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Brooks and Capehart on police shootings, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including police shootings of people of color, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Hello to both of you. Very good to see you on this Friday night.

    But I want to start out with something that has been less than uplifting this week. And that is more gun violence, in particular, two more police shootings of young Black men, different circumstances, one in Minneapolis, just 10 miles from the man who is accused of murdering George Floyd is on trial, the other one in Chicago.

    Jonathan, my question is, we keep seeing this happen. What do we make of it? And is it something that is going to require a change in law?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    It's going to require a change in a lot of things, Judy. It's going to require a change in law, certainly, but a change in attitudes among the American people as a whole and among police.

    You know, when I leave my home, when I leave my apartment, I know that, when I am no longer at home, I'm viewed with some level of suspicion, even as a threat, simply because I'm Black, and certainly because I'm a Black male. And that is something that I have to deal with.

    And I have said often and I will keep saying it, there's no such thing as a routine traffic stop when you're African American, and particularly when you're an African American man.

    And I think attitudes need to change, particularly among police, because, more often than not, we are viewed as threats. We saw that in the video of Army Lieutenant Nazario in Virginia that happened in December, but came to light last week. We saw that in the video of the initial encounter with George Floyd.

    When they tapped on the window of George Floyd's SUV with a flashlight, he turns around, and what does he see? A gun in his face.

    With Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, the police officer said "i will Tase you," "Taser, Taser, Taser."

    Instead, she had a gun in her hand and shot him.

    Now, as you said, Judy, these are all different circumstances, but the overall mood is the same. Black people feel under threat. They feel under siege. And until the rest of America changes its attitude, and until law enforcement somehow changes the way it views the people they are sworn to serve and protect, nothing is going to change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, why does this keep happening? And what do you think about what needs to change?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, the first thing that needs to change is, we do need to accept that there is racial bias in policing.

    There are still too many people, and especially too many people in the police force, who think it's — that it's not there. But it's not only Jonathan's experience and almost every experience of every African American person I know. There's just dozens of studies that show, in traffic stops, car searches, drug arrests, there's just vast disparate policing that still goes on. And that's just about attitude.

    The good news is, if you do take some reforms, you can make some progress. There's been a sharp drop in the number of shootings of unarmed people. Armed people, it's still pretty stable, but unarmed people, we have made some progress. So, there are things that can be done.

    And those are things like removing choke holds. Those are things like — a little idea that I kind of like is, you have to have written permission to search a car, these things called pretextual stops, where they stop a car on the pretext of one thing, when they're really looking for something else.

    Data is very poorly collected. So, which parts of which police forces are having the most disparate arrests or the most desperate searches? That data is not collected. There are these things called police officers bill of rights which are in a lot of state legislatures that police unions have instituted that create all these artificial barriers to investigating an incident, that a cop has to be punished within 30 or 100 days, and if it's too late, then he's off.

    And so there are lots of little things that can be done to hopefully reduce these kinds of tragedies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, are these the kinds of things that you think can make a difference? Should we — what can we be trying that hasn't been tried before now?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, actually, all of those things that David just mentioned are pieces of what is known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

    And I think that if that does become law, that it will start to put us on a road of ameliorating this very severe problem. But, also, it's a problem that is not just now, part of contemporary America.

    Generations of African Americans have been talking about this and complaining about this. And the one thing that is different is that a lot of this has been caught on video. And so, if you do have things like ending racial profiling, collecting data, ending qualified immunity, which makes it possible for people to hold police officers and police departments accountable when they get it wrong, those are all things that will improve policing — excuse me — but will also improve the relationship between communities and police.

    Because anyone who thinks that African Americans don't want protection from crime and don't want police to actually be there to serve and protect, they are suffering under a very wrong notion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, I should say, I misspoke. I said the shooting of two young Black men. One was a young Black man. The other was a young — a teenager, Latino, who was 13 years old.

    But, David, do you think these measures can make a difference?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I think they have. I think our policing has improved from where it was.

    I was briefly a police reporter on the South and West Side of Chicago. And there was an atmosphere then — maybe there still is, but I think it's probably less — of: It's us vs. the world, that we cops are the good guys and the world is an awful place.

    And so there was almost a military attitude. And that military culture is something experts talk about in the training of policing. And that's just not the right attitude. And the hard part about this is, there are like, I think, 18,000 police forces in this country. It's hyperlocal. A lot of them are under-resourced. A lot have their own cultures.

    But changing that culture, so that people are out in the neighborhood, I think, has helped. And getting diverse work forces has helped a bit. So, I'm — this has been awful to watch these things, but it's not like it's something we haven't made some progress toward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Something else I want to ask both of you about, the decision by President Biden, Jonathan, to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11. It will have been 20 years since the United States was attacked, of course, by al-Qaida.

    The president's argument is that this was never meant to be a war that lasted this long, in his words, a multigenerational war. And he also made the argument we don't need — the threat has metastasized around the world, and we can't fight it any longer with boots on the ground in one country.

    What do you make of his argument and of the decision?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I — excuse me — I think his argument is one that we should we should take seriously and one that we need to deal with.

    Yes, the threat has metastasized around the world. And it isn't just coming out of Afghanistan. And it does make sense to remove our troops and have them nimble enough to respond to those.

    And let's keep in mind, when there are 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, 2,500 of them are U.S. troops. So, we're not talking about the 100,000 troops on the ground as we had in 2011. So, this is an easier lift.

    But the other thing to keep in mind is the number of people who have cycled through there. I have some stats here, 30,000 — 2,300 dead, 20,000 wounded; 30,000 U.S. service members have been deployed to Afghanistan at least five times.

    And we're talking about not a broadly shared sacrifice. We're talking about a narrowly shared sacrifice, and not even shared at all, when you have 1 percent of the American population serving in the military.

    So this was not an easy decision, I would think, for the president, but the fact that he made it and said — and set a deadline, which is very controversial, but he wants the United States out. And I give him credit for making a very tough decision.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, what's your thinking on this?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I disagree. I think it's a grave mistake.

    I think every expert that I read, or at least most of them, seem to believe that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan, will take over Kabul and the major cities. And that's not going to be good for girls who want to go to school. That's not good for people who want to enjoy a life of freedom.

    That's a return to something pretty ugly. We have only 2,500 there, but they're protecting the 10,000 — the other NATO troops, who are doing most of the training. Our men and women in uniform are not on front-line combat, by and large, anymore.

    And so it's not as onerous a lift as it was before. And to preserve a somewhat free society, I think, is the right thing to do. If the U.S. pulls out all, the other NATO forces are expected to pull out, and then we will be back.

    And I understand the impatience. It's been 20 years, but we have been in North Korea a long — or in South Korea a long time. We have been in Europe a long time. I think these things can sometimes serve a use. And I say that while saluting the sacrifice of the people go over there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just briefly, Jonathan, what's — what do you say to this argument it's leaving a lot of people in the lurch in Afghanistan?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, no, I understand that argument. And David makes a — makes a very good point that we — Afghan women and girls probably face danger. Afghanistan could collapse, but could and might, not assured.

    And so, like I said, this was not an easy decision. In some ways, it's a gamble. But I think it's one that the president felt he had to make.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • David Brooks:

    Yes, listen, we're not going to be the world's policemen anymore. We're not going to be the kind of superpower we were in the aftermath of World War II.

    But we still are the biggest power in the world. And I think with that comes opportunities to try to preserve civilization when you can. And that doesn't mean going to war. That doesn't mean putting our men and women in combat, but guarding people who are training the Afghan soldiers to go into combat, that seems to me a right balance to strike.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sobering stuff at the end of this week.

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • David Brooks:

    Thank you, Judy.

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