Bush Speech, 'Boondocks,' Politics and the NFL
ED GORDON, host:
I'm Ed Gordon and this is News and Notes live today from Detroit at the Detroit Breakfast House and Grill. AS you know every Thursday Senior Correspondent Juan Williams joins us with his Washington insiders to talk about this week in politics. Today Juan and guests discuss the politics of the Super Bowl, this week's presidential address, and a former student of one of our insiders is under scrutiny for satirizing a civil rights issue in his famous cartoon strip. Juan, over to you.
JUAN WILLIAMS, reporting:
Thanks, Ed, we're joined now by Ron Walters, Professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland. His latest book is "Freedom is not Enough." And Robert Traynham, political strategist based here in Washington, active on Capitol Hill both are in Washington. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
Mr. RON WALTERS (Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland): Good to be with you, Juan.
Mr. ROBERT TRAYNHAM (Political Strategist): Good to be with you.
WILLIAMS: Let's talk about the State of the Union as presented by President Bush on Tuesday night. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia said that she was disappointed that the President did not mention extension of the Voting Rights Act. Robert Traynham, is this a legitimate issue that the president should have addressed?
Mr. TRAYNHAM: I think so. I mean, there's no question about it, that this is a political hot potato within the Black community. You have 45 minutes or so to list out a laundry list of issues that you think is important for the country. And the president obviously thought that it was in his best interest to articulate the need for NSA, the need for the Patriot Act extension, the need for health care, increase health care in education, and some other things. And unfortunately this was on the chopping block in terms of presidential priorities right now.
Mr. WALTERS: Well, the president did mention a number of things associated with Civil Rights. I mean, he opened up talking about the death of Coretta Scott King. So the rhetoric of the speech went one way, but when you look at such things as the recently released NAACP report card, which finds that over 50% of members of the House and the Senate got an F on the report card, and 100% of them are Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Professor Walters, why did they get an F? What was the basis for giving all these Republicans F's?
Mr. WALTERS: Well, as you know, the NAACP every year runs the Congress, all members of Congress through a report card, and it identifies eight, nine, or ten issues that are important to the Black community. These are kind of race-specific issues.
Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, with all due respect to that, if I may interject, I mean, what the NAACP does, what all special interest groups do, is they take a handful of votes that are very, very skewed, that are worded in a way that probably either goes for them and against them, and then they weight members of Congress based on those handful of votes. What they don't do is they don't take into consideration alternative amendment.
They don't take into consideration a Republican amendment or an amendment that may have changed a few words around that frankly may be a little more advantageous for whatever community, and put that into a report card as well. So it's a very, very biased, very, very narrow-minded report card, with all due respect.
Mr. WALTERS: Well, it would seem to me, if that was the case, then Democrats also would suffer.
WILLIAMS: All right, gentlemen, let's move on really quickly. There are two more subjects I wanna cover. First and foremost, Ed Gordon's in Detroit this week for the Super Bowl. Don't ask me how he got there. I'm not gonna talk to the NPR accountants about that. But given that you see a majority Black city with a Black mayor, Quami Kilpatrick, in the national, maybe international spotlight, what does this say about Detroit and about a black mayor who was involved in a very controversial race just last year, in addition to which there are complaints that some people have been displaced, as we see all the money flow into Detroit and the attention to this super event, the Super Bowl. Robert Traynham?
Mr. TRAYNHAM: There's no question about it, that would allegedly happen in terms of some homeless folks being displaced is very, very unfortunate news. And, look, this is what every city does when the national spotlight is on them. They tend to take all of their bad apples or their bad scars, if you will, and try to put a big Band-Aid on them so that no one will see them.
And so, let's just hope and pray that when the Super Bowl actually leaves Detroit on Monday, is that the homeless folks and all the other folks that were displaced and disenfranchised because of the Super Bowl, will actually see some economic benefit from the tens of thousands of people that actually traveled to Detroit and spent their hard-earned dollars on beer and wine and hotels and so forth.
Mr. WALTERS: Well, yes, I was very much concerned about the story that popped up about the city removing homeless people, and I talked to the mayor's office about it. And they indicated that, first of all, this was a sensational article that wasn't rooted precisely in fact, that they were actually taking a lot of positions to try to help the homeless people.
Because in some cities, where they've had Super Bowls, people had been attacked by people coming in from out of town. They'd been moved around by police. And so, there's an effort actually to put in some measures that actually will protect them. The other thing is that the major's office is attempting to try to do a number of things, putting up kiosks, some beautification programs, so that the thousands of people, it's estimated to be about 100,000 people coming, about 3,000 media folk, will leave with a different impression of a city that's actually working, and try to counter some of the negative images that the city has encountered.
WILLIAMS: One last topic for you both, and that is, Boondocks and Aaron McGruder. I don't know if either of you saw the most recent episode of his show on Comedy Central, but it includes in the, you know, just the week before Coretta Scott King's death, an imaginary cartoon of Dr. King lecturing Black America and going off on a rant and finally, in frustration, leaving. Did you happen to see this, either of you?
Mr. TRAYNHAM: I have not seen this, but I did hear about it.
Mr. WALTERS: Yes, I saw it, and I don't think very much of it. I must say, just for full disclosure, that I was on Aaron McGruder's honors thesis committee at the University of Maryland. He was graduating from the University of Maryland. And so, he's a brilliant young man and a lot of sensitivity to him. But he pushes the envelope. There isn't any question about that.
And that's one of the reasons, quite frankly, that he has a cartoon today and why it's syndicated. Because people wanted something different. But there is no question that at some times he does push it too far and sometimes over the line. And I think that when he does that, then certainly African-American leaders, if they have spoken out, have a right, I think, to call him on it.
WILLIAMS: Well, all I've heard is Al Sharpton asked him to apologize to Dr. King, to the King family or something like that.
Mr. WALTERS: That's right.
WILLIAMS: Anybody else speak out?
Mr. WALTERS: I think Reverend Jackson sort of weighed in and said that this was not appropriate.
WILLIAMS: Robert Trayham?
Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, as I mentioned before, I have not seen it, but I did hear about it. And if, in fact, the stories are true, this is very, very unfortunate, especially given the fact of Mrs. King's death earlier this week. It's just completely out of character and certainly out of taste and inappropriate. And he should apologize.
WILLIAMS: Robert Traynham is a Republican political strategist based here in Washington. He joined us on the phone because he's active even today on Capitol Hill. And Professor Ron Walters, professor of political science at the University of Maryland. His lates book, Freedom is not Enough. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today.
Mr. TRAYNHAM: Thank you, Juan.
Mr. WALTERS: Good to be with you.
WILLIAMS: Back to you, Ed.
Mr. TRAYNHAM: Go Steelers!
Mr. WALTERS: We're together.
WILLIAMS: Back to you, Ed.
GORDON: All right, Juan, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Join us every Thursday for senior correspondent Juan Williams and his beltway insiders right here on our political corner.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.