CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:
I'm Celeste Headlee and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away. It's time, yet again, 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 shape-up this week are writer and culture critic Jimi Izrael, he's with us from Chicago. In New York City, we have Pablo Torre, he's a senior writer with ESPN. Neil Minkoff is a health care consultant and contributor to National Review Magazine, he joins us from Boston. And on the west coast - Gustavo Arellano, he joins us - he writes the syndicated "Ask a Mexican" column, and he joins us from Irvine, California. So, Jimi, take it away.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Celeste. Hey, fellas. Welcome to the shop. How're we doing?
PABLO TORRE: What's up?
NEIL MINKOFF: What's good?
GUSTAVO ARELLANO: What's going on?
IZRAEL: All right, all right, well, let's get it on. Uh-oh, all right, well, former congressman and now New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner - he's kind of the gift that keeps on giving. You know, Celeste, he kind of reminds me of - he, you know what, it's like we all have a brand-new pair of roller skates, and he's got a brand-new key that he wants to show us all...
IZRAEL: ...And despite his 2000 election resignation for sexting, he couldn't - he just can't keep his finger off the send button. What's up with that, Celeste?
HEADLEE: Yeah, the details keep coming out. But during a campaign visit to a Brooklyn soup kitchen, Weiner was asked how many women he had been in touch with online and...
HEADLEE: ...Here's a little snippet of that Q-and-A.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN VISIT)
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: How many women were there? Can you remember?
ANTHONY WEINER: There are more than - there are a few - I don't have a specific number for you...
SPEAKER: ...Can you ballpark it?
WEINER: ...It's not dozens and dozens - it is six to ten, I suppose. But I can't tell you absolutely what someone else is going to consider inappropriate or not.
IZRAEL: Ay caramba!
ARELLANO: ..Less than...
IZRAEL: Carlos DeGrossa in la casa. I love that dude, man.
HEADLEE: Oh, boy.
IZRAEL: Thanks, Celeste. So Weiner says he's not stepping out of the race. And he says New Yorkers care more about their future than his pants - I mean his past. Pablo...
IZRAEL: ...This is your city. What do you think?
TORRE: Look, I kind of agree with him in that I don't think New Yorkers really do care so much about the moralizing element of it. I think it's really funny, I think we love the fact that the Daily News and The Post are coming out with these all-time great back covers, but, honestly, it's what it says about the man, right? I mean like, I don't really care what his personal life is like, to be perfectly honest, in so far as he violates the pact he made with his wife, that's certainly a problem.
But really, it's what it says about a guy who can't control himself and is defying the advice of everybody around him. I worry about what this guy is like with his finger over the figurative red button. What's his decision-making process like if he can't control himself in a way that is flabbergasting. Just absolutely insane that he would keep doing this. So it's clinical or it's very deep-seated, characteristic worrying that I have about him.
IZRAEL: Dr. Neil - Weiner's numbers have set - they were hard at one point...
IZRAEL: ...But they've suddenly gone limp in the polls...
IZRAEL: ...I mean, should he stick with it?
HEADLEE: Oh boy.
MINKOFF: So, I mean, here's the thing - I agree, I think that this should become - I have two quick points. One is I think that this is going to serve as a very interesting referendum on just how much we care about somebody's personal life and their indiscretions.
But I have to say, that, you know, Pablo said the word clinical, and I actually went on the website and I read the text and I read the narrative, and I have to say that I don't think this is a sex thing. I think this is an insecurity thing. I think this is a neurosis thing. This is about finding affirmation and finding your worth in other people responding to you. And that's why there are all those really sad texts about, you know...
TORRE: ...Very sad.
MINKOFF: ...Am I pathetic, do you think that I'm a bad person? And I actually think that this is such a deep seeded neurosis, insecurity kind of thing that it actually made me sad.
IZRAEL: You know, I look at this and I kind of admire his chutzpah. I mean, post Clinton, let's be honest, it's really - post Lewinsky-Clinton there's really no compelling reason for politicians to run and hide after scandals of this type. You know, as a matter of fact, I think it even worked for candidates, because it kind of suggests that, you know, they're like the rest of us. I mean, well, some of the rest of us. I mean, not me, of course.
IZRAEL: Some of the rest of us. Gustavo?
ARELLANO: Yeah, I agree - complete show of insecurity. Do you really want a politician who's insecure? Absolutely not. You want a guy who's confident of everything that he does, come hell or high water, whether you agree with it or not. Sexting - that's so teenager. I mean, this guy, as far as I know, he hasn't admitted to any actual infidelity on his wife, just sexting, you know. In terms of actual sexual relationships, this shows me that this guy has a fetish. This guy can't even complete the deal. Do New Yorkers really want somebody like that, who can't even finish the damn thing? No. I don't think so at all...
IZRAEL: ...Hey, hey, hey, hey, bro. I mean, I think Prince in "Chilla," he said it best - we all have - we all got a love bizarre, bro, I mean...
ARELLANO: ...That's true...
IZRAEL: ...So before we move on, you know, Weiner was using the name Carlos Danger online - it sounds like a character from "Johnny Bravo." I'm not sure if he came up with that one on his own or he used the name of his first pet or the street he grew up on. Neil, you got an online alias of any kind? Dr. Danger?
MINKOFF: I actually do. My online alias is pseudo-nym.
TORRE: I personally go by Jimi Izrael online.
MINKOFF: ...Well, that explains...
ARELLANO: ...What I love about the name Carlos Danger - it again shows how Mexicanizing the United States is turning into. We're becoming more and more Mexican. Really, Carlos, that's awesome.
IZRAEL: Well, my - just FYI, my online pseudonym is Sweet Sweet Bag — shout-out to the Van Peebles. So, like that.
HEADLEE: I'm going to jump in here before this goes any further, Jimi. You are listening to our weekly barbershop roundtable. We are joined by culture critic Jimi Izrael, healthcare consultant Neil Minkoff, syndicated columnist Gustavo Arellano, and sports writer Pablo Torre. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: And I thank you. All right, well, I had hoped that we'd be done talking about the George Zimmerman case, but another juror from his trial has come forward. Celeste, we got some tape, yup?
HEADLEE: Yeah, we do. This juror, who identified herself as Mattie, was the only woman of color on the all-female jury. She is Puerto Rican - she's a mother of eight. And here's just a portion of what she said to ABC News.
MATTIE: George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with. The law couldn't prove it, but, you know, you know, the world goes in circles.
IZRAEL: Yes, we do Mattie. And we thank you - and we thank you, Celeste. You know, she also said that she has trouble sleeping and eating because she feels she was quote - forcefully included in Trayvon Martin's death. That's too bad. Listen, I am so sick of these jurors coming forward. I do not know what motivates them beyond some microwavable single-serving brand of catharsis. Also a book deal, maybe. In my opinion, jurors should let the verdict do the talking. That's just me. Gustavo, what stood out for you among Juror 529's comments?
ARELLANO: This woman obviously never saw "12 Angry Men."
ARELLANO: ...If she really did believe - if she really did believe that Zimmerman was guilty of murder or, you know, second degree murder, whatever - it's her job as a juror, once she sees the facts, to be able to stand by that. Whether that means a hung jury, OK, it's a hung jury. So it always upsets me that after the fact these jurors say, oh, yeah, you know, we really think Zimmerman did this, this, and that, but we had to follow the intent of the law or however the law was written - too much, too little, too late.
And frankly, now she's accusing Zimmerman of murder - for me, it almost sounds like another liable case Zimmerman could have against this person, in addition to, who was it, NBC News or whoever chopped up his tape...
HEADLEE: ...It was ABC. And she's Juror B29 - as opposed to 529, which is like the college savings plan...
IZRAEL: ...Oh, I'm sorry...
ARELLANO: ...Yeah, but it's all too much, too little, too late. It's just really annoying...
IZRAEL: ...Thank you for that, Gustavo. And Celeste. You know, interestingly enough, just days after he - Zimmerman was acquitted - he got his Superman on and he and another man helped a family get out of an overturned car. Interesting. The family said they were grateful but they backed out of press conferences to talk about it, because they didn't want any kind of publicity. Nick Minkoff, is that unfair? Should Zimmerman get to, you know, start over and, you know, cape up and save the rest of the world?
MINKOFF: It's not so much that I think it's unfair that he gets to cape up, as much as there, you now - a couple things. One, I don't know anybody who read that news who didn't immediately roll their eyes and go, really, did that really happen? And, you know, I started thinking about Morpheus saying that I do not believe in coincidence.
HEADLEE: Oh, god.
MINKOFF: I have to say, I am so tired of this celebrity culture. You know, I don't want this man to become a celebrity. I don't want him to be somebody that TMZ is following around and know what he had to eat and what he's tweeting about. The best thing you can say about this person is that a bunch of really bad things happened around him leading to somebody's death. And that shouldn't be the kind of thing that we celebritize.
IZRAEL: So Pablo Torre, it sounds like he - that he thinks Zimmerman is going to become like a Latino or Hispanic O.J.
TORRE: Well, to quote another line from "The Matrix" - that, Mr. Minkoff, is the sound of inevitability. This is...
HEADLEE: ...All right, I'm going to call into the...
TORRE: ...But yes, I just had to say that.
IZRAEL: Nice. All right then. Is that it? Is that all you got on it, bro?
TORRE: I can keep going, but I think we got limited amount of time.
IZRAEL: All right, well, check this out, man. Let's keep it moving. The speaker of the house, you know, is asking Steve King, a republican from Iowa, to stop speaking so much. Celeste, what's up with that?
HEADLEE: Well, King has, yet again, made some controversial comments. This time about undocumented immigrants. Just this past week he said he was speaking to Newsmax, he was talking about what people call DREAMers - those are the immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Here's a bit of it.
(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE KING)
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING: For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that - they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes, because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
HEADLEE: Steve King there...
IZRAEL: ...Holy mackerel...
HEADLEE: ...Explaining that allowing citizenship for some undocumented immigrants might also mean allowing citizenship for a whole lot of criminals.
IZRAEL: Wow, thanks for that Celeste. Him and Don Young should go on the road. Wow, that guy...
HEADLEE: ...And Carlos Danger....
IZRAEL: ...Carlos Danger, en su casa. All right. Gustavo, you want a piece of this man?
ARELLANO: Oh, man. You could have a whole soliloquy on this. But this is what I'll point out. He's talked about DREAMers, he's saying DREAMers are 130 pounds, by definition, DREAMers are kids who came to this country as infants, usually younger than 10 years old.
They're barely going to be weighing 75 pounds - that's for starters. And if you just see his stats - for every one valedictorian, that's a hundred. So that means 99 percent of all these DREAMers are ruthless criminals or people who're exploited by the Narco cartels - that's absolutely false. Really, no one should pay attention to King, because this is a guy who has a history of making very inane remarks. I think it's just a reflection of whatever district in Iowa he's in that they keep electing this fool again and again and again. And I was going to say a word in Spanish, but I can't say it.
IZRAEL: We're in enough trouble as it is, right.
IZRAEL: Neil Minkoff, you know, Speaker Boehner - he called the comments deeply offensive and wrong. Is this, kind of, just, you know, news dispatched from the church of the obvious? Or does he have a point?
MINKOFF: It couldn't be - I find these things to just be incredibly upsetting, because it derails an important conversation. So you have somebody out there, grandstanding, showing off, talking to - you know, trying to throw some red meat to the base and going too far and saying things that are just ridiculous and inane and completely indefensible, and it paints an entire side of the aisle as being just racist and wrong. And I find it incredibly frustrating. And I'm not frustrated with the process, I'm frustrated with the speaker - not the speaker of the House, but King, who actually said these things.
TORRE: Just to add...
IZRAEL: ...Go ahead, Pablo.
TORRE: ...One of the things I find most pernicious from people who are in elected office - is this presentation of things that sound empirical but are really just the same old, really dangerous stereotypes. And honestly, that's how these things really start and get perpetuated decade over decade - is these same people making stuff up. And, you know, if he has numbers on that - feel free to present them. But don't just traffic in the same dangerous stuff that has really, honestly, stigmatized an entire group of people.
HEADLEE: Well, since you talked about numbers, let's move on here really quickly because we want to talk about Major League Baseball. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has been suspended for the season. He violated Major League Baseball's drug policy. And there are a lot of reports and certainly a lot of rumors that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez could be next. So, Pablo Torre, let me go to you, obviously. Some people are saying A-Rod should get a lifetime ban. What is going on here?
TORRE: Yeah, I don't know if a lifetime ban is what I would personally suggest. I think a lot of this, to be honest, I mean, this has been going on for a while. These guys aren't more guilty of anything that we believe Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to have done.
The difference now is that the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, actually cares. And my suspicion, as a cynical baseball fan, is that he cares because he sees his legacy being written as the guy who didn't care about steroids. That's not to, you know, say that Ryan Braun isn't a total jerk, and Alex Rodriguez isn't a total jerk and that he didn't do all of these things, but I wonder that they're being made examples of to fulfill a larger, more selfish mission on the part of Major League Baseball. Which, from a due process perspective, would have to be troubling.
HEADLEE: Right. But, Neil, let me bring this to you. You love baseball.
MINKOFF: I do.
HEADLEE: Some people say look, it's ubiquitous, just allow it. What do you think?
MINKOFF: Yeah, so that's something I think that we struggle with. But I am a firm believer that it's better to have a standard and have a hard time living up to it, but to know that the standard is there and that's the right thing and that's the right way to do it. And if people fail to live up to that standard because of temptation and incentive, then that's a failing rather than an acceptance.
Because if we start to - if we say, OK, it's fine and we're going to allow steroid use in the Tour de France and Major League Baseball and football, how far down does that go? Would we condone college athletes? Would we condone high school athletes trying to get a college scholarship? Should I start writing growth hormone prescriptions for my 11-year-old? Like, at what point do we say that it can't be tolerated if we start to open the door? And that worries me.
HEADLEE: Well, Gustavo, what do you think? I mean, it's certainly telling that a lot of these scandals in terms of doping have to do with sports that rely on individual performance, right, as opposed to team performance like hockey.
ARELLANO: This is what's happened, because Major League Baseball didn't nip it at the bud about what, at this point - 15 years ago, if not more so. There's such fatigue now among fans of Major League Baseball and other sports that it's almost to the point where you have the majority of fans saying, you know what, just let them take steroids. These are men, these are adult men who know what they're doing to their bodies. They're trying to enhance their performance so they can, you know, they can win their contracts and they can please the rest of us.
Why not allow them? And I think it's a dangerous example to allow steroid use with major league athletes because then you do get high schoolers and people even younger than high school starting to take them and that's going to wreck their bodies. But that is going to be Selig's legacy. Selig's legacy is, you know, long ball powered by steroids and, you know, getting almost all the big stars of that era from McGwire and Sosa, nowadays, yeah, to Braun and Rodriguez. And these are just the people that we know. Now imagine all the people that we don't know.
HEADLEE: OK. We'll have to leave it there for the week. You just heard Gustavo Arellano. He writes a syndicated column "Ask a Mexican." He joined us from Irvine, California. Pablo Torre joined us from our bureau in New York, senior writer for ESPN. Joining us from NPR member station WGBH in Boston, Neil Minkoff. He's a healthcare consultant and contributor to National Review magazine. And Jimi Izrael, of course, writer and culture critic. He's also adjunct professor of film and social media at Cuyahoga Community College. He joined us from NPR member station WBEZ in Chicago. Guys, thank you all so much.
TORRE: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Yep, yep.
MINKOFF: Take care, everybody.
HEADLEE: If you can't get enough Barbershop Buzz from your radio, you can look for the podcast - it's in the iTunes store or at NPR.org. And that is our program for today and the week. I'm Celeste Headlee. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Tune in for more talk on Monday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.