TONY COX, host:
I'm Tony Cox, and this is News & Notes.
Now, on to our Bloggers Roundtable. The Republican National Convention has had a lot of distractions, including Hurricane Gustav and the announcement that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. But the show must go on. Speaking to us from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul we have C.J. Jordan, president of the National Black Republican Leadership Council, Harvard Law student Claudio Simpkins, and Ali Akbar, a member of the Republican National Convention Floor Operations team. They all contribute to the blog Hip-Hop Republican. Welcome everybody.
Mr. ALI AKBAR (Contributor, Hip-Hop Republican): Thank you.
Mr. CLAUDIO SIMPKINS (Contributor, Hip-Hop Republican): Hello.
Ms. C.J. JORDAN (Contributor, Hip-Hop Republican): Thank you.
COX: There are several topics to cover, but let's begin with the delay caused by Hurricane Gustav. C.J., how do you feel about the schedule changes, and what do you think the effect of those changes are going to be?
Ms. JORDAN: Well, I think, you know, the changes have been great in the sense of, we have followed the direction of Senator McCain, who is the official spokesperson for the convention and doing it in conjunction with Chairman Mike Duncan, chairman of the RNC. And these were the appropriate things that we needed to do because Senator McCain has always said country first. And with that hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast states, we needed to pay tribute and homage and be humble to the concerns of our fellow Americans who were being impacted by the hurricane.
COX: Claudio, what are the delegates saying, the other people that you're talking to there?
Mr. SIMPKINS: Well, it's been kind of odd. There's been basically mood swings going on. I mean, people have swung between kind of a fearful and prayerfulness, you know, essentially with the, you know, prospect of a pending disaster, to, you know, kind of a confidence in our leadership and our political leadership across the board, whether it's on the state level, the federal level. And excitement now that it seems that we may be able to go forward a little bit with this and continue on with our operations.
COX: Ali, what about this excitement issue? Is it - is there excitement looking toward and forward to the speech tonight from President Bush? Is there sort of a - I'm trying to search for the appropriate word, a sense of relief, perhaps, that he didn't speak on Monday? What are you hearing and sensing there?
MR. AKBAR: Well, as a party we stand unified behind John McCain. John McCain represents the options that you have on the ballot. It's not about George Bush. But the delegates very much look forward to hearing from President George Bush. It's really been an opportunity to show our charity. We have a wonderful team on the floor operations. We set up a hurricane center so that the Louisiana and Mississippi delegates can stay in touch with their local communities. And we really showcased last night when we would have presented President Bush the four Republican governors who really show federalism at its key, and how local government working together can actually achieve results. And we didn't see that during Hurricane Katrina. We saw the local government actually break down during Democratic administration.
COX: Let's move on to topic number two. Sarah Palin obviously energized the convention with the announcement of her selection as the vice presidential candidate. But at the same time, the stories swirling around her personal life have also become very controversial across the country. The Republicans have expressed concern over her selection, some have, others have vigorously supported her. C.J., what kinds of conversations are you hearing at the convention between Republicans about Sarah Palin?
Ms. JORDAN: Well, the conversations that I've been hearing, they are very, very supportive. And this is, you know, only the liberal media and those who are doing opposition research are trying to make it a divisive issue. And she's a family, you know, woman. And she is now facing a situation that every, just about - a lot of households have incurred with young teenagers. And so as a woman who is pro-life, she's done the appropriate thing standing by her daughter as her daughter makes a decision into adulthood a little earlier than any family would have wanted. But she's doing the thing that most families should be doing in supporting, you know, their children when they make a decision into early adulthood. And this is a personal matter. You know, she would have done it at the appropriate time, but those doing opposition research decided to throw it out there thinking that it would cause turmoil in our convention. But please be rest assured as you attack her, we're becoming more and more unified around her. So continue to, you know, throw fire bombs out there, those who are doing the opposition research. But believe me, when she addresses the convention you will see a unified front like no other.
COX: So Claudio, is it your view and is it presumably the view of most of the delegates if not all there that this is not a legitimate issue even for discussion in the public debate?
Mr. SIMPKINS: I think so. I think when you look at the way that the Internet has changed the way we look at candidacy for different public office, and you look at the kind of 24/7 media cycle these days, there is a situation where there is no line as to what is private and what is personal and what is public. And I think we have to maintain some kind of bare minimum standard of what is personal, and what is private, and enable people to live their lives whether it's in their, you know, the highs and the lows with some sort of privacy, even if they are a candidate for a very important office.
COX: So, the question then, Ali, would be to what extent that privacy should be respected? Given the Republicans' own mantra about country first, and the fact that...
Mr. AKBAR: Right.
COX: This is the highest position, the number two position, in the government.
Mr. AKBAR: Well, when did, you know, media pundits and bloggers, start, you know, legislating or governing morality? I think that's really the question that we have to take into consideration, and as a blogger, and I deal with a lot of bloggers, we have to start coming up with a code of ethics. So, this is really groundbreaking, and an opportunity for us to set the standards upon ourselves. We saw that Ms. Palin is very, very transparent. I was in the Dayton, Ohio rally. There was tears in everybody's eyes. She stayed behind until Secret Service pushed her off. She's a very transparent woman, she's going to excite the crowd like C.J. said, and I can't wait to see what else, you know, perpetuates out of this. Barack Obama, for example, said that this should be off topic, so let's follow the nod from our nominees.
COX: Well, let me just let the audience know that you're listening to News and Notes. This is our special Bloggers Roundtable. I'm Tony Cox sitting in for Farai Chideya, who's at the convention. We are talking with three Republican National Convention bloggers, known as the Hip-Hop Republicans. C.J. Jordan, president of the National Black Republican Leadership Council. Harvard law student Claudio Simpkins, and Ali Akbar, a member of the Republican National Convention Floor Operations Team. And let me correct something I said. What they do is, the three of them, they all contribute to the blog Hip-Hop Republicans.
Let me follow up, Claudio, with you. A question about the blog, because not specifically the Hip-Hop Republican blog, but over the weekend bloggers began writing about the Palin family, and those rumors, unsubstantiated, or even worse according to GOP officials, that's what prompted the McCain campaign to announce that Governor Palin's daughter is pregnant to sort of set the record straight. We talked a little bit about the reaction of the - to the news so far from those at the convention. But how big a distraction do you think this is, or is going to become for the party?
Mr. SIMPKINS: Well, it's interesting. I don't think that it's going to be as grand a distraction as it could have been absent the hurricane. I feel like, first and foremost, people that are here were, you know, more concerned with the potential loss of life, the potential damage to a quintessentially American city. And when it came, you know, back - we were grounded, you know, brought back into partisan politics, and bickering, and back and forth, and you know, rumor mongering, and what the blogosphere was kind of digging up on, you know, Governor Palin. It, you know, it was somewhat tempered by the fact that we were dealing with a real, you know, crisis in a part of the country, and that we had to keep our focus on what's really important. Not whether or not you can trash this candidate, or you can destroy the credibility of another candidate, or you can call somebody's values or character into question. But whether or not we can stand united for what really counts, which is, you know, the health of our nation, the security of our nation.
COX: One last question on Palin before we move on to talk about the Hip-Hop Republican blog, and just what it is, and who it is, and that's for you, C.J. It has been raised on the blogosphere actually from a number of quarters that this response that the Republicans have had to Palin smacks of a double standard, and that had this been directed towards Obama, or if you talk about sort of the stereotypes of young black women who have given birth, or gotten pregnant before marriage, the tone of the conversation would be completely different. You agree? Disagree?
Ms. JORDAN: I disagree. First of all, I mean, Ms. Palin, VP candidate, she is pro-life, and she values the sanctity of life, and therefore she made a family decision to stand by her daughter as a supportive parent. And at no time in this discussion, when Senator McCain came out before anyone and said, you know, we should put politics aside during this national disaster - it was the Daily KOS and those who are supporting, you know, Senator Barack Obama out there digging, and threw politics in the middle of when the nation was not necessarily mourning, but preparing for something that could have been a major catastrophe. And yes, there is some loss of life here as it relates to the hurricane, but we said let's put politics aside, and they did not do that. I mean, we on our side could have come out in this particular time and dug up some opposition research and throw it out there, but that was what Senator McCain said we should not do. And unfortunately, the other side chose to do that.
So again, as I reiterate, she and her husband are supportive parents, and they're doing like any other American family dealing with this situation that is their young teenage daughter, or whether it be their son, coming to them with an issue. And when we talk about family values, the one thing that we in the Republican Party has always said, you know, come to your parents. If you can't speak to your parents, then go to your religious leader. And their young child was able to come to her parents, and talk to her parents about a decision that would take her into adulthood, and I applaud her for doing that because many people would have chose to do something different, and abort that child.
COX: All right, let's...
Ms. JORDAN: And so I'm very supportive.
COX: All right, let's move on to our last topic. But let me just say one thing in response to something that you mentioned, and that is that Senator Obama has denied that his camp had anything to do with putting out that information, and he went on the record as saying that if he found that anyone from his camp was involved with that, that person would be fired. But let's talk about the Hip-Hop Republican blog. Ali, what is it exactly? What does that mean, and who are the people targeting?
Mr. AKBAR: A variety and a diverse group of bloggers who contribute to a number of sites. You know, I myself contribute to over 10, and we really gather together to talk about the issues that concern the African-American community, particularly. And how Republicans, and conservatives, and right-wing Americans can affect them, and change our policy debate, maybe be more friendly in the outreach of that policy. So, it's really a broad coalition of people working and networking together to satisfy the issues with the Republican Party and the black community.
COX: What specific role do you think, Claudio, the black Republicans from the hip-hop era are going to play in the election?
Mr. SIMPKINS: Well, it's really interesting. I don't think that young minority conservatives are going to play a major in this election, but what would be key to see is whether or not we don't see a spike in the number of young minorities that come forward and identify as Republicans following this election. Because what you have is an enormous pressure to conform within the minority communities, especially the black community. If you don't talk about politics, it's assumed as a black man or a black woman that you're supporting Obama. If you're on the fence, even as a Democrat or an independent, and you're just not convinced that Barack Obama is prepared or, you know, you don't necessarily have to be supporting McCain, you risk being ostracized. You risk being silenced, you risk being marginalized by your own community because there's this groupthink and there's this, you know, pressure to conform.
You're a black person, you're a minority, you need to be supporting Barack Obama. And perhaps some of those people go ahead and do support Barack Obama, giving into the pressure, but I think down the road you're going to see - potentially, you could see a spike in the number of young minorities who identify themselves as Republicans or perhaps are less, you know, faithful and loyal to the Democratic Party, because they're disillusioned with the fact that they're being pressured into supporting a candidate just because of their skin color, because of their ethnic background, and because of the assumptions, and basically the, you know, pressure that they're getting from their communities.
COX: Final thing is this, very briefly, we have about 30 seconds or so left. I know that there's a lot of noise because you're in sort of a nerve center at the convention, but earlier we had a report that said that there are fewer African-Americans at this GOP convention than in recent memory. Are you feeling lonesome at all when you look around?
Ms. JORDAN: Well, no. I don't think we feel lonesome. I think we are excited about the number of African-Americans that are here. And you have to understand what the party process is. When you look...
COX: Well, we do. Unfortunately though, we don't have time to have the whole explanation for it. I apologize for cutting you off, but I'm glad that you don't feel lonesome there. Let me just thank all three of you for participating with us. C.J. Jordan is the president of the National Black Republican Leadership Council. Claudio Simpkins, a Harvard Law student, and Ali Akbar is a member of the National Convention Floor Operations Team. They all contribute to the blog Hip-Hop Republican.
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