The Barbershop Is Abuzz With News From Arizona This week journalists Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and political science professor Lester Spence all visit the Tell Me More "Barbershop." They talk with guest host Allison Keyes about Senator John McCain's latest political ad, Arizona's newest controversial bill, Elena Kagan's Supreme Court aspirations and the NBA playoffs.
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The Barbershop Is Abuzz With News From Arizona

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The Barbershop Is Abuzz With News From Arizona

The Barbershop Is Abuzz With News From Arizona

The Barbershop Is Abuzz With News From Arizona

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This week journalists Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and political science professor Lester Spence all visit the Tell Me More "Barbershop." They talk with guest host Allison Keyes about Senator John McCain's latest political ad, Arizona's newest controversial bill, Elena Kagan's Supreme Court aspirations and the NBA playoffs.


I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

It's time now for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar and�political science professor and blogger Lester Spence. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Writer): Thanks. Hey, special K, what's good?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, and the rest of the family, welcome to the shop. How are we doing?

Unidentified Man: Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. IZRAEL: Man, you know, just making it work. You know, Arizona's all over the news these days, and there are a couple things I want to get to, including that ad with Senator John McCain, that he's catching all kinds of political flak for.

But - long sigh - I need to get a little personal first, because my team went down hard last night, there. The Cleveland Cavaliers were all poised to win it all this year in the National Basketball Association with LeBron James and Shaq on the same team leading the charge, but...

KEYES: Didn't happen. Didn't happen.

Mr. IZRAEL: But, alas, alack, 'twas not to be.

KEYES: But what did happen is the Celtics put them away in game six last night. Yeah, yeah, Arsalan is holding his arm all in the air, wearing a green sweater. Whatever. But Boston moves on and Cleveland goes home, and here is LeBron James himself talking about the end of the season and whether he's thought about becoming a free agent.

(Soundbite of clip)

Mr. LEBRON JAMES (Professional Basketball Player, Cleveland Cavaliers): I have no plans at this point. I've made no plans.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: So, you know, the fact that it's over right now is definitely a surprise for myself. But, I mean, it is what it is. A friend of mine told me today after the game that I guess you have to go through some a lot of nightmares before you finally, you know, accomplish your dream, and that's what's going on in the business with myself right now.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow. Thanks for that, Special K. A-train, now, now, before you start gloating about, ah-ha, LeBron is dead, well, check this out. I don't know if he's going anywhere anytime soon, 'cause you know he has a 35,000 square foot house here in Bath Township that he built from the ground up, complete with a casino, two-lane bowling alley, barbershop, aquarium, sports bar, recording studio...

KEYES: An aquarium?

Mr. IZRAEL: ...and a master bedroom with a two-story walk-in closet. And his mom, he bought a house for her right down the street. So guess what? You know, all the rumors, they're flying, but I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon. You know, I think that's kind of an investment, a franchise a player makes. Just FYI. But A-train...

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil rights attorney, Editor): Yes, sir.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-train - okay, whatever. But A-train, to your point, man, here's your time, man. How good is Boston?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Number one, LeBron James is still the best player on the planet.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yes, sir.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Number two, I feel bad for the city of Cleveland. They've had the catch, the drive, the fumble, the shot and now they have the LeBacle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And number three, you know, as someone who picked the Boston Celtics to go to the NBA finals again, I got laughed at all the way to the bank. But all I got to say now you know, there's this huge poster outside Quicken Loans Arena with LeBron James, and it says: We are all witnesses.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: So on behalf of the Celtics nation, I've got to say to Cavaliers fans, witness this, Cleveland.


(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: His green sweater, by the way, is shining in the lights in here.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: That's what he meant. Oh, okay.

Mr. IZRAEL: Dr. Spence, the good doctor, what's the diagnosis? What happened here?

Dr. LESTER SPENCE (Political Science Professor, Blogger): I think he actually his injuries were a little bit bigger than what he's telling. But also, it's important for people to remember: It took Michael Jordan, like, six or seven years before he actually got one.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right, right.

Dr. SPENCE: Before he actually got the championship and actually won it. He had to go through Isiah Thomas. Kobe Bryant was blessed in that he had Shaq with him, but he had challenges, as well. I think that this is just LeBron's challenge. And so people are going to be calling him the equivalent of Tragic Johnson until he gets one, but it's coming. It's just - he just has to go through this period.

Mr. IZRAEL: You think so? The R, how you read it?

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Columnist): I'm excited about the idea of LeBron being a free agent, even if he stays in Cleveland. Even if he stays in Cleveland.

Mr. IZRAEL: He's staying, bro. He's staying.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The fact that this guy could I just want to see the numbers are racked up here. You know, since I don't have to pay the bill, I want to see exactly what he's worth on the open market and what Cleveland's going to have to pay to keep him. So, I think the things...

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, as long as I'm not paying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Well, you'll pay at the ticket booth, I guess. But...

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Exactly.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, according to NBA rules, the most that any outside team can offer him is a five year $95 million contract, whereas Cleveland can offer him a six year like $106 million contract.

KEYES: Oh is that all?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So basically NPR money, that's what we're talking about.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Chump change.

Prof. SPENCE: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: That's Barbershop money.

KEYES: But wait, wait, wait.

Mr. IZRAEL: You're right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: What's going happen...

Mr. IZRAEL: Don't tell me.

KEYES: What's going to happen in the west though, with my beloved Lakers? I'm a Bulls fan, let me be clear. I am a Bulls fan. But without the Bulls, got to love the Lakers, so what do you think is up with the matchup between L.A. and Phoenix, Jimi, Jimi?

Mr. IZRAEL: It's Kobe. It's all about Kobe.

KEYES: Aw man.

Mr. IZRAEL: I'm sorry. You know, that's just - it's like that and that's just the way it is. Ha.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. IZRAEL: Dr. Spence.

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I'd like to see Grant Hill get one. And Steve Nash has not only one of the best games but actually has the best politics probably in the NBA. But it's going to be really difficult for them to...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No, los Suns, baby, los Suns. Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train, give us the over and under.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, it's going to be Lakers and Celtics again. I'm telling you, it would've been Lakers and Celtics last year if Kevin Garnett hadn't been injured. So we're going to see a clash of the titans in the Finals.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, the view from the West Coast.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I wouldn't count the Suns out yet. I don't know. But, you know, things happen. I mean obviously last night was a surprise to some folks, so it's just getting good. It's getting good and I think I'm rooting for the Suns now. Los Suns are the sentimental favorite because they put their politics -Les is right - they put their politics on the line out there because of this Arizona law. There's a lot of folks out there, including Phil Jackson from the Lakers...


Mr. NAVARRETTE: of the Lakers, who says that this should not be mixing politics and basketball. I don't know where he's been. Those two have been together, you know, for a long time.

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah. That's it.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Ever since Bill Russell days, so.

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah. That's right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Special K, you all about the Bulls. Ain't nothing to Chicago but hot dogs and the bullets.

KEYES: You know, but LeBron might be there, so take that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Doubtful. Doubtful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Wake up.

KEYES: Smell the coffee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

KEYES: Or the hot dogs.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Right.

KEYES: If you're just joining us now, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and we're in our weekly Barbershop. We're speaking to journalist Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and political scientist Lester Spence.

Back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks Special K.

KEYES: Talking about my Bulls.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Well, you know what? Let's stay in the West for a few minutes, Arizona specifically. Now there's been a lot of talk about a new law tied to illegal immigration, of course, and a Senate race in which John McCain could be in big, big trouble. He's kind of altered course, huh?

KEYES: Well, three years after saying that a U.S./Mexico border fence wouldn't be effective, he's now saying get it done.

Here's Senator McCain ad. Picture him walking along the border fence with one of Arizona's county sheriffs.

Mr. IZRAEL: Oy. It sounds awfully quiet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of John McCain ad)

Sheriff PAUL BABEU (Pinal County, Arizona): We're outmanned. Of all the illegals in America, more than half come through Arizona.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Have we got the right plan?

Sheriff BABEU: Plan's perfect.�You bring troops: state, county, and local law enforcement together.

Sen. MCCAIN: And complete the danged fence.

Sheriff BABEU: It'll work this time.�Senator, you're one of us.

Sen. MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: One of us Senator.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Great googly moogly.

Prof. SPENCE: Oh wow.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well now for those of you that...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The few, the proud, the ignorant.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. But for those of you that don't know the dang fence he's referring to, he's referring to the southwest border fence, which is kind of a vision by the second Bush...


Mr. IZRAEL: a series of sensors, surveillance and actual fence work to protect the nearly 2,000 miles expanse of this border.


Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, get it bro.


Mr. IZRAEL: Get it.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well listen, I'm not one of those folks who objects to the idea of a border fence because of, you know, the imagery of having a fence or a wall on the southern border. I'm not with that. I'm about what's effective and I listen to the experts. The experts are border patrol agents with badges and guns on the border who say to a person, to a man and a woman, that border fencing is ineffective, that it's a distraction. Because you build a fence, people will go around it, over it or under it and they have done that time and again.

And so the experts on the border say it's a waste of time and money to do fencing. Politicians who campaigned for office tend to talk about fencing because it's popular with voters who don't know any better. And the last thing I'll say about this with regard to the McCain ad is, it's unfortunate just to see where John McCain has gone because now his position doesn't even mesh up with where he used to be. He used to be a lot more clear headed and logical about this.

The reason you have, as the sheriff said, so many illegal immigrants coming through Arizona is simple: because you have so many people in Arizona who are hiring illegal immigrants. You need to build a fence around the Home Depot and started looking up some soccer moms, then we'll talk.


Mr. IZRAEL: I hear you. I hear you. You know, the Obama administration put the kibosh on that whole thing a few months ago. Dr. Spence, was that a good idea? I mean what do you think of this whole kerfuffle with the fence and McCain flipping like this? What's up?

Prof. SPENCE: I think it's just another example of 21st century racial politics in America. So when you talk - he actually didn't about illegal immigrants. What he talked about was illegals, right, as it if that's all they were. And in that last line when the officer says, you're one of us, he's just not talking about law enforcement...

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Prof. SPENCE: ...he's white, McCain is white. He's making an explicit reference - well, I'm sorry - he's making an implicit reference to racial connections, right?

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Prof. SPENCE: And that's the type of politics that people assumed that we would move away from, but as America becomes more multicultural and as economic hardship increases you're going to see much more stuff like this.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean, you know, what's next, you know, is Arizona going to hold a referendum to change their name to Jingozona(ph)? I mean, you know, here we're seeing...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I mean...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Don't give them any ideas.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I know.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, if McCain's talking about, you know, building the danged fence, he needs to shut his danged mouth. I mean, you know, he's veering so far right because of his, you know, challenge, you know, by J.D. Hayworth and, you know, the recent law that we've seen where, you know, basically I -brown people like me would have to carry our freedom papers and, you know, this, you know, ban on ethnic studies bill that's, I mean it's getting redonkulous. I mean it's absurd.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. Scary stuff, Allison.

KEYES: I want to jump in, Jimi, with another topic that I suspect is going to be on the political radar all summer: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Let me read a little of what Ronald Sullivan wrote in an article for

To my thinking, he writes, Elena Kagan is self-evidently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. She's an outstanding legal scholar, a terrific teacher, and a thoughtful and forward-looking administrator. She's practiced law at a major law firm. She's served as a government lawyer and held a high-level policy position in the Clinton White House. As well, she has served admirably as our nation's solicitor general. She's smart, fair, independent, respectful of the opinions of others, and a dedicated public servant. All are qualities that will make for an outstanding Supreme Court justice.


Mr. IZRAEL: Well, you know what, Dr. Spence, now as it happens, you wrote a piece about kind of that there's kind of this - well, I mean a lot of people are talking about Elena Kagan.

Prof. SPENCE: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IZRAEL: And you wrote a piece for The Root, and you're thinking that people should look twice at her, be hesitant about her. Why is that?

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah. First of all, so the professor - the good professor is actually right. I mean she's extremely intelligent, extremely qualified. But the question really isn't whether she's extremely intelligent and qualified. I mean I wouldn't expect anything less from the president. The question is is what types - does she have a transparent record where we can kind of sort of gauge where she'd actually be on the issues that are important to us.

Now we know that because of the president's party that she's going to be further to the left than Roberts and Alito. But what we don't know is to what extent is she going to be to the left, right? So what Obama is left with are a number of black supporters, among them his own Professor Charles Ogletree, basically telling us that we should trust - we should basically trust him, not pointing us to any real data to say wow, this is what she's done to show how she'd vote here.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

Prof. SPENCE: This is what she's done to show how she'd vote here. If this were George Bush and we were talking about his candidate with her record, just her record of black professors at Harvard, we'd be saying a very different thing here.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: That's true.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: It's that record.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, you know what?

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: Can I - you know what? Lester, we're boys, right? But I'm going to push back just a hair on that. You know, I mean look, you're the dude with the PhD, but my thing is I'm not sure if I want to see another static predicable viewpoint in the Supreme Court. You know, I like the fact that she's kind of a wild card. I like the fact that there isn't a whole lot of paper trail. You know, I just like it man. I like - you know me, I'm kind of wild and wooly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: I like a wild card every now and again.

Prof. SPENCE: Well, this is what I'd say, what I'd say is that I can actually see how that would work if in the process of confirming her, her quote, unquote "wild cardness" led to a larger conversation about what the law should be and then under what circumstances should we expect somebody who goes outside of the norm. But what we're going to have here because she doesn't have a paper trail is not that conversation but rather a conversation that says oh wow, she's really smart. She's really qualified and she's got boys that we like.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well and also...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know the left...

Mr. IZRAEL: The R, get it.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Ruben jump in quickly, very quickly. I think the left has a point in one record, when you put up Sam Alito and John Roberts, it's no mystery as to how they're going to rule on cases.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: They've been explicit up to that point in memos they've written, in cases they've decided, in things they've said and organizations they belong to. You know what you're getting when you put somebody like that on the court. And with Kagan I think the left's complaint is why is it that the right gets to put up somebody who's dependably conservative...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...but we have to put up a wild card who on terror cases...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...on terror cases, anti-terror cases, is likely to go in favor of government suppression. Okay, in favor of government power and on affirmative action is likely to go against affirmative action because she had, as Les pointed out, a miserable record. Dean of Harvard Law School, hired like 29 people and 28 of them were white.

KEYES: Although Sullivan - I have to jump in and say Sullivan stresses she recruited him so it's not like she didn't bring in anybody.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Tenure track positions. And the most important thing, piggy backing off...

Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: ...piggy backing off what Ruben just said is we have to look at who she is replacing. John Paul Stevens was the liberal anchor of the Supreme Court during the Bush administration.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: He pushed back against Bush on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, on Boumediene v. Bush, on Hamdani versus Rumsfeld. You know, and so we all know that Elena Kagan is no John Paul Stevens. You know, at the end of the day, you know, she, you know, calls for expansive executive power and the ridiculous assertion that that the whole world is a battlefield so basically you can be an enemy combatant, you know, shopping in Kmart, you know, indefinite detentions.

In 1995 she actually - she lambasted the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court justices saying that it was vapid, hollow, a charade for not answering questions and then yesterday the White House spokesman basically said she's not going to answer any questions and deferred to stare decisis on virtually everything.

And so, you know, Ruben is absolutely right. You know, you have the conservative activist rats pack - the Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, you know - and you have Justice Kennedy who's now the new Sandra Day O'Connor in the swing vote and so people think that Elena Kagan might help swing Kennedy over. But you know, there's no liberal anchor in the Supreme Court anymore.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm. Okay, well...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Now you think about it they might actually swing Kagan over to the right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. You never know.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I mean in one of these cases she might go over to their side. And it's another reason for civil libertarians to be disappointed in Obama. There's a long, long list of areas where he's let them down. This is another one.

KEYES: Okay. Let me jump in because we are so out of time, gentlemen.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right Special K. Get it.

KEYES: Jimi Izrael - I love the Special K. Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle." He joined us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist and he writes for and the San Diego Union Tribune - joined us from San Diego. Lester Spence is a blogger and political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, who came from WEAA in Baltimore. Arsalan Iftikhar, sitting in the studio here, is the founder of and a civil rights attorney.

Thank you gentlemen so much.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

Prof. SPENCE: Peace.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: (foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of music)

And that's our program for today. I'm Allison Keyes. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Radio Public Consortium.

Let's talk more on Monday.

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