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Rivals on the baseball field, these congressmen share solidarity after shooting

June 14, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., managers of the two congressional baseball teams, talk with Judy Woodruff about what it was like to be practicing on the field as a shooting targeting Republican lawmakers unfolded Wednesday in Alexandria, Va.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we are now joined by the managers of the two congressional baseball teams that were practicing this morning in different places.

They are Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who, as you just saw, was at this morning’s Republican baseball practice, and Democratic Representative Michael Doyle of Pennsylvania.

Gentlemen, welcome to the program.

Congressman Barton, to you first.

First of all, we’re so glad that you are all right. We saw that you were there with your two sons. How are you doing?

REP. JOE BARTON, R-Texas: We’re doing fine.

Everybody was looking out for my two sons. And thank gosh — God that the Capitol Police were there and immediately returning fire, which diverted the gunman from attacking the members who were on the field.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you feel there was anything more that could have been done this morning?

REP. JOE BARTON: Not really. I mean, we practice in a public park. There’s a dog park. There’s a YMCA by the baseball field. There are joggers. There are — it’s just, you know, most mornings, there are people out doing their exercise and walking their dogs.

We don’t make any attempt to restrict people from watching the practice. This individual who did the shooting, some of the members think they saw him yesterday, and, while I thought he had just driven in, apparently, he had been in the area for some time.

So, I don’t — I don’t know how you can function in an open democracy, especially in the House of Representatives, with 435 members, and not have public access. And, again, this game has been played for about over 100 years. There’s never been anything like this before.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Doyle, where were you when you heard this? And what did you think?

REP. MIKE DOYLE, D-Pa.: So, we were in the middle of our practice. We were having batting practice, and I was standing behind home plate, you know, instructing our batters.

And I got a text message from one of my staff saying, are you OK? And I was puzzled by the — by the text. And then I saw right below it a news clip saying, shooter at congressional baseball practice, and realized at that moment that it had to be over at the Republican practice.

So I called my team off the field, because we didn’t have much information at the time, to get them over in the dugout, and let them all know what happened and what I was hearing. And there was sort of a — I call it a stunned silence with most of the players. We just couldn’t believe something like this was happening.

And there wasn’t much we could do where we were. So we basically just huddled up and started saying some prayers for our Republican colleagues that they’d be safe and that nobody would be hurt badly.

And, after that, you know, the reports started to flood into our phones and we just, you know, were reading them like everyone else.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Barton, and, again, we know that you both were practicing for this congressional game, annual congressional game that’s taking place tomorrow night. You’re going ahead with it.

Is the — I just asked Lisa Desjardins this question, our reporter at the Capitol, and she said this is — the reaction there has been sober, that people are — to some extent, members may be rethinking whether things have gotten too partisan. What do you think?

REP. JOE BARTON: Well, the reaction here has been very supportive of the Republicans on the team.

Congressman Doyle and his Democratic players have reached out to us personally. The speaker and Mrs. Pelosi, the minority leader, have talked directly. Everybody is supportive because, we are — we have an R or an D by our name, but our title — our title is United States representative.

And I’m very proud to be a member of the Congress. And I’m proud to serve with people like Mike Doyle. So, you know, we feel very blessed that we’re here to have this interview. Had the shooter not been attacked by the Capitol Hill Police, who risked their lives — and two of them got shot — had he gotten inside the fence of the field and gotten to the first base dugout, there were 20, 15 members, and five or six staffers in that dugout huddled down.

It’s actually a lowered, below-the-field dugout. And there would have been no place for them to run. So, it could have been much worse.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Doyle, I can see the pain in both of your faces.

Is this a time for coming together in some way and for rethinking, as we said, some of the partisanship?

REP. MIKE DOYLE: I think all of us are reflecting on that today.

Joe and I have been associated with this game for quite a while, and we have been friends for a long time. His son Jack is like one of my nephews, always comes up and asks me how I’m doing. And I always tries to get intelligence from Jack on what his dad is up to, and Jack never gives him up. So he’s a good kid that way.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. MIKE DOYLE: But I got to tell you, there was a real feeling of helplessness on our part as we stood there in the dugout reading the reports that were coming in.

We know — we know all these guys. They’re our friends. We may have differences politically, but they’re our friends, and we care about them very much. And I think all of us are reflecting on how each one of us individually can set an example for the country, too, because when people see their leaders being uncivil towards one another, then you start to see the public being uncivil towards one another and towards their leaders.

And I think that’s got to change. So maybe it starts with us, and maybe this will change some attitudes here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Barton, I hear and I see the affection between the two of you, and I am seeing and hearing you say it exists with others.

But I think it’s fair to say, it doesn’t always come across in the news coverage.

REP. JOE BARTON: Well, politics in Washington is a contact sport. But it shouldn’t be a personal animosity sport. And with Mike and I and a lot of other members, it’s not.

I do want to apologize for getting emotional a minute ago. You know, Tom Hanks was the manager of a women’s baseball team, and, in that movie, he has the famous line, there’s no crying in baseball.

Well, there’s certainly no — shouldn’t be any crying in congressional baseball. And I do apologize for my emotional outburst a minute ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF: No — no …

(CROSSTALK)

REP. MIKE DOYLE: I would say there’s lots of members of Congress that get along. We tend to not be the ones the media is interested in interviewing.

Oftentimes, the media’s interested in interviewing the two that are throwing the swords at each other. So, maybe the news media, too, can reflect a little bit on that and show some of the positive things that take place down here.

REP. JOE BARTON: That’s true.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s something for us to reflect on.

Well, we so appreciate the two of you being together right now.

And no apology needed, Congressman Barton. It’s entirely understandable why you would be emotional at a time like this.

We thank you. We’re thankful that you are all right. We thank you for talking with us.

Congressman Doyle, thank you.

We thank you both.

REP. MIKE DOYLE: Thank you.

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