Shields and Brooks on Las Vegas tragedy, Trump-Tillerson tensions

Shields and Brooks on Las Vegas tragedy, Trump-Tillerson tensions


JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields
and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and
New York Times columnist David Brooks. Gentlemen, welcome. I was going to go straight to Las Vegas, but,
Mark, I am again struck by these moving stories, this last one by William, about people struggling
with addiction. MARK SHIELDS: No, every one of them, Judy,
William tonight, Paul Solman last night, it just — putting a human face on it, not simply
the affliction and the problem, but — and the recovery. The gravity of the problem is driven home
to you, but the hope for recovery is presented. JUDY WOODRUFF: We have a lot of emergencies,
I guess, David, to deal with, but this is clearly one. DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, the scene of Roxanne Newman with her
date, on the first date, A, the spirit with which she told that story, and then her husband’s
grace, her now husband’s grace, it’s remarkable. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. DAVID BROOKS: And she — her point, which
is the one you hear over and over again, is, it’s just a slow-motion form of suicide. And you have got to see it, first, the heroism
of the people who are trying to deal with the recovery, but the social chasm that causes
it. Suicide is just a symptom of isolation. And the tearing of the social fabric has created
so many problems for society, but this is the one that is the most lethal. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of lethal and
social fabric, Mark, Las Vegas has been on all of our minds this week, the worst mass
shooting in American history. What does it say about our country, about
the American people? MARK SHIELDS: Well, it says, again, that we
have a problem that the rest off the world doesn’t face, has dealt with in a different
way. And it, quite frankly, Judy, is beyond my
comprehension at this point. I mean, we, as a people, if you think about
it, over the last generation have made such enormous strides in the changes we have made. For example, alcohol-related driving deaths
are down by 85 percent. A generation ago, people took for granted
smoking in hospitals, in schools, in offices, in stores. And we have done — and put seat belts on
children; 90 percent of Americans drive with seat belts. And half of those who die are of the 10 percent
who don’t wear seat belts. And we have done it. We have made these changes. We have taken on major economic interests. And this is the one that’s stumped us. And to organize social action and social movement
around it, because there are majorities, not intense majorities, but majorities of people
who favor measures that have broad backing on registration, on background check. We do it with automobiles. We do it with every other kind of device. But, somehow, again, we have been stumped. And David has a theory on it, which he wrote
about today quite persuasively, which, you know, may very well explain it. DAVID BROOKS: I always have a theory. You know, one of the things that struck me
about the polling on people’s gun rights or gun control, is that, in 2000, not that long
ago, two-thirds of Americans supported gun control, and only 29 percent supported gun
rights. Now it’s about 50/50. And so the gun rights people have just had
a massive shift in their direction. And that’s because the issue has now — perfectly
mirrors the political divide in this country and the cultural divide between coastal and
rural, between more — higher education and lower education, the divide we see on issue
after issue. And it’s become sort of a proxy for the big
cultural dispute. And a lot of the people who are trying to
resist the post-industrial takeover of the country have seized on guns and immigration
and the flag and a few other issues as the issues on which they are going to rally their
people. And there are a lot of those people. One in four households has a gun in this country. And so it’s become a symptom of a larger culture
war between some people who thinks it’s horrific, guns, and some people who think it’s a symbol
of families being responsible and taking care of themselves, of freedom, and of Americans. JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a reminder of something
Barack Obama said. (CROSSTALK) DAVID BROOKS: I wouldn’t say cling bitterly,
though. No, I think I disagree with that. They see it as a way that America should be
what it should be. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, the debate or the discussion
this week, so much of it has turned to guns. Is that the conversation we should be having
right now? MARK SHIELDS: Well, it’s a conversation we
have to have, because this man was a one-man artillery. I mean, he had 12 rifles in his possession
in the hotel, in the suite that was comped to him, let it be noted, because he was a
major gambler. And that’s what Las Vegas does. If you are going to bet enough at the tables,
at video poker, you are going to get a free suite, and then nobody is going to ask questions
about you. But they were fitted out with bump stocks,
Judy, which are a little device that turns it essentially into a lethal killing weapon. And that’s all it is, to kill human beings. It’s not for hunting. It’s not for sportsmanship or anything else. There seems to be an emerging consensus on
that that we have to limit those, that they can limit sales. Even the NRA and Republicans have done it. I hate to sound like a cynic, but these are
made in Moran, Texas, by a man who started the company six years ago. They don’t have a political action committee. They don’t have millions of dollars in contributions. And I think it’s a good idea, a positive public
policy that they are limited, but he’s not a — you’re not dealing with a political powerhouse
when you outlaw his product. JUDY WOODRUFF: But does it look like — you
wrote today, David, the prospects are dim for figuring this gun issue out. But is there any hope? DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think they are dim. We’re in the middle of a renaissance of gun
laws in this country — 24 — more than 24 states have passed it, and almost all of them
have loosened gun restrictions, not tightened gun restrictions. They have conceal carry and all those kinds
of laws. My own view on the issue is that we should
probably pass all the gun control measures that are talked about, whether it’s the gun
shows, whether it’s limiting the number you can buy. And, I mean, there’s a list of about 15 programs,
smart guns and all that, and most of them would be good. And I think they would be good because I think
they would reduce suicides, which is the really main form of gun death. Whether they’d prevent these kinds of killings,
I guess I’m dubious. Marco Rubio made a statement in the presidential
campaign that none of the proposed laws would have prevented any of the recent mass killings. The Washington Post did a big fact-check on
that claim, and they said what he said was accurate. And so I’m for supporting these things. I’m not sure we should get our hopes up they
will prevent things. One of the things I have been thinking about
if we in the media just stopped talking about these people — this guy seemed to be a — we
don’t know what he is. But a lot of the people who do this, they
just want to become famous. They want to prove to the world they exist. And if we anonymize them — and it’s hard
to do, because you’re always curious about the people. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. DAVID BROOKS: But if we anonymize them, I
think that would — I’m not saying this is a replacement of gun rules, but I’m saying
this, to me, is a thing that we can do. MARK SHIELDS: Judy, two-thirds of all the
veterans who commit suicide do so by firearms. JUDY WOODRUFF: Military veterans. MARK SHIELDS: Yes, military veterans. And I just think one of the things we have
to face is that this is going to require a social movement, just as tobacco did, just
as drunk driving has. I mean, it’s going to require a social movement. And it’s going to require the face of people
like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, former generals, who have come out for limiting
these weapons. It’s going to require that sort of — that
it is a patriotic, that it is a fully red-blooded thing to limit and control. DAVID BROOKS: I think that’s a crucial point. Too often, the people who have been the spokesperson
for gun control have been Michael Bloomberg and, frankly, Jimmy Kimmel. And I like Michael Bloomberg. I like Jimmy Kimmel’s show. But they shouldn’t be the face, because everybody’s
cultural awarenesses get up when it’s a New York mayor or a Hollywood star. And it has to come from people who own guns
in this country. MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you are starting to see
some conservatives, some Republicans saying, we need to at least look at this bump fire
stocks. The president, Mark, was out, went to Las
Vegas, but also went to Puerto Rico, where we continue to watch very slow progress. Only, what is it, one out of every 10 households
has power. MARK SHIELDS: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Only half the island has water. He got into another verbal back-and-forth
with the mayor of San Juan. Separately, we know he’s now very unhappy
with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. There is conflict here and conflict there. What do we make of all this at this point? MARK SHIELDS: Well, Puerto Rico was a disaster. I mean, what you’re looking for at a time
like this is a consoler in chief, a comforter in chief, someone who provides encouragement
and hope to people, who rises above, who delivers empathy. Donald Trump is just not naturally an empathetic
person. He just isn’t. He cannot abide criticism. He went after personally the mayor of San
Juan, who was sleeping in a cot, while he was sleeping in a country club, and enduring
all of the hardship. And he treated Puerto Ricans, Judy — and
I just point out, who are Americans, nine of whom have won the Congressional Medal of
Honor in service, 223,000 of whom have served in American wars as American citizens — and
he treated them as sort of a foreign soil, that they were not deserving. And I thought that. The Tillerson thing is — I don’t think there
is any question. I mean, he scolded publicly the chief diplomat
of the United States, the secretary of state, for practicing diplomacy, for dealing and
trying to defuse a potential nuclear conflagration in Asia and said that you’re wasting your
time by doing it. I don’t know that — this marriage cannot
be saved. JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the third — that’s
my question, David. This is a third, I guess, member of his Cabinet
he’s been unhappy with. He went ahead and — Tom Price left Health
and Human Services. But we know… DAVID BROOKS: Friday afternoon… (CROSSTALK) DAVID BROOKS: … time for these guys. JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s 6:30. DAVID BROOKS: We’re doing OK so far. You know, this is totally serious to me. What Donald Trump said today about the calm
before the storm, not saying what it’s about, but one has to think North Korea, that’s a
chilling statement to make. And so you’re really looking who — as Bob
Corker the senator from Tennessee said this week, who can prevent chaos? And Mattis and Tillerson are the two big ones
right now, and John Kelly. And Tillerson has gotten, to put it kindly,
mixed reviews as secretary of state, even if you take Donald Trump away, but he seems
to be someone who at least can keep us out of nuclear war. And so, to me, him resigning, if they could
get a John Kelly in there, that might be — that would be good, another protector against chaos. But if Trump picks someone who is an inciter
of chaos, of his worst instincts, then it will be worse. And so, to me, this is sort of a life-or-death
issue for — of whether we can surround Trump with enough people who can resist his — whatever
is going through his brain on this subject. JUDY WOODRUFF: And then questions about whoever
would replace him if he were to leave. All of this is in the realm of speculation,
though, Mark. MARK SHIELDS: No, it is. But I don’t think there is any question, Judy,
that his time is limited. I mean, certainly his effectiveness… JUDY WOODRUFF: Tillerson. MARK SHIELDS: Tillerson’s. Sadly, he gets very bad reviews inside the
building. I mean, the morale at the State Department… JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of jobs not filled. MARK SHIELDS: Not filled, and just people
feeling that he has not stood up for the department and its mission, in addition. But there is no question, he and General Mattis,
the secretary of defense, have a very close — and General Kelly — have a very close
working relationship. And I would hate to see General Kelly leave
as White House chief of staff. DAVID BROOKS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: We are — no shortage of things
to look at this week. We are looking for something uplifting. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks,
thank you both. Thank you.

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