: I like that too.
MARTIN: That's a good title for something, spinoff program. All right. Jimi Izrael joined us from WCPN in Cleveland where he is a freelance writer who blogs for TV ONE online and TheRoot.com. Ruben Navarrette writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune and CNN.com. He joined us from San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and a civil rights attorney. He joined us from our bureau here in Washington. And Josh Shapiro is a Democrat. He's the deputy speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He represents the 153rd legislative district in Montgomery County. He joined us from Philadelphia. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
NAVARRETTE: Thank you.
Mr. SHAPIRO: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Yup yup!
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