Shop Mulls Super Tuesday Results, Shaq's New Gig
MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Coming up, we'll talk with our web producer, Lee Hill, who's been following your comments on the web and from the TELL ME MORE call-in line.
But first, it's time for our weekly shape-up at the Barbershop, where the guys talk about the news and whatever's on their minds. Sitting on the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, blogger and writer Michael David Cobb Bowen, and Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 5th district.
We already heard from Barbershop regular Ruben Navarrette earlier today, so he's already had his shape-up.
JIMI IZRAEL: Hey, Michel. Hey, hey, fellas, welcome to the shop. How are we doing?
DAVID COBB BOWEN: Not bad. How are you doing? This is great.
IZRAEL: Oh, man, tell me about it. You know what, Super Tuesday has come and gone with more questions than answers for some people. You know, Hillary Clinton and John McCain came out winners. You know, Cobbsky, McCain has got his mojo working.
COBB BOWEN: Oh, I'm feeling good.
IZRAEL: Is he the sure GOP nomination and he must be kind of breathing easy now that Mitt Romney is dropping out of the race.
COBB BOWEN: It's good. It's a celebration for all of us moderate conservatives who've been having to stand in the wings for awhile. And McCain is going to come through. And a lot of people are saying, well, I'm going to hold my nose and vote for him, but those are the activist conservatives.
But, you know, a vote is a vote, and we'll take them all.
MARTIN: You know what, you guys want to hear a Mitt Romney - and he didn't really - he stopped short of actually endorsing McCain when he dropped out at his speech yesterday. He was talking at the - or is it the Conservative Political Action Committee?
IZRAEL: CPAC, yeah.
COBB BOWEN: CPAC, yeah.
MARTIN: Let's just play a short clip from that. You want to hear?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Drop it.
MITT ROMNEY: Now, if I fight on in my campaign all the way to convention, I'd forestall the launch of a national campaign. And frankly, I've been making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.
IFTIKHAR: Yikes. Holy macaroni.
IZRAEL: Oh, I think he...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: Congressman, what do you think about that? You're an Obama supporter. What do you think about that?
KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think it's fear-based politics. It's the kind of politics that says that, you know, we should be afraid as Americans. That's one of the reasons I'm an Obama supporter because he has a courageous and brave view of the world. He's confident in America's ability to do good things around the world.
He doesn't have this fearful sort of approach, where we have to put all our budget into the military, not make friends around the world, and in fact, create enemies around the world. And I'm glad that he's out of the race.
ELLISON: Well, I mean, one reason - because I think that Americans are essentially courageous, confident, optimistic people and he is the opposite of that.
Obama is - gotten the tremendous outpouring of support. Hey, two-to-one in Minnesota, by the way, because, you know, he really is projecting hope, inclusion. And, you know, we got folks of all colors, all backgrounds, all cultures, all flocking to this idea that America can be better than it is. And Romney is on the opposite end of the scale, so good riddance.
MARTIN: That's awfully statesmanlike. But Arsalan, I was just kind of wondering, wouldn't you rather he stayed in, so he can wear it down? You are also an Obama supporter. Wouldn't you rather he stayed in so he can wear down the opposition?
IFTIKHAR: Well - yeah. I mean, from a political strategic vantage point, you know, that would've been beneficial to the Democrats because it seems like we're going to have a horse race. I mean, it is a dead heat.
MARTIN: What I'm curious about, Michael, is you're a McCain supporter...
COBB BOWEN: Right.
MARTIN: ...but the people - a lot of the Republicans who's saying, you know, is having trouble with these conservative talk show hosts who seem to be on the sort of campaign to criticize him and attack him at every turn. I'm curious about why they hate him so much. And secondly, I'm also curious about why it is that the Republicans who are anti-war are voting for McCain. Exit poll after exit poll show that the Republicans who are most concerned about the U.S. presence in Iraq are supporting McCain. I don't understand it.
COBB BOWEN: Well, McCain is not an empty suit. There's something there. And a lot of the conservative activists don't like the fact that they can't push him around. They can't bully him. He is a man of his own opinions and he has strong opinions and passion about that.
So, he's going to be the moderate candidate. And that's what the conservative activists don't like. They have been pushing the whole country to the right and they don't realize that the country has moved to the right. And so, they're not so necessary anymore. And so I think, you know, with deference to the level that Obama gets, this is going to be about the middle, the new middle. And it's going to be Clinton and McCain. And people are going to have to decide issue by issue who they trust more. And I think everybody finds that on the war issues certainly, they trust McCain's judgment. I mean, he's from military royalty. And he's got a firm commitment to the troops and to the American way.
And one more thing that the conservative activists don't like is that McCain is willing to do bipartisan legislation. He is not a strong armor on party line kind of thing. He will go and build a coalition, and he's notorious for doing so. And that's what the American people really have to say if they want this divisiveness to end. They can take, you know, the promise - I promise to do this a new way that's never been done before or you can look at McCain's records and say, yeah, he actually can do it.
IFTIKHAR: Oh, and another thing very quickly on the McCain thing...
COBB BOWEN: Go ahead, A-Train.
IFTIKHAR: ...and the rest of the candidates, it's - Diversity Inc magazine actually did a recent study on whose campaign staff is the most and least diverse. And first of all, none of the Republican candidates even responded to the article, but it was found that...
COBB BOWEN: It's silly.
IFTIKHAR: ...Senator McCain has...
IZRAEL: Of course, it is.
IFTIKHAR: ...two minority staffers. Mayor Guiliani had none. Romney had one. Huckabee has one. And so, you know, I think that, you know, when you start to look at these campaigns and how these candidates are trying to mold themselves, I think that they're going to try to mold themselves as part of the social fabric of America. And I think that, you know, what the Republican Party said with Super Tuesday was that, we believe that John McCain represents - closes that cross section that we're looking for.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to Jimi Izrael, Michael David Cobb Bowen, Arsalan Iftikhar and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota in the Barbershop.
IZRAEL: Check this out, though. Not that Mitt Romney is out of the race, you know, where his supporters going to go, to Huckabee?
COBB BOWEN: Stay home. You don't have to go.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
IFTIKHAR: No. They're going to go McCain.
COBB BOWEN: They're going to go McCain.
IZRAEL: They're going to opt out.
IFTIKHAR: You know what I think is going to - I think Romney is doing what John Edwards is doing. They're trying to, you know, make their political values stretch as long as they can. And so I think that they're both going to wait to officially endorse someone. Again, like I said last week on the Barbershop, I hope both of them don't wait too long before, you know, they become old news.
IZRAEL: That's really a point well made, but what I want to know is, you know, we're dismissing Huckabee, but can we dismiss him? Is he still a viable candidate or he's just kind of a spoiler in the wings?
IFTIKHAR: I think...
IZRAEL: Somebody just talk to that.
IFTIKHAR: I think he's McCain's running mate. I think it's...
COBB BOWEN: I think he's running for VP.
IFTIKHAR: I think it's McCain-Huckabee.
COBB BOWEN: That's possible.
IFTIKHAR: McCain needs to reach out to the social conservatives and Huckabee's perfect for that. I mean we've seen - in the history of our presidential elections, the vice presidents many times are picked just for strategic purposes. And, you know, I think that a McCain-Huckabee ticket is sort of the Republican dream team ticket where some - many people see an Obama-Clinton ticket on the Democratic side as being the dream team ticket.
COBB BOWEN: As long as Obama is on the top.
IFTIKHAR: That's why I said Obama first.
COBB BOWEN: Well, I don't know. I think a lot of Obama supporters are looking at the Clinton campaign and saying, gee, I really underestimated the creepiness.
MARTIN: Yeah. I'm with Michael on that.
IFTIKHAR: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
MARTIN: I am not sure it's the dream team that, you know - maybe Hollywood. Maybe Hollywood...
COBB BOWEN: Strategically.
IFTIKHAR: The winning...
MARTIN: ...except from a cast - except from casting standpoint.
IFTIKHAR: ...the winning dream team.
MARTIN: You know what I mean, like you cast like a primetime TV show, you know?
COBB BOWEN: Mm-hmm.
MARTIN: But I don't know that - I mean if you think that Obama represents change and if your argument is that, you know, Hillary Clinton is the status quo and we don't need more of this. Why would you then link up with that whole apparatus?
IFTIKHAR: Because liberals still do political strategery from time to time as well. You know, I mean...
IFTIKHAR: ...we, at the end of the day, Barack Obama needs to win.
MARTIN: How does Hillary Clinton help them win a general election...
IZRAEL: Well, here's...
MARTIN: ...who does she get - I think that...
IZRAEL: ...check it out.
MARTIN: ...that he doesn't get on his own as the Democrat if somebody is going to...
IZRAEL: Michel, because here's the thing, Michel. You have a lot of older white women who are looking at this thing like, look, you know, what is the ultimate glass ceiling, the presidency.
IZRAEL: And some of them are thinking, you know, I fought for the ERA, I fought for Roe V. Wade, this is my last chance to see a woman president. I'll live with a vice president.
MARTIN: She wouldn't be the first female vice president on the ticket.
IZRAEL: She'd be the first woman to really win.
IFTIKHAR: To win, though. If they win, I mean...
IZRAEL: To win. I mean, this is a big deal. And, you know, Geraldine Ferraro was sort of...
IFTIKHAR: Geraldine didn't win. Right.
IZRAEL: ...a ground-breaking thing. But, you know, there's ground-breaking and then there's breaking the glass ceiling.
MARTIN: So you're suggesting what, that Republican women are going to cross party lines to vote for that ticket?
IZRAEL: I don't...
IFTIKHAR: I think somewhat.
COBB BOWEN: I think the Republican supporters going to be attracted by Barack Obama.
IZRAEL: Yeah. Nobody asked me. But what I'm thinking is a lot...
MARTIN: I'm asking you, Jimi. I want to know. We want to know.
IFTIKHAR: We all - we're all asking, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Well, check this. There's a lot of election left for me. And I think it's too early to be prognostic and hating. That's what I think...
ELLISON: Okay, I'll agree with that.
IZRAEL: I think, we've got to wait and see - we're all witnessing history. So, let's just sit back and enjoy the fight.
IFTIKHAR: Long wait.
MARTIN: We wouldn't have jobs.
COBB BOWEN: But no doubt - but, Michel, no doubt, the Barack and Clinton camps have a lot of healing to do. And I think Mr. Bill Clinton needs to start with the overtures.
IZRAEL: All right. Well, check this out. You know what, 50 Cent is out there recommending Hillary Clinton for president. Now, mind you, he's a convicted felon so he can't vote. But he said...
ELLISON: Well, now if he's off - supervised release, he could vote.
IZRAEL: Oh, okay. Well, yeah. The 50 Cent vote. He says that Barack Obama would probably be shot if elected, Cobbsky. I don't know what to say to that. You know it was interesting though, that rappers have a weird history supporting candidates. You know, Eazy-E famously took a tour at the Bush White House and Luda has come out for Obama and Timbaland is also endorsing Hillary. What do you say, Cobbsky?
COBB BOWEN: Obama is not going to get shot. He's not afraid. I mean, unless he's going to Philly, I guess.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
IFTIKHAR: Come on now.
MARTIN: But can I ask the congressman this? We went out to South Carolina in advance of the primary there. We've done some traveling for this election. We keep hearing this from people expressing concern about his safety, and I just - I want to know what you make of that?
ELLISON: Well, I can guarantee you that once you thrust yourself into that political crucible, your personal safety is a secondary consideration. You try to do a thing greater than you. I can guarantee you that he's not worried about it. I think in order to set this country on the course of racial reconciliation and so many other great things his presidency would bring to us, I'm glad he's doing it even though I know that in the back of his mind, somebody out there might want to harm him.
MARTIN: But do you feel, though, as an African-American political leader yourself, do you feel that you are at risk?
ELLISON: Yeah. Well, people send me notes that they'd like to see bad things happen. But, you know, I'm not worried about it. I don't give it a second thought because nobody...
IZRAEL: Pretty same kind of notes, and I'm not an elected officer.
COBB BOWEN: Yeah.
ELLISON: That's right.
IFTIKHAR: I mean, come on...
MARTIN: Wait a minute, wait. You got that death threats, too?
IFTIKHAR: I'm the Muslim guy on television. Come on, after 9/11, you know, people - ignorant people will see you and then automatically associate you with the other. And yeah, I've gotten a lot, hundreds.
ELLISON: Michel, they're going to box you up one day and you don't when, so you live your life to the fullest until that happens.
MARTIN: Wow, well, thank you for telling us that.
COBB BOWEN: Like Republicans do. We get threats.
MARTIN: Do you really, Michael? Well, Jimi gets threats just because, you know.
MARTIN: People would like...
IZRAEL: Most of those threats were from my ex in-laws. And you know what?
MARTIN: Threatening to give you a haircut.
IZRAEL: Right, exactly. And you know what, just like Ron Paul probably said earlier in the week, looking at his numbers, gentlemen, I think that's a wrap...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
IZRAEL: Thanks so much for coming to the Barbershop. I got to kick it over to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.
MARTIN: Jimi Izrael joined us from WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida, where he's a freelance writer and reporter. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine and a civil rights attorney. He joined us from our studios here in Washington. Michael David Cobb Bowen is a blogger and founder of the Conservative Brotherhood. He joined us from NPR West. And Congressman Keith Ellison represents Minnesota's 5th District. He's a Democrat. He joined us from our studios in Washington.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us in the shop today.
IFTIKHAR: Thank you, Michel.
ELLISON: Thank you, Michel.
COBB BOWEN: Glad to be here.
IZRAEL: Yup, yup.
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