tv Washington Journal Charlie Sykes CSPAN May 28, 2022 2:10am-2:55am EDT
host: charlie sykes is with us this morning, founder and editor at large of the bulwark, a news and opinion website. he is the author of how the right lost its mind. esther sykes, you wrote after the school shooting at the texas elementary school that this is a time for grief and also for incandescent anger. what did you mean? guest: we have been here over
and over and over again. i'm still haunted by what happened at sandy hook and the lack of response to that. how do we not react with anger when we watch the slaughter of innocent people? and the recognition as a country that we are not serious about this? we can have a sober debate about what needs to be done about guns. but the reality is we are so upset with picking sides in our culture wars that we are willing to say thoughts and prayers when we have dead children we are not willing to actually do anything about it. and so, no one is going to say that they find the death of children to be acceptable and yet, as a country, we have accepted it. as we watch this, i am shocked, horrified, i'm a father. i'm a grandfather.
it is very difficult to imagine what it is like to lose a child under the circumstances. the more we learn, the more tragic it gets. and to watch the political posturing and the same arguments over and over again, the same sound bites, the same talking points, it is frustrating. and so, this many years after columbine, after the nation pledged never again, we have seen it again and again and again. and the reality is it will happen again because nothing will change unless we make a change. inaction is a choice. host: what was your reaction to the republican leader in the senate, mitch mcconnell, appointing john cornyn, a republican senator from texas to be part of bipartisan talks in the hopes of bringing legislation forward? guest: i would like to see
bipartisan talks. i would like to see bipartisan registration. there are reasonable compromises here that would be supported by the vast majority of americans. americans are very divided on whether or not we should have stricter or looser gun control but there is an overwhelming consensus on a variety of issues including background checks. limitation on the size of magazines. raising the age for the possession of guns. red flag laws, we have seen republican governors signed these red flag laws. we have seen them signed them into law. there are things that, if we deal with this in good faith, we could come up with incremental reforms. my problem with this, of course, is that we have seen this over and over and over again. i think it would be naive to think that this time is going to be any different. i saw one analysis that said it
takes americans three days to get over there shock and grief over these school shootings and then we go back to normal. i think that is likely to happen again. host: what do you think about the national rifle association holding its convention days after the shooting, in houston, texas? guest: this is what the nra does. remember after the shooting in colorado, there was discussion about whether they should postpone their convention that year and they don't do it. the question is what is the nra's response going to be? are they going to sit back and go we need to rethink these positions? this is shocking, this is horrifying, how can we come together in good eighth and come up with things that will keep americans safe? i think what we have seen over the years is the nra has become absolutist, refusing to go along
with virtually any of the measures that might make a difference. i'm not so naive to think there will be a law that is a magic wand under the circumstances. what you see with the nra is that they have become a culture warrior. they have encouraged treating guns as a fetish. i am old enough to remember when the nra was into gun safety. when they would have emphasized the need to be serious and sober as most gun owners are. most gun owners are very serious. they are safe, they are concerned about safety. and yet we have this culture where we have politicians posing for christmas cards with weapons of mass destruction, treating them like a fetish. i think the nra has gotten deeply into all of that. so, again, i think it will be interesting to see what the folks at the nra say, what they
do. if you are looking for any sense of shame or any sense of rethinking, i think that's not going to happen. host: what about what the former president might say? he will be speaking at that convention today. guest: we will have to see what the president says. what the former president says about this. donald trump -- over the years, he has gone back and forth about this particular issue that he is -- but he is all in with the nra and the nra is all in with donald trump. if the past is any indication, one of the things we learned is that you never apologize, never admit you were wrong and never backed away in trumpism. i am going to be interested to see whether they continue to talk about -- part of this is the ground hung date nature of this. it is the same old, same old.
let's armed teachers, we need more good guys with guns. one of the things we are learning on almost an hourly basis in texas is that the good guys with guns narrative has taken quite a beating. there were lots of good guys with guns, but they were not able to stop the massacre of the innocent. i expect to hear the same talking points over and over and over again. host: what's pivot to the primary season, charlie sykes. what is your take away from the georgia primary results? guest: there are two. this is still donald trump's party. i think it would be naive to think donald trump doesn't have an iron grip on his base. what happened is significant. it showed his endorsement is no longer a golden ticket. and republicans who defy him on the big lie are not automatically committing political suicide.
i was struck by the margins in this case. you had governor brian kemp lead by more than 50 points. brad raffensperger, who was republican in a meet number one in trump's and given up for dead by everyone i spoke to not only won easily but avoided a runoff. this was a bright red line that donald trump, himself had drawn. he made this his number one priority. this was his obsession. the big lie. he has been demanding that politicians not only believe the big lie but take action. and in georgia, you had a really stark choice for republican voters. and even though donald trump drew the redline, the republican voters in georgia stampeded across the line. you can read double much into it. but it was not nothing.
it is significant. it is also significant that you see republican governors now be increasingly emboldened in standing up to trump. trumps endorsed candidates were defeated in idaho and nebraska for governor. then mike pence came in in georgia, opening even wider with trump. chris christie, governor larry hogan from maryland are now more willing and now more emboldened to stand up to trump, particularly on the issue of the big lie. host: mike pence endorsed brian kemp and campaign for him. what does that say about his influence? guest: i don't know what it says about his influence. by the time mike pence showed up, it was obvious brian kemp was going to win and win easily. so, he was betting on a horse that was several lengths ahead. on the other hand, i think what
you are seeing is that mike pence is -- pence's willingness to separate himself from donald trump is growing. i think it is very clear, he has been very tentative about it. but he has said that trump was wrong in thinking he could overturn the election on january 6. he has been somewhat critical. but this was, really, i think one of the most traumatic steps he took. i also think that the odds of mike pence winning the republican nomination in this current environment are slim. they might be slim and none. but it is interesting that somebody like pence would have chosen this particular race to make it very, very clear that he is off the trump train. host: let's hear from phil in capitol heights, maryland. good morning and questions for charlie sykes. caller: good morning, is that
me? host: it's -- yes. caller: it's bill. i will make my point quick. our country was founded on two things. religious freedom and right to bear arms. i think if you look at our atmosphere and landscape now, we are probably not the most religious country in the world but we are founded on the melting pot phenomena and it is very questionable now as we look at things in our landscape if we are truly a melting pot. i know for a fact if we look at it, there is a lot of hate in our atmosphere and we point fingers at each other. i think if we can step out of ourselves, speaking to not only the -- our political leaders, but even as citizens, if we step out of ourselves and try to look at each other from their
perspective, maybe we can have a conversation that is sound and legitimate, that is reasonable. there is to double much hatred in the atmosphere. -- there is too much hatred in the atmosphere. guest: i agree with that. i think it is dangerous and it will be more dangerous over time. not only are we not talking with one another but debates are becoming increasingly shrill and much >> the other side hates ame, they want to take away your religious freedom. the problem is as we ramp up the anger and there are people out there who have made it their agenda to make us angry at one another, to divide us. at a time when we have the culture wars and the other
divisions in a country is heavily armed as we are, the danger is real. we ought to open our eyes to that. that's why the conflation of culture wars signaling with guns is dangerous. we are having this conversation a few days after 19 children were gunned down in texas. that's just a few days after we had nearly a dozen people murdered in buffalo. a young man it with a gun specifically targeted african-americans because he was a believer in the great replacement theory. one thing that conservatives use to understand was ideas have consequences. that was one of the works of the 20th century. toxic ideas can have fatal consequences.
we are reeling back from the consequences of this heated debate and saying maybe we should tone things down. maybe we ought to push back against these racist conspiracy theories. maybe we ought not demonize one other. i don't see that happening. we live in very dangerous times. host: south carolina? caller: thank you for taking my call. let me say, i am an 82-year-old christian. i know that some of what i'm thinking it can be interpreted different from what i mean. so far, nothing has worked. we are fighting fire with water. maybe those who are in position to do so, maybe they should fight fire with fire.
look at some of the tactics that were used against abortion clinics. why not use some of those tactics against gun distributors? i think the wrong children are paying for this wrong thing. these warlike weapons have no place. they should be banned totally. i come from a long line of gunowners. i grew up in a family who were hunters. nobody ever killed anybody. i had guns around since i was two years old. host: her point? guest: to her point about gun ownership, there are a lot of hunters with guns.
the vast majority of them will not commit crimes with guns. my experience is with most gunowners, they are serious about the responsibility. i think it's important not to craft solutions to this or responses that target law-abiding gun owners. i do think weapons of war, people need to understand what an ar-15 will do to the body of a child. i was reading some people talking about how we need to see pictures to shock america. i understand why we don't, it would be too horrible. i don't think we could take it. understand that these are weapons that are not the necessary tools for hunting. you talk to military people,
they are horrified to see weapons of war in the hands of teenagers. this is something we absolutely need to address. until we address it, we won't can handle it. even though republicans will cast themselves as the party of law & order, antiterrorism, they balked at an antiterrorism bill yesterday. the reality is right now with these millions of powerful weapons on the streets, our police are outgunned. part of the story out of texas which gets worse all the time about the delay of the police going in, the police who were heavily armed themselves were being extremely cautious about other people who were heavily armed. when you have heavily armed
individuals wearing body armor, it's not enough to have good guys with a gun. even police officers will feel at a disadvantage. that is something we have to deal with. host: let's talk about the messaging of democrats and the president heading into the midterms. you've heard them refer to republicans as maga republicans. what are they trying to do? guest: i think with their trying to do is put donald trump back on the ballot. they understand that the headwinds are stiff for democrats. the one thing that -- one problem they have is donald trump who still remains somewhat politically toxic. they are talking about that, they are referring to what the republican party has been.
has become. if you look at the primary elections, many of his candidates have been defeated. most of the candidates that are running, the don't have his endorsement, are still pretending to be trump. a lot of the debates are between them. if this is what the arctic -- party has become, if they embrace these policies, they need to own that. i think that is the strategy behind it. the democrats need to hone their message a little bit more, go after those most extreme elements. the reality is with the economy and inflation, republicans have an advantage on a lot of issues. host: how about the january 6
investigation and how that could play out. you had the republican leader along with jim jordan writing an opinion piece in the wall street journal. guest: that's disingenuous. it goes back to the flip-flop of kevin mccarthy who for five minutes understood exactly what it happened and the gravity of the assault. kevin mccarthy is disingenuous. i don't know that the committee have that much of an impact on the midterm elections. i'm not sure that matters. at some point, people need to do
their duty. we need to find out the truth. we did -- the to treat this with the seriousness it deserves. i have been impressed by the work of the committee. the amount of information that they have been able to gather. my default setting is to assume i'm going to be disappointed. i think republicans made a mistake. a big mistake by not going along with the commission. i think that should've been a moment were both parties came together and said if we can agree on one thing, it is that the peaceful transfer of power is central to the american system -- the constitutional system. remember what it was like on january 7 when you had republicans who understood this, who were willing to hold people
accountable, including trump. mitch mcconnell gave a speech. to watch them pretend there is nothing to see is unfortunate. i think it's tragic. that is what will have long-term consequences. you don't have a functioning democracy if the losers of elections refuse to acknowledge the validity of the election. that is a real existential threat to our system of government. host: we will go now to arkansas. caller: good morning. you covered so many different conversations while i was
listening, i don't believe i can cover all of them. the only thing that's made america strong over the years is every household has a gun. you could figure out what an army is going to do, you can't figure out what a family will do protecting his family. instead of worrying about the guns, worry about the cause of the people. you've got to go back to the mind of a man who pulled the trigger, not the gun. the gun is only a tool. if you want to stop mass shootings, figure out why the man is doing it, not the gun. you talk about mass killings. what do they do about the guy who ran through the parade? are they going to ban cars? you have to figure out what is causing it, not the equipment he
uses. guest: you're referring to a car that took place in wisconsin, that's a few miles from where i am right now. with all due respect, that is the tired argument i've heard over and over again. the reality is these mass shootings are so much worse because of the tool. and ar-15 that can murder 19 children in minutes is not the same as a hammer. could we acknowledge that? look around the world. the shootings are not taking place in places like britain. there been mass shootings in new zealand and france. in those countries, they dealt with it. they have said this is not acceptable. what can we do to stop it? look around the world. i am a strong believer in american exceptionalism. this is a dark part of american
exceptionalism. we are exceptional in the frequency of these mass shootings. there are people who are evil, who are mentally ill, who are twisted all over the planet. only in the united states do they have access to these weapons of war on a weekly basis. we have this conversation, how did this happen? to the point is the only it made america great is guns, that is simply not true. a lot of other things made america great. american greatness should be able to stand up against the massacre of children in our society. that is a challenge to american greatness, it is not the collateral part of it. host: bruce is in new york. good morning. caller: good morning.
i want to first tell you, i'm very proud of you. i know that as a conservative you are taking an independent stance. that is patriotic. forget about party affiliation. you are the traditional conservative that i knew from the rest since the last decades. in any case, i do want to thank you for standing up for sanity in this country. i also want to mention in listening to c-span, i see how powerful the talking points are. they are just repeated without thought. there is no defense against that. what i would like to introduce to you is the idea that this about marketing, this is about the people who are the arms dealers around the world. this is not arising from the
second amendment. this is descending on america with black-market arms dealing in the money behind it. what i am about is we see mass shootings against innocents, beyond belief. this is an irrational development. the globe is stunned by it. host: i'm going to jump in. guest: he's right. on my podcast, i'm going to have an author who is written about the role of the gun industry and pushing these narratives. i am not an expert in all of this. it is globally shocking that this is happening in this country. can i address something the previous caller said it? he wanted to focus on the people who are wielding the gun.
when there are efforts to focus on who has those guns, those are also blocked by the nra and the modern republican party. republicans used to be willing to engage with gun control in the past. this is a relatively recent phenomenon. there are red flag laws that say if somebody looks like they're going to be a danger to themselves or others, you can get a court order to allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns. one of those laws was signed under a republican governor in florida. universal background checks are supported by more than 80% of americans. that focuses on who is getting their hands on the gun. how do we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers? when those bills are up, the same people who say there is
nothing that can be done about guns also say there's nothing they can be done about the men who are wielding those guns. spare me some of these talking points. host: rockville, maryland, lee is watching. good morning. caller: good morning. i'm enjoying the show. i think i would like to get your opinion on this, the democrats are going to retain the senate in the next midterm election. mainly because they are nominating very good candidates. look at ohio they nominated ryan. i think they've got a good chance to flip that seat. the not -- republicans of nominated a turkey. vance said he didn't want to take sides in the ukraine russia
war, that he didn't care who won the war. then his handlers got on him and told him it was a completely ignorant thing to say. i think the democrats in pennsylvania and ohio are nominating very good candidates. the democrats are going to retain the senate. what do you think? guest: i think it's going to be hard to retain the house or senate given the overall environment. one of the big questions that i don't know the answer to is how much of the rules of politics changed? i was thinking about 2010, an overwhelming republican landslide. republicans blew their chances to take the senate back because they nominated terrible candidates in places like delaware and nevada.
remember i am not a witch? you have republicans nominating shall we say flawed candidates, the possibility of a former disgraced governor in missouri, herschel walker in georgia, j.d. vance in ohio, they be dr. oz in pennsylvania. the republicans might pay a price for this by nominating candidates that are just too embarrassing, just too bizarre. i don't know. given the polarization and the politics, the incredible pull of partisan loyalty, we will have to see. in a country that elected donald trump, anything is possible. we have to assume the odds are against the democrats in both the house and senate.
host: john in oregon,. caller: one of the things you been hitting on is good faith. i've been thinking about what's been happening. i think faith and what is sacred, the gun is not sacred. people's lives are sacred. that's what gets lost in the political part of it. politics is not necessarily about power. it's got to be about public service. and the common good. working on things, i agree with you about the nra. they've gotten away from gun safety. they have conflated in their marketing the sacred second
amendment. one religious leader said the second amendment did not come down from mount zion with moses. the final thing is, i used to work in a sporting goods store when i was very young. there was one time where i was in the gun area. one of the things we were told never to do is to have the gun and ammunition together on the counter the customer. i remember one time i had a customer come in, he pulled out an ar-15 that we were still selling. can i have some ammunition? he started to pointed around with the amp emission.
-- ammunition. i knew what could happen. what is sacred? life. not guns. guest: that's a very interesting point. i was thinking about a candidate for governor in georgia running last week, he held a rally. the big slogans behind her were jesus, guns, babies. this conflation of guns with god i think is dangerous. caller makes a great point. what is sacred? if we are a pro-life culture, there's a lot going on here. can you be pro-life and be indifferent to the slaughter of children? is the second amendment important? it is in the bill of rights. does it mean that we regard guns
as sacred and the same way that re-regard human life as sacred? the most important issue is pro-life, is saving the lives of children. why would that be the number one issue for them if they believe gun ownership is sacred. i consider myself pro-life. one of the shocks we've seen over the last few years is the way in which the abortion issue has become separated from all of these other issues involving human life and human dignity and how we encourage people to make the right choices, how we nurture children. there is a real contradiction there at the moment. host: tina? go ahead. caller: i just have something on my mind like a question. when people go in and push it --
purchase these weapons, it's like the people who are selling them, when this young man purchased all the stuff, didn't they think what do you need all this for? there's nothing going on here in texas. then he purchases ammunition. is there something that a local owner or store that sells these weapons makes a call in and says i just sold this and i think something is going on. wouldn't that be the beginning of the end? guest: i don't know the beginning of the end. we have millions of these guns. should we have a sense of responsibility? in a community that had a sense
of responsibility, somebody would've been looking out for this. somebody might've been willing to raise the lead -- red flag. when someone is behaving in a way that appears to be dangerous, let's do something about it. let separate that person from the guns until we can figure out whether or not they pose a threat. in all of these cases, you have to ask the question, was there a mother or father, was there a neighbor or somebody else who knew was going on? this is why you want to have background checks, to make sure they don't come in contact with and by these weapons. i would make this one other point. you have to be 21 to buy a beer in this country. yet we allow 18-year-olds to come in and by ar-15's.
is it unreasonable to raise the age of purchasing guns. there are a lot of common sense things we used to do in the past that were not considered violations of laws. just the size of the magazine it, does anybody need that much emission? if the size of magazines were limited, would it make a difference? it wouldn't stop everything, it might make a difference. because of the stranglehold over the republican party, this is not likely to happen. caller: hello. can you hear me?
hold on a minute. can you hear me now? i've got a comment. if you don't have a gun, how could that person die? somebody is keeping money rolling on. somewhere, this needs to stop. it's a talking point to say guns aren't killing people. i want to make sure people get out and vote for those people to be out. too many of our people are getting killed. with guns.
host: i will have you jump in. guest: the point, of coy's -- course, these guns are not irrelevant. if you been some of these guns, the killers would still find a way to do this. you can commit mass horrific acts only with some of these guns. you could kill somebody with a knife, you could kill somebody with a revolver. let's be honest about it. the worst mass shootings always involve specific kinds of guns. i think it's incredibly disingenuous to suggest the actual nature of these guns does not matter.
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