MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now 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 writer Jimmy Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Neil Minkoff, a health care consultant and a contributor to National Review Online, joins us from Boston. From Pittsburgh, Republican strategist Lenny McAllister. He is the host of Get Right With Lenny McAllister on KDKA NewsRadio. I love the title - should have been mine. And in our Washington, D.C. studio, contributing editor for The Root Corey Dade. Take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Fellas...
COREY DADE: What's up?
IZRAEL: ...Welcome to the shop. How we doing?
NEIL MINKOFF: Hey, Jimi.
LENNY MCALLISTER: What's going on, now?
DADE: What's up, boo?
IZRAEL: Oh, my God.
MCALLISTER: I know you're excited, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Oh, I am a little turned up. Can you tell? You know, let's get things started because it's NFL draft season and Johnny Football - he's coming to my town. That's right. It's the Manziel principle jumping off in Cleveland.
IZRAEL: Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A&M quarterback, will be a Cleveland Brown. Here's what he had to say about this last night. Drop that clip, please.
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: To be here, it feels right. And it feels like where I'm meant to be, and I'm very excited. Dawg Pound, here we come.
IZRAEL: Oh, snap.
IZRAEL: Right after the pick.
MARTIN: He was, like - he hasn't had a day like this for a long time, Jimi. Go ahead, Jimi. Celebrate.
IZRAEL: Hold on. I'm not...
MCALLISTER: Can somebody please remind Jimi that you don't win Superbowls in May, you win them in February. Clevelanders forget these things. Pittsburghers don't.
IZRAEL: Well, hold on. One thing...
DADE: Let the man have his day.
IZRAEL: Hold on. One thing we didn't forget was to buy tickets because the Cleveland Browns reportedly sold 200 new season-tickets. You know, check this out. It's going to be like "John Henry Days" up in here, hashtag #ColsonWhitehead.
IZRAEL: So, Lenny, there's a great player headed to our Pittsburgh Steelers. So you got some bragging to do, too, bro.
MCALLISTER: Yeah, and Ryan Shazier is going to be a great linebacker for the Steelers. He's going to be chasing down Johnny Manziel whenever he gets on the field. And it will be...
MCALLISTER: ...You know, another couple of seasons where the Steelers sweep the Browns. It will be no change. It will still be (inaudible).
MARTIN: Here we go.
MCALLISTER: ...Cleveland Browns stadium in the fall. It's no big deal.
DADE: And it's on.
IZRAEL: All right. All right.
MARTIN: And it's on.
IZRAEL: And so it begins.
MARTIN: But he was good, though. He didn't slip in one for the thumb. He didn't slip that in.
MCALLISTER: We already got - we've got one for both thumbs. It's all good.
IZRAEL: Dr. Neil.
MINKOFF: The thing - there are two things that I think are fascinating about this. One is that, you know, even a decade ago, five years ago, the NFL draft was something you read about in the paper the next morning to see what your team did. And then you went to Sports Illustrated at the end of the week to see how it kind of all sorted out.
And it's fascinating in terms of the - NFL is the league that grabs technology and makes it work for them, whether it's replay or Twitter or this, which is now - all of a sudden, this is must-see TV. It's being tweeted. It's being tracked, followed online, real-time. And everybody has a stake in it when it's really - it's May.
Right? I mean, like, none of this - and it's almost impossible for one person to change the culture of a football team or to make them a winner the way it would be in the NBA draft. So I just think that the fact that this has become this giant spectacle is fascinating.
MARTIN: I love it.
MARTIN: It's like Ebony Fashion Fair, only not.
IZRAEL: You know, OK. Let's...
MARTIN: Corey? What about Corey? You want in?
MARTIN: Anything you have to add?
DADE: Hey, man. You know, I'm a huge - football is my favorite sport. So, you know, it's become the Hot Stove league in the off-season. So I'm all good with it.
MCALLISTER: Come on, that's all?
IZRAEL: OK. All right, my man.
MCALLISTER: That means he didn't like his draft pick last night.
DADE: Why you bringing up old stuff, Lenny? Come on, man.
IZRAEL: Look, if you all going to do it, I mean, take the gloves off. Let's get it on.
MARTIN: Let's not.
IZRAEL: Well, why you all...
MARTIN: Elevate. It's almost Mother's Day.
IZRAEL: Elevate, don't player hate. Elevate.
MARTIN: That's right.
IZRAEL: Let's bounce from football to basketball. Shout out to Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
IZRAEL: He was named most valuable player this year, but it was his speech honoring his mom that may earn him the most props. Drop that clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
KEVIN DURANT: One of the best memories I had was when we moved into our first apartment - no bed, no furniture. And we just all sat in the living room and just hugged each other 'cause we - that's what we - we thought we made it. (Crying) You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP.
IZRAEL: That sounds a lot like the speech I got - I gave when I gave my MFA when I got it. Anyway, so...
IZRAEL: ...Before - you know, I'm not going to call the play on it. Let's just keep moving. Before dedicating the award to his mom, Durant called out his teammates individually, telling each of them how they contributed to his success. And it was a long speech. But he gets dap for a great tribute to his family and the team. That said, Dr. Neil, was he a good pick, you think?
MINKOFF: So I do think Kevin Durant was a great pick. I love the speech, the fact that the NBA seems sometimes from the outside to be a very I, I, I, me, me, me league with a lot of iso-plays and a lot of tweeting and that sort of thing. And so, K.D. making it so inclusive, I thought was fantastic.
But, you know, the thing about Kevin Durant is he's so good, that in some ways I wonder if he falls into the trap like Kareem did once upon a time and Tim Duncan has more recently, where he's so consistently excellent that you kind of forget about him and you start watching the players who are flashier, like a LeBron, even though Kevin Durant is as good as it gets.
IZRAEL: That's really interesting. Lenny?
MCALLISTER: He's not LeBron. He should have won the MVP - should have won the MVP this season. LeBron James is the MVP for the decade. So, I mean, so you have to take that into consideration, as well we still don't know who's going to be the MVP of the postseason.
Let's not forget...
DADE: That's true.
MCALLISTER: ...The reigning MVP of the postseason is LeBron James, who by the way, has two championship rings. What I did like about this, though, was the fact that Durant called out all of his teammates. And for somebody that was just called Mr. Unreliable, he showed a whole lot of foundation and consistency and stability with that speech. And I commend him for it.
IZRAEL: Yeah, absolutely.
MARTIN: Well, you know, people were saying that LeBron couldn't close either. Remember that? You remember that?
MCALLISTER: Yes, they did.
MARTIN: Does anybody remember that?
MCALLISTER: Of course.
MINKOFF: Oh, yeah.
MARTIN: Corey, what did you think?
MCALLISTER: Sounds silly now.
DADE: Well, no, he - K.D. was the MVP. And, you know, shout out to, you know, the homey from D.C. - the D.C. area. You know, my brother and I have known him since he was in high school, and the guy has never changed. He has always been humble. He's always been - he's almost like a savant. You know, this guy has been sort of all about basketball and all about sort of humility from the beginning. And he's never changed. He's always been the same person.
I think what's interesting here - you know, Neil mentioned it to some degree but also we were just talking about the NFL - the NFL markets teams. They don't market players. The NBA markets individual players, and that's where that me culture comes from. So here's K.D. as sort of the ultimate team guy.
And so, yeah, his - what's interesting, though, is that the reason why Tim Duncan, for, example, doesn't get marketed is 'cause he doesn't have much of a personality. Let's be honest. That dude doesn't want to talk to anybody or about anything outside of playing ball.
K.D. is not that guy. He does have a personality. So it's a different thing there. But I think, you know, as far as his play on the court, that dude had 40 straight games of scoring 25 or more points when his star teammate, Russell Westbrook, was hurt and when the entire - all his opponents were keen on him. They still couldn't stop him. This dude is out of control. He is the best offensive player anyone has seen in this league in the last decade.
MARTIN: You know what I - can I say I liked...
MARTIN: ...Obviously, you know, I'm sitting here, like, ready to cry when he's talking about his mom. So there's that of course that.
MARTIN: Thank you for giving me a minute to get it together.
MARTIN: But also I loved his use of words...
MARTIN: ...Because we often, you know...
MCALLISTER: He was eloquent.
MARTIN: He was eloquent. The specificity of the stories both about his teammates and about how he grew up - I mean, his elegance and the use of language painted a very vivid picture...
MARTIN: ...Of what sports is supposed to be about, which is a way to...
MCALLISTER: No cliches.
MARTIN: ...Create character, build character...
MCALLISTER: And depth.
MARTIN: ...And to rise.
MARTIN: And I think that that, for me, is what was so profound. When he talked about his mom getting him up to run laps, I thought that was profound. I mean, we see this out, you know, here. Like, it used to be, like, dad would get you up to run laps, but now it's, you know, his mom. In a lot of household, it is mom getting you up to run laps. And I just think that the way he painted a picture of what sports can do in someone's life, I thought was really profound. And I was just really appreciative - so - of that.
So if you're just joining us, you're listening to our weekly Barbershop roundtable. We're joined by writer Jimi Izrael, journalist Corey Dade, Republican strategist Lenny McAllister and health care consultant Neil Minkoff. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. OK, well, our next topic is Monica Lewinsky, America's favorite homewrecker, or Bill Clinton victim, depending of course on who you ask. She wrote an essay for the latest Vanity Fair. And Lewinsky says, quote, "It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress." I have to...
MARTIN: Can I just say, I'm going to step out on this one because I think, as everyone here remembers, you know, my husband represented her mother in the course of all this and was a part of her legal team. So I will be stepping on this. Just call me when you're ready for me to come back.
IZRAEL: All right, shout out Billy while you at it. Yeah, what's up, Billy?
So it's like this. I kind of admire that she won't be held down. I admire that, you know, she's keeping a low profile. But she still has a story to tell.
You know, she has a claim as probably the first real tragedy of the Internet age. And, you know, I don't know what the future holds for her. But I guess, as the father of a daughter who hopefully will not make mistakes like these but is likely to make mistakes, I just - my heart just - my God. I mean, she shouldn't have to be paying for this mistake, this peccadillo, for the rest of her days. I can't. I just can't. Lenny McAllister, what do you think was the point of this essay?
MCALLISTER: Well, the point of this essay was basically the same thing as what Barack Obama did with his drug use with a book. Let's get this out in the open right now so people can talk about it two years in advance, so that by the time the election actually comes, this is not something that can be used again somebody anymore - the way President Obama did that years ago.
This is why the Monica Lewinsky story present is all coming back now, so that no one can try to pin this to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and say this is about instability and all the craziness that will come around if it weren't played this way.
This was something that was very intentional. I think it was orchestrated with the Clintons, believe it or not, to get this out of the way, give her some highlights, show that she's moved on, show that the Clintons have moved on and not allow 2016 to be about Bill Clinton. Let it be about Hillary Clinton for better or for worse.
MARTIN: Do you have some evidence of that, may I ask?
MARTIN: I mean, that's your theory.
MCALLISTER: That's me...
MARTIN: Do you have some evidence that that's the case?
MCALLISTER: That's me being a political strategist. I mean, you get these things out of the way. You try to make sure that things that people can use against you, you bring to the forefront to show that you're playing with clean hands and being honest about this.
This is the same way Barack Obama did this about the drug use.
MCALLISTER: And if you think about it, if that would have come out in 2008, it would have blown up his candidacy. You're talking about some pretty, you know, interesting revelations that he had. If he does it in 2008, it hurts him, he doesn't win. If he does it prior to that, he has a chance to reshape his image and go from there. This...
MCALLISTER: ...Is what I think the Clintons are doing now.
MARTIN: All right. What do you think, Corey?
DADE: Yeah, I don't buy that for a minute because by that rationale, the Hillary campaign would have had her come out with this in 2008 or in 2007. So there makes no reason - there's no reason why the Hillary Clinton camp would actually collude with Monica Lewinsky to bring this out this year, when in reality, you know, Hillary Clinton is ideally probably going to be more strongly situated to run in 2016 than she was in 2008. So I think that's, you know, that's bunk. No offense, Lenny, my man.
But what's interesting to me is that, you know, 16 years have passed since this affair. We've forgiven Bill Clinton - right?- but we still have not really forgiven Monica Lewinsky. You know, she was, you know, fresh out of college, an intern. And, you know, she was an intern who got taken advantage of by her boss. We can't stop blaming her for being sexual prey.
I mean, that's really what we are talking about here. So before there was slut-shaming, there was this. This was the precedent set for slut-shaming. You know, Clinton, obviously, has gone on and become a statesman, an icon. But Lewinsky, you know, she can't find a job. She can't advance her career.
I think it's useful for the rest of us that she resurfaced now because it forces us to sort of challenge our rational - sort of collective hate for this woman. And I think that, you know, she has always been this convenient scapegoat for women with cheating husbands, especially women with cheating husbands who won't leave those husbands. And I think, you know - I think it's now time to really, you know, just confront this. You know, at this day and age, we are still, you know, blaming the quote-unquote, "homewrecker" really ,as a crutch.
MARTIN: Neil, what do you think?
MINKOFF: So I was actually struck by the fact - when I looked at the excerpts of the essays, I was struck by how composed she has become. And I'm with Corey on this one. I mean, I think one of the things, looking back on it, it was so - you know, I look back, and I think about, for example, like, the "Saturday Night Live" skits with John Goodman playing Linda Tripp and them having the (unintelligible) late at night. Remember that?
And it was all about, like, how she wasn't good enough for the president. And there was all of this like, real negativity, not just about what they did, but who she was as a person and what she looked like, that in retrospect, is just so horribly demeaning and hopefully ,is something that we've gotten beyond.
And you know, I don't believe that this was staged. I think - I agree with Corey; it would have happened in 2007 or so. But I do think that this woman just needs some peace, and I agree with this idea that if Clinton's image has been rehabilitated, then we need to let the Lewinsky jokes go.
MCALLISTER: Real quick. Let me push back on that real quick. No. 1, part of the reason why Hillary didn't do it in 2007 was because nobody took Barack Obama seriously. He had a funny-sounding Muslim name and had been in the Senate for two years. Nobody thought he was going to win until Iowa. So why...
DADE: And Lenny, you know that? You know that?
MCALLISTER: Look at the polls.
DADE: As someone who was covering the campaign, you know that?
MCALLISTER: Look at the polls in 2006 and 2007. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2008.
DADE: No, no.
MARTIN: She was a front-runner, that's true - until Iowa.
DADE: But you know specifically, Hillary camp - Camp Hillary decided not to actually...
MCALLISTER: I mean, are we talking about revealing sources...
DADE: ...Trot Monica out there?
MCALLISTER: ...Or are we talking about political theory. And when it comes to strategy, when you talk about strategy, it's the same, exact thing Barack Obama did...
MCALLISTER: You get your flaws out of the way...
MCALLISTER: ...Because if you let it ride 2016, now you start talking about Hillary's "Stand By Your Man" in 1992 comment, as well as the controversy around...
MCALLISTER: ...The White House and did she have a role in it, and did she have her hands dirty and try to cover up at all.
MCALLISTER: 'Cause remember, he almost got impeached. You don't want that coming up in 2016. Get it out of the way now.
MARTIN: OK, well. That's your theory. We heard it. And we will see. I'm sure somebody will get to the root of that. So thank you for that.
OK. We have a minute left. And when we last talked about Wu-Tang's upcoming album, most of you were excited. But hearing this week that they collaborated with Cher, I had to get your opinion on that. So Corey, thumbs up, or not so much?
DADE: I'll thumbs up. I heard it.
DADE: I heard what she - you know, her little hook that she sang. You know, I think this is - what I love about it is just the buzz, the buildup. You know, what we're going to see is more coverage of this...
DADE: ...You know, more kind of leaks of who's collaborating in all of this.
DADE: And, you know, RZA has already gotten a $5 million offer for that album.
MARTIN: Yeah. No fool, he.
MARTIN: All right, Jimi, I'm going to give you the last word here.
IZRAEL: (Singing) If I could turn back time...
MARTIN: If you could sing.
IZRAEL: Right. So, yeah, I mean, it was a stunt. It was a stunt.
MARTIN: I wasn't hoping the last word would be that painful, but go ahead.
IZRAEL: It was a stunt, and it worked. There you go.
MARTIN: You like it? All right.
IZRAEL: I love Cher. I like the Wu-Tang.
MARTIN: All right. There it is. Jimi Izrael is a writer. You can find his blog at jimiizrael.com. He was with us from Cleveland. Corey Dade is a contributing editor for The Root and runs their political blog "The Take." He was with us in Washington, D.C. Neil Minkoff is a health care consultant and contributor to National Review Online with us from Boston. From Pittsburgh, Lenny McAllister. He's a Republican strategist, host of Get Right With Lenny McAllister on KDKA NewsRadio. Thank you all so much.
MCALLISTER: Here we go, Steelers, here we go.
DADE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
MARTIN: And I'll take your happy Mother's Day congratulations, thank you.
MCALLISTER: All right, Michel.
MARTIN: Remember the card. Remember, if you can't get enough Barbershop buzz on the radio, look for our Barbershop podcast. That's in the iTunes store or at npr.org
That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")
CHER: (Singing) Do you believe in life after love? I can feel something inside me say, I really don't think you're strong enough, no. Do you believe in life after love? I can feel... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.