This Monday, Meet the Press, This Week and State of the Union.
On Meet the Press, host David Gregory interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder, and asked him about the Times Square bomb plot in the context of racial profiling:
MR. GREGORY: When, in this context, when is racial profiling illegal?
MR. HOLDER: Well, I’m not sure–I don’t even talk about whether or not racial profiling is legal, I just don’t think racial profiling is a particularly good law enforcement tool. If one focuses on particular groups, that necessarily means you’re taking law enforcement away from places where they probably ought to be. …
MR. GREGORY: But what happened in this case?
MR. HOLDER: Well…
MR. GREGORY: Wasn’t it racial profiling that led us to ultimately get the most important piece of information from this guy, which was a telephone number that he uses in the plot because he was held aside from for a second screening earlier this year?
MR. HOLDER: No. What led us to him was good normal law enforcement. …
MR. GREGORY: But where is the line, Mr. Attorney General? Because, I mean, this is very complicated. If you have U.S. citizens who are being used who are going back and forth to Pakistan–we are tracking people from Pakistan and Yemen for reasons that are relevant, that are germane to law enforcement not because they just happen to be Pakistani. So where is the line when you talk about profiling?
MR. HOLDER: Again, I don’t think that profiling is good law enforcement.
On a related topic, Gregory focused on the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind behind 9/11:
MR. GREGORY: … You announced that he would be in a civilian trial in New York. And when you made that announcement back in November, this is what you said.
(Videotape, November 13, 2009) MR. HOLDER: For over 200 years our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again, we will ask our legal system in two venues to rise to that challenge. I am confident that it will answer the call with fairness and with justice (End videotape).
MR. GREGORY: Fairness and justice. That same month you were asked what happens if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is acquitted, and this is what you said.
(Videotape, November 18, 2009) MR. HOLDER: If there were the possibility that a trial was not successful, that would not mean that that person would be released into, into our country. That would–that is not a possibility (End videotape).
MR. GREGORY: You said failure is not an option. You said he will not be released. And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system. And you said when you became attorney general that “I’m going to stick to those principles even when it’s hard.” And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said “I believe in the system” at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system. Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed. Shouldn’t that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?
MR. HOLDER: Well, I believe in the civilian justice system. I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system. I have confidence in the civilian justice system’s ability to handle these new threats that our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that’s consistent with the best that is about our civilian justice system. I don’t think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past. One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.
During the roundtable discussion, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. picked up on the issue:
This is a hard problem. How do we protect ourselves and, at the same time, remain a nation rooted in liberty and law? And we have faced this problem many times in our history going back to the Civil War, the two world wars, particularly World War I, the Cold War, and we haven’t always privileged liberty as a country. And I think what you’re seeing in this debate is a kind of choice between a muddled approach–and I think the Obama administration has been muddled because it’s very complicated–vs. demagoguery, where anytime they seem to lean in any way toward civil liberties, somebody jumps on them. But I tell you what scares me is the rise of less sophisticated forms of terror. A car bomb is not flying a plane into a building, yet–you know, I spent time in Lebanon during the civil war there–car bombs are frightening. We are very lucky, a combination of luck and skill of our police forces that we’ve stopped things so far. But this would portend–I just pray these things don’t succeed because this really is terrorism by every definition.
Still on the topic of civil liberties, Dionne talked about the term “lawyered up”:
I just want to say I just hate this term “lawyered up.” Because if you are accused of a crime and you are innocent, you want a lawyer to defend your innocence. And we totally forget that we have civil liberties protections not only to protect the guilty but to protect innocent people. … “lawyered up” … is used over and over again to imply that any kind of use of normal judicial process, which is designed to protect innocence, sort of pushes us so far down the line that we forget why we have these protections in the first place. … I said right at the outset, protecting liberty and protecting ourselves, this is a tough matter when it comes to terrorism. But we should not throw out our rights with … a term like “lawyered up.”
On the issue of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee (announced today, May 10: Elena Kagan), BBC World News’ Katty Kay had the following to say about Elena Kagan:
I think Elena Kagan is known as somebody who can lead and I think that is important to the White House as well at the moment. She can sway opinions of other judges. And, of course, Justice Kennedy as a swing judge is particularly important. She has a fierce intellect. She’s known actually, curiously, people from Harvard describe her similar terms to the way they described Obama that she’s known as a consensualist, somebody who can listen to different points of view and bring people together. And I think in this divided court, that might be important for the White House as well. The other thing is, if he is looking down the road and, perhaps, one of the women was to go, if he appointed another woman now, that still leaves him with two women on the court further down the road.
Turning to the upcoming midterm elections, Gregory focused on the Republican “primary” in Utah:
MR. GREGORY: We had a development yesterday that really makes you stand up and take notice. Senator Bennett of Utah, a well-known conservative, been in the Senate for a number of years, is out in a primary in Utah. He spoke to reporters afterward and was obviously emotional about it.
(Videotape, May 8, 2010) SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT): The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic, and it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment. … I offer my congratulations, as I say, to whoever wins. But I assure him he will not have any more loyal, dedicated, or efficient staff than I’ve had (End videotape).
MR. GREGORY: David Brooks, a reliable conservative for 18 years, yet he proposed an alternative on health care and he voted for the bank bailout.
MR. BROOKS: Right. It is a damn outrage, to be honest. I mean, this is a guy who was a very good senator, and he was a good senator for–and a good conservative, but a good conservative who was trying to get things done. The Wyden-Bennett Bill, which he co-sponsored, if you took the healthcare economists in the country, they would probably be for that bill ideally. It was a substantive, serious bill, a bipartisan bill, but with strong conservative and some liberal support. So he did something sort of brave by working with Democrats, which more senators should do, and now they’ve been sent a big message, “Don’t do that.” The second thing is the TARP. Nobody liked the TARP, but we were in a complete economic meltdown and sometimes you have to do terrible things. And we’re in a much better economic place because of the TARP. So he bravely cast a vote that nobody wanted to really cast, and now he’s losing his career over that. And it’s just a damn outrage.
On This Week, host Jake Tapper also focused on the Times Square bomb plot, and played a video clip of Senator Lieberman’s (D-CT) reaction:
LIEBERMAN: If the president can authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization, we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke … citizenship … of … American citizens who have cast their lot with terrorist organizations.
Terror scare + Lieberman = Politicization, much like former Senator Joe Biden’s characteristic of former N.Y. Governor Rudy Giuliani during a Democratic presidential primary debate in 2007: “Rudy Giuliani, I mean think about him, … there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a word and 9/11. I mean there’s nothing else.”
On the topic of the Arizona immigration law, Tapper asked whether Attorney General Eric Holder thinks “Racist the Arizona immigration law is racist?”
HOLDER: Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea. I mean, I think we have to understand that the immigration problem that we have, illegal immigration problem that we have, is a national one, and a state-by-state solution to it is not the way in which we ought to go.
TAPPER: But your issue with it is not that it’s state-by-state. Your issue with it is that there are concerns that there might be racial profiling that takes place, right?
HOLDER: That is certainly one of the concerns that you have, that you’ll end up in a situation where people are racially profiled, and that could lead to a wedge drawn between certain communities and law enforcement, which leads to the problem of people in those communities not willing to interact with people in law enforcement, not willing to share information, not willing to be witnesses where law enforcement needs them. I think you have to think about the collateral consequences of such a law, understanding the frustration that people feel in Arizona. It’s one of the reasons why I think we have to have a national solution to this immigration problem.
TAPPER: Do you think it’s racist?
HOLDER: I don’t think it’s racist in its motivation. But I think the concern I have is how it will be perceived and how it perhaps could be enacted, how it could be carried out. I think we could potentially get on a slippery slope where people will be picked on because of how they look as opposed to what they have done, and that is I think something that we have to try to avoid at all costs.
Tapper then interviewed the already mentioned Giuliani, not surprisingly since he’s the man who pops up when the issue of terror and New York City is on the agenda.
TAPPER: Now, you’re a former U.S. attorney. If you had been in charge of this investigation, what would you do differently, if anything?
GIULIANI: Well, I would not have given him Miranda warnings after just a couple of hours of questioning. I would have instead declared him an enemy combatant, asked the president to do that, and at the same time, that would have given us the opportunity to question him for a much longer period of time. Whether it works in the case of Shahzad or it doesn’t, the reality is, the better policy is to give the intelligence agents who are going to question him the maximum amount of time to question him, to check out the credibility of what he’s saying.
I mean, I don’t know yet what the truth is here. We shouldn’t. I mean, I think too much has been leaked about this, and the administration has talked too much about it, because the more you talk about it, the more you warn people in the Taliban to go hide somewhere.
When I was a prosecutor and associate attorney general, the last thing in the world I wanted to do is to have the other side figure out, you know, the information we had before we had a chance to act on it. So the reality is just to get these guys to tell the truth and then to corroborate how much they’re saying and for them to remember, it’s going to take three, four, five days of questioning.
“America’s mayor”: Miranda rights isn’t the way to go. Wouldn’t think twice about declaring U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. The truth should be concealed. It’s okay to interrogate suspects for three, four, five days without reading them their rights. Bumper-sticker it up!
In a more measured tone, the Hoover Institute’s Shelby Steele talked about the ideology of “jihadism”:
TAPPER: Shelby, the ideology of Islamism still seems to be powerful even if the quality, the candidates of terrorists that the Pakistani Taliban and others are getting are not as good. The ideology seems just as strong. This guy, Faisal Shahzad, who we should say is innocent until proven guilty, lived in the United States and had not a bad life here.
STEELE: I think the ideology is the story. There’s a larger clash, I think in the world, between the third world, people who were formally oppressed and so forth, who coming into freedom experience that as shame and came in, really, into a sort of confrontation with their own inferiority, their sense of inferiority. And I think jihadism is an ideology that compensates for a sense of inferiority.
And that’s really its appeal. It has no real religious connection. These are not particularly religious people. But they’re people who, as they sort of move into modernity, fail or having a rough time making that kind of transition, and so therefore there’s this wonderful ideology based in the idea of killing people, of death, you know, if I put on the gun on the table now, I’m the most powerful man in the room. I’m not inferior anymore.
And … the grandiosity of administering death randomly is extremely attractive to people who had this inner sense that I’m just never going to make that move into modernity.
On the issue of the upcoming midterms, Tapper focused the last minutes of the show on the fate of Senator Bennett (R-UT):
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENNETT: The political atmosphere, obviously, has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment. Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast any of them any differently, even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career (END VIDEO CLIP).
George Will’s reaction:
This is an anti-Washington year. How do you get more Washington than a three-term senator who occupies the seat once held by his father, a four-term senator, who before that worked on the Senate staff and then as a lobbyist in Washington? He’s a wonderful man and a terrific senator, but the fact is, he’s going against terrific headwinds this year, and he cast three votes, TARP, stimulus, and an individual mandate for health care.
Now, you might like one, two or all three of those, but being opposed to them is not outside the mainstream of American political argument.
On State of the Union, host Candy Crowley started off by playing a video clip of Republicans’ reaction to the Times Square bomb plot:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, for the second time, we were lucky. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being lucky can’t be our national security strategy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we were lucky and I think it was good police work. It was a combination of them both. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Yes, we’ve been lucky but luck is not an effective strategy for fighting the terrorist threat (END VIDEO CLIP).
Just for fun, I conducted a word count of the number of times the word ”luck” was uttered in the three shows: 22 times (Meet the Press 2, This Week 7, and State of the Union 13).
In her interview with Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Crowley surprised me with her phrasing of this question:
Motivation; has Shahzad talked about that? Was it indeed drone attacks, the loss of civilian life as they seem to think some of these drones have done?
Wow. Just to be clear: Drone attacks DO KILL CIVILIANS. That’s a FACT. The question, however, is whether or not such attacks are warranted on a notion of achieving “the greater good.”
I also thought Crowley was sloppy in her questioning of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). As previously mentioned, the GOP talking point is that the Obama Administration was “lucky” in stopping the Times Square bomb plot suspect from leaving the country. One would thus think that Crowley wouldn’t play into this framing, but she certainly did:
Well Senator Shelby, that to me is the problem. It’s one thing if you have a grand conspiracy involving 12 people and three planes. It is another thing if you can get a single person and fund them and bring them into the U.S. and send them to a random mall or Times Square or whatever. Isn’t it really now down to a matter of luck or is there something in U.S. policy that can change, that will protect against this new threat?
In his reply, Shelby uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 5 times. Crowley, on the other hand, actually uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 3 times during the show…
On the topic of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Crowley wanted to know why Congress hasn’t done more to regulate the industry:
CROWLEY: First, to Senator Shelby, since you brought it up. It always gets down to this. Whether it is Wall Street or oil companies, Capitol Hill says, where were the regulators and why wasn’t there a regulation? But you all are in charge of the regulators, aren’t you? So can’t we ask, where was the U.S. Senate, where was the House of Representatives? Why didn’t they see this coming?
SHELBY: Well, we are not in charge of the regulators. We have oversight of the regulators. The Executive Branch is in charge of the regulators.
CROWLEY: But, you know, it doesn’t take much to see that it is possible that oil could leak when you’ve got an oil rig in the ocean. Couldn’t there have been hearings saying well exactly what sort of safety measures do you have? How do you know they are working? I mean, there weren’t those kind of hearings? Now we have 12 hearings coming up. But it is after the fact.
SHELBY: Candy, you make a good point.
Senator Nelson, in his response, said the following:
NELSON: Big oil wants its way. … Big oil has had its way among the regulators. There has been a cozy relationship between the regulators and MMS. You remember all those stories back in the mid part of this past decade. Sex parties, all kinds of trips.
CROWLEY: But shouldn’t Congress have some responsibility?
NELSON: You are doggone right, Candy. You are doggone right. That’s exactly right. And that’s what a number of us have been calling for. And we could never get to first base, because big oil would flex its muscle and call in its votes, and we could never get anything done. And tragically, it is going to take this disastrous oil spill to finally clamp down on them.
First mentioning lobbying and sex parties, and then saying Congress can never get to first base. Senator Nelson: New analogy please.
Lastly, in her interview with Chris Cillizza (Washington Post, author of The Fix blog) and Amy Walter (Editor-in-Chief of The Hotline blog), Crowley focused on the fate of Senator Bennett and the upcoming midterms:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment (END VIDEO CLIP).
CROWLEY: In particular, his vote for TARP, his bank bailout.
CILLIZZA: You know, TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program – That one I think is what kind of crystallized it. There were a lot of other things. Health care, immigration, his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. None of those things sat well with conservative voters, but TARP has really become a touchstone. We can talk about in some of the other races too, Candy, but Kentucky, it is a touchstone. In Texas, the governor’s race, Rick Perry labeled Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison “Kay Bailout,” because she supported TARP. So it’s really, for fiscal conservatives, for the Tea Party movement, that’s become the rallying cry that the establishment — even the Republican establishment is broken.
WALTER: This wasn’t necessarily an ideological issue as much as it was a Washington issue, which goes to the TARP piece, number one. And number two, that Bennett was known as somebody who actually could work with the other side. The fact that he actually reached out to Ron Wyden on health care was considered by many of the folks in this room, you know, really a traitorous act.
And we also have to remember that this was 3,500 delegates. This was not the broad electorate here, and I think that really — when we sort of go through all the rubble of this election, what we’re going to come to the conclusion is that the primary process itself is responsible for all this polarization we see in politics. You cannot run, not even as a moderate, but even as somebody who is willing to say, you know what, maybe somebody has a good idea that’s on the other side. For that, you will lose.
On a related topic:
CROWLEY: So I mean with the polarization, are we looking at a Tea Party problem? Are we looking at a policy problem or are we looking at an incumbent problem?
WALTER: I think it is absolutely an incumbent problem. I sat down with a Democratic pollster the other day and said that’s really the issue. You cannot even underestimate the disgust that voters have with anything Washington.
CILLIZZA: There is a level of unrest that exists. They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.
On the topic of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Cillizza had the following to say:
I would argue that everything that happens in politics has to do with campaigns. Some people would say that is a myopic view. I can assure you however in an even-numbered year like this one, this will be freighted with politics.
In the end, who had this Sunday’s most memorable phrase? Walter’s perspective on the primary process was good, and so was Cillizza’s “everything in politics has to do with campaigns.” Chris Cillizza also had the best one:
They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.
If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.