MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Just ahead, the first letters and blog entries of the New Year from you, our listeners, that's coming up. But first, it's time for a shape-up at the Barbershop where the guys talk about whatever is in the news and whatever is on their minds.
Sitting on the chairs this week are civil rights attorney and Editor Arsalan Iftikhar, media executive Nick Charles, and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette. Jimi Izrael is on a plane. He'll have to skip up his shape up this week and we'll see him next week. Welcome everybody.
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Good morning.
NICK CHARLES: Good morning, Michel.
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Good morning.
MARTIN: First of all, I know we want to talk about politics in the U.S. but I have to give Arsalan a shout out because last week, he is one of the few who predicted that elections in Pakistan would not go forward as planned after Benazir Bhutto's assassination.
Arsalan, I wanted to ask you if it encourages you that Britain is now going to participate in the inquiry into her death?
IFTIKHAR: Well, I think it's very important and I also think it's equally important that the international community get involved in the upcoming elections. I think one of the biggest concerns that people had was that president - that General Musharraf was going to rig this election, something that's been pretty pandemic in Pakistan politics in its sixty years of existence. And so...
MARTIN: And I think it's important to point out that he continues to deny his - people continue to deny that he role in any...
IFTIKHAR: Oh, right and they'll continue to deny that until kingdom come. And so I think - that's why it's especially important for members of the international community to get involved both in there investigation and also in the upcoming elections.
MARTIN: On to Iowa.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED SPEECH)
BARACK OBAMA: Hope is what led me here today.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: With a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas, and a story that could only happened in the United States of America.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
MARTIN: Of course, that was Senator Barack Obama giving his victory speech last night in Iowa. Ruben Navarrette, how important was this?
NAVARRETTE: Huge. I mean, we knew that if Obama, just on the Democratic side of equation, if Obama beats Hillary Clinton who was all but the anointed Democratic nominees, this was going to be historic. It is historic and I think now he'll have a lot of momentum going in to New Hampshire and on to South Carolina for Obama. I'll tell you, if he's able to win in New Hampshire - most of the time, I think, New Hampshire like doing the opposite of what Iowa does. But in this case, they may make an exception. They may see the Obama train that they want to get in on. And if they do, and he does well - thanks to African- American voters in South Carolina, that will make Hillary 0-3. It's hard to see how she comes back after that.
MARTIN: Nick, I want to ask you the same question I ask Doug Sosnik and Ari Fleischer earlier. Are we all doing this - the attention on Iowa? It's only, since 1972, only twice, if you count Jimmy Carter, has the winner of a contested Iowa caucus won the presidency. So, I mean, is this just a headline for the day or just really important? Nick? Okay, Arsalan, to you and let's see if we could get Nick back up. Arsalan?
IFTIKHAR: This is huge. Again, we have a black running for president named Barack Hussein Obama who won a state that is 2.3 percent African-American, one of the whitest states in the union. This, I agree with Ruben, it is not only historic, but I think it really, really gives a lot of momentum and will help galvanize, you know, millions and millions of young voters all around the country.
MARTIN: Nick, are you there?
CHARLES: I'm right here, Michel.
MARTIN: Okay, what do you think?
CHARLES: You know, funny, if it was any other year I would say this is just a blip. But let's be honest, two hundred and almost 40,000 people showed up yesterday to vote, which is twice as many did four years ago. You know, something's funny happened on the way to the coronation of Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama showed up. I think they didn't expect this. You know, she was shellshock. You could see it on the dance last night - I watched all the coverage. And I think we're not overplaying this, we're not overstating this. I think with the amount of independents there are in New Hampshire who already were kind of let's wait and see what Iowa does, even though they may want to be contrarian, they want to get onboard of the Obama train, as Ruben said, and keep going.
And I think if he wins New Hampshire, he wins Nevada, he wins Michigan and he gets to, you know, February 5th, it's over.
MARTIN: Now why do you say she looks shock? She seemed pretty chilled to me.
NAVARRETTE: No, but as it show, she looked like a very robotic in terms of like, okay, this is what I'm going to say. This is what I have to hit on, but not any passion of, you know, contrast that with his speech. Contrast it with Mike Huckabee and the other Republican side. There was no passion. And I think, you know, the pundits are talking about a movement candidate and he makes you feel good. It's not a feel-good moment. Everybody, you know, majority of the people under 30 voted for him. A lot of women under 30 voted for him. People are ready for something totally different. They don't want a Clinton. They don't want Bush.
You know, you look at (unintelligible), there are some good people up there, but then we have seen these faces before. We know what they can do. We're looking for somebody who's going to take us out of the morass we are in right now.
IFTIKHAR: Well, end of story on Hillary is that she got served last night. I mean, she got third place, which was the worse-case scenario for her. And...
MARTIN: But by a whisker.
IFTIKHAR: It doesn't matter. I mean, symbolically it was a slap in the face of the entire Clinton machine. And I think that, you know, that's why I agree with Nick. She was shell-shocked on the dais. If she wanted - if she was going to lose, she wanted to lose to John Edwards, not both Barack Obama and John Edwards.
NAVARRETTE: This sets her up with a kind of a New Hampshire type, you know, comeback kid.
NAVARRETTE: I mean, like her husband pulled off. But if I were her, I'd be studying exactly what happened with Bill Clinton and how he was able to pull off that New Hampshire comeback, because there's got to be something in her that voters see that makes them want to put her up there again. If not, we're talking about 0 for three in the first three, maybe 0 for four, if we count Nevada.
It's a big deal because she's not - she didn't start off on equal footing. She start off ahead, with higher name recognition, with lots more money with every endorsement in the country, going her way with most of these elected officials. She was the establishment candidate. And so the fact that she would come in third in Iowa is very significant.
CHARLES: I think the biggest lesson from last night was did voters rejected the idea that she's electable. You know, she talks about electability. I think people are saying, you know something, we don't think you can win the general election in November. And therefore, we're going to go with this guy who we think can do it. And in New Hampshire where there are 40 percent independents, you will see what they say on Tuesday.
CHARLES: But I would be surprised if they don't do the same thing Iowa does.
MARTIN: Gee, I don't know if I agree with you, Nick. I don't think that the voters were making an electability argument; that's her argument. Her argument is most electable. If you listened to the clip that we played earlier, she was saying, can win the most votes, ready on day one. She's making the electability argument. I think Barack Obama's argument is a very different argument, is that you might have experiences, it's the wrong kind of experience.
CHARLES: And I think that, you know, a vote for Barack is a vote for change. I mean, you know, it's no surprise that the A-train is on the Obama express, but, you know, Hillary Clinton represents the status quo to many Democrats. And so, you know, this was sort of part of the party-identity politics that's going on. And I think that a vote for Obama is a vote for change, whereas a vote for Hillary would have been a vote for the status quo.
MARTIN: Speaking of which, what do you want to hear? Let's hear that Hillary Clinton clip just for a hot minute. You guys want to hear it?
CHARLES: Sure. Sure.
MARTIN: Okay. Listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED SPEECH)
HILLARY CLINTON: How will we win in November 2008? By nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance and who will be the best president on day one. I am ready for that contest.
MARTIN: In honor of Jimi, I should have said, drop that clip, but I (unintelligible) it's funny.
IFTIKHAR: That's true. That's true.
MARTIN: So Ruben, how do you hear that? How do you hear that? Do you hear - what? - that he can't get elected? Or how do you hear what she just said?
NAVARRETTE: A brave face, putting up a brave face. She - it's got to hurt to take that kind of beating anywhere. But to take it, you know, in this case, if you're Hillary Clinton - I think it's one thing to be called by the pollsters for weeks leading up to this day, that he would not do well in Iowa. It's another thing for this actually to come down on you like a ton of bricks. And I think that she was trying to be brave about it.
But I'll tell you what, that it's interesting. There's lots of different reasons that people pick somebody to vote for, for president. And we're told all the time, that's on issues, I don't think so. We were told that immigration was a top issue in Iowa, and yet, Huckabee and Obama start off campaigns very moderate positions on that issue, although Huckabee moved a little bit beyond that, people talking about qualifications and ready to lead on day one and all that.
I'm going throw another one into the mix. The reason that Huckabee and Obama won last night was because of excitement, excitement. These people excite the voters, right? And somebody forgot about that. The pundits in D.C. don't make anything of that. But in fact, if you excite folks, if you give them, you know, hope and you inspire them, they're going to come out and wait in the snow and vote for you. And more power to them.
MARTIN: Who are calling a pundit?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: I don't think Arsalan and I are the only ones in D.C. I don't know about it. Anyway, quickly, quickly, quickly on Edwards. What does that work do now that he came in second? He basically moved to Iowa...
MARTIN: ...the last couple years. What does he do, Arsalan?
CHARLES: I mean, in New Hampshire, it's New Hampshire or bust. You know, I don't think he's going to, with the second place, he needed to win. I think that with the second-place finish, he has a good chance in New Hampshire even though he doesn't have a strong machine up there. He really needs to win or get second there to even have a shot at going to South Carolina.
MARTIN: Nick, does Huckabee do - how does he do in New Hampshire?
IFTIKHAR: Huckabee sets up...
MARTIN: I don't think he's strong there.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. Huckabee sets up a really interesting path going forward for John McCain. Because I think what's going to happen is Huckabee is not going to win in New Hampshire. I think you'll see the ascendancy of John McCain. And if John McCain wins in New Hampshire, then it's basically sets up a Mike Huckabee-John McCain on February 5th, and then that's going to be interesting when you get down to the Southern states.
MARTIN: And do you mind if we talk about football for just a hot minute?
MARTIN: All right.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: Bryant Gumbel.
IFTIKHAR: Oh my God.
CHARLES: Oh, God.
MARTIN: Getting dogged for his play-by-play.
CHARLES: Leave Bryant alone.
IFTIKHAR: Rightfully dogged.
CHARLES: Leave Bryant alone.
IFTIKHAR: What are you talking about, man? It's like having John Madden be the color commentator at the "Nutcracker" at the Bolshoi Ballet.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: Nick, isn't that your boy?
CHARLES: I'm just defending my boy because people forget Bryant Gumbel has been in this business for a long time. He is a superb commentator. His show on HBO is a really brilliant show. I think the play-by-play, you know, and he's making some fumbles - no pun intended. But the fact of the matter is that you have people out there with knives who have been shopping for him for a long time. And they're coming out now. I don't think...
CHARLES: ...he's as bad as - I think because people always saw him as arrogant, and he still has that patina of arrogance that people dislike. And he's in an arena, which is less the (unintelligible) it is not his expert arena. He's...
MARTIN: Charles Barkley is arrogant. Nobody's dogging at him.
IFTIKHAR: Exactly, because he knows the game. I mean, you know, this is - as a football purist myself, you know, if you put somebody like Bryant Gumbel with, for example, Chris Collins versus probably one of the best NFL analysts out there, I mean, is a complete odd couple match. I agree, Bryant Gumbel is a good journalist. That is his forte. His forte is not doing color commentary on professional sports. He obviously does not know anything about it.
MARTIN: What do you mean he doesn't know anything about it? He started in sports. He hosted one of the best shows, sports shows on...
IFTIKHAR: Again, being a sports journalist is different than being the guy...
MARTIN: Being a play-by-play...
IFTIKHAR: Right, the guy with the leather gloves, you know, calling every single in a 60-minute football game.
MARTIN: Ruben, you got a dog in this fight?
NAVARRETTE: I'm a little torn. I've been following Bryant Gumbel for a long time, and I always thought the rap that he was a arrogant is a bum rap. Because a lot of folks out there who are tremendously arrogant - a lot of white broadcasters, you know, who are tremendously arrogant - and don't have to wear this around their neck. But on the other hand, what I saw in this story is that not all broadcasting is created equal. I mean, just because you're a broadcaster who has done sports in the past doesn't mean you can do the kind of precise play-by-play that these guys do on Sunday.
I just got - I will be honest with you. When I watch the games on Sunday, I always took for granted that these guys have easy jobs. They just go up there and watch the game and talk about it.
NAVARRETTE: But I've learned different.
IFTIKHAR: It's hard.
CHARLES: Well, I'll be honest. I watch a lot of the games...
MARTIN: What are you talking about? You work indoors, who are you dogging?
CHARLES: I watch a lot of the games without the sound, so, you know, I will...
IFTIKHAR: That's a good one, man.
CHARLES: Yeah, I don't hear half of these guys anyway.
MARTIN: So you're defending him because you don't listen. Is that what it is?
CHARLES: That helps.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: So is he back? Let's see, Arsalan, prognosticate. Does he comeback?
IFTIKHAR: No, he doesn't come back. I think you'll find it really (unintelligible).
CHARLES: I think - I like everybody who gets a second chance.
MARTIN: Okay. Ruben, does he comeback?
NAVARRETTE: A second chance, but only one more.
MARTIN: Only one more. I think it's his socks. I think you all are just jealous because he has such fly socks.
But anyway, Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com. He joined us by phone from his home in California. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor of the Islamica magazine. He joined us from our studios here in Washington. And Nick Charles is a vice president of digital content at BET.com. He joined us from our bureau in New York.
Gentleman, thanks so much for joining us today.
IFTIKHAR: Yup, yup.
CHARLES: Thank you. I wish you a happy New Year.
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