Guys Talk Sotomayor And Baseball The guys in this week's Barbershop talk about President Obama's recent address to NAACP convention goers, Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Major League Baseball Manager Manny Acta's firing from the Washington Nationals team, and President Obama's recent attendance — and performance — at baseball's All-Star game.
NPR logo

Guys Talk Sotomayor And Baseball

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Guys Talk Sotomayor And Baseball

Guys Talk Sotomayor And Baseball

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


And we'll be talking more about Judge Sotomayor in the Barbershop. That's the time every week when the guys weigh in on the news and what's on their minds.

Sitting in the chair for a shape up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, political science Professor Lester Spence, and columnist Gustavo Arellano. I may jump in here or there but for now, take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, yo, fellas, welcome to the shop. What's new?




IZRAEL: Aw, man. Well, you know, just like Michel was saying, you know, Judge Sonia Sotomayor put through the ringer this week at her Supreme Court confirmations in Washington, D.C. Now, it was kind of anticlimactic. You know, we haven't seen anything quite this relatively tame, you know, in some time now.

You know, she went up there and she represented. And she even had a really human moment with the junior Senator Al Franken, when they talked about their love of "Perry Mason." You know, he kind of softened her up before he went in hard about abortion, privacy and Net neutrality. Yo, Gustavo. Hey, man. What's up?

ARELLANO: What's up, man?

IZRAEL: So what do you think? Will she be confirmed? I mean is it a no- brainer?

ARELLANO: It's a slam-dunk, absolutely. The Democrats have always enjoyed - have always admired her, and even - it was only a couple of Republicans really, I think, that were really trying to hammer it in. What I found most fascinating or rather most disgusting about the hearings, though, was that joke that Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma did when she was trying to explain something. And then so he goes, in his best Ricky Ricardo voice, "You have some 'splaining to do." The worst...

IZRAEL: Oh, yeah. That was ugly.

ARELLANO: Yeah, no. Yeah. Yeah. The worst part of the joke, though, is that Ricky Ricardo was a Cuban. Sotomayor is a Puerto Rican. So that just shows that...


ARELLANO: ... many people, they still don't know their Latinos. That to me is one of the most insulting part.

MARTIN: You know, Ruben Navarrette, who joins us here most of the time, had a column this week where he says what he thought was most important about it was that these five guys just had to put her in her place.

IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: None of whom - many of whom are not lawyers, none of whom has ever been a judge. He says it really what it was about was putting her in her place and who does she think she is. And I just wondered if anybody else felt that way.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean - this is Arsalan, I thought, you know, from at least the seven Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, this is essentially a big game of Gotcha. I think that they were just, you know, trying to sort of pin her in a corner, trying to, you know, not look at her judicial record, look at, you know, the, you know parsing the words of some statements that she made. And I thought she handled it like a stone-cold gangster. I thought that, you know...


IFTIKHAR: know...

ARELLANO: You don't want to say that. Not another stereotype...

IZRAEL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know. That's a...


MARTIN: But on the whole question of...

IZRAEL: I mean...

MARTIN: ...her comments outside the courtroom playing a role, remember we reported on the fact that the ranking Republican on the committee, Jeff Sessions...


MARTIN: ...of Alabama, when he was a former U.S. attorney was one of the very few in half a century to be rejected for a federal judgeship because of statements...


MARTIN: ...that he made in office publicly about cases that he had tried and people said that his comments outside represented a sort of a pattern of thinking that was disqualifying. The difference here though, I would have to say, he had no judicial record.


MARTIN: She has 17 years on the bench that you can look at.

IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.

MARTIN: That's the question.

IFTIKHAR: Well, and another thing, very quickly, you know, even Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina conceded that, you know, if you look at her judicial record, it's definitely within the mainstream. It might be a little center - left of center but it's definitely within the mainstream of, you know, the way that federal judges and Supreme Court nominees have always operated.

IZRAEL: Yeah, man, and to your point, she kept her cool and she didn't get off into the whole race bait, any kind of race talk, and she sidestepped all the hard questions. You know which is, you know what? That's as it should be. You know don't diss her for that. L Spence, the good doctor. Check in.

SPENCE: Well, these things have become more of a ritual than anything else, so very rarely do you actually get - do you get some real rich nuanced statement that people can then use to, I mean people don't even talk about their records, right? I mean, so they talked about - she talked about abortion and she was talking about how she couldn't talk about, you know, she couldn't make a decision without a case in front of her.

I mean there are - even though we know how she would vote if that case were in front her, right? I mean, my colleagues at Wash. U. committed - they conducted a study that shows that you can predict most of a judge's rulings just by their party, right? So there's this whole set of politics that's going on that you never see discussed and for that reason I largely tuned out.


MARTIN: But is that really strange?


MARTIN: I mean, is it - from the standpoint of the voter you'd say, elections have consequences, do they not?


MARTIN: I mean if you put certain people in office...

IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.

MARTIN: would expect that they would appoint judges that conform within appropriate frameworks. Lester, can I just ask you a question before we move on? I know Jimi wants to talk about other things. But one of the things I was curious about is why none of the Republicans on the committee seemed to search for any middle ground?

It was like they very clearly staked out their position on the right and didn't - there seemed to be no acknowledgement that their might be this burgeoning Latino population, that there is a center. It seemed to me it was all about, you're wrong.


MARTIN: You are so involved in minority politics you don't get you know - and I just was, I found it odd that there was no, that they were so staked with one side of the argument that there didn't seem to be any continuum.


MARTIN: That what's surprising, and not on the Democratic side.


MARTIN: For example, Arlen Specter, for example, who is now a Democrat, questioned her very closely. So I was just curious about that and I wondered if you were.

SPENCE: Oh thanks. That's an excellent question. We've talked about this before. Their constituencies don't allow them to, right? So their constituencies are becoming more and more white. Their party is becoming more and more white and rather than looking at the numbers towards the future, what they're looking at is that next election. And that makes them have to really, really move to the extreme right and be out of step with the American population and that's going to really hurt their party in the future.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Jimi Izrael, Arsalan Iftikhar, Gustavo Arellano, and Professor Lester Spence in the Barbershop. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks Michel. Hey, yo, President Barack Obama, you got to love when he gets that - gets on the mic, man. He gave a rousing speech during the centennial celebration at the NAACP. Now, you know, that whole thing just wrapped up this week and I was on CNN last week talking to some dude and I had to go on - you know, Lester, you know I had to go in hard on him and say, you know, I'm not convinced that we still need the NAACP in its current form. Now, I wouldn't - I couldn't be honest if I said, you know, we didn't need them at some point.

SPENCE: Right.

IZRAEL: But we're not being lynched as often, so maybe the NAACP, it's time that they kind of switched their program up and maybe even got the internet. You know, what do you say doctor?


SPENCE: Maybe even got the - that's funny because I actually have a close friend who works at the NAACP and he talked about...


SPENCE: Yeah. And he talked about how they didn't have email. Their computers are like 20 years old.


SPENCE: I mean this is like last year.

IZRAEL: Right.

SPENCE: But what I was fascinated about this speech and this speech really, really upset me.


SPENCE: Particularly when you take it and when you take it along with the speech he gave in Africa just Monday, right? So he basically jacks black people on both sides of the Atlantic within like five days. All he needs to do is hit Brazil, he has a trifecta, right?


SPENCE: What, so what he does in this NAACP speech is he gives a lot of weak, weak policy prescriptions, right? So he's willing to spend fifty billion on poverty, which is a lot, except when you think about the 800 billion he spent on to bail the financiers out, right? Then what he does is he hits you hard with the black parent line about how black parents need to take their kids away from the Xboxes, et cetera, et cetera. I'm a parent of five kids. Be the president. Don't tell me how to raise my kids.

IZRAEL: Right.


IZRAEL: Right. Right.

SPENCE: In this particular economic context what we need is a hard-hitting set of policies that deal with government. Don't tell me how to parent.


IZRAEL: All right. I got to cosign that. Way to go hard on Obama, man. Way to go in on him. My man. Gustavo, you know Julian Bond has been talking about - he was talking about and also Barack Obama were talking about how the NAACP is an organization not just for black people, but all people of color. How do you think - what can the NAACP do for our brown brothers?

ARELLANO: It's been done before. In fact, the NAACP was the precursor to Brown v. Board of Education, was a case actually out here in Orange County, California called Mendez v. Westminster which ultimately outlawed segregation against Mexican kids in Orange County schools in four school districts. And filing a friend of the court case on behalf of Mendez v. Westminster was no other than Thurgood Marshall when he was just a humble lawyer for the NAACP. So the NAACP has always been in other struggles, as well.

SPENCE: Right.

ARELLANO: All the civil rights organizations. Also, you know, back in the days, the Japanese American Public League, the Anti-Defamation League. All these civil rights organizations know that it's not just their communities who are being attacked. It's all, you know, communities of color, you know, minorities, we need - if one community is being discriminated against, then all communities are being discriminated against.

So in that sense, Obama really was - it was a good point for him to say, to remind people that the NAACP, among others, it is a multicultural coalition of folks that do help each other out. Of course, in this case particularly, it's for African-Americans.

IZRAEL: Right. If he would just stop trying to parent everybody's kids and focus.




ARELLANO: I agree with that too.


MARTIN: Could I ask Arsalan?

IZRAEL: Hey, A-Train...

MARTIN: I was going to ask Arsalan, just because I was particularly curious what Gustavo and Arsalan think just because the younger generation tends to be the people who are more skeptical about these organizations and say, well, what's the - why do we need that? And I...

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know for me, being the resident civil rights lawyers in the Barbershop, I think that...

IZRAEL: That's right.

IFTIKHAR: I think the NAA...

MARTIN: The only one actually.

IFTIKHAR: Well you know I think that...



IZRAEL: Pop that collar, brother.


IFTIKHAR: I, you know, after I brush my shoulder off I'm going to...


IZRAEL: Right.

IFTIKHAR: ...I'm going to cosign Gustavo completely. You know, when you look at Brown v. Board of Education, you know, you had Thurgood Marshall, who was then a volunteer lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and now you had a case of a seven-year-old girl in Kansas which eventually led to good law being passed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act dealing with employment discrimination.

So you know, when civil rights groups do impact litigation it has a residual affect for all Americans. And that's why I think that civil rights groups of all sorts, like Gustavo said, are very necessary as we move into the, further into the 21st century.

IZRAEL: All right fellas. Well, from the world of sports, Manny Acta fired as the manager of the Washington Nationals. Small wonder. Homeboy got the fourth worst winning percentage since 1950...


IZRAEL: ...with at least 350 games managed. Now homeboy also, three seasons he's posted 158, 252 record. Oh, man. I don't know. Gustavo, did he get a good shot? Or, I mean to me it looks like he got a good shot.

ARELLANO: Yeah. I feel bad for the Nationals because there was one year where it seemed like they were maybe going to start becoming good and then they just tanked. But hey, at least it's not the Pittsburgh Pirates.


ARELLANO: Or the, I think they're going to...





ARELLANO: I'm sorry man. They're going to set the record for the most consecutive losing seasons of any sports franchise in major four sports.

SPENCE: Oh, that hurts. That one hurts.

ARELLANO: So I feel bad for the Nationals. I feel bad for Acta, but you know, when it comes to sports, that that is the great equalizer. If you don't win, you're out, no matter what race you are eventually.


MARTIN: You know what though? You know what's funny is that Manny Acta is like the most popular member of the team.



MARTIN: For real.

SPENCE: Oh wow.

MARTIN: I mean in terms of the public profile. In terms of people being visible and people sort of knowing who he is. I don't know whether it's because he's well, I think one of only two - was one of only two Latino general managers in Major League Baseball. Or is it because he's the youngest or one of the youngest, if not the youngest, that he is very highly visible. I don't know. What do you think Arsalan? You're here.

IFTIKHAR: Well I think that...

IZRAEL: You got to win.

IFTIKHAR: know the Nationals are 23 and 61 going into the All-Star break. They're the worst record in the league. And like Gustavo said, you know, sports is about winning. If you can't win, you're out. You know, I think that, I think we've - in my opinion, I think we've seen more of a representation of Latino general managers in Major League Baseball than we have of black coaches in the NFL. But again, you know, the argument could be made either way.

MARTIN: Hmm. Well, I don't know if that's true.


IZRAEL: Lester?

SPENCE: I think - I mean, it's - well, we can point to any single individual and say, okay, well now their record sucks. They need to go. But what's - the bigger question is, what does this mean for Latino - for the future of Latino GM's in the league, right?

MARTIN: Does it?


MARTIN: I mean that's the question is does it mean anything or is it just that the team's done?

ARELLANO: Yeah. We still have Omar Minaya with the New York Mets.


SPENCE: So we still got one.


IFTIKHAR: (Unintelligible)


IZRAEL: We got one left, right?


SPENCE: We got this one guy. So the...

ARELLANO: That one guy. Yeah.


SPENCE: Yeah, we got one guy so we're still good to go. But that's not the case. And the thing is, is with Latinos in baseball, because so many of them don't come from America, they don't necessarily have the same type of political leverage that say African-Americans would to push for more GM's, right? I mean they're, so it's - what we're looking at is this guy being the case. And I'm giving the best case scenario, I mean - worst case scenario, granted, this guy being the case for no more Latino GM's.

IZRAEL: All right.

MARTIN: I would hope that it wouldn't be interpreted that way. I mean, you know, people don't say if, you know, if a white gets fired nobody says, oh we can't do that again.

IFTIKHAR: Right. I mean what...

MARTIN: Gee, we tried that. That doesn't - that doesn't work.

IFTIKHAR: Again, you know, as Michel - the Nationals are you know...

ARELLANO: I know what you're saying.

IFTIKHAR: Well, Michel and I live in Washington so we see how bad the Nationals - I mean they're the Bad News Bears of Major League Baseball right now.


MARTIN: I'm sorry. Forgive me. Let me just clarify that just so that I don't have to answer these letters. He's not a GM. He's just a manager. Just, just a manager. He's a manager. He's a manager, not a general manager.

SPENCE: Right. Right. Right. Right. Right. Right.

MARTIN: Just to be clear for this was my error so I apologize for that. But still, I don't know. I mean I don't know. He is cool though. I'm sorry.


MARTIN: I know he is and he's cool and he wears his what.

IZRAEL: It's cool to be cool, but you have to win. You know?


IZRAEL: I mean we can't be paying you millions of dollars...

MARTIN: I'm sorry.

IZRAEL: ...and you're not producing. So it's like that.

MARTIN: It's harsh in here.

SPENCE: But that's the type of guys they get.


MARTIN: It's harsh.

ARELLANO: They do.

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael - thanks everybody.

Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for the and TV1 online. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Gustavo Arellano writes the "Ask a Mexican" column for the Orange County Weekly and he joined us from KUCI in Irvine, California. Lester Spence is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. And Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of and a civil rights attorney, and they were both here with me in our studios in Washington. Gentlemen, thank you.


SPENCE: Thanks.


IZRAEL: Yup. Yup.


MARTIN: And that's our program for today.

I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

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.