Shields and Brooks on Gun Control Policy, Susan Rice

Uploaded by PBSNewsHour on 14.12.2012

bjbjVwVw JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist
Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. So, gentlemen, we have all been
torn up all day long today with this terrible shooting in Connecticut. David, it -- just,
it is beyond understanding, so how do we make sense of something like this? DAVID BROOKS:
Well, the first thing that occurs to me is that you realize the tremendous difference
between the process of the grief, the process of the shock, the process of processing all
we're feeling today, and the policy process. One is just this innate outpouring of grief.
And then the policy process is about cost-benefit analysis, about studies and counterstudies.
You're trying to figure out what would work. And so you feel almost cheap on a day like
today. You think, down the road, we will talk about what works, what doesn't. Already, the
debates are starting, gun control, all the different policy options on the table. But
I am willing to enter into those debates, I guess. But you just want to register the
-- just the emotion you feel for the scenes, the empathy you feel for the parents and so
on. JUDY WOODRUFF: The president certainly did that today, Mark. But it seems to me we
ask -- we ask the same questions over and over again every time one of these things
happens. MARK SHIELDS: You're right, Judy. And I agree with what David said. I would
just point out the president delivered his remarks in the James S. Brady Press Briefing
at the White House, James S. Brady, who was shot and crippled permanently in an assassination
attempt when he was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan in 1981. And we have the thoughts
and the prayers and the flags at half-mast. But what we don't have -- and it's the hallmark
of a -- I think, of a cowering political and public body -- that is, we don't have a debate.
We don't have a discussion. And the question about -- is not whether somebody stands for
or against this, whether you even bring it up. And the reality is that in the United
States of America in 2012, it's easier in many states to rent an automobile -- to buy
an automatic weapon than it is to rent an automobile. It's more demanding. And I just
-- you know, one of the things about having been in the Marine Corps is that they teach
you how to use guns. They teach you how to use rifles and handguns and automatic weapons.
And you come away with just one conclusion, if you reflect on it, and that is they are
tools of destruction. They are meant to kill people. That's all. They're not sporting equipment,
as Jim Lehrer has remarked. And they're not tennis rackets. They're not shoulder pads
or baseballs. I mean, they are tools of destruction meant to do what was done today. And I just
think our society has failed to confront, and particularly our political leadership,
but all of us have failed to confront that. Oh, gee, it's too tough an issue. But, I mean,
the reality is, there are too many guns in hands of people who just shouldn't have them.
And if we can license people who clip our toenails and promote prize fights, then we
sure as hell ought to be able to license people who have automatic weapons. JUDY WOODRUFF:
How do you see that? DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess I don't know anything about this case.
We don't know who the shooter is. I guess we know now what the weaponry was. But after
the Aurora case, I tried to look into and made my best decision about what would work.
And it's very frustrating, because it's very hard to find things that would work. But there
are sort of two avenues. There is the mental health avenue, which is -- and it should be
said that, the 98 percent of people who have mental illnesses are not violent. Even people
with schizophrenia doesn't mean they are violent. But there is a small minority who do become
violent. And so my belief was that being more aggressive, more assertive in trying to find
those people and trying to deny people with those particular sorts of mental health issues
access to guns was the way to go. I think it would be helpful in the media if we did
not publicize these people, especially if they have committed suicide. Don't put them
on the cover of magazines. Don't put their faces on TV. Don't release their names. I
somehow think that would diminish some of the perverse heroism of them. As for the gun
issue, I think there is a good case to be made for gun control because of the normal
amount of killing that goes on with guns. I am a little more skeptical that gun control
would reduce these sorts of incidents, because if you look at where they happen, they happen
a lot here, they happen a lot in Europe, they happen in Korea, and Norway was the worst.
Some of these are very tight gun control regimes. Second, the people who do them tend to be
disturbed, but also meticulous planners. And in a country with 300 million guns, I'm skeptical
we can keep it out of their hands. So I might be willing to pursue -- I think it is a good
idea to pursue more gun control. I am skeptical it will help prevent these cases. JUDY WOODRUFF:
Well, the president said today that -- he said something should be done, he said, regardless
of the politics, in so many words. Do you think that is going to happen? MARK SHIELDS:
I don't know. I think the president has to lead, I mean, because it's obvious that what
we have is the National Rifle Association essentially has paralyzed the political process
in this country. And Democrats who have any sort of rural constituencies are terrified
to support gun control or even to bring up the subject. And Republicans are in lockstep,
just sort of reflecting on the Second Amendment. I mean, we did ban machine guns in this country.
You know, that's been done, and bazookas. I mean, that -- we have had success in certain
weapons. And, you know, I -- it requires an enormous national will. But I don't know how
else we're going to get that debate going, except by the tragedy of... DAVID BROOKS:
I would -- just purely in the political -- the politics of it, a few points. First, gun ownership
is way down. It's -- we are at a historic low. Second, oddly -- and I'm not sure why
-- I don't have any explanation for this -- support for gun control laws has dropped significantly
over the last 20 years. I'm not sure why that is. The third point is that these kind of
shootings historically have had no effect on public opinion in the gun debate. And then
I guess my final point would be, I think if we're going to control guns, we really have
to do it massive. I think I'm all for getting rid of the assault weapons and machine guns
and all that tough, but if we want to prevent something like this, we have to really think
seriously about drastically reducing the number of guns in our society, and particularly -- this
is an old Patrick Daniel Moynihan idea -- the number of bullets. It is very hard to control
300 million guns. The bullets are a little easier to control. JUDY WOODRUFF: But that
makes it very unlikely, doesn't it, that something would happen? MARK SHIELDS: I mean, I think
we won't know until it's -- you know, until somebody takes that leadership. I mean, there
have been, you know, a few lonely voices in Congress. I mean, Schumer has -- Chuck Schumer,
the senator from New York, has done it, raised it. But it's going to require obviously a
larger coalition than that. JUDY WOODRUFF: A couple of other things that have happened
this week I want to ask the two of you about. David, this really pushed out of the news
the story that everybody was talking about last night, that -- Susan Rice withdrawing
her name to be secretary of state. What finally moved her to take her name out, do you think,
and what does it say? DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don't really believe it was without White
House acknowledgment. I think if she had a sense the White House was going to fight for
her, I think she would have been happy to fight. She had a piece in The Washington Post
today laying out the case for her. I think it is a pretty decent case. I hate it when
these things happen, especially when there is no egregious sin that has been committed,
and there certainly was none in this case. And so I wish frankly she -- somebody would
have fought a little harder for her. I think the ultimate... JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you saying
the White House didn't fight hard... MARK SHIELDS: Well, they -- the president made
a very strong case early on. And then she went to the Hill, and things deteriorated.
And then it has sort of been nothing. And maybe they didn't want to nominate her at
all. We really don't even know that. But she certainly was left hanging around for a little
while without much support. And they clearly decided this wasn't the fight they were going
to have. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a lesson in all this? MARK SHIELDS: Well, don't be
the good soldier. She was the good soldier. Secretaries of defense and state refused to
go on the Sunday programs to explain what the policy and what the findings were from
Benghazi. The director of the CIA did not go. And so Susan Rice did on that fateful
Sunday after the ambassador's assassination. I think that's probably the first example,
first lesson. She was out there by herself, I mean, make no mistake about it. The chorus
of support was pretty muted. And when the criticism came, she -- the president said
she was extraordinary and got a big hand at a Cabinet meeting, but I didn't see anything
further organized in her behalf. And there were -- obviously, beyond John McCain's own
apparent vendetta toward her from the 2008 campaign, there was -- when you get Susan
Collins and people like that starting to line up against you, I mean, there seemed to be
a building resistance. It was going to be a tough fight. DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And I would
just I think she -- it wasn't her. She became, I think, for the opponents, a symbol of the
Libya policy, which a lot of people didn't like the way the Libya thing was handled,
even before Benghazi. And so it shouldn't reflect on her professionalism and competence,
but she became a symbol. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will find out in a few days whether it's
John Kerry or somebody else. And we can talk about that later. MARK SHIELDS: Oh, yes. Oh...
JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to... MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, just -- John Kerry is interesting
to me. He and Ted Kennedy were never close, even they were both senators from Massachusetts
together. But, like Ted Kennedy, he has become, I think, a better public servant and certainly
a better United States senator since he lost the presidency. Kennedy after 1980 became
really the dominant figure in the Senate. I think John Kerry, since he lost the presidency
and gave up all hopes of the White House, has become a far more formidable, influential
and important senator. And I think that he would be a different kind of secretary of
state. JUDY WOODRUFF: Less than a minute. John Boehner may have gone back to Ohio for
the weekend. Fiscal cliff, do you know something behind the scenes that's happening that we
don't know about, David? DAVID BROOKS: I know the gestalt, which is negative, that maybe
we will have some limited deal, but it doesn't look good this week. This has not been a good
week. MARK SHIELDS: Remember this. We have not voted on any entitlements in this country
since 1983. We have not voted to -- Republicans have not voted to raise a tax since 1990.
No Republican in the House or the Senate has voted. I mean, this is a -- we're heading
into a major area. So, if it's halting, if it's slow, if it seems not quite open and
dynamic, be patient. You know, I think we will get there. But I do think it's going
to be difficult. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we're glad the two of you are part of our gestalt,
Mark Shields, David Brooks. MARK SHIELDS: I wonder what gestalt means. (LAUGHTER) JUDY
WOODRUFF: Thank you. urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags country-region urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
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