MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, parenting can sometimes seem like the best of times and the worst of times. We'll check in with our diverse roundtable of parents to talk about some of our biggest parenting hits and misses of the year. And we'll hear from you. But first, we're going to continue our special annual Tell Me Awards for this year's best and worst performances in politics, depending on your point of view.
My guests are Corey Ealons, former communications advisor to the Obama administration, now a senior vice president VOX Global. Also with us, conservative commentator Lenny McAllister. He's behind the nationally syndicated McAllister Minute heard on the American Urban Radio Network. Thanks for staying with us. So we left off with our lifetime achievement award. Let's now go to rising star award. Lenny, you picked a Democrat from New Jersey. The newly minted Senator Cory Booker that - you were speaking about him a little bit earlier. And here's a clip from his election night speech talking about his run as mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
SENATOR CORY BOOKER: Those who come into our city and have come here tonight even can see what we did together, Republicans and Democrats and Independents, what we did together, union activists and financiers, what we did together, developers and nonprofit leaders, politicians...
MARTIN: So, Lenny, again, you're a Republican, and yet you picked this Democrat for your rising star award. Why is that?
LENNY MCALLISTER: Well, this is somebody that lost his first mayoral election that went from that loss, to becoming mayor, to becoming senator and becoming Hillary Clinton's reoccurring nightmare for 2016. He is Barack Obama without the funny last name and with an Oxford degree behind him as well. And if there's anybody that's well-positioned to be somebody that can become a transformational candidate in 2016 in a very similar fashion to Senator Obama back in 2007-2008, it's Senator Cory Booker. And I think that it's something that not only will Democrats be paying attention to to see what he may do in 2016, but I think the nation would be very, very captivated if he chose to run in 2016.
MARTIN: Corey, your pick was - you also went to the Northeast for your pick for a rising star. And I'm guessing that you could've picked Wendy Davis for this category, too - Texas State Senator. But you went with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She's the junior senator from New York, not acting like a junior anything. She's been a very vocal, very aggressive advocate for changes in how sexual misconduct in the military is handled. Why did you pick her?
COREY EALONS: Because she's had victories this year. And, as you say, she is someone, again, who has made herself known in a very noted way over the course of her time in the Senate, and especially this year. She's had two victories, as a matter of fact. You remember she was also a very loud advocate for ending, Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And like you just said, she also fought for the rights of victims of sex crimes in the military. And the president - while it was not her bill directly - president did sign a bill to that effect just this past week.
MARTIN: I was going to ask you about that. The bill that the president signed was not her bill. I mean, the key difference is that she feels that these decisions should be taken up the chain of command. But you still see this as a victory for her.
EALONS: Oh, no question. She has taken it to a next level. She's made it a part of the public conversation. And, like you say, a victory is a victory - three points or seven points, if we're talking football. And so in this case, it's on the books, and now we're in a position to talk about it even more because of the bill that the president just signed.
MARTIN: So let's talk about your pick for best comedy album of the year. This is always a favorite. Lenny McAllister, you say that your pick isn't a specific artist, more like a collaboration album. Tell us.
MCALLISTER: Well, I just think that the way that the Obama administration has tried to spin the misstatements - and I'll use that word generously - over the rollout of the Obamacare website, the Obamacare policies, how we keep seeing the one step forward, we'll repeal something back and forth - it's been a comedy of errors. And I think that, unfortunately, for the cycle coming up in 2014, the Democrats are going to have to answer for that.
MARTIN: Corey, I know you'd love to answer that, but we want to ask you - I can see you kind of holding yourself back. But I know you wanted to talk about, in your view, the winner of best comedy album of the year is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Republican.
EALONS: Oh, again, hands down.
MARTIN: All right. Well, let me play it for people who missed it. This was during a filibuster that he staged earlier this year. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Sam, if you will let me be, I will try them. You will see. And after this page, he is simply holding green eggs and ham on a fork, preparing to bite them. Say, I like green eggs and ham.
MARTIN: And you chose him because...
EALONS: I chose him because, one, that was just a moment of hilarity that I don't think we can let pass. But also, two, when you take look at take a look at Ted Cruz, again, this is his first year in the United States Senate, and he turned the place upside down. And unfortunately, I don't think we're done with Ted Cruz. I think he's just winding up and getting ready for more in 2014.
MARTIN: It's interesting how each of you, speaking across party lines, find things to appreciate and notice in the performance of people who are not members of your party. Is that something that you think that people within the government will find - I mean, they did manage to meet reach a budget agreement under the wire at the end of the year. So what do you think, Lenny McAllister?
MCALLISTER: I would like to see both Democrats and Republicans working together. I think one of the biggest travesties about the budget deal that was just passed and signed is the fact that they didn't take care of unemployment benefits right then and there. There should have not been a gap at all. And I think that - I personally hold Republicans responsible, not necessarily for not going along with what the Democrats said, but they needed to have found a way to find the money. I think, hopefully, moving forward in 2014, both sides of the aisle will look at the Mandela model and say, we have to work together as countrymen even if we disagree as partisans.
MARTIN: Corey, what about you?
EALONS: I tell you, the issue that I think Democrats and progressives are going to be talking about most next year is this issue of the income gap and income inequality. That issue, I think, is going to dominate politics. And the question is going to be, are you going to have more commonsense conservatives like Lenny and others step to the floor and say this is something we need focus on? Or are you going to continue to have this big bright line that separates the two parties on that issue? I think that's going to be the defining issue. If we can come together on that, we can come together on anything and get it done in this country.
MARTIN: Here with us in our Washington, D.C. studios, Corey Ealons, former advisor to the Obama administration, now senior vice president at VOX Global. With us from WESA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lenny McAllister. He's an author. He's a conservative commentator. He's host of the nationally syndicated McAllister Minute. And I want to thank you both so much for your contributions to the program throughout the year. More to come. Happy New Year to you both. Thank you both so much for joining us.
EALONS: Happy New Year, Michel. Thank you.
MCALLISTER: Thank you. Happy New Year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.