'Shop' Takes On Wall Street, R. Kelly's Dating Preferences
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop. The guys talk about what's in the news and whatever's on their minds. Sitting in the chair for a shape up this week are freelance writer and blogger, Jimi Izrael, syndicative columnist Ruben Navarrette, business editor Marcus Mabry and I'd like to welcome to the shop Marcus Skelton. He's chairman of DC Young Republicans here in Washington, DC. I may jump in here and there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Yo fellas. Welcome to the shop. How we doing?
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Doing great.
Mr. MARCUS MABRY (Business Editor): Good man.
Mr. MARCUS SKELTON (Chairman, DC Young Republicans): Good.
IZRAEL: All right. Well Mr. Mabry, my man. What's going on? Washington mutuals on the block? Lehman just went under, AIG, my man. In layman's terms what just happened?
Mr. MABRY: In layman's terms you can say the bottom fell out or you can say nobody trusts nobody. That is basically what's happening. We have an amazing crisis of confidence. Banks will not lend money to each other. We have some of the biggest names in Wall Street disappearing. These are firms that you know certainly I think everybody but especially black folks who for so long were kept out of jobs in these firms and working for them had a sense of awe about it. All of a sudden Lehman Brothers are no more. There are only two, only two investment banks left in country on Wall Street. That is of now. One can be disappearing soon and there are Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. There used to be five of them, just a week ago. It is an incredibly bad situation. Unprecedented really since the great depression.
IZRAEL: Oh the humanity. Skelton, my man. You said you are a stock holder at AIG. The government just bailed them out to the tune of 85 billion. A loan in exchange for 85 percent stake. Man, you got to be crying?
Mr. SKELTON: Not necessarily. I actually I was sitting with my fingers crossed and looking to see, being chairman of Young Republicans, what is the Republican nominee for president going to say about AIG, and I think John McCain gave a real answer. You know if you look at the Republican playbook you expect most Republicans to never do a bail out, but I think that's what separated John McCain for him saying that he looked at how many jobs were at stake, and you know, and in the grand scheme of things about helping AIG out...
Mr. MABRY: This is Marcus Mabry, I just have to say just to point out a fact check here, on today's show I saw John McCain lie to say that he was against an AIG bail out. So he may have changed his tune, but let's acknowledged he did not originally say that. He said no bail out for AIG, read my lips. That's what he said in the beginning.
IZRAEL: All right with all that said, Ruben, I'm of the opinion that neither candidate seems to have much to say of any use about this Wall Street thing. What do you say?
NAVARRETTE: That is correct because this problem is enormous. We have a couple of mistaken impressions in this country. One is that if you want to get an education system you elect a president as if he were the chief superintendent of schools. The other thing is we think that if you want a good economy somehow the president will fix your economy for you. That's not true either. The economy has a life of its own. There are things a president can do to benefit or hurt an economy. But at the end of the day, the chairman of the Federal Reserve is a lot more important than the president with regard to the economy. But specifically a couple of things that McCain and Obama have talked about doing that would impact the economy. Three areas, taxes, trade, and a mortgage bail out. With regard to taxes...
MARTIN: Hold on. I got some tape on that. You want to hear it? I do have some tape from each candidate talking a little bit about taxes. Want to play that?
IZRAEL: Yeah, drop it.
MARTIN: OK, here it is. I think we'll play John McCain first. Well you can figure out who is talking. John McCain first and then we'll play Senator Obama talking about taxes this week.
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Nominee): The worst thing we can do in this bad economy and it is a bad economy is to raise people's taxes. I will not raise your taxes. Senator Obama wants to raise your taxes. I would be glad to stand...
(Soundbite of cheering)
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Nominee): I offer three times that tax will be for middle class families as Senator McCain. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.
MARTIN: So Ruben, there is a distinction there. I mean you are talking about the importance of the Fed and the president really has very little to say about it but there is tax policy and they are offering a clear distinction here.
NAVARRETTE: What I mean to say there is President Clinton will look back and say you know during eight years we had a great economy and they will try to claim credit for the economy. There's a lot that he can't claim credit for. In this case with taxes, if the president sets tax policy or recommends tax policy to be set by Congress, and I think we have a difference of opinion. Clearly, McCain sounds like more the old Republican standard of don't raise taxes, particularly in this kind of economy, it's bad for you, it might even drain even more money out of the economy.
With regards to Obama, his position had been, up until recently, more pushing these middle-class tax cuts. But I think he hit a real snag recently during an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos where he basically conceded that if the economy was still shaky, he wouldn't go through with raising taxes. I'm simplifying that, but the idea was to not make the Bush tax cuts - not let them expire. And so people have jumped on that and said basically that Obama sounds now like a Republican supply-sider. He's admitting that the tax cuts stimulate the economy on the issue of trade. So it's sort of the guy who's wrong versus the guy whose position is a mess.
MARTIN: What about the whole bailout situation as, you know, you guys were just talking about just a minute ago? The fact is that the government stepped in yet again.
MARTIN: After refusing to step in for Lehman Brothers. But now stepping in for AIG.
NAVARRETTE: The American people are following the two camps, those who believe that government should come to the rescue, and those who believe that when government comes to the rescue, it tends to make things worse. But again, issue by issue, there are going to be differences. They're going to sort of nibble around the edges. But make no mistake, the one thing that Barack Obama and John McCain agree on, this issue scares the heck out of them.
Mr. MABRY: Yeah, this is Marcus Mabry again. That's exactly right. And I think they both made missteps. And I didn't want to come down too hard on Senator McCain because Biden as well, speaking for Senator Obama, originally said he was against this AIG bailout. It is the populist thing to say. I'm against bailouts, I'm against making the - you know, saving the fat cats' butts when they've made mistakes on Wall Street. The fact is the reason that - the government did the right thing by bailing out AIG because AIG is the largest insurance company in the world. AIG was one of the people that insured lots of risky financial things that Wall Street firms were doing. If AIG went out of business, then all the insurance they had to protect themselves against the risks they were taking would also go away. You would see a tidal wave, the likes of which we've never seen in a globalized economy if AIG went out of business. So they did the right thing by saving it.
MARTIN: Can I ask you that, Marcus - I wanted to ask - you're up in new York, and what's the mood up there? I mean, is it a kind of a thing where people are kind of walking around with that - like that in - from the Peanuts, you know, cartoon, like this dust cloud over their heads? I mean, do they feel - is there a sense of fear and gloom and anxiety?
Mr. MABRY: Yeah. You know that fear and loathing that we all talk about. There is literal fear and loathing happening in the city. Not just because this city depends so much on our economy for Wall Street and the big bonuses they make down there, but we are really in a place that we've never been before. We had hundreds of billions of dollars that was injected into the global economy by central banks around the world. Our Fed, other central banks, in coordination with each other. And yet it has not made a serious difference. Markets lack confidence. Without confidence, you don't have capitalism.
MARTIN: Can I ask Marcus Skelton a question? Because in addition to being chairman of the D.C. Young Republicans, you work for a nonprofit. Is there a sense of anxiety in the nonprofit world because so much of your funding comes from rich people with extra cash?
Mr. SKELTON: Oh, well, of course. And we've talked about home mortgages. The next step is going to be the student loan crisis that people haven't mentioned yet. And this is the second part of this where the banks have gotten - they went from giving everybody the money to now they're going to give nobody money. But businesses overall, nonprofit and private sector businesses, are getting to the point where they're looking to wonder how they're going to keep the doors open now thinking that's the type of economy that we're in. And people have kind of thrown the parts and head out the window when you look and wonder if you're going to have a job.
MARTIN: Well, wait a minute. Why should they? I mean, isn't that a realistic argument to say, OK, on whose watch did this happen? And do we want more of this?
Mr. SKELTON: Right. If you want to tie it down to the presidential election, it's either going to be a Senator Obama problem or it's going to be a John McCain problem in a couple of months. And I think that's what people who haven't decided are looking at. And that's why the positions in these crucial issues are going to be more important. I mean, if you want to look at the campaign, John McCain says, of course, in the beginning, he was kind of against it. But now he's saying, you know what, that's a good idea because so much was at stake. But you have to admit that we're going to have a problem no matter who's elected.
NAVARRETTE: Michel, that's a very good point.
Mr. MABRY: And it's going to be, who can handle that problem?
NAVARRETTE: I foresee the election is shaped up between a reformer and a change agent. This is about reform versus change. You know, if you believe that the institutions in this country, the financial institutions, need serious reform and this proves it, McCain's your guy. If you believe it's time for a change and, as Michel said, that the Republicans have wrecked the economy, then side for Obama.
MARTIN: I didn't - hold up, I didn't say the Republicans have wrecked the economy, Ruben. I think what I said...
NAVARRETTE: OK. I'm sorry. Let me paraphrase that. George Bush wrecked the economy.
MARTIN: I don't think I said that either, but...
NAVARRETTE: Those two tensions exist here. And very quickly, I think the one thing that Obama has going for him, because even though at a snapshot, it looks like, oh, this is bad news for the Republicans, the other piece of the pie is that change, people say they want change, but change is scary, it's inherently scary. And when you're already in a scary situation, you don't need something that makes it even more scary. And I think that the soundbite that's come out of the Republicans in the last few days is you need a steward of the economy, you need leadership. This is not the time to roll the dice. And they see Obama as rolling the dice.
MARTIN: Except that this is the one...
Mr. MABRY: Yeah, this is Marcus Mabry. I got to say though...
MARTIN: Go ahead, Marcus.
Mr. MABRY: This means, number one, Ruben is right when he says doesn't directly impact the economy. But he does indirectly impact it in so many things he does. This lack of confidence we're seeing, this incompetence we're seeing, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department basically running to put out fires. And every time they run to put out a fire, what they see is another fire farther down the road. It's because they don't have a strategy. You cannot escape responsibility for this. And I think John McCain, I don't think there are many people. And if you're ever going to talk about the economy, it's hard to look at him as a candidate and to feel, you know, he'll take things in hand. His leadership when it comes to this is going to be valid. I think he's very strong when it comes to foreign policy. We've seen it in the latest New York Times poll. He's very strong when it comes to military commander-in-chief roles. However, when it comes to economic roles, no. People don't think like that.
NAVARRETTE: Yeah, I don't buy it. I don't buy it because if you'd gone behind door number two and picked up Mitt Romney, the rap would have been, well, he's really good on the economy, he's a strong CEO of a company. Then the narrative would have been different. The narrative of the Democrats would have come forward with, well, this was the guy who, you know, is used to killing jobs not saving them. So no matter who the Republicans put up, there was a built in narrative the Democrats would come up with against...
Mr. MABRY: I'm not talking about the politics of it. I'm just talking about the reality of what we see in the candidate.
NAVARRETTE: OK, you know what...
MARTIN: Well, that's an interesting point because I think what you're saying is to the degree to which this is a referendum on the Republicans' handling of the economy, bad news for John McCain. But to the degree to which this is a referendum on leadership and who has leadership qualities, maybe not so bad because if you see it in that light - that's an interesting point. I've got to jump in just here to say, if you're just joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. We're having our weekly visit to the Barbershop. And we're visiting with Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Marcus Mabry, and Marcus Skelton. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Singer R. Kelly jumped from the radio to your TV should you have BET. He was talking to Toure this week, my dude who often wears too much eyeliner, about his life after his recent courtroom drama. I'm sorry, Toure, if you're out there. You're my dude. Anyway, we've got some tape, right?
MARTIN: Yeah, we do. I'm just trying to process that whole exchange right there. But yes, we do. Here it is.
(Soundbite of BET interview with R. Kelly)
Mr. TOURE (Host, BET): Let me ask you something real that millions of Americans are thinking about and wondering about you.
Mr. R. KELLY (Musician): OK.
Mr. TOURE: Do you like teenage girls?
Mr. KELLY: When you say teenage, how old are we talking?
Mr. TOURE: Girls who are teenagers.
Mr. KELLY: 19?
Mr. TOURE: 19 and younger.
Mr. KELLY: I have some 19-year-old friends, but I don't like anybody illegal if that's what we're talking about, underage.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Well, that certainly clears that up.
NAVARRETTE: Look, I think we're (unintelligible) kid's brain.
IZRAEL: Oh, thanks for that, Michel. Oh, man. R. Kelly is just a mess, man. And I really think that him and Michael Jackson should go buy...
NAVARRETTE: Define mess, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Right. Should go buy their own island somewhere. I mean, it sounds like Bill Clinton trying to define the word, the. You know, I'm confused as to why we even let this guy still record. Marcus Mabry, you didn't see it, but surely you have some emotion about the R. Kelly debacle, which he was accused - he was facing a number of counts of child pornography stemming from a tape, an alleged tape, that allegedly showed him having intercourse with an underage - allegedly underage young lady.
MARTIN: And of course, he was acquitted.
IZRAEL: And of course, he was acquitted.
MARTIN: He was acquitted, she never testified. She said it wasn't her. He said it wasn't him. That's what I...
Mr. MABRY: You're right, Jimi, I had not heard - had not seen or heard it before. The first time I actually heard it was just right now when y'all were playing it because I've been watching these global markets disintegrate. And wow, I got to tell you, my emotional reaction was the same thing Condoleezza Rice's stepmother said to me when she was trying to talk about, you know, how sometimes, you know, black folks do stuff. And you're like, my people, my people, my people. That was my first reaction. Oh, my God, what in the world? You know, number one, what is he talking about? Is he just out of his mind? Number two, why do we keep buying this recording artist's product? I mean, clearly people don't see a problem with the way he does in his personal life versus the way he does in a professional life. People apparently can divorce that as consumers.
IZRAEL: Michel, you're an avid listener of music. And you're also a parent.
MARTIN: Yeah. I'm just, you know...
IZRAEL: How do you feel about it?
MARTIN: I'm actually sitting here thinking about how do I feel about this. And I kind of want to talk to - I want to ask Ruben. Now you guys, you're all parents. What is...
IZRAEL: Pass the buck why don't you?
MARTIN: I am passing the buck to Ruben because the truth is his career has exploded while he has been under this cloud.
NAVARRETTE: Right. Sure.
MARTIN: He has. I mean, his sales have shot up tremendously. And he has been...
IZRAEL: It's the outlaw effect, you know
MARTIN: You think that's it?
IZRAEL: I think it's the outlaw effect...
NAVARRETTE: Happens everywhere.
IZRAEL: It's like the 50 Cent effect. You know, if you get shot eight times, maybe your record sales will be OK. If you get shot nine times, then you're going platinum. You know, and with R. Kelly, you know what I mean...
NAVARRETTE: It's like George Michael...
IZRAEL: Yeah, he's a - OK, let's not go there. He's like an outlaw. He's like an outlaw.
MARTIN: But, you know what - but I've been reading the sort of the message boards and - like at Essence and so forth. A lot of women are the ones writing in to defend him.
IZRAEL: That's really saddening to me.
MARTIN: And I don't know what that means.
Mr. MABRY: On what basis are they defending him?
MARTIN: Well, that, you know - well, that...
IZRAEL: He was acquitted!
MARTIN: He was acquitted. And while the trial was going on, the fact is that he had not been convicted of anything, which is true. I don't know.
Mr. MABRY: Don't women usually wait until...
MARTIN: Marcus, go ahead.
Mr. MABRY: Don't women usually wait until you get locked up before they send you love letters?
Mr. SKELTON: Ah, well, I know about that.
Mr. MABRY: Oh my God.
IZRAEL: That is a whole 'nother Barbershop.
Mr. SKELTON: Not me! I mean, I've not been locked up.
IZRAEL: So, that's a whole other Barbershop! Yes, Skelton?
Mr. SKELTON: But it's one of those things where whatever you think about R. Kelly, he was in a deep hole and at the end of the trial, he was out of it. And when you are out of a hole, don't go anywhere near that hole. And he went right back in there when they asked him. You know, 19 is close. And, you know, eventually you have that grown man radar where she's kind of close. For future reference, you know, you almost went to jail, you should just change your criteria and date somebody that's a little older. You don't have to have a gray hair - maybe one or two gray hairs. You know something sags on them a little bit, and maybe one or two wrinkles.
Mr. SKELTON: Something like that. But the fact that you target someone that's 19. Nineteen is close. People are about 19...
MARTIN: They're just friends, Marcus. They're just friends.
IZRAEL: The world according to Skelton, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. SKELTON: The world according to me.
IZRAEL: For that...
MARTIN: Well, Jimi, what about you? You have a daughter.
IZRAEL: I have a daughter. And it...
MARTIN: And you're a hip-hop dad.
IZRAEL: I just - look, I just give her the game, you know. I make sure - she's 9 years old and her mother's giving her a version of the birds and the bees, and I'm giving her the other real version of the birds and the bees. And I'm going to make sure she knows the game. You know, I mean, no tape, no photographs, no older men. You know, do what you want, but be careful and protect yourself. Sweetie, I love you. Period. I think R. Kelly is going to have to reconcile this with his God. So I think that's that, and I believe that's a wrap ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for coming to the Barbershop. I have to kick it over to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.
MARTIN: Thank you, Jimi. Jimi Izrael is a freelance writer who blogs for TV ONE online and TheRoot.com. He joined us from WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette writes for The San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com. He joined us from San Diego. Marcus Mabry is the international business editor for The New York Times. He joined us from our New York bureau. And Marcus Skelton is the chairman of the D.C. Young Republicans. He's also an adviser for a higher education association. He joined us from our Washington studio. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
NAVARRETTE: Thank you.
Mr. MABRY: Thank you.
Mr. SKELTON: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Yup yup!
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