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The grim political routine of responding to a mass shooting

Will the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history move the needle on the debate over access to guns? Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamra Keith of NPR join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the politics of gun control, the impact of President Trump’s Twitter reactions in moments of crisis, plus what pressing problems have been overshadowed in the wake of other news.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But first: The political storms keep raging around the Trump White House, from Puerto Rico to North Korea.

    Lisa Desjardins has more.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    That's right. Thanks, Hari.

    It means it's time for Politics Monday.

    We're joined, of course, by our regulars, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    What a privilege to be with Walter and Keith.

    Thank you for joining us.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Thank you, Lisa.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    We start with the topic that obviously we have had to touch on before, a sad one, mass shootings again.

    We have been on this territory for before. But yet we still have the obligation to really check in with what our leaders are doing and saying.

    Tam, what are the dynamics at play tonight for our leaders in Washington when it comes to gun violence?

  • TAMARA KEITH, NPR:

    Tonight, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the senator, Democratic senator, is giving a floor speech. He's given these floor speeches before.

    And he is talking about that in the floor speech, saying that gun violence continues. He believes, he firmly believes that now is the time to have a conversation about gun control. And he is really not satisfied by what his colleagues have been doing.

    Meanwhile, I was at the White House press briefing earlier today, and it is very clear the White House doesn't want to have that conversation. Sarah Sanders said it is time for condolences, it's time for grief, and that it would be premature to talk about policy.

    And if this sounds familiar, it is because it is. We have had this political dance so many times before that it is hard to keep track.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Yes.

    And the divide too politically goes beyond just what is going to happen in Congress, among Americans as well, that NBC/Wall Street Journal had earlier sent around some social trend polling that they would be looking at before the shooting in Las Vegas.

    And what they found when they asked the question about, do you think government is going to go too far in restricting gun rights or not go far enough, you won't be surprised to know that it is incredibly polarizing. If you voted for Donald Trump, you overwhelmingly think that the government is going to go too far; 78 percent of Trump voters believe that.

    If you voted for Hillary Clinton, 74 percent of them think that you aren't going far enough, the government isn't going far enough. And so I suspect that we will fall back into that pattern, which is what makes it very hard to meet in the middle.

    If most people think one side is going to go way too far, then they're never going to be willing to meet them somewhere where they can both agree to lose a little bit of something.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    You know, We did see Hillary Clinton tweet, and also Democrats in Congress now tweet about a Republican bill that Republicans would like to pass this month, at least in the House.

    And that is a bill that would make it easier, remove one less background check, if you want to buy a silencer. Republicans I talked to said, well, they think this issue is misunderstood, that it would still make a rifle loud, it would just make it not so loud that it harms your hearing.

    Of course, Democrats feel very differently. They think that's not safe to make it easier to buy silencers.

    I want to ask both of you. We have Democrats speaking on the floor tonight, but what can Democrats do more than protest? And what can Republicans do? Do they need to wait on a bill like this, Tam?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Well, clearly, Democrats are having the same conversation that they have had again and again and again.

    And they are responding to the idea that it is not time to politicize by saying , this is exactly the time to politicize.

    And I — I mean, I hate to repeat myself, but Republicans are doing what they do and say, you know, mostly quiet about gun control for the moment, and then at some point, it will return to the conversation of defending the Second Amendment, and around and around and around.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • AMY WALTER:

    This bill will be very difficult to get through the Senate. The House, obviously, you have a bigger margin for Republicans. In the Senate, to get 60 votes on something like this will be very unlikely.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    But let me make a prediction. If there is gun legislation that gets a vote sometime in the next few months, it is more likely to be the silencer measure than it is to be expanded background checks or some of the other things that Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are calling for.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    We see a theme, obviously, and we have seen it for years now, which is Americans looking for leadership, hoping for more leadership.

    Tam, you were looking back at what past presidents in recent memory have said after mass shootings. What are the lessons there? What worked, what helped, or what didn't?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes, there is sort of a grim routine that develops in the hours immediately following a mass shooting.

    I went back and watched President Clinton after Columbine, President Bush after Virginia Tech, President Obama after Sandy Hook. And they all talk about the shock and the sadness. And they all cite Scripture.

    And President Trump today very much followed that same formula.

    The one break from that is President Obama after Sandy Hook began saying, and we need to do something about it.

    That is certainly not something that President Trump said in his remarks today.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Amy, I want to ask you about crisis in general.

    This is not the only crisis on this president's desk right now. He has Puerto Rico, as we saw many Americans still struggling there, still needing a lot of help. And, obviously, this is a president who tweeted — he praised Puerto Rico's governor, but sharply criticized San Juan's mayor.

    And then, at the same time, he also has North Korea. And he has criticized or at least he's said that his efforts by his own secretary of state to try and broker a deal with North Korea are a waste of time.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    What have we learned in the last week about the way this president manages crisis?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, we have learned, especially by his Twitter habit, that he tweets as a president much like he did as a candidate, which is, it is impulsive, it is unpredictable.

    There is — doesn't seem to be any sort of strategic message in this.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • AMY WALTER:

    I know there's a lot of — it is going to make headlines.

    I know there is a lot going around about whether he does this strategically, as a way to get his base fired up and keep them engaged, especially when he's maybe moving — moving too far to the left for some people on the left, or when he has been — for some people on the right, or he has been unsuccessful legislatively.

    I don't mow if I necessarily buy that. I think that he really does react and instantly gets onto his phone, and then it gets onto your screen.

    And I think the biggest example of this is the fight with the mayor of San Juan, where I think this was simply about he saw somebody that was being critical of him. We know that he reacts instantly to criticism. Usually, he does it by critiquing or going after that person over Twitter.

    But what we also know — and this is where we are getting into watching this polarization happen beyond the president. Just scrolling through my social media over the weekend, already, the folks in my feed who are on the right siding with the president, the folks on my feed in the left siding with the mayor.

    And so this becomes then for the president a way to once again polarize America, even at a time when what folks are looking for, as you pointed out, is unity. And this is what is going — it will be very interesting.

    The president, after tweeting a lot of stuff over the past couple of weeks, whether it is the NFL, Puerto Rico or, of course, Rex Tillerson, now is trying to go to places like Las Vegas this week and Puerto Rico.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    And speaking of Puerto Rico, tomorrow.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Tamara Keith, you cover this White House, you cover this president.

    What should we watch for when he actually lands in Puerto Rico?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    So, he says that he's going to be meeting with military observations, first-responders, FEMA.

    The White House says that the mayor of San Juan has been invited to some of the events around the president's visit. We will certainly be watching to see if she is there and how their interaction goes.

    And the president said that, more importantly than all of those people that he is supposed to meet with, he is also supposed to meet people in Puerto Rico on the ground who have been affected by this storm, like real people.

    And President Trump in the past has been very affected by the conversations that he has with real people.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, and he got high marks for his performance in the aftermath of the hurricanes in Florida and Texas.

    Over 60 percent of voters said they approve of the job that he was doing and the government was doing in response there.

    We haven't seen any polling in the wake of the most recent response in Puerto Rico. But I will be very curious to see…

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    After.

  • AMY WALTER:

    … after he goes down there and what the reaction is.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    This storm is about to get a lot less abstract for President Trump.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    One last quick question.

    All these headlines, there is other news that we're not able to cover in depth. What are watching politically, quickly, that you think might be overshadowed right now, Tam?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    It has been 52 days since President Trump said that the opioid crisis was an emergency and that he was declaring an emergency. That emergency has never actually technically been declared, and now there is no HHS secretary.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    And Amy?

  • AMY WALTER:

    In all of the debate about what is happening to health care, the one thing that got lost or fell through the cracks was the child health…

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Health insurance.

  • AMY WALTER:

    The CHIP, the child health insurance.

    There are a lot of states that aren't going to be able to bring low-income children in. Congress needs to fix this quickly. But there could be some consequences.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Excellent.

    Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Tamara Keith of NPR, thank you both very much.

  • AMY WALTER:

    You're welcome.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    You're welcome.

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