'Shop Talk': Should Kendrick Meek Stay In Florida Senate Race? In this week's installment of The Barbershop, host Michel Michel Martin talks with author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarette and screenwriter and graphic novelist John Ridley. They discuss former U.S. President Bill Clinton urging Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Senate race in Florida; Stephen Colbert and John Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" that will take place in Washington D.C. this Saturday; California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's recent comment on FOX News about her feelings toward the maid "an illegal immigrant" she fired; and Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James' new Nike commercial.
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'Shop Talk': Should Kendrick Meek Stay In Florida Senate Race?

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'Shop Talk': Should Kendrick Meek Stay In Florida Senate Race?

'Shop Talk': Should Kendrick Meek Stay In Florida Senate Race?

'Shop Talk': Should Kendrick Meek Stay In Florida Senate Race?

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In this week's installment of The Barbershop, host Michel Michel Martin talks with author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarette and screenwriter and graphic novelist John Ridley. They discuss former U.S. President Bill Clinton urging Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Senate race in Florida; Stephen Colbert and John Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" that will take place in Washington D.C. this Saturday; California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's recent comment on FOX News about her feelings toward the maid "an illegal immigrant" she fired; and Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James' new Nike commercial.


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. 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.

Sitting in the chair for a shapeup this week are: Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and screenwriter and graphic novelist John Ridley.

Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey fellas, how we doing? Welcome to the Shop.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Doing good, man. Great.

JOHN RIDLEY: How are you?

IZRAEL: J.R., what's up, man? What's up Hollywood? Welcome back for the first time.


RIDLEY: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me back.

IZRAEL: All right. Well, as we've - as we kind of heard of before, word is around and, you know, Politico is spreading it, and then we heard from Bill Clinton himself that he spoke with Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek and encouraged him to quit the Florida Senate race, Michel.

MARTIN: Well, I'm very curious to know what you think about all this. You just heard that when we talked to Ed Rollins, Republican campaign consultant, I mentioned that Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said that President Clinton's actions to have Ken Meek withdraw from the campaign sends a chilling signal to all voters, but especially African- Americans. And he says one can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race, in the 11th hour, a qualified black candidate like Kendrick Meeks. I don't know but for some reason that cracks me up. I don't know - I think that's - but I'm curious what you all think. Maybe - does he have a point? I mean it doesn't seem so...

RIDLEY: I think it cracks you up because the idea that the Republicans...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, John.

RIDLEY: ...would actually put forward a qualified black candidate is so hysterically funny.


RIDLEY: You know.

NAVARRETTE: Touche. Touche

MARTIN: Well, I don't know, Tim Scott in South Carolina. He's going to win. He's...

RIDLEY: Mmm. Eh. Eh.



IZRAEL: Well, Ruben, what do you think? Is this...

MARTIN: You're underwhelmed.

IZRAEL: Yeah, Rick, clearly he's underwhelmed. Ruben...

NAVARRETTE: Well, you know, well...

IZRAEL: ...do you think this is smart politics?

NAVARRETTE: Well, first of all as a part of the back-story here is you have, you know, a great number of, I think it was up to 16 or 17 different African-Americans running for House of Representative seats. And I think - I think that even with liberals running the show, we've never had more than two African-American in - Republicans in Congress at one time and now there may be more than that, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

I don't know about the - the Bill Clinton story, you know, has to be viewed in a bigger context, okay of African-Americans who rightly feel that they've been taken for granted by the Democratic Party; that they are always counted on to turn out to vote but to vote for a white liberal Democrats. And that at that one great moment, that historic moment in the 2008 election when African- Americans come forward and say hey, we'd like you all to return the favor after 50 years of this and support our guy for president, what did they end up with? They ended up with the Clinton's behaving very badly, Bill Clinton in particular, behaving very badly in ways that some people considered reminiscent of kind of a Southern racism and some of the unfortunate words he used. We don't have to go through all that again but it was not Bill Clinton's greatest moment in how he dealt with Barack Obama.

And so, in the context of that larger story, that's why this becomes a deal, because this was not just your average Democrat. This was somebody who, when an African-American candidate for president was running against his wife, did not simply tell Hillary, hey Hillary, why don't you just step aside? Why don't you step aside, Hillary? So when the Clinton's have something in the game they'll fight to the bloody end - until the last dog dies. But when it's somebody else, in this case an African-American, they say hey, the polls don't look so good for you, why don't you step aside?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, Ruben...

IZRAEL: Well, hold on, hold on a second.


IZRAEL: A-Train, let me jump in here right quick.

IFTIKHAR: Go ahead.

IZRAEL: You know, Clinton, you know, this isn't the first time he's tried this maneuver.


IZRAEL: He tried this up north with Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter and he got that wrong because he still got the nomination, so I don't know if this is - I don't think there's color involved.


IZRAEL: I just think, you know, Clinton thinks he likes to prognosticate. Maybe he should just, you know, get that Lotto thing going on.


MARTIN: Just conversate instead of prognosticate?

IZRAEL: Yeah. Yeah. Don't player hate, bro, you know.


MARTIN: Don't player hater, just conversate.

IZRAEL: Legislate.


IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train. Give it to us.

IFTIKHAR: Jimi, I completely agree with you. I think that if it was a white Democratic candidate he would have done the same thing. Let's not forget, it's a three-person race here. So you have Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, who are essentially, you know, Marco is going to take it with the Republican Party, Charlie becoming an independent. You know, obviously this is sort of - it was a political tactic to try to siphon votes to Charlie Crist who is the more moderate of the two candidates. Let's not forget...

MARTIN: They figured he might be part of their governing majority.

IFTIKHAR: Well, right. Well, and...

MARTIN: They figured he might vote - because remember, independents have a choice about who they caucus with.

IFTIKHAR: Right. And if you look back at the Connecticut race from a few years ago when Joe Lieberman lost to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary and ran as an independent, what the Republicans in Connecticut did was they didn't support the Republican candidate because they knew he would never win, so what they did was they siphoned all their money and resources to reelecting Joe Lieberman because they knew that he was going to vote more with them. And so, I don't - I agree with Jimi. I don't think color had any - I think if it was a white Democratic candidate in Florida, at this time, with two other Republican candidates I think Bill Clinton would've done the same thing.

MARTIN: Well, but the question is is why aren't...

RIDLEY: Which, by the way...

MARTIN: ...some of these core Democratic constituencies in Florida supporting Kendrick Meek?

IFTIKHAR: Well, I think they are. But again, you know, like Ed Rollins stated, you know, I mean Florida is a battleground.


IFTIKHAR: And so, you know, obviously there's a lot of independents out there and with Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, you know, you have two out of three Republican or Republicanish candidates and...

MARTIN: Republicanish.


IFTIKHAR: ...it's, you know, it's probably going to go that way.

MARTIN: John, you want to say one more thing before we move on? Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: Excuse me, can I have a knish and a, yeah...

RIDLEY: No. I just wanted to say I mean apparently, according to stories, that Crist had already said that he was going to caucus with the Democrats and he'd been very friendly to Obama in the past.


RIDLEY: Obama had not been really friendly. Not that he was antagonistic to Meeks, but, you know, had been more in the Crist camp during the primaries and whatnot and running up to this. So to me it's not surprising. I don't think it's a race issue. I think it's we want to hold on to the Senate issue.


NAVARRETTE: Charlie is a mess. Charlie Crist is...

IZRAEL: Right. Yeah, I mean it's not pretty but it's smart politics.

NAVARRETTE: Jimi, Charlie Crist is a mess. He started off as a Republican, lost the - fair and square the primary to Rubio - then becomes an independent, now he wants to be a Democrat. I mean pick a lane, Charlie. Just choose a lane.

IFTIKHAR: It's like Joe Lieberman.

MARTIN: But well, is it...

RIDLEY: It's like Lieberman. It's like Specter. I mean look, these guys want to stay in office.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, it's a hubris thing.

RIDLEY: That's their thing. It's like Townsend in Alaska. I mean it's not a...

MARTIN: Well, I don't know. Does it mean you're - it's hubris if you feel like your party no longer represents you? By that standard then nobody would ever be an independent. I don't understand that.

IFTIKHAR: No. But if you've been in the Senate and, you know, you lose fair and square in the primary and then essentially, just become an army of one representing only yourself...


IFTIKHAR: ... then it does become an exercise in hubris.

MARTIN: Except that independents are the largest growing portion of the electorate.

RIDLEY: (unintelligible) politics.

IFTIKHAR: I understand that. But when it comes to the...

NAVARRETTE: Well, look at Alaska.

MARTIN: So nobody should elect them? Forty percent of the electorate should have no representation?

IFTIKHAR: No, I'm not saying that. But what I'm saying is if you are an independent be an independent from day one. Don't be it when it's convenient for you and it's a way for you to win.

NAVARRETTE: Arsalan's got a point. Look at Alaska, you got Lisa Makowski, who, on the Republican side, now the shoe is on the other foot. The Republican side she loses the primary, she runs as an independent. I mean you got - I mean it's a fair deal, you have a chance to make your case to the voters, they choose somebody else, at some point you got to take your marbles and go home. But these people are just deathly afraid of losing, of leaving the limelight, leaving the office and they go through all these changes; I'm a Republican, Democrat...


NAVARRETTE: ...I'm an independent, one day the next. Just tell me what you want me to be so I can keep my job.

RIDLEY: Consider also though, there is an argument to be made that to a degree some of these guys whether it's Specter, whether it's Crist, whether it's Makowski, they went a little independent is part of the reason they got in trouble, because they said you know what, there are some issues on the other side...


RIDLEY: ...that I think are worth supporting. And then all of a sudden the Republicans or the insurgents or the Tea Party come in and say well, you know what, well then you shouldn't be in office because there is no third way.


RIDLEY: And so, to a degree, these people, the reason they end up being independent is because they were independent-minded. Same with Lieberman.

IFTIKHAR: Well, I think...

NAVARRETTE: That's in Connecticut.

MARTIN: I mean can we - okay. All right. Well...

IZRAEL: Okay. Okay.

IFTIKHAR: It should be called the Bernie Sanders party because he is a true independent in the Senate.

MARTIN: Well, there is a saying out, before I let Jimi take it back, is it, you know, better to be a live dog than a dead lion? Just thought I'd give you that.

IFTIKHAR: And there's that. Right.

MARTIN: Just there's that.


MARTIN: If you're under impressed with my sayings from Maryland politics. All right.

RIDLEY: I think I've heard that said before (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Anyway, speaking of more politics, there's the whole Stewart - the ...

IZRAEL: Yeah. Yeah. We got cut - yeah.

MARTIN: What is it? The - say - the rally, the...

IFTIKHAR: The Rally To Restore Sanity.

IZRAEL: Rally To Restore Sanity.

MARTIN: Rally To Restore Sanity. Okay.

IZRAEL: Yeah, it's at the National Mall tomorrow and...

MARTIN: You going, Jimi?

IZRAEL: I am not. No. No. No. I think I wash my hair on Saturdays.


IZRAEL: And not for nothing, Stewart brought the...

MARTIN: That's when you take all day?

IFTIKHAR: It takes a while.

IZRAEL: Yeah, doesn't it?



IZRAEL: So I'll be out until Wednesday. You know, Stewart brought "The Daily Show" to D.C. ahead of time as he managed to get the president on for a full half an hour, Michel.

MARTIN: And am I bitter that we haven't managed to get the president on for a full half hour? You be the judge.



NAVARRETTE: ...call him dude. See...

MARTIN: Well, do you want to...

NAVARRETTE: Well, call him dude, see if it warms him up.

IZRAEL: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: I'll try that. Thank you for that. Do you want to hear just a clip from what he had to say...

IFTIKHAR: Sure. Drop it.

MARTIN: ...just in case you were washing your hair and didn't hear it? Okay, here it is.


IFTIKHAR: Drop it.

IZRAEL: Kick it.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.


BARACK OBAMA: If we're making progress, step by step, inch by inch, day by day, that we are being true to the spirit of that campaign. And...

JON STEWART: So you wouldn't say you'd run this time as a pragmatist. You would not. It wouldn't be, yes we can, given certain conditions or...


OBAMA: No. No. I think what I would say is...


OBAMA: Yes we can, but it is not...



OBAMA: But it is not going to happen overnight.

MARTIN: Can I just ask John this...


MARTIN: ...because there's been a lot of sort of wrenching about whether he should have - whether the president should be on a program like this, and there's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about this. And there's also I should tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure, there's been some to-ing and fro- ing about whether people at NPR should go to these rallies or not and so there's all that. We don't have time to talk about. But John, I'm curious to know your sort of take on this because I think the world has changed. You know, a lot of people get their news from Jon Stewart, whether people like it or not.

RIDLEY: Yeah. I...

MARTIN: And so, I don't know. What do you think about it?

RIDLEY: I think the world has changed and I think the headwinds that are blowing against President Obama have so little to do with actual policy that it's incumbent upon him to go out and get his message out any way he can. What we hear a lot of are people saying well, you know, Obama is not selling his victories or he's not explaining himself well or he's not engaging.

And then to go out to receptive audiences when, by the way, you have others on the other side were going to other places that are receptive to their points of view - and I'm talking about Republicans and Fox News - I don't see what the problem is with the president saying, you know what, I'm going to take a couple of hits and I'm going to take a couple of and hits - I mean appearances is a media parlance - but I'm going out to places that are going to be a little bit more receptive. I'm going to talk to the people who need to get excited and get that enthusiasm back and I'm trying - going to try to get them out. I don't see what's wrong with that.

MARTIN: Jimi, effective or not? What...

IZRAEL: Yeah. A good move.

MARTIN: I know you were washing your hair. You've been watching it for days but effective or not?

IZRAEL: Right. Right. Yeah. It was a good move. Well played. You know, you go to the people. It's not like he was on "Chocolate News."


IZRAEL: You know, or "The Dave Chappelle Show." I mean he was on a show that people actually watch, you know, so I mean I'm down with that. Why not?

MARTIN: Arsalan, are you going to the rally?

IFTIKHAR: No. And the...

MARTIN: Why not?

IFTIKHAR: The only - well, all my friends...


IFTIKHAR: Hold on. In the interest of full disclosure, I mean I live here in D.C.


IFTIKHAR: I drive by the White House to get to NPR every week. I have a hard and fast rule, I don't do rallies. All my friends are going. It's just - it's one...

MARTIN: What do you mean you don't do rallies? Who are you?

IFTIKHAR: I drive by...

MARTIN: You too good to go to a rally? What's up with that?

IFTIKHAR: No, I just - I drive by rallies 365 days a year.


IFTIKHAR: This is, you know, I want this to be for people, you know, who haven't had an opportunity to do it.

MARTIN: You all hear that? If Arsalan's having a rally, nobody go.


IFTIKHAR: I'm not have any - believe me, my momma wouldn't even come.

MARTIN: Really? Why?

RIDLEY: I think it's sad that there's so many rallies now that people actually have to try to avoid them. You know, rallies used to be something special.


RIDLEY: And apparently there's a rally a week.

IFTIKHAR: A day (unintelligible).

NAVARRETTE: You know what?

MARTIN: Ruben?

IZRAEL: Yeah. Now Rally's just a place to get a cheap hamburger. Go ahead, Ruben.


NAVARRETTE: About Jon Stewart, I think it's a sad - first of all, it's a sad statement that the new way into journalism and the way to go interview the president is through comedy - to be a comedian is to be the same as to be a journalist, people who are trained, who spent 10, 20, 30 years as journalists in various media. You know, people like Michel Martin, would give the president a different type of interview than Jon Stewart did.


NAVARRETTE: You know, now you have people like, visit a Pete Dominick over at CNN who all of a sudden has a television show on weekends. This is famously from the Rick Sanchez interview days. But he started off as a comedian. It's amazing to me that you start off as a comedian and all of a sudden you think you're a journalist.

MARTIN: Like DL Hughley, for example. Remember that, that lasted for 10 minutes. Right.


MARTIN: Right.

NAVARRETTE: This is not, I think, a healthy trend for the rest of us and for the country. Having said that, I was okay and I applauded Obama for going on "The Daily Show," but the way it went on "The Daily Show" changed my mind. I think when you - you have to look at this in terms of sort of a Bill Clinton- Arsenio Hall moment. There's no harm in the president reaching out to that demographic, but man, when you go into that studio and you sit in that chair you better make sure you not get out of the park, because if you end up being the Ed McMahon to, you know, John Stewart's Johnny Carson - which is, in essence, what happened here - you are in real trouble.


NAVARRETTE: And I think the president did himself some great harm by virtue of this. He got defensive, you know, he started challenging Stewart because Stewart was saying basically you're not - you haven't, you know, kept your promises to the left and the like. And the president should have made, you know, lighter with it. He's an intelligent guy, he could have managed it well, but it was, I think, a disaster. When Stewart ends up calling the guy dude, I think it just is...

MARTIN: That's interesting. Yeah. It's interesting.

NAVARRETTE: He played second banana to Jon Stewart and I think that's an Ed McMahon role. But that's not where you want to be. So Stewart comes off looking good. The president not so much. Yes. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

MARTIN: I think that's an interesting point. Let me just - before we move on I just want to sort of throw one thing here. Of course, as a person who has, you know, spent my entire career doing this, yeah, it annoys me when people like Jon Stewart gets interviews that I can't get.

On the other hand, I have to say, a lot of people in television news started out on the other side of the business and that was back in the day. But Hugh Downs, Mike Wallace, some huge names in television news started out as game show hosts.


MARTIN: Game show hosts, okay? So, of course, the medium was new. No, I just thought I'd mention it. You know, there's always...

NAVARRETTE: Good point.

MARTIN: ...the entertainment and news thing...


MARTIN: ...has always been intertwined. whether we like to admit that or not. Anyway, speaking of entertainment, Jimi, LeBron, your man. Your man.

IZRAEL: Oh, well, obviously...

MARTIN: Are you still - have you stopped crying yet, over Lebron packing up and leaving?

IZRAEL: Well...

MARTIN: Have you dried your tears?

IZRAEL: I personally have. But, you know what? You know, the Celtics beat Miami and Cleveland beat Celtics so...


IZRAEL: Jimmy cracked corn and I don't care.


IZRAEL: You know...

MARTIN: So what's up with that commercial?

IZRAEL: But this week...

MARTIN: Go ahead.

IZRAEL: Yeah. This week Nike released a 90-second commercial. You know that he used to play here in Cleveland but now he's down with the Miami Heat, and if I haven't said it before, Jimmy crack corn and I don't care.


MARTIN: Well, let me just play a little bit of the commercial for people who haven't seen it. And I must say, I was watching it. What I particularly like are the comments which I think are just only areas. Most of them are too profane for me to repeat here.



MARTIN: But about, I can't even hint at them.


MARTIN: They're so sort of rude. But let me just play a little bit about from the commercial. Here it is.

IFTIKHAR: Drop it.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.


LEBRON JAMES: Want to see my shiny new shoes? Should I just sell shoes? Shiny new shoes?


JAMES: Or should I tell you, I am not a role model. Hi, Chuck. Seriously. What should I do? Should I tell you I'm a championship chaser? Did for the money? Rings? Should I be who you want me to be? Should I accept my role as a villain?


JAMES: Maybe I should just disappear.


MARTIN: And, of course, what you can't see, which is hilarious, when he says I'm not a role model and then he bites into a donut. Which is...

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. And he says, hi, Chuck to Charles Barclay.

MARTIN: And then the - to Charles Barclay. And then he says, should I be a villain? And then he's dressed up like one of those classic Western villains. I don't know, I thought it was funny.

IZRAEL: Okay. Thanks for that, Michel.

MARTIN: Dead silence when I said that that was funny.


IZRAEL: John...

NAVARRETTE: I can't figure it out, is this hamming it up for just Hamlet? I don't know.


IZRAEL: John, how did you react when you first saw the commercial?

RIDLEY: I - here's my thing, I want to, first I want to announce that I've made a decision, regarding what's...

IZRAEL: Oh-oh.


MARTIN: Oh-oh.

NAVARRETTE: Is it going to be an hour-long on ESPN?

RIDLEY: Yeah. Yeah. But when your seatbelts, kick back, you're going to be here while. My decision - I seriously don't want to hear anything else about Lebron James until he has his third championship. He has not won anything yet. I could not stand that commercial.


RIDLEY: I thought it was self-indulgent, to self referential. I thought it tried to embrace, in a bad way, his mistakes, as opposed to truly apologize for some mistakes that is made.

IFTIKHAR: Right. Right.

RIDLEY: And I just, you know, the idea that you're going to - in my opinion, and I have to admit, I'm not a huge basketball fan, but one of the things that you admire about basketball in particular, and almost any winning team is that franchises are built around great players. They were built around Michael Jordan. They were built around Magic Johnson, built around Larry Bird. It wasn't this player's going out and building their own franchise kind of thing. It's a new world at sports, they want to be a winner and things like...

MARTIN: You're over it, huh?

RIDLEY: But to me...

MARTIN: Okay. I got to...

RIDLEY: ...Lebron James will always be the guy who had to go out and get that franchise to be a winner.

MARTIN: I think it's funny.

Anyway, Arsalan, a final word from you.

IFTIKHAR: Final word from me is that my Boston Celtics beat them opening- night - the highest rated NBA game in 16 years since Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson returned from retirement. It's going to be a long season for the Heat.

MARTIN: Why did I talk to you? I don't know, why did I talk to you?


MARTIN: Hater. Hater. Hater. Hater. Hater. Hateration all around. Anyway, that's all the time we have. Thanks everybody.

Jimi Izrael is the book, "The Denzel Principle." He was with us from Cleveland, WCPN. Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney and founder of the muslimguy.com. He was with us here in Washington D.C. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group and CNN.com. He was with us from KOGO in San Diego. John Ridley is a screenwriter, a graphic novelist and MORNING EDITION commentator. He was with us from NPR West.

Thanks everybody.


NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

RIDLEY: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.


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