Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the impact of violence on America and the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the gun control/background check bill. Plus the changing face of terrorism.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Rosa Clemente, former Green Party candidate for Vice President; Joshua Dubois, former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama White House; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and Leila McDowell, Washington correspondent for ASPiRE TV, which is Magic Johnson’s new cable network.
MR. MARTIN: All right, folks. Welcome back to our roundtable.
We were talking about this whole issue of how we look at violence –
MS. SIMMONS: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — and how so much attention is on Boston; is on West, Texas; but when you think about these violent acts [in] other places, we sort of go, “Okay, gotcha,” and we sort of keep moving.
MR. DUBOIS: But that humanization is important, and I think that’s why it was so critical for the First Lady of the United States to go to Chicago and say, as she choked up, “I am Hadiya.” And that really, I think, was an equalizing factor with these tragedies across the country.
I’ll tell you the other thing that’s equalizing is the policy that the President proposed and that, unfortunately, the Senate, in a what I find to be very cowardly move, did not move forward on; because the same 30-round magazines that were at Sandy Hook – those same magazines are making it to Chicago. The same guns that can be purchased without a background check at a gun show are flowing to both these major national tragedies, but they’re also flooding to the streets of New York and Chicago.
So, I think the policies that the President has advanced are also equalizing these tragedies across the country.
MS. MCDOWELL: One thing we have to be careful of, though, as we talk about policy [is] often when these things happen, we’re willing to throw democracy under the bus. So, for example, we already have Representative Steve King of Iowa saying that Boston is a reflection of why immigration reform shouldn’t be passed.
MS. CLEMENTE: Right.
MS. MCDOWELL: We also –
MS. SIMMONS: In a hurry/
MS. MCDOWELL: — in – right. And then we also find that people talk about, “Well, it’s really okay to assassinate people without due process, because they could be terrorists.”
MS. CLEMENTE: “It’s okay to drone people,” which is part of the Obama-Biden policies that have been more devastating than what George Bush has done.
I think what’s interesting about what has happened as well [is], you know, I think white America, in a way, is shocked – right? Now, these two suspects – right – they’re Eastern European, but when the pictures came out the John King – [unintelligible] – where he had said it was a “dark-skinned man,” I mean it was almost like the vengeance and fervor – there were two attacks in Boston the night before against Muslim women, and one Bangladeshi man in the Bronx was beat[en] up over the perceived suspects.
And now, what America is waking up to is these are Eastern European immigrants that obviously have a problem with America. Not condoning it, but that the face looks very different than –
MS. SIMMONS: Right. And the –
MS. CLEMENTE: — most people thought –
MS. SIMMONS: — thing is that –
MS. CLEMENTE: — it would be.
MS. SIMMONS: — this Boston situation, I think, more than any other has now created this confluence of gun violence and immigration –
MS. CLEMENTE: Yes.
MS. SIMMONS: — in the country without a doubt, because these guys reportedly have been here for eight, ten years – these two young men – eight, ten years. They’re getting scholarships to go to school. They’re legal residents.
In the meantime, we know that there’re certain other communities, whether it’s Haitians or not – and others – who aren’t even permitted to come into the country.
MR. MARTIN: [Crosstalk] –
MS. SIMMONS: And – and –
MR. MARTIN: — here’s the deal. First of all, the one thing we don’t know [is] we don’t know why it took place. We don’t know the motive –
MR. DUBOIS: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — any of those different things along those lines.
MS. SIMMONS: Right.
MR. MARTIN: So, you know, I’m listening to all different reactions –
MS. SIMMONS: Right?
MR. MARTIN: — what the real reason was. Frankly, nobody really even knows.
MS. MCDOWELL: And they’re still suspects.
MR. MARTIN: Of course. But the thing that jumps out at me, though, is how we respond as a nation of “let’s come together in a moment of tragedy,” which is reactionary –
MR. DUBOIS: Yeah.
MS. SIMMONS: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — as opposed to, “This is what’s happening every day,” and, “How can we change that so we don’t have a reaction?” –
MS. SIMMONS: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — so, going on the offensive versus always being on the defensive.
MR. DUBOIS: We change it in one, big way by getting smart about guns. I believe we are a country who’s put the Second Amendment in front of the Second Commandment. We have idolized guns to the extent that you can’t even have a conversation about does anyone actually need a 30-round magazine. Does anyone anywhere need to purchase a gun without having a basic background check?
MS. SIMMONS: Right, but –
MR. DUBOIS: These are just commonsense –
MS. SIMMONS: — we need to have the conversation about pressure cookers, too. I mean come on.
MS. SIMMONS: It was the instruments that [were] used and the thought process that we will never understand –
OFF CAMERA: So, let’s talk about –
MS. SIMMONS: — as to – as to –
OFF CAMERA: — [crosstalk] – ideology that – [crosstalk]—
MS. SIMMONS: — whether – [unintelligible] – they went through.
OFF CAMERA: — and why is that.
MS. SIMMONS: I think we’re moving a little bit too fast on the gun legislation, because the votes were not there. And the Democrats have retreated and admitted that as much to themselves and [said], “Okay, we need to” –
OFF CAMERA: But –
MS. SIMMONS: — “retreat and” –
MR. DUBOIS: I have to say –
MS. SIMMONS: — “figure out another” –
MR. DUBOIS: — I was in Newtown –
MS. SIMMONS: — “strategy.”
MR. DUBOIS: — with the President. I met with those families for two hours before the President’s very moving speech there. I looked in their eyes, and I recognized that not only was that a very emotional moment, but it was directly connected to public policy. This man’ smother could very easily purchase an AR-15 rifle that allowed him to unleash 154 rounds in five minutes into these little babies.
And so I don’t think we’re moving –
MS. SIMMONS: But suppose –
MR. DUBOIS: — too fast.
MS. SIMMONS: — there’d only been one bullet.
MS. SIMMONS: Would that have been any different?
MR. MARTIN: Leila?
MS. MCDOWELL: I just want to keep it real, too. Ninety percent of the American people support background checks. Every, single one of those gun control measures had the vast –
MR. DUBOIS: That’s right.
MS. MCDOWELL: — majority of support –
MR. DUBOIS: That’s exactly right.
MS. MCDOWELL: — from the American people.
So, it’s not so much the people. It’s that you have a very powerful lobby –
MR. DUBOIS: That’s right.
MS. MCDOWELL: — that represents the gun industry – not necessarily the gun owners – that wield [unwieldy] power over our policy, and they oppose anything that could impact profits. Background checks impact profits.
So, I think that’s what we’re facing, because the public opinion is there. It’s on the side of the President. It’s on the side of gun –
MR. DUBOIS: I agree with you.
MS. MCDOWELL: — control.
MS. SIMMONS: But why –
MR. MARTIN: But – but –
MS. SIMMONS: — aren’t we dealing these –
MR. MARTIN: — but –
MS. SIMMONS: — other deadly –
MR. MARTIN: — but if the public opinion –
MS. SIMMONS: — potentially deadly –
MR. MARTIN: — is there –
MS. SIMMONS: — weapons?
MR. MARTIN: — why didn’t the public exert the level of pressure on members of the Senate to vote accordingly –
MS. CLEMENTE: I think –
MR. MARTIN: — to public opinion?
MS. CLEMENTE: — that, you know, as someone who’s not a Democrat or Republican – I’m in a third party – I said very clearly I give Obama and Biden their props on this one. I think the American public has done it. I think you have a right-wing Republican – [unintelligible] – that is just going to stop anything that this president is going to do.
MR. MARTIN: But you had four Democrats who –
MS. CLEMENTE: No, I’m saying –
MS. SIMMONS: [Crosstalk] –
MS. CLEMENTE: — I’m not either one.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. CLEMENTE: I’m with Green Party –
MR. MARTIN: No, no, no.
MS. CLEMENTE: — so I’m with the –
MR. MARTIN: No, but what –
MS. CLEMENTE: — Democrats never having –
MR. MARTIN: — but what I’m saying is the –
MS. CLEMENTE: — the background –
MR. MARTIN: — right.
MS. CLEMENTE: — to maybe push how they have to push, you know; because I do think that, from what I’ve seen – especially being close to Newtown as well where I’m at, in Amherst, Massachusetts – is that everybody was calling their congressman. Everybody was calling their senator.
MR. MARTIN: Okay. How – [crosstalk]- —
MS. CLEMENTE: So, what happens when the population –
MR. MARTIN: — [crosstalk] – now, let me put this out there. And we have one minute left.
MS. CLEMENTE: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: The President talked about letting them know when it comes to the ballot box. Will Democrats then say, “Well, no. We can’t target our own for fear of losing the U.S. Senate”? Or, is the issue of guns so important, that Democrats should target those who voted against it?
MR. DUBOIS: I would say there are four Democrats who voted against this, but there were more than 40 Republicans who –
MR. MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no.
MR. DUBOIS: — did the same thing.
MR. MARTIN: No, no, no. My question was simple. Should Democrats target those four individuals for defeat when they come up for reelection?
OFF CAMERA: They should!
MR. DUBOIS: I think Democrats –
OFF CAMERA: If they –
MR. DUBOIS: — should absolutely take this –
OFF CAMERA: They should totally[?] – [crosstalk].
MR. DUBOIS: — vote into account; but they should also look at where they’re going to be on immigration, where they’re going to be on urban poverty and education issues over the next two years between now and the election and take the totality of –
MS. CLEMENTE: I think this is –
MR. DUBOIS: — their votes into account.
MS. CLEMENTE: — showing the weakness of the Democratic Party. Look, what the Republicans do never surprises me. But when the Democrats keep not standing up, not having the backbone, not telling those four, “Get out! You’re not getting any money. You’re not getting any support, and that’s that” – I think that will send a clear message to let the Democratic Party stand up, if they believe in these policies.
MR. MARTIN: Leila, ten seconds.
MS. MCDOWELL: I think that’s absolutely right. I mean you do have a precedent for that where you have forces that are more progressive than certain Democrats who are running, targeting those Democrats to get more progressive candidates. And I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t – [crosstalk].
MR. MARTIN: Ten seconds. Deborah, final comment.
MS. SIMMONS: It proves the Democratic Party does not move in lockstep with the President, who’s the titular head of the party.
MR. MARTIN: Gotcha.
MS. SIMMONS: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: Well, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch. Rosa, Joshua, Deborah, Leila, thanks a bunch.
MS. MCDOWELL: Thank you.
MS. SIMMONS: Thank you.
MS. CLEMENTE: Thank you.