Will Hillary Clinton Really Call Obama 'Boss'? President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet picks have the guys in the 'shop', once again, speaking their minds. This week, Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Nick Charles and Arsalan Iftikhar discuss the potentially awkward working relationship Obama might have with leaders in his administration, like former rival Hillary Clinton. Plus, hear views on how comedians should portray the future president, and Plaxico Buress' gun drama.
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Will Hillary Clinton Really Call Obama 'Boss'?

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Will Hillary Clinton Really Call Obama 'Boss'?

Will Hillary Clinton Really Call Obama 'Boss'?

Will Hillary Clinton Really Call Obama 'Boss'?

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President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet picks have the guys in the 'shop', once again, speaking their minds. This week, Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Nick Charles and Arsalan Iftikhar discuss the potentially awkward working relationship Obama might have with leaders in his administration, like former rival Hillary Clinton. Plus, hear views on how comedians should portray the future president, and Plaxico Buress' gun drama.


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 chairs for a shapeup this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, freelance editor Nick Charles, civil-rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette. I may jump here or there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Yo, fellows, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How are we doing?

NICK CHARLES: Hey, hey, what's popping?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: I'm doing good, man.


RUBEN NAVARRETTE: How are you doing, Jimi?

IZRAEL: Oh, man. Well, you know what? President-elect Barack Obama - he picks Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton for Commerce secretary and secretary of State respectively. And you know what? He can't seem to make anybody happy. I also understand that Latinos are kind of ticked off at this choice. Ruben, the R, jump in here, man. What's up with that?

NAVARRETTE: Well, speaking for all Latinos...

MARTIN: I'm sorry, why does Ruben get to - yeah, exactly. Why does Ruben have to speak for all Latinos?

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Speaking for all Latinos...

MARTIN: What's up with that?

NAVARRETTE: Exactly. So, I'll tell you what. First of all, Hillary Clinton, that appointment is a very dangerous appointment to begin with, because, even though she has the potential to be a very good and strong and capable secretary of State, there are a lot of Obama folks out there who say, excuse me, why did we just spend $600 million dollars and two years and cast all these votes if you're just going to give this important job over to Hillary Clinton and put up all these other Clinton people in the administration and call it a change? And so, I think there's a lot of disillusionment at the Obama ranks because they weren't able to forgive and forget as quickly as Obama seems to have been at the reprehensible way in which he was treated by the Clintons.

The other thing with regard to Richardson clearly at Commerce is this is a guy who has a gold-plated resume and is tailor-made for a job like secretary of State. He's much more qualified than Hillary Clinton is to get that. He ends up with leftovers, this really low-level position at Commerce, and so clearly, this was sort of a slap at Richardson. I don't think Obama sees it that way, but a lot of the Latinos do. They think that Richardson deserved a lot better and certainly a community that voted Obama two-to-one over McCain deserved a lot better.

MARTIN: What does he say?

IZRAEL: You know...

MARTIN: But what does he say? I mean, he didn't have to take the job. I mean, he has a job.

NAVARRETTE: I am hearing that Richardson wants - I am hearing that Richardson and his family, his wife in particular, is dying to get back to Washington, would have taken just about any job to get back to Washington. OK, that's their prerogative.

MARTIN: Who believes that? I'm sorry.

NAVARRETTE: I believe it.

IZRAEL: You know, you don't have to be Latinos to know that Richardson got shafted, bro. Nick, go ahead.

CHARLES: I think Obama is doing the, you know, keep-your-friends-close, keep-your-enemies closer kind of thing. You know, he put out an olive branch, if it is an olive branch, or maybe he's just being clever and saying, look, I want to keep you right next to me for the next four years or for how long you keep this job. I do think Bill Richardson should have gotten better. He broke ranks with the Clintons. He stood with Obama when no one else would. And now that Obama is filling his Cabinet ranks, he should have given him something better. But I think the Clinton thing is a shrewd move. It's also a move that - you have to realize a lot of the people who were disillusioned on the Clinton side did eventually end up voting for Obama. They did not go with McCain. They did not go with the McCain-Palin ticket. And maybe that's what he's rewarding her for.

IZRAEL: Yeah, I hear that. A-Train?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean, global diplomacy has never been at a higher level, and you know, I don't think that Hillary Clinton has really - you know, especially as an Iraq hawk, as someone who was unapologetic of about being a hawk on the Iraq war, you know, to be your voice for public diplomacy in an Obama administration just seems a little counterintuitive.

MARTIN: Can I offer another thought, though? I just find it strange that some of the same people who were touting Hillary Clinton as vice president are now oblivious to whatever she would bring to the role of secretary of State. And of course, I think it was I last week who pointed out that Bill Richardson's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You know, has this amazing experience...

IFTIKHAR: Right, right.

NAVARRETTE: Absolutely.

MARTIN: And in addition - can I just point out one other thing - and I think I say this as a person who's been in Washington a long time, the State Department is not just the external; it's the internal. It's a huge bureaucracy, and management skill does matter. And Bill Richardson has management - extensive experience managing a federal agency and also managing a governmental agency.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, yeah, and... IFTIKHAR: Well, and it's also about expertise in portfolio. Like, if Hillary was given HHS, Health and Human Services, which was given to Senator Tom Daschle...


IFTIKHAR: That would have been understandable because healthcare has been...

NAVARRETTE: Absolutely.

IFTIKHAR: Healthcare has been her platform. To give her the foreign-policy portfolio, you're going to give somebody with no portfolio experience, the most important job? You know, the vice president is not going to be the public diplomat of the United States, whereas the secretary of State is.

MARTIN: Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: Arsalan's right about the counterintuitive choices. And he mentioned the vice president. The person who lost in all this was Joe Biden, who just became an even weaker figure in the Obama universe with Hillary Clinton at the table, for sure. But beyond that, does anyone out there really think that Hillary Clinton's going to refer to Barack Obama as, yes, boss, you know? Does anybody think that Hillary Clinton's going to be content taking orders from the commander in chief, from Barack Obama? She's going to have to. She's going to have to. But I think those two egos are bound to clash.

MARTIN: Well, can I offer a...

IZRAEL: Yeah, yeah. That could be a strained relationship.

MARTIN: May I? I'm going to play devil's advocate here. She sublimated her ambitions to Bill Clinton's for a very long time. And when they first got together, lo, those many years ago, she was as important a student-leader type figure as he was. She was in Time Magazine for her commencement speech at Wellesley. She was the person working on the House Impeachment Committee. She was the person people were saying, you need to go back to Illinois and run for Congress. And all these people were terribly disappointed that she moved to Arkansas to marry him and then do her little thing - do her thing down there, right? OK. So, I guess what I'm saying is - I don't know if this is my gender speaking...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I honestly can't tell you; I don't know - but what I'm saying is that I think she has sublimated her ego in the service of a man with more power for a long time and has done so, evidently, without complaint that we've heard. So, we'll see.

CHARLES: Well, the alternative is not to get along with him, leave in a year and a half or two years, and then run for president in 2012 and destroy the Democratic Party. That's the option.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: There's that. I want to jump in for just a second. If you're just joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm speaking with Jimi Izrael, Nick Charles, Ruben Navarrette and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. You know what? Speaking of Obama, you know, comedians are kind of in a quandary about how to heckle the new brother in chief.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: But you know what? There's this idea - there's this sense that anything you say other than praise about Obama, you know, is sacrilegious and is kind of cause for outrage. You know, maybe this is where Al and Jesse will find their growth industry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Yo, we got some tape of Jimmy Kimmel trying to deal with that question. Is that right?

MARTIN: We do, yeah. Jimmy Kimmel went to the Legends Barbershop in Los Angeles to get some advice on customers on how to joke about President-elect Obama. Now, he could have called up you all. I don't know; you all don't seem to have any difficulty.

ARSALAN: That's right.

IZRAEL: Mm-hm.

MARTIN: Ruben, Jimi, I have not observed any difficulty here.

NAVARRETTE: That's right. He went to the wrong Barbershop.

MARTIN: He went to the wrong Barbershop.

IZRAEL: Yeah, he really did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But here it is. This is some of the critical advice that Jimmy Kimmel received. Here it is.

(Soundbite of TV show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!")

Mr. JIMMY KIMMEL (Host, "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"): Let me ask you what sorts of jokes might possibly - if they would be appropriate or inappropriate.

Unidentified Man #1: All right.

Unidentified Man #2: OK.

Mr. KIMMEL: What if I make jokes about him putting rims on Air Force One?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: That's a good one.

Unidentified Man #2: That's a good one, yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: That's a good one.

Mr. KIMMEL: OK. Can I make jokes about him being Oprah's boyfriend?

Unidentified Men: (Together) No.

Mr. KIMMEL: Can I make jokes about him appointing Dr. Dre as surgeon general?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Men: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. KIMMEL: What about running 30 minutes late to his own inauguration?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: No, he's too perfect for that.

Mr. KIMMEL: I suppose him giving Kool-Aid instead of foreign aid is out of the question, then?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, we can go with that.

Mr. KIMMEL: What if instead of a puppy for the girls he gets some fighting pit bulls?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of groaning)

MARTIN: You all should see Arsalan's face.


MARTIN: He's got this - he's got the mean mug. He's like, none of that's funny.

IZRAEL: You know what? You know, the litmus test for this was when Erin Kaplan did her thing for Salon.com, her piece about Michelle Obama, and just caused all kinds of outrage across the Internet about - daring to suggest that Michelle Obama was anything other than ethereal and highly intelligent beyond the fact that she's also very beautiful. Yo!

MARTIN: I think we're being a little too subtle here. I think the piece...

IZRAEL: I am being a little too subtle.

MARTIN: A little too subtle.

IZRAEL: This is NPR. Can I go there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: No, you can't, because - you.

IZRAEL: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHARLES: Because you can't.

MARTIN: You can't. No, Erin's piece said that Michelle Obama was rather curvaceous and she was celebrating this fact. And Jimi's accurately reporting that there was - people - many people were not pleased, both men and women, not pleased. Erin is a woman, by the way.

IZRAEL: Thank God somebody wrote that piece, though.

NAVARRETTE: I liked it. I thought the piece was fine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Yeah, I mean, because I was going to write it if she didn't write it. Yo! Go ahead, Ruben. Get it.

NAVARRETTE: Back to this thing about Kimmel and finding the right jokes to crack. I think what's fascinating is watching how the black comedians are going to deal with this...

IFTIKHAR: Right, mm-hm.

NAVARRETTE: Because the black comedians are in a perfect situation; I mean, they are golden in terms of being able to really say things that are cutting and insightful, but not necessarily disrespectful and insulting, because the job is not to be insulting. And I don't care whether it's Bush or anybody else; you can be funny and critique somebody without necessarily trying to emasculate them or to, you know - maybe I had Jesse in my mind there as I was thinking about that, Jimi. But I don't know.

MARTIN: Stop it!

(Soundbite of laughter)

NAVARRETTE: But somehow, I think the Dave Chappelles and others are in a real position to sort of speak the language and give us a cultural critique of our new president.

IZRAEL: How I see this is that comedians, no matter what color they are, they're going to have to be a little more creative because, you know, for me, I've always been sick of the comic view, black-people-do-this, white-people-do-that type stuff. And you know, the - even the Chris Rocks, the really talented comedians of the world, are really going to have to nuance the comedy a little bit, for me, so...

CHARLES: The only thing that I...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Nick.

CHARLES: What I was going to say was I think it's really bad when it's only black comedians who should have a boon because of Obama. There are tons of white comedians - Bill Maher included, Jimmy Kimmel, et cetera, Jay Leno - who should be able to make fun. You know, Ruben was talking about, don't be disrespectful. We were insulting Bush every which way for the last eight years with good reason.

IZRAEL: Right.

CHARLES: So, the question is now, when somebody like Obama who's obviously a lot cooler, a lot more intelligent - at least he comes across that way - so, the question is, how do you push it? You have to be creative. But I think everybody should have an opportunity to crack wise about the president.

IZRAEL: A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, I think all of us here would agree that Barack Obama is in the top one percentile of global gangster quotient. But there are...

(Soundbite of laughter)

IFTIKHAR: But there are, you know, the way he dances, for example. He's a mixture of Carlton Banks and Steve Urkel, you know?

CHARLES: That's true.

IFTIKHAR: Michelle's got the rhythm. He doesn't have it. He's got, you know, hoops. She, you know, might not have...

MARTIN: Maybe he's just keeping it hidden because he don't want to scare people.

IZRAEL: Right. I was going to say that. I mean, he might not want to go all Electric Slide, you know?

MARTIN: Can you imagine he just wants to let everybody know when (unintelligible)...

NAVARRETTE: That little fist bump, little fist bump there, yeah.

IFTIKHAR: That should be pay-per-view.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, fist bump.

IFTIKHAR: I mean, so, you know, there are things. You know, I think we all understand that Barack is a human being like the rest of us. And I think that the longer that his administration goes on, I think we're going to see a more humanized face of Barack, both the serious and the funny. And I think that, you know, he's been the first to crack jokes about himself. And I think that he has a real sense of humor. And I think that that'll make comedians, you know, of all colors a little more comfortable as time moves on.

IZRAEL: Word up. Well, all right, we're switching to the world of sports here. We've got Plaxico Burress has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Now, he's suspended from the Giants, and some wonder if he is just one of many sports figures who feel as if they have to carry in this day and age, now, you know, all this in the wake of the whole Sean Taylor incident. You remember that incident, Nick?

CHARLES: Yeah. You know, Sean Taylor was a great strong safety at the Washington Redskins, who went back to Miami last year, where he was asleep at home with his child and his girlfriend. And robbers came in thinking that he was out of the house. And they shot him. Now, the athletes who say, you know, this is one of the reasons why we need to carry; that's different than being in a club, wearing sweats in the VIP room and shooting yourself. The other thing is, you know, these guys can afford private security. I know it's a little bit of an expense. But if you're making - if you have a $35 million or $27 million contract like Plaxico does, you can afford to pay somebody $300 a night to watch your back. You have to roll the way people in Hollywood roll. You have to roll the way Obama rolls. Roll with security. You can afford it. Pay them. Let them be on guard with the bulletproof vest and the guns, because honestly, if you have it, you're going to get in trouble.

IFTIKHAR: Well, and I'm going to be honest with you, I am completely bumfuzzled(ph) by this whole Plaxico Burress thing. I mean, first of all, you caught the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl last year. You - this year, people have called into question your play. Your wife called in police reports in August and September of 2008, only three and four months ago, on domestic issues. How are you going to carry a loaded gun into a nightclub and pull a Cheddar Bob from "8 Mile" on yourself, shoot yourself in the leg...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHARLES: Cheddar Bob.

IFTIKHAR: And I mean, honestly, the way things are going, I think Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress are going to be the best wide-receiver/QB combo in the prison league system.

NAVARRETTE: I think you guys are going too far. You guys are going too far on this...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, R.

NAVARRETTE: We got to put some stock in his alibi. The brother was asked a question; why did you get shot at 3 in the morning? He says, I got shot at the Applebee's, OK? He made up that whole story.

IZRAEL: Who hasn't gotten shot at Applebee's? Raise your hand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NAVARRETTE: There you go. Not at 3 in the morning, apparently. So, that's when the story started falling apart, the fact that Applebee's isn't open at 3 in the morning. But I digress.

IZRAEL: Right.

NAVARRETTE: Can a brother just go get a chicken salad at Applebee's and not be hassled this way. Put some stock into his alibi? So, first, they do something dumb. Then they compound the dumbness by going out and lying about it, you know, lying about it in an outrageous way. So...

MARTIN: Well, you guys know I'm conflicted out on any conversation about Michael Vick because my husband represented him. What I think is we need to hear more from them about why they think they make these decisions, because Nick is right. You can hire security guards. I mean, you can hire people - now people in public do pick at these people. I've seen it. You know, I've seen the way - you've all seen it. Anybody who's attended a sports event, if you ever - you see the athletes entrance and you see the way people hang out in front of these places just to pick fights with them. They do. So, I think, you know, we need to understand why they think they're making the decisions that they're making.

CHARLES: Yeah, but Michel, listen...

IZRAEL: Let me jump in here...

CHARLES: It's the other side of the coin - the other side of the coin is they want the celebrity, you know, the adoration and the worship, they want that, but they don't want what comes with it sometimes, which is the picking at them, the yelling at them. They want the performance...

MARTIN: Well, none of us does, Nick.

CHARLES: Well, the thing is if you're making...

MARTIN: Who does? Do you?

CHARLES: No. But if you're making that kind of money and people are paying to see you when you're not performing, people will get mad. And there are athletes who understand that's the way it is. And what they do is to protect themselves. I don't know if these athletes have never seen the movie "The Bodyguard." Get a black Kevin Costner, somebody who is trained.

IZRAEL: No, man. Yo, I'm thinking if you're running round with $30, 40, 50,000 worth of jewelry on in a recession, bro, you better be carrying, like, three Rottweilers and an AK-47, bro, because people out there are not eating.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IFTIKHAR: And then go pull a Cheddar Bob on yourself in the middle of a Manhattan nightclub?

IZRAEL: My whole - no, no, no, no. It's not as simple as that. Go get a license. Learn how to carry a piece if you're going to carry a piece. Jay-Z said it, you know, 2Shotz said it, and I co-sign it. Don't be carrying a piece if you don't know how to use it.

MARTIN: Except that Jay-Z doesn't roll that way. He has trained individuals who know how to handle themselves, who secure the room and who...

IZRAEL: I bet you Mr. Carter...

MARTIN: Makes sure everybody has a nice experience.

NAVARRETTE: These guys can't decide what world they want to live in. Do they want to live in the multimillion-dollar world with the big houses or do they want to be back in the gangster street? That's the problem. They can't figure out which one to choose. So, they want to have a little bit of both. They want to be the guy with the big contract, but then sit with the sweats in the club with the gun.

IZRAEL: All right. Well, you know what? In this world, gentlemen, that's a wrap.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: So, we're out of here. I want to thank you for coming to the Barbershop and doing your thing. And I have to kick it over to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.

MARTIN: This conversation's demonstrated one thing: none of us will be going to the club with Jimi, because...

(Soundbite of laughter)

NAVARRETTE: It's not safe. Not safe.

MARTIN: Because we don't know what's going on, especially if he's wearing sweats. We'll just be really careful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a - yes, him - is a freelance journalist who writes for TheRoot.com and TV ONE Online. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette, who writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com, joined us from San Diego. Nick Charles is a freelance editor. He joined us from our bureau in New York. And Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and a civil-rights attorney, and he joined us from our bureau here in Washington. Gentlemen, thank you.


CHARLES: Thank you, Michel.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yep, yep!

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