Chicago Violence Stirs Criticism Of Obama's Olympic Pitch Host Michel Martin talks about the latest news and the issues with freelance journalist Jimi Izrael, editor and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and NPR's Political Editor Ken Rudin. They discuss embattled New York Governor David Paterson and whether he should seek re-election and criticism about President Obama's trip to Copenhagen as youth violence continues to devastate his hometown of Chicago. As a kicker, the guys weigh in on late night comedian David Letterman's confession of having had sex with several women on his staff.
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Chicago Violence Stirs Criticism Of Obama's Olympic Pitch

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Chicago Violence Stirs Criticism Of Obama's Olympic Pitch

Chicago Violence Stirs Criticism Of Obama's Olympic Pitch

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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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 shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and NPR's own political editor, Ken Rudin. I'm sure I'll jump in here or there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Freelance Journalist): Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How we doing?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Editor, Civil Rights Attorney): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Syndicated Columnist): Doing good.

KEN RUDIN: Jimi (unintelligible).

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh man, well, embattled New York Governor David Paterson says he's up for the challenge, and he is seeking to keep his seat in Albany. Now this despite the White House allegedly urging the governor to drop out of the 2010 election, you know. And it's not for nothing, right, because people seem to think that AG Mario Cuomo, you know, he might - because he's polling a little better.

MARTIN: Andrew Cuomo.

Mr. IZRAEL: He's polling significantly better, and thank you.

MARTIN: I think Mario's had his term. Three if I recall.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, anyway, he's polling a little better; significantly better than Paterson.

RUDIN: Jimi, you're polling better than David Paterson.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Which is saying something.

MARTIN: So Jimi, what are you saying? You're saying should he, or shouldn't he? I don't know. Ken, what do you think? I mean, it's not really our job to tell to tell the man what to do, but Ken, what do you think?

RUDIN: No. And I listened to the interview with Governor Paterson, and it was an excellent interview. And basically, he seemed to be very aware of his numbers. He cited that there are 10, 11 other governors who have polling ratings under 35 percent. But I thought what was most interesting, one, he said look, it's up to the voters of New York, and it's true. It's not up to President Obama.

Of course, as head of the party and head of the country, he should have the Democratic Party's interest in mind, but he did make a very good point. A year ago, now we're talking about a year from now is when David Paterson runs. A year ago, Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey had terrible polling ratings. It was awful. There was no interest of Barack Obama coming in like in January or February of this year saying Corzine shouldn't run in 2009.

So he said look, you know, it's interesting how the White House will pick and choose which - where to get involved.

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil rights attorney and editor): Well, that's executive privilege. I mean, you know…

MARTIN: I know, I'm trying to envision somebody criticizing LBJ for being too heavy-handed, excuse me. I just think that's kind of funny, but anyway, go ahead, Jimi.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah, but you don't want to - it depends where you set your standards. This is Ruben. You don't want to be emulating LBJ if at all possible, and certainly I think this was really distasteful for a lot of folks to have the nation's first black president telling, through the back channels, New York's first black governor that he ought not run, when he didn't convey that message, as was mentioned, to Corzine in New Jersey, whose numbers aren't much better than they were even then.

MARTIN: But Corzine has already won his primary, as Greg Meeks(ph), who's also African-American and a very close friend of David Paterson said - and who is believed to be one of the intermediaries said on this program. But flip it around. Flip it around and say, you know, should he be supporting him because he's African-American? I mean…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No, I think the White House has been a little more, you know, I won't say up front. I mean, they haven't denied the story. I think that, listening to your interview, you did a good job at your end, but obviously it was comical to watch David Paterson tell us that what we know to be true isn't really true and this pressure wasn't ongoing. He should have told his wife that before she came forward with her remarks, but Charlie Rangel in New York has come forward with remarks saying the president should stay out of it.

MARTIN: That's true.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So clearly, the cat is out of the proverbial bag that the White House did, in fact, try to strong-arm David Paterson. I say it's wrong. I say he shouldn't back off, and he should run again, and how dare the White House?

RUDIN: But he won't run. He won't run.

Mr. IZRAEL: But wait a minute.

MARTIN: You're saying he won't. Wait. Ken Rudin's making a prediction here. We've got to hear it.

RUDIN: There's no way he runs, and the reason he won't run is not because of pressure from the White House, but the New York Democratic Party will look at the numbers come 2010. The reason he's staying in the race right now is because there are very sensitive budget issues, and if he's a lame-duck governor, he will not have any sway. So he wants to stay as a governor running for reelection, running for election and push the budget issues out of the way and then he'll say well, you know, my numbers aren't so good.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, and piggyback…

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, he barring a natural disaster, he was going to run. So that…

MARTIN: What is that? That's just called…

RUDIN: That's called poll numbers.

MARTIN: I mean, that's like saying I need to spend more time with my family.

RUDIN: That's called poll numbers.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And this is Arsalan. And piggybacking off something that Ken Rudin has said, you know, we do have to come to terms with the fact that politically speaking, you know, Governor David Paterson does suffer from a bit of, you know, Roland Burris syndrome or lame duck-itis(ph). I mean, especially when the head of your party, the president of the United States, you know, has asked you not to run. You know, first of all, I had to…

MARTIN: But can I just say one thing about Roland Burris?


MARTIN: The criticism - I think it's funny people are criticizing Obama now for getting involved, but when it came to Roland Burris, they criticized him for not getting involved enough. So which is it?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well I think - well, in this case first, I mean, the first thing that I'd say is for any blind black man from Harlem to ascend to the governorship of New York is an amazing political feat.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I mean, he picked up the ball when Elliott Spitzer fumbled, and now the Stanford Marching Band is running towards him and he needs to lateral the ball to his own team if he wants to see his own team win.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: But okay, just to clear up, but just to tie a bow in that - and I know you guys have other things you want to talk about. This isn't just some guy. I mean, this is the son of one of the most influential power players in New York politics, so it's not like he just fell off the turnip truck and got that job.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. No. No. That's why said for him to ascend to that level is quite amazing.

MARTIN: It's true.

Mr. IZRAEL: If only he could wins friends and influence people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Word to Dale Carnegie. So, anyway, keeping it in motion, in other news this week, sadly, the Internet went nuts over cell phone video of the fatal beating of 16-year-old Darrion Albert in Chicago. Now everyone is talking about it, including the White House. Right, Michel?

MARTIN: Well, you know, that's an interesting question. Ruben wrote a column about this, whether the White House is talking enough about this. I mean, there's the White House Press Secretary…

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: …Robert Gibbs speaking about this Wednesday. I'll play that for you, if you'd like to hear it.

Mr. IZRAEL: Absolutely. Drop it.

MARTIN: Here it is.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Spokesman): The reports of and the video that we have seen on television is among the most shocking that you can ever see. The killing of an honor student by others, who's beaten to death, is chilling, chilling video. And this is something that the administration has been working on. This is not just a Chicago-specific problem, obviously. Youth crime and gang violence are something that this administration takes seriously, and we'll have more on that soon.

MARTIN: I just want to clarify, for people who aren't aware of all of the facts. Last Thursday, this young man was walking home from school. He had nothing to do with altercation. There was apparently a fistfight that was related to a shot being fired outside the school earlier in the day. He was just walking home and was set upon, and a passerby captured this on cell video, and then it was later played on the local news.

I will say that for those who had qualms about this being seen, I talked to folks who know the family, and they supported the release of the video because they felt that this was the only way to figure out who was actually involved. So with that, I'll turn it back to you.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel.

Ruben, you kind of went in on the president for…


Mr. IZRAEL: …for not saying enough.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yup. Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: I don't know - go head, man.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well listen, first of all, president hasn't said anything about this. The comment from Gibbs was in response to a question from a reporter. If the reporter doesn't ask the question, Gibbs doesn't even give you that very weak comment you just heard. Beyond that, now the president's sending Eric Holder and Arne Duncan to Chicago. But what a lot folks on the ground are saying, I gather from a couple different sources, African-American Talk Radio in and out of Chicago, African-American blogs, which I spend (unintelligible) amount of time reading in preparation for my column for CNN, clearly, there's a lot of folks in Chicago - black folks who are incensed, incensed at Obama, not just because he hasn't said any about this, but because he went to Copenhagen -in a classical example of bad timing - to argue for the Olympics to be brought back to Chicago.

And a lot of folks are saying listen, if you bring the Olympics to Chicago, there's no doubt you're going to have lots of police and Natural Guard protecting the folks here - the tourists, the international tourists. How about spending some money to protect the folks here now before the Olympics get here?

And I think that's a very fair point. And the most cutting thing I heard - and I got to hand it to - see, African-Americans are a lot like Latinos in that regard. When they have a question - when they have a concern, they will tell you. They don't care, black president or no black president, they will go right there. And clearly, one person said you suppose that somebody's going to - you suppose the president now is going to invite Darrion Albert's mother to the White House for a beer? You know, that just stung. That just hurt because that was…

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, that does sting.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Because that was an attempt to sort of - that was an attempt by this African-American blogger to put out the notion that the president deals with these issues in very superficial ways.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what? That's a great line, and my family, of course, goes out - I mean my heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Darrion Albert. But at the end of the day, you know, Obama can't parent your kids, man. I'm sorry. I mean, I loved your piece to CNN, but, you know, Obama can't come to Chicago and parent your kid. He can't come to Cleveland and parent my kids. You know, I don't think it's fair to ask the - of course, he should say something. But what do you want him to say?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Exactly.

Mr. IZRAEL: What do you want him to do, exactly?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, listen, he gave a wonderful speech in Philadelphia - as we all know and we always go back to - on race. I mean, he has very deep thoughts about race, and I think it was a therapeutic speech. He probably also has very deep thoughts about urban violence and the fact that this is a plague on the black community, and to some degrees on the Latino community, as well. And clearly, that's what folks in his base want him to say and want him to address. And this notion somehow that - you know what else really drives people crazy? They hate Richard Daley, okay?

Apparently, they hate Richard Daley, this Democratic governor - this Democratic mayor from Chicago. And the fact that Daley is out there with an Olympics jacket trying to push the Olympics in Chicago when he can't tell his cops to protect those neighborhoods has black folks incensed.

MARTIN: Can we hear from Arsalan on this, who's from Chicago?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. You know, I think everybody…

MARTIN: I heard you, Ruben. I hear - and, you know, appreciate the feelings about it. But one of the things that bothers me is it's like so mundane. It's like oh, wow, another kid…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: …in Chicago got killed, and I just, I hate that. I'm sorry.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, ever be that(ph).

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And for me, growing up in Chicago, you know, sadly, this is something that we heard every single year about Chicago public school kids who were being murdered every single year. There are currently over 600 Chicago public schools in the school district. Another thing that a lot of people don't know is the entrenchment and the historical significance of the gang life in Chicago.

The gangster Disciples from the south side of Chicago represent almost 60,000 people in Chicago. The Latin Kings on the west side have membership upwards of 110,000 people in - and they're both the largest African-American and Hispanic street gangs in the country, and they both originate in Chicago, as well.

And so we've always had a gang pandemic within Chicago, and now it's sort of, you know, obviously, morphed into like a millennial neighborhood version where kids aren't really necessarily either GDs or Latin Kings, but now they have their own neighborhood crews. And how are we as, you know, Chicagoans going to protect our kids from being able to walk from the front steps of their school to the two blocks…


Mr. IFTIKHAR: …that they need to get home safely? And one of the suggestions that I had is if there are 600 public schools in Chicago, the Chicago Police Department can take one uniformed officer and just put them outside every one of the 600 schools after schools for two hours. I think at least - I mean, because if you looked at the Darrion Albert video, that happened right outside of the school grounds. And I think that at least as a deterrent - I know it's not going to be, you know, the solve-all. But, you know, these are - this is just one thing that we can do within the community, I think, as - you know, you talk about Mayor Daley, I think that's what he needs to do.

MARTIN: Well, the only thing I would say before…

Mr. IZRAEL: That sounds like a really…

MARTIN: Well, it just…

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead.

MARTIN: …it just bothers me that, you know, we're having all this conversation…

Mr. IZRAEL: That sounds like a really expensive solution.

MARTIN: …about swine flu, and there's this massive public health effort to combat, you know…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm. Right.

MARTIN: …swine flu, and I guess I just don't understand why it is that you've got this virus of violence which is killing these kids.


Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: Some of whom are innocent bystanders, and by definition, you don't pick your parents. So if you're born into a dysfunction environment - and I guess I just don't understand why there isn't this massive concern about that. Forgive me. I don't mean to get on my soapbox, but it just makes me sick.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: This is Ruben. You know why, Michel…

MARTIN: Wait a minute. No Ruben, but I just have to jump into say if you're…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know why?

MARTIN: I just have to jump into 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 joined by Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and Ken Rudin.

Back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank you, Michel. You know, I think the solution might be - to your point, A-Train, I think that's kind of an expensive solution. What I'm looking for - where are the rec centers? You know what I mean?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Why do we need a cop outside every school? Why can't we have some after school programs put in place? To me, I want to know what choices these kids had. You know, not to say that violence is the only choice, but, you know, I think our kids sometimes need more choices. That's what I think. And think at the end of the day we got to parent the kids, too.


Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right on. Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: That's a bet. So, on a much different topic, the "Late Show" talk show host David Letterman dropped a bombshell last night. He admitted to having sexual relations with women on his staff. Oy. Michel, we got tape on that, right?

MARTIN: A tape of what? I mean, that depends on what tape you…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Excuse me.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wait a second.

RUDIN: Not that.

MARTIN: That's not the "Late Show" that we're used to seeing, but well, if -hey. All right.

Mr. IZRAEL: It's a family show.

MARTIN: Family - here's what David Letterman told his audience about this, and this is just a little bit of what he said. There's a long prelude to this which may or may not be relevant about how he kind of finally got to the point. But here's what he said.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Late Show with David Letterman")

Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Talk show host): What was it? What was all the creepy stuff…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LETTERMAN: …that he was going to put into the screenplay and the movie? And the creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. Now, my response to that is yes, I have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. LETTERMAN: I have had sex with women who work on this show.

MARTIN: So anyway, my apologies to the parents who don't think that that was appropriate for their kids to hear. I apologize. I should've warned you. But the gist of it is that Letterman says that he was a target of an extortion attempt. The person wanted $2 million. He was going to write a screenplay about this, and then he went to the authorities and that person has been arrested.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And apparently we'll hear more on this later today.

Mr. IZRAEL: Again, I don't know if that's a movie I want to see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: I don't know if I want to see a movie about the sexual exploits of David Letterman. So I…

MARTIN: But you won't be now.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, that was a bad picture anyway. Go ahead, A-Train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, Ken and I were talking beforehand, the absurdity or the Woody Allen-esque, you know, absurdity of this whole thing was that, you know, David Letterman found the screenplay in the backseat of his car, you know, in the parking lot. And so it just - it's gotten to the point now where -I mean, when he said that he had sex with women who worked on his show, people started clapping.

RUDIN: They applauded.


MARTIN: Yeah. I don't get - well…

RUDIN: It's like when Roman Polanski - and you remember his last movie "Close Encounters with the Third Grade"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: I mean I just, but the fact is…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Ba-dum-boom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: …so many people defend him - well, he's suffered enough. He's suffered enough?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: He raped a 13-year-old girl.

RUDIN: He raped a 13-year-old girl.

MARTIN: He raped - let's clarify, he raped a 13-year-old. He raped her. This was not a consensual act.

RUDIN: He suffered enough.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: He raped her.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Absolutely.

MARTIN: But we're not talking about rape here, evident - I mean, there's no allegation of rape in the David Letterman case.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: But it is interesting that, you know…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Sexual harassment.

MARTIN: …a week after this…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right. It's sleeping with people who work for you.

MARTIN: Well, he has the president on the show - yeah. And what about all these women who didn't sleep with him? I mean, did they get good assignments? Did they - you know, or the men who were not involved in that? What's up with that?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, I think this answers the proverbial question between David Letterman and Jay Leno. Jay Leno wins.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Is that the truth?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, but it is interesting after this huge high he had last week. He has the president on his show. He had huge ratings for that. He just got into this kerfuffle, which we talked about, with Sarah Palin over his jokes. I mean, it kind of puts the whole thing different light, I think. And I appreciate, Ken, you pointing out how inappropriate this whole Roman Polanski thing is. It just amazes me.

RUDIN: But it just seems like just as Arsalan was saying, that the fact that the audience gives him a standing ovation. I slept with members of my staff. Yay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Way to go, Dave. It's just unbelievable.

MARTIN: Well, what do we think that means? I don't know. Ruben, what do you think?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You mean about the Polanski the Letterman applause lines? I mean…

MARTIN: Yeah, the people defending him?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think the reaction's horrible. I think, you know, he gets through it however he needs to get through that monologue. It's a typical thing for him to say. And so I'm sort of relieved for Dave when I hear them clapping because it takes some of the tension out of the room, right? Okay. I get that. But at the same time, you are talking about something that not long ago, you know, when it was what, Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill and just the idea of…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: …a worker and an employer, I mean, as Michel just said, there's a whole back story here as to women who didn't sleep with him and what kind of - you know, this whole thing is a serious thing. It's not really something to be laughed at, but, you know, it's a New York audience. It's just not appropriate.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: It just shows how much more there is to say about the way we relate to each other. Anyway, thanks everybody.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah.

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for He's also a presidential fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and he joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette, that's the last person we heard from, is a syndicated columnist. He writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and, and he joined us from San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of and a civil rights attorney. Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. They were both here in our Washington, D.C. studios.

Thank you all so much gentlemen.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

RUDIN: The question is who lasts longer, David Paterson or Floyd Patterson?


(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: 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.

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