Capehart and Abernathy on Rittenhouse acquittal, Build Back Better bill

Washington Post columnists Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the verdict in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, and the passage of the Build Back Better Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, President Biden's Build Back Better plan was passed by the House of Representatives, and Kyle Rittenhouse was today acquitted on all charges.

    To break down today's events and more, we now turn to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy. That is Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy, both of them columnist for The Washington Post. David Brooks is away.

    And it's very, very good to see both of you tonight.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Good to see you too, Judy.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Good to be here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you for being here.

    So let's start, Jonathan, with the news that broke today. And that is the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, had been accused of murder, two murders, shootings. The jury found him not guilty on all charges.

    The country has been on tenterhooks for the last few years when it comes to a number of issues related to race. And race didn't come up specifically in this trial, but it certainly was around it.

    Do you think this will have any effect on the conversation the country's having right now?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    It'll have an effect on the conversation, in that it focuses the mind on the system that made it possible for a teenager with an illegal gun in a town that was not his own after curfew who shot and killed two people and wounded a third was able to be found not guilty.

    Race was not a part of this conversation because we have to remember…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … the victims here — and they were victims — they're all white.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But there's pain in the Black community because we are seeing how justice is meted out depending on who you are.

    And there was a great cartoon, sad cartoon in The Post…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Which I think we can share with…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    And you see it there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    There on the left, you have Trayvon Martin, Skittles in one hand, iced tea in the other. George Zimmerman called 911. A wannabe neighborhood watch person called 911 and said, there's a very suspicious looking guy, and ends up shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.

    And then, on the right, you saw there the drawing of Kyle Rittenhouse, carrying, carrying an assault rifle…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … there in the streets and killed two people, and he gets to go home.

    And one more thing that — Gary, you're from Ohio, if I remember right. I kept thinking about the shooting of John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, in August of 2014. He's in Walmart. He's looking for maybe gifts or presents for a young person in his family.

    He picks up a toy assault rifle. He's just walking through the aisles in Walmart shopping, like anybody does. Someone calls 911. The police show up. They see him and they kill him. He's carrying an assault rifle — a toy assault rifle in a store, shopping like anyone else.

    In Ohio, it is an open carry state. So, why didn't the police take that into account, whether it's a toy or not?

    And so I think this — the Kyle Rittenhouse just adds to the conversation that we have been having in this country about the role — the role of race, the role of law and the role of the two in holding us back, quite frankly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Gary, as we said, race was not a part of this of this case. It didn't come up in the courtroom. A jury heard the case. They heard the argument of self-defense, and they agreed with it.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    So much can be said about this whole thing.

    It's a sad situation, OK? There are no winners today. I have read a lot of people saying, oh, they're celebrating the verdict from maybe somebody on the right.

    Well, there's nothing to celebrate. There was a tragedy. Two people died in this situation. It's a tragic, tragic case.

    A 17-year-old, I agree, shouldn't have been bringing that gun to that situation. But there was also quite a rush to judgment the first 24 hours or so this happened. There were a lot of things said about, oh, this young man was a Trump supporter. We read that. He had been at a Trump rally. And then, a few months later, this happens, as though there's a connection between those two things.

    Once the evidence came out, once we began to see video of what happened, it became very, very clear there's a different narrative here than the narrative we heard at first.

    And the jury — I have covered trials. Anyone who's covered trials understands it doesn't matter how much you read in the media. It doesn't matter how much of a trial you watch on television. When you're a jury or you're sitting in that courtroom watching a trial, you have a different perspective of what's going on.

    And that jury reached a verdict. There's an old saying, and I have seen it going around today from judges and lawyers. Justice is a process, not an outcome. So, the process happened. Justice was done, in that the process happened. People will always disagree on verdicts in this case and every other case, depending on where — which side you're on.

    But justice was done because the process happened.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I would say in response, I'm not surprised by the verdict, because of the instructions from the judge, because of Wisconsin law, and the law as it pertains to self-defense.

    I read parts of the statute, and I'm looking at it. And I'm thinking, if I were on that jury, and this was the evidence that was presented to me, and I take my role as a juror seriously, what else am I left to do?

    But that's not an indictment of the jury. That's an indictment of the law. That is an indictment of — I think of society, in that you can, to your point, take the video and a different narrative shows up. But that then requires you to live in a silo, and not take into account, why on earth was he there in the first place?

    And he shouldn't have been there. And so while, sure, great, on the law, he should have been released, but that's not how people live. People don't live in silos. And that's why I think people are sort of outraged by this verdict.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what we heard the former Milwaukee prosecutor saying earlier on the program, there's concern that this may send a message that it's OK to carry a gun to a protest.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Yes. Well, it's not. And you shouldn't do that.

    And I'm sure — I'm going to guess that if he had to do it over again, how many of us at 17 make bad decisions? And, fortunately, most of the time, they don't turn out this way, that bad. But I'm betting he wouldn't do it again. I would hope he wouldn't do it again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we — a tragic, tragic thing, no matter which side you're on…

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … no question.

    Build Back Better, Jonathan. The House of Representatives…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Where did I come up with that term?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The House of Representatives passed it today, after weeks and weeks and months of discussion and debate.

    Two completely different stories here. The Republicans say it's socialism. Democrats say this is such important additional help for raising children, for education, for health care, for the climate — for climate change, fighting climate change. Which one is it?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Oh, obviously, it is what the Democrats are saying.

    And leave aside what the Republicans are saying. They will brand anything socialism, and they don't bring anything to the table as an alternative, as a positive alternative to what the Democrats are presenting.

    What the House of Representatives did today by passing Build Back Better was to send a — was to put down a marker and show the American people what Congress wants to do for them.

    Everyone's talking about the economy and inflation and costs are so high. And then you look at Build Back Better, and there's an opportunity to bring down your child care costs, to bring down your home care costs, to bring down your health care costs.

    That's what Congress should be doing. That's what Washington should be doing, looking at the problems of the country, looking at the problems of the American people and the American worker, and American productivity, and doing something about it.

    And so, with the House passing it, they have sent a message, look, this is the package. Of course, it's just the House. And all the action goes to the Senate, where this might be a — Build Back Better might be a shadow of its former self by the time it comes out of the Senate.

    But this is — there should be unadulterated joy that Democrats have been able to do this at this point in time right now.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Unadulterated joy.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Well, I will adulterate it a little bit.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gary Abernathy:

    There is — this is a classic example of the different attitudes between the role of government.

    And the infrastructure bill that was passed earlier, the $1.2 trillion, is the role of government. For a lot of people, that's how they look at it. That's how a lot of Republicans used to look at it.

    Now, beginning last year — we have talked about this before — under Trump, there was a lot of an abandonment of this traditional Republican attitude about the role of government, because Trump wasn't afraid to spend money. He wasn't afraid to give tax cuts, and then turn around and also spend money on top of the tax cuts. He was all for infrastructure.

    But what you're hearing today is — the infrastructure bill was one thing, but now this is a — I won't use the word socialist tonight. I will just call it a very progressive wish list of things that progressives believe government should do. It's the biggest expansion of government. It compares right there with LBJ Great Society, the FDR New Deal.

    It's right there. And that's what Joe Biden, if that's what he wants his legacy to be — we will see how voters feel about it. But to get down to the $2 trillion price tag, 1.8, whatever we want to call it, they have they have played some tricks. They have kind of — they have got some several things in here they're touting that will sunset out very quickly, in four years, the preschool, the childhood tax credit, the health care expansion.

    And if there's a Republican Congress, really doubtful they're going to re-up this. So a lot of things that are being celebrated on the left may actually not last very long.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So this may be ephemeral.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    It may be. It may not.

    Remember, folks were really angry about the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans ran on replace and repeal. And when they had the majorities in both the House and the Senate, they didn't replace or repeal anything.

    So, you know Washington.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    They did get rid of the individual mandate.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Sure.

    But, in Washington, the hardest part is getting something into law. The easy — well, yes, it's hard to get stuff into law. And it's even harder to pull it out, especially if it's — especially if it's popular, and especially if it helps people.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    No, that's a good point.

    And so it depends on how America reacts to, how Americans react to it over the next couple of years. You're right. If this all becomes very popular, it'll be difficult, more difficult than it sounds, even if Republicans take over, to reverse it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is there any — are there any parts of this bundle of programs that Republicans can be comfortable with?

  • Gary Abernathy:

    I don't think so.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gary Abernathy:

    If you're talking about congressional Republicans, I don't think so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    And that was evidenced by the vote in the House. And I think you will probably see a very similar vote in the Senate.

    This comes down to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    And Kyrsten Sinema.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Yes.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    And, remember, Build Back Better, when it gets to the Senate, the Republicans have made it clear, we're not voting for this, whatever you come up with.

    And that's why it's going to be voted on in a — by a simple majority through reconciliation rules.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    So, that's why they're able to do all this negotiating, not worrying about what Republicans think, because they have already said, we don't care.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And why immigration may come out of it.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Well, yes.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes.

  • Gary Abernathy:

    And they don't care.

    And this is — it's a shame, because — I heard Speaker Pelosi today after the House vote. They were talking to her about Kevin McCarthy's long, marathon eight-hour speech, and what he had to say. And she said: I don't pay attention to what — I don't listen to them.

    And that's a shame.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will leave it there.

    Gary Abernathy, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

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