DEBORAH AMOS, host:
I'm Deborah Amos, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin is in St Paul, Minnesota, where she's been covering the Republican National Convention that wrapped up last night. Just ahead, we'll tell you about one of the songs that gets the party started for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. But first, 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, political science professor Lester Spence, civil rights attorney and editor, Arsalan Iftikhar and columnist Gustavo Arrellano. I may jump in here and there, but for now, please take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Hey, thanks so much, D. Yo, fellas welcome to the shop. How we doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey hey.
Dr. LESTER SPENCE (Political Science Professor): What's up Jimi?
IZRAEL: Well you know what it is man, you know the Republican National Convention wrapped up yesterday with Senator John McCain accepting his Party's nomination for the presidency and yo, D, we got some tape on that right?
AMOS: We do, we do and we're going to give it to you right now.
IZRAEL: Drop it.
Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska, Vice Presidential Nominee): I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer except that you have actual responsibilities.
IFITKHAR: Oh snap.
IZRAEL: That's deep. That's deep. You know, what kind of struck me. Two things struck me, Lester. What struck was that there was a - the crowd was a little subdued and a little pale. And your dude McCain, he really, in respect, because he is a war hero, but he really played the war card heavy. I thought he was going to do his lecture from a bamboo cage, man. I mean I know he was the POW from '67 to '73 but wow, bust it Les.
Dr. SPENCE: Yes, it's really funny because usually the whiteness of the Republican Party at the national level isn't really commented on. But the Washington Post ran a story on the front page either yesterday or the day before, commenting on how white it was that it was the lowest number of black delegates in I think 40 years, out of 24, 25 hundred delegates, I think there were maybe 36 African-Americans and that really speaks to the greater widths that the Republican Party at the national levels, basically the white party. As far as McCain, the thing is, is he has to speak up, he has to speak to his war credentials because to be honest, his Party hasn't been efficient at governing and they've basically run Washington for six out of the last eight years, so I don't see how it gets around except to put up the fact that he got caught in Vietnam.
IFTIKHAR: What's up?
IZRAEL: My man, you know, you're on record as Obama supporter but you know what, on McCain's good side guess what? I felt like the tone was a little more presidential than the DNC. I thought the DNC was closer to like a Kid 'n Play's "House Party" where as you know I had a feeling that we were actually going to be electing an official this time around. How did you read it?
IFTIKHAR: Well first of all you can bet your Alaskian king crabs that I'm an Obama supporter. First of all, McCain has a list of liabilities longer than a Joe Biden monologue.
(Soundbite of laughter)
IFTIKHAR: What I want to talk about it Governor Sarah Palin. Now when John McCain first picked Governor Sarah Palin I thought what the feng shui was this guy thinking? And with her little sanctimonious jibe at community organizers I started thinking well, wasn't Martin Luther King a community organizer? Wasn't Susan B. Anthony in the suffragettes a community organizer? Wasn't Jesus himself a community organizer and so you know you are...
Dr. SPENCE: You are original.
IFTIKHAR: Going to take a small town mayor from Wasilla, Alaska, population a whole whopping 9,000 which must have been a barn burner of an election. You know her most executive decision was what kind of light to put at the corner of Bullwinkle and Moose Avenue against an Illinois senator who is elected with 13 million votes in Illinois, 18 million votes in a Democratic National Primary. You haven't been vetted. I cannot wait for the October 2nd vice presidential debate at my Alma Mater, Washington University in St Louis to watch Governor Palin get smacked all over the school yard by Senator Joe Biden.
IZRAEL: A-Train, never fears to be redunculous up in this piece. Yo, Gustavo, welcome back. But we haven't seen you in a minute, man. Yo...
Mr. GUSTAVO ARELLANO (Staff Writer, OC Weekly): I know.
IZRAEL: Jump in and help me out here. I mean, for me, am I the only one who thought this was really - I thought it was really presidential. They presented themselves really well.
Mr. ARELLANO: I've always liked McCain. I've never liked his party. And I think yesterday what you saw was just McCain the man selling out his own principles just to get elected because you see the difference in the reaction between what McCain got and what Palin got. I think most of the Republicans, they're going to be voting, not for McCain but for the possibility of Palin becoming vice president, and then for her to be, you know, president in a couple of years or so. McCain's speech itself, it was presidential. It didn't give me much in terms of policy. He talked a lot about his war record, a lot about his own career, and good and all for that. Palin, I want to talk, you know, about Palin.
I think it's interesting, her jibe at community organizing, as opposed to her being a smalltime mayor. The subtext that I read, it's a racial one. And correct me if I'm wrong but community organizing nowadays, where does it exist? Mostly in the inner cities, mostly with people of color, Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, you know, different people. Small town, for the most part, tends to be white. So that's why - that's what I saw in her speech, that our party is going to be the white party. Us white people, we're good. And those, you know, elitist urban, quote, unquote, "coloreds", we got to be careful with them.
IZRAEL: L-Spence, help me out here. Why is the race so close with the Republicans are doing - aren't doing as well as they should be or could be? Why is the race so close, bro?
Dr. SPENCE: I think race plays a great deal. I mean, there is no way these guys, the conservatives and the Republican Party, have been synonymous for the last eight years or longer than that. And they cannot govern. They cannot. And you can see it, right. It's not just - this isn't just something that's abstract, you can actually see it in the number of foreclosures on your block. You can see it in the amount of money you're having to pay for gas. You can see it in the lack of a social safety net. So you do everything right, and you can still be, like, out on your butt, like, without a house and without a job. You can still see it. But the thing is, is that it's really difficult for working-class whites to get around pulling a trigger for a black man. I mean, because what you're basically saying is, so if the president is like this titular figurehead of the country, what they're basically saying - what they'd be basically saying is that the country is black in some way, right?
IZRAEL: Right, right.
Dr. SPENCE: And that's a really - I mean, for us, I mean, we know about that. But for - I mean, imagine being that guy, right, thought that he did everything - and he has to pull the trigger. The only thing that will save him is voting for somebody whose group he detests, who believes as fundamentally anti-American as you can get. That's going to be really hard for some guys to get over.
AMOS: Hey, guys, can I...
AMOS: Can I ask you a question?
IZRAEL: Go ahead, DD. Jump in here.
AMOS: Yeah, thanks. Thank you. And thanks for the name. I needed that this week. Let me ask you guys about independent voters. That's really where this is all coming down. I mean, you know, most people in this country actually are decided. They know what they're going to do.
Dr. SPENCE: Good point.
AMOS: So, can we talk a little bit about independent voters?
IFTIKHAR: Absolutely, I mean...
IZRAEL: Gustavo? Can we go to Gustavo?
AMOS: Yeah, we can.
Mr. ARELLANO: Yeah, I think independent voters are - tend to be more libertarian, in other words a little bit to the left, a little bit to the right. I think they're going to be the ones who are turned off mostly by Palin. They'd probably be attracted most to McCain and so forth, and they like Obama and Biden a little bit more. But I think Palin is really going to be the key to this election now. Either you agree with her creationist, kooky policies from Alaska, her, you know, her family story. Even though she has a girl who's pregnant at age 17...
Mr. ARELLANO: Either they're going to be attracted to that story...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ARELLANO: They're going to be attracted to that story or they're going to be attracted to the story of Obama. And you know, as Jimi was saying, the first black man to be nominated for a party to be president in the United States. I think it's going to come down to the personal stories. And also, of course, to the issues at hand. And Palin's - at least with Palin's inclusion on the ticket, now you've got a much more conservative package than McCain ever planned to offer.
IZRAEL: I think that was Dr. Spence that pointed that out. A-Train, jump in here.
IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, I think, you know, that was right. I think that for both the RNT and DNT, they were preaching to the choir. I think that a lot of the independent voters are going to base their judgments on the three presidential debates and the one vice presidential debate as well. You know, you're going to - I think you're going to see a great deal of the 527 attack ads come out now. I think that those are going to, you know, sort of dictate, you know, the path that the next 60 days of, you know, those of us in, you know, the chattering class are going to talk about. But I think at the end of the day when it comes to independents themselves, I think they're going to decide once the candidates are able to go head to head with one another, both the presidentials and the vice-presidentials.
IZRAEL: Speaking of...
AMOS: Yeah, hang on just a minute, Jimi. If you're just joining us, I want to do a little reset here and remind everybody who everybody is. You're listening to Tell Me More from NPR news. I'm speaking with Jimi Izrael, Lester Spence, Arsalan Iftikhar, and Gustavo Arellano in the Barbershop. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Yes, ma'am. Thank you. You know what - you know what struck me kind of strange? Speaking of people just sitting and going head to head, the RNC welcoming committee, the group of anarchists that were, you know, protesting outside, you know, the police were accused of kind of putting the shoe on them a little too much. And what kind of tripped me out about that is I felt like it went underreported. I mean, for something where hundreds of people were arrested, I felt like it was underreported. Dr. Spence, am I the only one that thought that or...
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah, so when I got a Twitter that said that Amy Gutmann from Democracy Now was arrested, and that I was actually able to see the video where it looked like she was being really respectful and then she still got thrown in the paddy wagon, I was like, OK, there's going to be a lot of coverage on this. And then I had to like wake up, right? Because what happens is there's like a blackout around both events where any protests, any dissent, is just totally ignored. Now, thankfully because we have the Internet now, things like Twitter, we can be informed but the mass population, you know, it's just like they're clueless.
AMOS: But hang on, there was a protest inside the convention last night in McCain's address. That was pretty remarkable.
IZRAEL: Yeah. It was only lightweight though. And they shouted him down, so that's hardly a protest. That's more like somebody just kind of, you know, making themselves known. That's not even a protest as far as I'm concerned.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, the U.S.A people...
IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.
IFTIKHAR: They U.S.A.'d him down with their jingoistic cheers.
IZRAEL: Right. Well, you know what? In other news, and speaking of people that catching it in the news, man.
Mr. ARELLANO: Oh, no.
IZRAEL: As was mentioned, as was mentioned. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took a plea deal to step down behind charges stemming from perjury charge. I don't know what we say beyond saying this in all seriousness, I'm going to become a moralist just for like two seconds. Brothers, we have to do better. We have to be better husbands, better fathers, or better liars. That this is ridiculous that he scuttled his legacy. Yo, Dr. Spence. I know that you have - you're from Detroit.
Dr. SPENCE: I'm a Detroit expatriate.
IZRAEL: So, man, check in, man, check in.
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah, it really hurts.
IZRAEL: What's the take-home lesson?
Dr. SPENCE: He should have stepped down a long time ago. But the things that got him in office were the things that kept him there. I really - my thoughts go out, really to the wife, to Carlita, to the kids, to the people of the city of Detroit because we've been catching it, right. You bring out the name Detroit, all of a sudden, people are ragging you. And then to Christine Beatty...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ARELLANO: I'm sorry.
Dr. SPENCE: Because Beatty's basically unemployable now. I mean, and that's really the thing that hurts. But you know what? What's interesting. Somebody brought this up. Kwame, the former Mayor Kilpatrick, actually got jacked for exactly the same things that Sarah Palin is actually under investigation for. You know, minus the women and stuff, you're talking about abuse of power...
Dr. SPENCE: Using the power of executive office to fire people without cause. It's the exact same dynamic.
Dr. SPENCE: It's the exact same dynamic.
IZRAEL: Says you. I don't know about that. A-Train, do you buy that?
IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, you know, we've been talking about Kwame on the Barbershop here since last year.
IFTIKHAR: I mean, even, I remember last year I predicted that he'd have to step down, and Ken Cockrel who is the Detroit city president would end up being mayor. I mean, this is, you know, this is when power gets to a person's head. And I don't think - it transcends race, it transcends gender. I just think you know, it's - Detroit needs healing right now. They need a time to help rebuild their infrastructure.
AMOS: Let me just ask you about, I think you went - go a little too far on making that comparison between Kilpatrick and Palin. I mean, this was all about keeping emails secret. It was, you know, it was a million bucks is what his fine is. And that is mostly because the city decided, wait a minute, you paid lawyers to defend you against actually people who said that you were lying and turned out to be right. So I think it's a little unfair to make that connection.
Dr. SPENCE: Well, no. You're talking about political officials who use the power, the most egregious, and this is what I said when we talked about it at first. The most egregious thing you can do as a political official, particularly as a black one, is to actually use the power of the state to jack citizens or to jack people that work for you. Right? That's what it was about. That's what the case was about. And that's what Sarah Palin is accused of. Now the scale is different because you're talking about a big city...
IZRAEL: Those are allegations, bro. Those are allegations.
Dr. SPENCE: Yeah, they're allegations. That's right. Allegations. I apologize, I'm a social scientist, not a journalist. The allegations are exactly the - the scale is different. You're talking about a big city versus a small city. But the allegations are exactly the same.
AMOS: Yeah, but size counts, guys.
Dr. SPENCE: No, not in this case.
IFTIKHAR: And Kwame's big.
IZRAEL: Yes, well, anyway, moving right along. Yo, I hear from the couple of people that watched it last night, the NFL started and it's going to be a heck of a season. Quickly, gentlemen, check in. Who are we watching this season? L-Spence, you first.
Dr. SPENCE: Unfortunately, I'm watching the Detroit Lions.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ARELLANO: Oh, that's bad.
IZRAEL: A-Train, go for it. A-Train.
IFTIKHAR: My - Tim Russert's team and my team, the Buffalo Bills.
Mr. ARELLANO: San Diego Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson.
IZRAEL: And you know what? If the Browns could ever stay out of the hospital, I think I can cheer for them. But I just got an email that they might want me to come try out. So who knows. But it's going to be a season to watch. Gentlemen, thank you so much for coming to the Barbershop.
Mr. ARELLANO: Take care, dude.
IZRAEL: I have to kick it over. Thank you. I got to kick it over to the lady of the house who's sitting in for the lady of the house, Deborah Amos.
AMOS: It's nice to be with all of you. And I'm going to tell everybody who you are. Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for Root.com and TV ONE online. He joined us from WCPN in Cleveland. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor for Islamica Magazine and a civil rights attorney. He joined us from our studios right here in Washington. Lester Spence is an assistant professor of political science at John Hopkins University. He joined us from member station WUPR in Baltimore. And Gustavo Arellano writes the "Ask a Mexican" column for the Orange County Weekly. He joined us from Irvine, California. Gentlemen, once again, thanks all of you.
Dr. SPENCE: Thanks always.
Mr. ARELLANO: Thanks for having us.
IZRAEL: Yep, yep.
(Soundbite of song "Dancing Queen")
AMOS: While we'd like to go out on each program showering our audience with confetti and balloons as the Republicans did at their convention last night, unfortunately that's not an option. But we can still bring on the party atmosphere. Much has been made of John McCain's love of the Swedish pop sensation ABBA, When asked to make a list of his top 10 favorite songs, he included not one, but two of the group's hits. "Take A Chance On Me" and yes, even "Dancing Queen." So we leave you today with that.
(Soundbite of song "Dancing Queen")
ABBA: (Singing) You can dance, You can jive. Having the time of your life. Ooooh, See that girl, Watch that scene, Digging the dancing queen.
AMOS: And that's our program for today.
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