MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, it's been nearly three weeks since Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. Residents in Rockaway, Queens say their neighborhood still looks like a war zone. In our Faith Matters conversation, one faith leader talks about his role in the recovery effort. That's coming up later.
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 writer and culture critic Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar; for the Log Cabin Republicans, executive director R. Clarke Cooper.
JIMI IZRAEL: Coop!
MARTIN: He's also an Army Reserve captain. They're all here in D.C. and very excited, one person in particular. And in St. Petersburg, Florida, Eric Deggans is TV and media critic of the Tampa Bay Times.
Take it away, Jimi. You already did, actually.
IZRAEL: Deggy, Deggy. Thank you, Michel. Hey, fellows, welcome to the shop. How we doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.
R. CLARKE COOPER: All right.
ERIC DEGGANS: What's up? What's up?
IZRAEL: Deggy, it's good to have you back in.
DEGGANS: Thanks, man. I was about to get a little offended that I didn't get a shout out and then you shouted me out.
IZRAEL: See? And...
IFTIKHAR: Welcome back, home boy.
IZRAEL: Merry Christmas, brother. All right. So let's get things started. Mitt Romney - you know, he may have congratulated President Obama in his concession speech, but he's still talking that ish, you know. During a recent phone call with top Republican donors, Romney told them President Obama won the election because of, quote, "gifts," unquote, he gave to key voting groups. I guess mine is still in the mail, Michel.
MARTIN: It must be. Well, the gifts - and he did use that word - that he talked about included immigration initiatives, health care for young people, Hispanics and African-Americans, and contraceptive coverage for women, but those comments are not sitting well with all Republicans and I think this is important to mention. At the Republican Governors' Association conference this week, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, had this to say about those remarks by Mitt Romney.
GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that's absolutely wrong. That is not - I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party and I think that has got to be one of most fundamental takeaways from this election.
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Clarke Cooper.
COOPER: Yeah. Well, as you heard from Governor Jindal, there's other governors who are looking at this from a similar perspective, and overall, writ large, it's safe to say amongst fellow Republicans, we're in a reorient, reconstruct, rebuild. I mean that's what Republican is now standing for, is reconstruct, rebuild and reorient and...
IZRAEL: So you're rejecting your boy. Right? I mean, you...
COOPER: No, no, no. This is not - again, this is something I said in one of our after-action reviews just yesterday. It's not a matter of who. It's a matter of what. So what we need to do is focus back on those corollaries, those central points that makes people attracted to the Republican Party.
A lot of what we stand for - economic freedom, individual liberty, individual responsibility, smaller government - resonates very popular with the voter, but when it's identified with a particular candidate or sometimes a party, it doesn't. So we have to get those themes back where we can own those and we can say, look, we are the party that is the pathway toward living the American dream. And this is something that has been thematic at the Republican Governors' Association this week.
MARTIN: Well, it does prove one thing, that that 47 percent comment that was surreptitiously taped at a donor fundraiser was not a slip of the lip, as his running mate tried...
MARTIN: ...to imply that it was. Clearly this does represent his point of view. Right? Right?
COOPER: I'm talking about the what. I'm looking...
(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)
MARTIN: He says the what, not the who. Forget the who.
IZRAEL: You know what, Coop? I'm getting a chill from all the spending here. Arsalan, A-Train...
IFTIKHAR: Yes, sir.
IZRAEL: Republicans have some high - they got some high profile folks on their bench, you know, people of color. They got Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Now, do they have to snatch the mic back from Romney right about now or, you know - to give the GOP any chance at all?
IFTIKHAR: Well, first of all, let me put down my Obama goodie bag of, you know, weed, contraception and a copy of the Quran.
MARTIN: Joke, for those who just tuned in.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. You know, I do think that - you know, I remember on election night, there was one Republican strategist on ABC News who said that the 2012 election will be the last time that the Republican Party can try to rely solely on the white vote to win, and I thought that that was a very poignant statements to me, because, you know, there is a browning of America and so, you know, when you talk about Governor Bobby Jindal, Susana Martinez, Senator Marco Rubio - you know, there are people of color, prominent people of color within the Republican Party, you know, that are going to be up-and-comers.
Now, is that going to be enough to, you know, bridge the gap in terms of, you know, the electoral turnout of, you know, particularly the Latino community, African-American, Asian-Americans, and other minority groups? Well, that's going to be left to be seen.
COOPER: This is candidates too. I mean this is running candidates, so as the only WASP sitting in the chair today, I'll be the first to admit that - yeah - we are a shrinking demographic and this is something that has been recognized, so regardless of principle or policy, but at least from a minimum, from pragmatism, it's looking forward.
And speaking of the governors, Haley Barbour didn't say it this week, but Governor Barbour said a year ago at a leadership conference - he said purity is the enemy of victory, and so regardless of where you stand on immigration, on LGBT rights, what have you, if you want to be forever a back bencher, then, yeah, you can whittle yourself down to a forever minority status. And so folks like Governor Barbour are at least forcefully telegraphing that message and so we need more voices like that.
I think getting our teeth kicked in this last election cycle helped wake folks up, so it's not just a matter of pre-election polling. You have election results with the exit polling data and it helps us move forward.
MARTIN: Just very briefly...
DEGGANS: Can I...
MARTIN: ...because I know Eric wants to jump in here, but just very briefly, Clarke, did you feel - because, look, you are - the Log Cabin Republicans is a part of the Republican Party. It's a coalition group. It is of Republicans, by Republicans, for Republicans. Obviously you have broader conversations, but do you feel now more listened to within the party?
MARTIN: Because part of the issue was, during the campaign, that the top of the ticket was not willing to disavow some of these ridiculous comments that people were making. Do you feel now people - you have more of an opening for you to be heard?
COOPER: Not only us, but also candidates to run, so you're going to see more gay or lesbian or LGBT Republicans running for office. I thought that - you know, and that also includes what Arsalan was addressing. It's not just sexual orientation being addressed, but also racial minorities, so you're going to see more Hispanics. You're going to see more African-Americans. You're going to see more people from American Indian country, actually, participating in the Republican Party.
That is something that goes hand-in-hand with, actually, not only addressing messaging, but also addressing optics and addressing ground game politics, and this is something that was already noticed in the 2010 cycle by leaders like Chairman Sessions, like Kevin McCarthy, and I think we're going to see more of that as we move forward into the midterms in 2014.
MARTIN: Eric, you wanted to jump in briefly before we move on.
DEGGANS: Well, what I wanted to note was that I just happen to have a book out that talks about some of this stuff. I just have a book out.
IFTIKHAR: Well played. Well played. Well played, homey.
IZRAEL: Oh, man.
DEGGANS: Thank you. Thank you.
IZRAEL: Shameless plug.
DEGGANS: Called "Race-Baiter," and it talks a little bit about how themes of prejudice and stereotyping kind of play out in media, and chapter four talks about politics, and one of the things that strikes me about this conversation in terms of what Mitt Romney said is that voters who he identified as wanting stuff were making choices based on policies that they felt reflected their best interests and the best interests of their family, and for some reason that was characterized as wanting stuff, whereas other people make choices - say, small business owners - for policies that they think will affect the health of their business going forward or the health of the business climate going forward, and they're making sensible choices.
And I think - so I think one of the things that has to change here is this idea of redefining and demonizing people for making choices when they're a certain kind of person and lauding those choices, those same choices, choosing a politician that represents their best interests, you know, when they're a different kind of person.
MARTIN: Can I just cosign that just briefly, briefly, because Virginia was a swing state. Heavily contested Senate race there, George Allen running against...
IFTIKHAR: Tim Kaine.
MARTIN: ...Tim Kaine, the Democrat. Former Governor George Allen - and he was running these ads criticizing Kaine for endorsing cuts to the defense budget, but he didn't make that a national security argument. He made it a jobs argument, but then he disparaged other cuts as being - you know, you're selfish, but if you - you know what I mean? And so it's to Eric's point. It completely undercuts the argument that Mitt Romney made, that he was the big picture guy and the other guy was giving out gifts. It was a very - a lot to learn there.
Anyway, we're just going to move on. If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our weekly visit to the Barber Shop. We're joined by media critic Eric Deggans. That's who was speaking just now. R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, writer Jimi Izrael, and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar. Jimi?
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. All right. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, stay off the Twitter. There's nothing for you on the Twitter. Watch what you say on the Twitter. You know, but apparently former CIA chief David Petraeus - he doesn't listen to your boy. He wasn't paying attention. He resigned last week after admitting to an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Oh, Michel, what's the story? What happened?
MARTIN: You know what? I know this sounds like an episode of "Desperate Housewives." I know that, but - and you need - you need like a big chart to describe all the players, but the - and it's not just Twitter. It was also email, but you remember that he stepped down after acknowledging an extramarital affair with a women who'd written a very favorable biography of him, also a West Point grad.
And then General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, got dragged into this and he's now under investigation for possibly sending inappropriate emails to Jill Kelley, who is a person who apparently was the target of emails, threatening emails, by the person that General Petraeus was having an affair with because she thought that - I'm already annoyed with myself. I'm already bored. I'm already bored and disgusted...
IZRAEL: What we need here is a good...
MARTIN: ...by having to discuss this, but...
IZRAEL: We need a good Venn diagram to kind of...
DEGGANS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
IZRAEL: ...to kind of keep track of the players here. Deggy, you got something to say here?
DEGGANS: Well, I'm at ground zero of this particular scandal right now because Jill Kelley, the woman who was sent the threatening emails, lives in Tampa and she is - well, she's been described as a socialite. She was someone who moved in high society circles and seemed to enjoy being close to powerful generals and members of the military community.
There's a whole - there's a whole coterie of people who volunteer to try and make life easier for the military people who are stationed at the base here, and she ingratiated herself with a lot of people in that circle, and now all of that is blowing up. We have an army of media in this town camped out on her doorstep, camped out on the doorstep of the FBI agent who she asked initially to look into these emails.
DEGGANS: And it has become a media fiasco.
IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, a lot of people are talking about the emails that were sent between Petraeus and Broadwell and, you know, what...
DEGGANS: No emails sent, actually. No emails sent.
IFTIKHAR: No. Between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell and...
DEGGANS: They were not sent. That's why this became an issue.
IFTIKHAR: Well, I'm getting to that. I'm getting to that.
DEGGANS: OK, OK.
IFTIKHAR: You know, and the expectation of privacy, you know, in this modern digital age - as Eric mentioned, apparently, Petraeus and Broadwell shared an email account, you know, something like Petraeus-And-Broadwell-Forever@gmail.com and they would write drafts of email. They would actually write drafts of email. They shared a password. Drafts of email and not send it. It's called a digital dead drop. The problem is that al-Qaida terrorists have used...
IZRAEL: Right, right.
IFTIKHAR: ...digital dead drops and the CIA knew about this. And the last time electronic privacy was actually codified in legislation was actually in 1986 when Mark Zuckerberg was still sucking his thumb. And so, you know, if the CIA director can't protect his privacy in his emails, imagine, you know, what...
MARTIN: But the problem - but here's the question.
IZRAEL: Yeah. We have to revisit that. Yeah, for sure.
MARTIN: But the question that a lot of people have - that some people have and, you know, there's wildly different views of this because the question some people have is, if this was not a government account - right - what's the problem, Arsalan? So that's the question. These are private email accounts, so a lot of people are like, what's the big deal?
COOPER: These aren't just private citizens, either.
MARTIN: OK. Well...
DEGGANS: If you're a CIA director and FBI investigators realize that there's some questionable activity involving emails related to your accounts, they have to look into it. I mean, that's - to me, that's the least of this.
IFTIKHAR: Right. And...
DEGGANS: We would expect the FBI to fully investigate anything connected to an email account...
MARTIN: Let's let Arsalan...
DEGGANS: ...connected to the CIA director.
MARTIN: Let Arsalan get in this and let Coop get in this.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. Under the law, basically, email providers like Google - if they're served with a subpoena or a warrant about an investigation, they will turn over emails and, actually, drafts of emails are actually even lesser protected under the law. You might not even need a subpoena or a warrant. You know, you could just get an official request from a government agency and so remember that, you know, Google remembers all your search terms. All your emails are in a cloud. You know, there's metadata out there that can trace anything, even if you use anonymous email accounts.
DEGGANS: I got to tell you that the issue here is that these are emails and email activity involving government officials, not just the CIA, the head of the CIA. We had a story in our - in the Tampa Bay Times today looking at emails that were sent to the mayor of Tampa by Jill Kelley, trying to get the media off of her front doorstep and people don't understand that, especially in Florida, any email with a public official is a public record.
COOPER: Sunshine law. Yeah.
DEGGANS: And journalists can go back and look at any of that.
MARTIN: Well, Clarke, you know, the conservative media has been very interested in this because they think it's related to, you know, a whole other issue. I mean, what's your perspective on this? I mean, Petraeus's argument is that he was no longer in the military when this was occurring, so the whole question of adultery is no longer on the table, which is a court-martialable offense in the military under the Military Code of Justice. What's your perspective?
COOPER: Well, you've mentioned the UCMJ and I'm not a spokesperson for DOD, but as an officer - and Paula Broadwell is a fellow officer - she's subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Now, to be fair, no one in recent history has been drummed out, chaptered out, solely on adultery. Adultery has been a tertiary charge.
However, she is under investigation for having maintained classified information in a non-classified environment. If she didn't have a courier card - I don't know if she did or didn't - but it looks like, if they're pulling stuff out of her home, which is probably not a skiff. I don't know many people that have a classified workspace in their home or an authorized classified workspace. There's all kinds of issues there. Her clearance has been suspended, but at the bottom line, if one goes back to her oath, her commissioning when she became an officer, there's the integrity aspect.
So there's already behavior unbecoming of an officer, so that's the bottom line there, but then you get into other actionable issues under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So if anybody's really in the crosshairs here, she is as a current Reserve officer more than the former director of the CIA.
MARTIN: You get the last word on this, Jimi.
IZRAEL: I don't even know why I know about this. You know, I don't know what this has to do with his performance, what this has to do with Benghazi. This is like the Maury Povich-ing of, you know, policy and government. I could care less what's going on. I mean, this is between him and his wife, you know, and my heart - you know, above and beyond everything else, beyond the privacy concerns, you know, my heart goes out to his wife, who has stood by that man, you know, and has to go through this public humiliation. This is a domestic matter. Frankly, the less I know about it, the better. I'm - yeah. I wash my hands of the whole thing.
MARTIN: OK. Duly chastised here for talking about it.
IZRAEL: Let's move on.
IZRAEL: Can we move on, please?
MARTIN: Jimi, OK, OK.
IZRAEL: I mean, we got a lot said going out there.
MARTIN: All right. Got it. Eric Deggans is the TV and media critic at the Tampa Bay Times and author of - he told us this - "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation." He joined us from Saint Petersburg, Florida. R. Clarke Cooper is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. That's a group that advocates for gay and lesbian rights. He's also a captain in the Army Reserve. Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney and founder of TheMuslimguy.com. Jimi Izrael is a writer and culture critic and they were all - Jimi, Arsalan and Clarke were here in D.C.
Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Yep, yep.
MARTIN: Remember, if you can't get enough Barbershop buzz on the radio, look for our new Barbershop podcast. That's in the iTunes store or at NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.