The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
Guest Host: Lisa Desjardins
Even as we learn more about the gunman, the mass shooting in Orlando is sparking a furious debate over how to address terrorism and immigration. President Barack Obama blasted Donald Trump – the Republican’s presumptive nominee for president – and his proposed ban on Muslims. Trump fired back last night in a political fight that has quickly become about American values. Meanwhile, FBI investigators say the gunman’s wife may have known he was planning an attack. Join us for an update on the investigation into the killings and the deep political divisions now exposed.
- James Fallows National correspondent for The Atlantic magazine.
- Eric Lichtblau Reporter, The New York Times
- Faiza Patel Co-director, liberty & national security program, Brennan Center For Justice, New York University School of Law
- Jeffrey Lord Contributing editor, The American Spectator; a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan
MS. LISA DESJARDINSThanks for joining us. I'm Lisa Desjardins of the PBS NewsHour sitting in for Diane Rehm. President Obama rebuked presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, yesterday for suggesting, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, that immigrants and Muslims in America are a significant threat. A gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a gay nightclub before he, himself, was shot.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSJoining me to talk about the investigation and America's struggle over diversity and tolerance in a time of fear are James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine, Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times and from a studio at NPR in New York, Faiza Patel, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University school of law. Thank you all so much for joining us.
MR. JAMES FALLOWSGood morning.
MR. ERIC LICHTBLAUThank you.
DESJARDINSAnd, of course, you also are our guest on this show. We'll be taking your comments and calls throughout the hour. Call us at 1-800-433-8850. Send us your email, that's email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. I'm really looking forward to, I think, what could be an important conversation this hour so we're hoping you send us your thoughts. Eric, let's go first to you. New York Times reporter, Pulitzer Prizewinning reporter, you've been following so many aspects of FBI investigations in the past. Can you bring us up to date in the investigation in Orlando? What do we know? What have we learned since yesterday?
LICHTBLAUSure. Well, we know that Omar Mateen appears to have been inspired by Islamic radicals and ISIS. He pledges allegiance to ISIS in a phone call from the club. He also, in the past, has pledged allegiance to competing Islamic factions, to Hezbollah, al-Nusra and others. He seems to be a guy who just wants to martyr himself. That's the best profile we can come up with, someone who is craving attention, extremist ideologies, even if they're somewhat clashing ideologies and wanted to go out in a blaze of glory in his mind, in a sadistic mind.
LICHTBLAUThe focus of the investigation now is partly on the wife and what did she know. We're hearing reports yesterday that the FBI has questioned her quite extensively, that she may have had knowledge of some of his activities prior to the attack. She's telling them that she tried to talk him out of doing something. That could just be the defense of someone who thinks they might be in criminal trouble. Did she really try and talk him out of anything or was she complicit in this? That's one of the questions...
DESJARDINSAnd there are allegations, of course, that his first wife was severely abused, so...
LICHTBLAUYes. She says she was beaten during their brief marriage so they're looking at every aspect of his life over the last 10 or 12 years.
DESJARDINSAnd what do we know about this idea that he had spent time in this club and perhaps other similar gay establishments in Florida?
LICHTBLAUSure. That's also been an angle of reporting is the idea was he perhaps a closeted gay who did this out of not only anti-gay hatred, but some internal struggle. There are reports from people at the club that he had visited there a number of times. Those are somewhat unconfirmed. It's a little difficult to know did you really see that guy a year ago or two years ago or do you think you did? There are also reports, unconfirmed still, that he may have even used a gay dating app. So that is another angle that the FBI is certainly looking at.
DESJARDINSYou have a story talking about the real challenge for the FBI in cases like this, talking about the number of active potential threats they're looking at, I think you said it. At this moment, there's about 1,000 different individuals the FBI's looking at. Can you talk about that challenge and what the FBI can reasonably do?
LICHTBLAURight. Well, the FBI director, James Comey, the other day called it a needle in the haystack and sometimes you're even looking to see whether the hay is going to turn into a needle because this was a guy, Omar Mateen, who they had looked at quite extensively three years ago because he had coworkers who said he had been making inflammatory comments, claiming to have relatives or connections to terrorists in the Middle East.
LICHTBLAUThey looked at him for ten months. They sent in a confidential undercover informant. They did wire-tapping. They trailed him. And then, they closed the investigation. You know, there are first amendment rights. You can say crazy things. You can say stupid things and it may not cross the line into criminal conduct. This was a case where it blew up on them. We had this guy just two and a half years later commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
DESJARDINSEric Lichtblau of the New York Times, we're going to come back to you and possibly talk about sort of many of the divides that you've covered as part of your look at security in America. But Jim Fallows, I want to talk to you about something you've written in the past week about Donald Trump. And get into the conversation about what -- I think, already, Donald Trump had spoken about the idea that he thinks Muslims in America are a threat and that anymore Muslim immigrants, for the most part -- except for the Mayor of London, should be banned from entering this country.
DESJARDINSBut this seems to have really escalated this conversation -- I'm not sure it's a conversation yet. Hopefully, we'll start that now, about American values and pluralism. You wrote about Trump's essentialism. Can you talk about what you mean by that and why you think that's the problem with Donald Trump?
FALLOWSYes. And thanks. This was something -- this was two or three major controversies ago with Donald Trump. This was back in the time when he was attacking the Indiana-born Hispanic heritage judge, Gonzalo Curiel, as being fundamentally or intrinsically biased against him because of his heritage, as Trump put it. And I think the idea was that because of who you are by circumstances you can't control, who your parents happen to be, what your bloodline was or whatever, you should be assigned a different role in the American panorama.
FALLOWSAnd I think -- I wrote in The Atlantic about a week or so ago, there is no more un-American idea than that. The exceptional American idea, the revolutionary American idea is that people could make their own way regardless of race, although we've spent centuries, obviously, dealing with that and are still, or religion or anything else. So I think you actually -- to connect that with what the president was saying yesterday in his amazingly angry speech -- I thought the president was sort of reflecting his exasperation with this line of argument by Donald Trump where, on the one hand, Trump is essentially saying all of the big problems that are frustrating you and me and the rest of the country are simple.
FALLOWSIf you're tough enough, if you're smart enough, if you get the best people, they're gonna be, you know...
DESJARDINSIf we put up walls and stop letting people in.
FALLOWSExactly. Then, this problem will go away. And Obama was sort of, without giving a list, was saying, you know, immigration is a fundamentally complex issue, but one that's central to our identity as Americans. Dealing with ISIS is very difficult. It's not just a matter of having a different term for it. Dealing with domestic terrorism, finding ways to deal -- have a largely non-Islamic world in this foundation as the United States and the Western Europe dealing with a largely Islamic world in the Middle East, how to find ways to deal with the extremists in both civilizations rather than letting this be cast as a clash of civilizations, which finally is what ISIS would most like to see.
DESJARDINSI want to go to you, Faiza Patel, with the Brennan Center. You're the co-director of the liberty and national security program there. I want to ask you, perhaps, maybe not a data specific question, but reading articles in the past few days, I noticed there were some that talk about the unity in Orlando in response to this massacre. But I also noticed a story out of New Jersey in The Record talking about how 9/11 responders felt that something has changes. And that while they felt 9/11 unified the country, they feel there's more divide now. Can you speak to this issue of how a security threat like this may turn from unifying factor to a dividing factor and why are there so many layers with these particular murders in Florida?
MS. FAIZA PATELSo I think what happens when one of the awful incidents takes place is that people project onto it whatever it is that they're interested in. So if you're interested in clamping down on Muslims, then, you know, this is a fundamentally Muslim thing and we need to find a way to deal with the Muslim threat. You know, if you're worried about guns, it becomes about gun control. If you're worried about LGBT rights, it becomes about LGBT rights. And it's all of those things, right? So it's not a single thing, but because we all kind of split up into these narrow channels and start talking about what it is that concerns us specifically, we get locked into very simplistic understandings of it.
MS. FAIZA PATELAnd, you know, it is a very complex problem and it has all of these layers and it's very difficult to say it one thing or the other. And oftentimes, you know, what's proposed in response, across both sides of the aisle, is, in fact, trying to get at one piece of it without recognizing that there are all of these different factors at play.
DESJARDINSI want to ask you, James Fallows, about the divides that we see here, that Faiza just nailed down. We have a divide in America over guns right now. We have divides over abortion. We have divides over contraception, over gay rights, over many issues that seem to be coming to a head. One thing America is unified in is mistrust of government, disappointment in government. I know Gallup just came out with some new numbers saying that, I think, confidence in key U.S. institutions is at a recent low. How do you see that factoring into the Trump phenomenon and driving this idea that America, a nation of immigrants, should turn away immigrants.
FALLOWSOver the past three years, my wife, Deb, and I have spent about half of our time travelling around the country to smaller cities that have had some kind of economic shock of one kind or other, the kind of places you would think would be natural Trump bastions. And we've been in the central valley of California and Mississippi and South Carolina and South Dakota and all the rest. What's striking is that this fury and division seems to -- I'd say two things about it. One is it seems to be confined to the national level of politics.
FALLOWSWhen you're asking people about how things are working -- for example, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is a traditionally very white town, now has a lot of Islamic refugees who are there and I think there's a kind of pride in the town, the Somali and Sudanese families are making their way. My wife wrote a story about a young woman from, I think, Darfur who was leading in the (word?) campaign in the high school in Sioux Falls. And it's when it's abstracted away to a sort of national culture war, you have the sense that here in our town, we're finding ways to incorporate people, as have been the case.
FALLOWSBut we think somehow, in a larger sense, it's going bad. The other is this -- I guess there's a -- through American history, there's been this theme of whatever group, especially whatever white group, is most economically imperiled is the one most easily sort of revved up for racial resentments at whatever is the nonwhite group on hand. And I think that is -- there has been some of that in the support for Trump, too.
DESJARDINSOkay. James Fallows with The Atlantic. Thank you so much. We'll be continuing this conversation. We want to hear from you. Our phone number, 1-800-433-8850. And you can email us at drshow@wamu. What are your thoughts about Mr. Trump's recent proposals and President Obama's pushbacks? I'm Lisa Desjardins. Stay with us.
DESJARDINSAnd welcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. This hour we're having a very important conversation, a national conversation that I suspect is happening in your home, it's happening with my family for sure, about the Orlando shootings and moreover about American values, really, immigrants and how America handles threats in this age.
DESJARDINSI want to go to the phones and take a call right off the top here from Lydia from Woodstock, Illinois. Lydia, what's your call -- what's your question or comment?
LYDIAWell, thank you for this opportunity. This is an essential conversation. Today is the Magna Carta Day, as well. The criteria to be a part of this wonderful nation and the fabric and tapestry is basically, I think, put very well in a phrase that is attributed to songwriter Bob Dylan. I will change one word, and that word is come instead of goes. A hero is one who understands the responsibility that come with freedom. Anybody can qualify for that. Your parents qualify for that, a young child, an executive, a president. But anybody can also disqualify themselves.
LYDIAAnd Mr. Trump has also done that so many times. And we need to have that conversation. What are the responsibilities that people embrace when they come to this shoreline, and who represents that criteria?
DESJARDINSLydia, quickly, I'm curious, in what ways do you think Mr. Trump has disqualified himself or not met that responsibility that you see coming with freedom?
LYDIAWell, first of all, words do matter, and he's using words in a way that accommodate his goals. There -- there is responsibility that comes with every word, and anybody who is a parent, a good parent, knows that. Any teacher knows that. Any policeman knows that.
DESJARDINSAnd Lydia, thank you so much. I wanted to move to -- we have someone who is a Trump supporter joining us on the phones today, as well. Joining us from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is Jeffrey Lord, contributing editor with The American Spectator. And Jeffrey, I wanted to go to you to respond to that caller. It's a thought that obviously I know you've heard and many of us have heard from many Americans right now, that Donald Trump in the words that he uses is being irresponsible.
DESJARDINSAnd certainly the president said he's going even farther, that Mr. Trump is actually creating a threat by pushing back at the Muslim world at large. How do you respond to that?
MR. JEFFREY LORDYeah, well, first of all, in terms of the president, I mean, when I listened to the president yesterday, what I hear is the sentiments of Neville Chamberlain, and if only Winston Churchill would stop picking on Adolf Hitler, Adolf Hitler would be nicer to Great Britain. And of course the threat with the Nazis was not going to go away, Winston Churchill or not. Secondly, I really am disturbed at the sort of basic lack of knowledge of American history. When he talks about banning, temporarily, immigration of Muslims, President Carter in April of 1980 issued an order that invalidated all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States effective immediately, and I'm reading there from his statement.
MR. JEFFREY LORDAnd of course Iran is about 100 percent Muslim or close to it. So effectively President Carter was doing this. In 1798, Congress passed, and President John Adams signed, the Alien Enemies Act, which is still in force today and which was used by President Adams, it was used by President Franklin Roosevelt, and I'm not talking about those disgraceful internment camps of Japanese-Americans. I'm talking about three presidential proclamations that FDR issued the day after Pearl Harbor, which gave the U.S. government the authority to confiscate property, to pick up enemy aliens that they deemed dangerous to the public health or safety of the United States, I'm reading there. They...
DESJARDINSJeff, I want to make sure and get as much of a conversation going as possible.
LORDOkay. But you understand what I'm saying.
DESJARDINSAnd I think these are all -- I completely, and I think these are -- history obviously is something that we all need to be very cognizant of. I think one question I have to you is it seems now in this time of threat that we have a question facing us of priorities. In the American Constitution, obviously, First Amendment, Second Amendment, we hear a lot about Second Amendment gun rights from conservatives and from Mr. Trump. But at the same time, here he is pushing against one specific religion, Muslims. That's in the First Amendment, freedom of religion.
DESJARDINSHow do you -- how do you take those two things side by side? At one point, Mr. Trump saying absolutely the Second Amendment, you know, must proceed without any impairment, but I can -- as president I would take action against one particular religion, which is a protected right in the U.S. Constitution.
LORDRight, it's not -- it's not -- I mean, all Muslims are not the problem here, but the fact of the matter is...
DESJARDINSBut yet he would ban most all Muslims.
LORDTemporarily until we get the immigration situation straightened out. I mean, the fact of the matter is that America is filled -- the population of the United States is 100 percent filled with descendants of immigrants. No one is anti-immigrant. But when you have a specific set of people, whether with World War II days Japanese, Germans and Italians, as FDR directed his proclamations, or in this case radical jihadists, radical Islamists coming in here deliberately to commit mass murder or -- you have to deal with this.
LORDI mean, I can't imagine -- I mean, I'm old enough to remember some of these horrific murders in the 1960s connected with the civil rights movement. You wouldn't investigate the black community, you would investigate white Southerners in Mississippi, in Philadelphia and Mississippi in the Ku Klux Klan. You go -- mean, if you're charged with investigating the mafia and Al Capone, you would be concentrating on that section of the population that was encouraging or participating in these acts.
LORDThat's all we're saying here. This in effect has nothing to do with religion other than the fact that radical Islam is in fact the problem here.
DESJARDINSJeffrey Lord with the American Spectator. I want to go to Faiza Patel with the Brennan Center for Justice. I want to ask you first to respond, but also explain, we see in some cases that minorities are held responsible, as we did -- as we hear Mr. Trump holding Muslims responsible in a couple instances here. But in other cases where we see, say, white Christians, as we saw the assailant in Charleston was, we don't see perhaps the same kind of rhetoric. Is that -- why is that? Is that a case of majority versus minority? And what are your thoughts on what Mr. Lord just said?
PATELSo I think there's a couple of things going on. So one is the issue of immigrant, right, and I mean, I think everybody knows that the gunman in Orlando was born and bred in the United States, in Queens. So whether or not you ban immigration from Syria, that's not going to affect the situation that we are reacting to today. So I actually don't see that as a logical response to the issue at hand, leaving aside all of the sort of issues around targeting a particular religion.
PATELI mean, the reality is that, you know, contrary to the World War II situation, when you are having these conflicts in the Middle East, in the Muslim world, our strategy has been to engage the Muslim world to defend their own countries, right, and to be able to take on any groups that try and destabilize governments. And that's what we have to do because we are not capable or equipped or willing, frankly, to be, you know, mired in a 20-year war in the Middle East, and we've seen how well the last two went also, so that doesn't really bode well for us getting involved.
PATELThe second thing is this issue of group responsibility, which I think is really, really damaging. I think it's damaging to the fabric of our country. America is built on diversity. It is built on the fact that, you know, we all come from different places, we all have different religions, different skin colors, maybe even speak a different language, but we all subscribe to the same ideals. And so to me that's just very fundamentally un-American.
PATELAnd the second thing I'll say, it's also really counter-productive because if you look at it -- if you look statistically at how terrorism cases and plots are foiled, you'll see that every law enforcement officer will say that the Muslim community is a critical partner in this. And statistically we know that about 40 percent of terrorist plots that have been foiled have been foiled because Muslims have come forward and said, hey, you know, there's something going on here, you guys should investigate.
PATELSo it's both un-American and counterproductive to be just focusing on one group, assigning them responsibility. And if you're Muslim, and you see the fact that your people are being sort of assigned collective responsibility when, you know, nobody assigns collective responsibility for Dylann Roof or any of the other mass shootings that have happened in the last five years, well, I mean, it's a very tough message to swallow.
DESJARDINSFaiza Patel, and, you know, the word un-American we're hearing a lot. I want to quickly go to you, Eric Lichtblau, and talk about another phrase we're hearing, and we heard it just a minute ago from Jeffrey Lord, radical Islam. You know, I don't know how far to go down this road. Do semantics matter here? Obviously some on the right say it matters a lot. President Obama says no, it's a complete distraction.
LICHTBLAUWell, Donald Trump has certainly made it into an issue, using this as kind of a flashpoint, that if you don't use that phrase, somehow you are -- you are soft, you are weak on terrorism. Hillary Clinton I think tried to diffuse that by saying here, here, I'll use the phrase. She used the phrase radical Islam, and President Obama really mocked the whole argument. I think it is sort of a meaningless, semantic argument. You know, whether you call it anti -- you know, going after extremists or radical Islam, whatever you call it, there is certainly a strong push by the entire U.S. counterterrorism establishment to go after thousands and thousands of potential extremists in the United States, whatever you call it, whether it's a political agitator or not, the reality is that they're going after them.
FALLOWSYes, I will confine myself to responding to one -- the most grotesquely misleading historical example that Jeffrey Lord was giving a minute ago because I think it's relevant to our discussion now, which is the idea that President Carter, for whom I was working at the time, had a blanket ban on Iranian immigrants and visas, and therefore that's like what Donald Trump is proposing.
FALLOWSSo just to take our listeners back to something that not many of them may remember or have been alive for, for decades before, the United States had been allied with the shah of Iran. There was the Iranian revolution in '78, '79. A fundamentalist Islamic government took place there, and they took American diplomats hostage in the embassy in Tehran. There was essentially a state of war existing between the U.S. and Iran, which has only been abated recently.
FALLOWSAnd in those circumstances, President Carter, I left his service just before that, said one of the many ways we're going to crack down in this is by a suspension of visas. It's entirely different from what Donald Trump has been proposing now.
DESJARDINSAnd I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And I'm back with our guests here in the studio, having a very important conversation about pluralism in America and essentially how America wants to define itself at this important and difficult moment. I want to go back to Jeffrey Lord, Jeffrey Lord Trump supporter and also a contributing editor with The American Spectator.
DESJARDINSJeffrey, some people say that Donald Trump is exploiting fears and dividing this country. How do you respond to that?
LORDWell, I think the American people are pretty angry about what's going on, and they get furious when they see what happened in Orlando. They were furious about 9/11. They want something done. And I think it's fair to say that President Obama and to the degree that she was there as secretary of state for four years, have been in charge of the shop for eight years, and this has been the result.
LORDSo they feel that they've been given a good run here, and their policies have been tried, and they have been ineffective to the point of killing people. So they want something done. They want to go in a different direction, and I think that's one of the reasons. They have a disdain for political correctness, which they feel is hobbling American policy. They have a disdain for identity politics, which many -- I certainly view as racist you know, the descendant of slavery and segregation.
LORDI think there's no room for this in the United States and that this is what is hobbling American policy on -- in this area.
DESJARDINSJeff, I'm curious. You know, we've also seen a conversation in the last day about whether Donald Trump is accusing the president of somehow rooting for the terrorists here. He certainly seemed to insinuate that yesterday, and it wasn't the first time that Donald Trump has indicated that...
LORDYeah, I would point out that President Obama, not so long ago -- not insinuated, he said flatly that Republicans were lined up with the hardliners in Iran.
DESJARDINSBut Jeff, let me ask you, I want to ask you more pointedly about, do you believe President Obama in any way could possibly be wanting terrorists to have an advantage here, and what do you think about Donald Trump saying that about the current leader of the United States?
LORDWell, what he's saying is that his policies have resulted in these kinds of attacks in the country. I mean, if we're talking is President Obama a Muslim, I can speak with some authority, President Obama belongs to, or at least certainly did for a long time, my religious denomination, which is the United Church of Christ. And I can tell you this is the church of the pilgrims, the Congregationalists, et cetera.
DESJARDINSBut Jeff, I think I'm asking you about something a little more broad, and I guess I'll just leave it with this question. I mean, is there anything that you think -- has Donald Trump gone too far in any way in your opinion?
LORDNo, I don't think so.
LORDI think he is representing the view of the American people. They want change. They've tried it President Obama's way, it has not worked, and we're seeing people killed constantly in this country, and they want an end to it.
DESJARDINSJeffrey Lord with the American Spectator, thanks for joining us. Jim Fallows with the Atlantic.
FALLOWSAnd again, just to be clear, yesterday Donald Trump told the Associated Press that the serving president of the United States, quote, is prioritizing the interests of our enemies over our allies and even the American people. That is something you haven't heard about previous sitting presidents about other nominees for this office.
DESJARDINSAnd I have to say as a journalist and reporter, this is obviously an important part of the conversation, but it's difficult because I feel like this sort of back and forth about, you know, who's doing what and these accusations that seem to more in left field don't seem to get to this bigger conversation about what America should be at this moment.
DESJARDINSI want to turn, we've been talking a lot about Muslims and immigrants, but there's another overlapping divide here that is a very hot button, very passionate topic in America, and that's guns. Eric Lichtblau, you've been covering the gun divide and sort of the role of guns in these -- in violence here. Can you talk about why this becomes such a heated political topic, and it seems like it will be a very large issue this election year.
LICHTBLAUSure, it's a huge issue, unfortunately after every mass shooting. This was the biggest one in U.S. history. There is a push once again, as there has been for the last five or six years, to close the so-called terror gap, which would -- which allows people who are on the no-fly list for terror suspicions still to buy a gun, a semi-automatic gun even.
LICHTBLAUIn this case the shooter, Omar Mateen, was not currently on the watch list, but there's a push to even make it for -- apply to people like him who had been on a terrorist watch list. So, you know, the chances of this passing are probably slim. The same thing was proposed after the tragedy at Newtown, which was perhaps the most horrible tragedy you could imagine involving, you know, kindergarteners and first-graders. So it probably will be blocked once again, but this debate is always out there after every shooting, after Aurora, after Newtown and after Orlando.
DESJARDINSEric, in covering this, do you find that there is any room for actual conversation, or is there -- is this the case where lawmakers and officials seem to be dug in, whatever their true beliefs are, they have a position, they are clinging to it, perhaps for political motives, perhaps for their own genuine beliefs. Is there anyone out there having a real conversation, whether it's in security field, about what should be happening with guns and violence?
LICHTBLAUIt doesn't seem like it, unfortunately. You did see Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, saying yesterday that he was at least open to a discussion about guns and terrorism, which is a bit more than he said before. But, you know, the two sides are dug in, the NRA has already dug in, and it's sort of the same -- the same song playing over and over again.
DESJARDINSWe have a different song playing right now, our theme song. That means we're going to go to a quick break. But we want to hear from you, 1-800-433-8850. Or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hit us on Trump or Facebook. We want to know what you think of this very important conversation. We'll take a quick break, and we'll be right back.
DESJARDINSI'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show and we're back having a conversation about America in this moment of threat, following the Orlando shootings. And also, following months of a very intense campaign between Donald Trump and his rivals over how America should protect itself. Let's go to the phones and we're going to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Antonette, you're on the phone. What's your thoughts?
ANTONETTEThank you for taking my call. First, I'm just, I'm listening, I've been listening to the radio intently, the television -- television intently, and I'm just getting all the news. But it seems like no one really wants to address the root, and believe me, I do not agree with Donald Trump and all of his views. I just don't. However, sometimes he has the tendency to be vocal about things that we're not hearing from other leaders. And so, we say, oh, he was homophobic, oh it was domestic terrorism.
ANTONETTEOh, he pledged allegiance to ISIS. Oh, we need help with gun control. But isn't it all of that? And why can't we just stop to say, yes, it was allegiance to ISIS. How do we address this? How do we address gun control? And not talk about it, like really address the issues. And I think with so many opinions flying, and so many what if it was this and what if it was that. I mean, some of the things, he was very clear about when he went in and wreaked havoc in Orlando. And so why can't we just address issues instead of having long conversations about it? I'm really ready for change. I'm tired of seeing people die.
DESJARDINSAntonette, thank you. And I'm also going to go now to Orlando, Florida, and Faramaz, with another thought on Donald Trump. Faramaz, you're on the line.
FARAMAZYes, good morning. I've got a couple of issues. One is that, first of all, I'm not a Muslim. But any group that has been a scapegoat, be it gays or Muslims or Christians or anybody, I would count myself in. One thing is if we follow the same logic as we will temporarily suspend all of our Constitution, just about because we don't understand it and he says, until we make a perfect way to we know how people come in immigrants. Why do we use the same logic and temporarily suspend sale of guns, if not all of them, some of them, which is the Second Amendment, which was put in in a century that was thousands of years or thousands of miles away from where we are today.
FARAMAZAnd the same logic should apply. Okay, we don't know what's going on, but we do know that guns are killing people. Why don't we suspend it, as he has said, and he has brought the most vote for primary in the history of America. And this is ideology. Then, if you're not a hypocrite, use the same ideology and the same logic for that. The other one is that, as Obama said, whenever use epitaphs as extremism or the idea of fundamentalist Islam or anything like that, we have to remember -- go back in our history. We've had somebody who said, extremism, in a particular sense, is not a vice.
FARAMAZOkay, but if you use that extremism, here is a group of so-called Muslims that are trying to, for political reasons, take the leadership of all of Islam. And we are giving them credit. We are playing into their hands. And we are alienating the rest of Muslims and run them into their camps.
DESJARDINSFaramaz, thank you so much for that call. And we had two callers back to back. One talking about Americans thirst for a clearer, stronger, voice, something that is unequivocating. Cutting through what many Americans see as the change. And then we had another voice, Faramaz, saying he's concerned about extremism, about something being too strong. I want to read, also, an email. This is from Jonathan Nelson. He wrote, "hello, deeply saddened at how this tragedy has been raked across the coals of politics. It has not even been a week, and it has become a political football on both sides."
DESJARDINSI want to go back to you, Faiza Patel at the Brennan Center. Can you talk to us about exactly how this has become such a unresolved political conflict? And how is it that it seems many of these things have been bubbling for years, but yet, there has been really a status quo on many of these issues, including guns and immigration. Whether it's immigration on the southern border or immigration, Muslims. How is it we've just been at the status quo for so long when it seems like Americans' concerns about these issues, from either side, are growing.
PATELI mean, I think it's obvious, right? I mean, people do want solutions. But we have, basically, we have a gridlocked Congress, which we've seen for many, many years. You know, we have extreme partisanship on both sides of the aisle, but particularly one. And nobody seems to want to actually take the interests of the American people and what they really want into account when they go forward. I mean, if you look at the gun control issue for example, there are huge majorities that are in favor of some sensible gun controls, right?
PATELI mean, I'm not saying that gun control would resolve every mass shooting, but it would be a step forward. But even so, we are unable to move beyond that particular situation. You know, this question that you raise about wow, do you call it extremism, do you call it Islamic extremism, et cetera. I mean, that's not just Donald Trump, frankly. That debate has been going on and the Republicans have been saying that for years. Right? I mean, it's not a new thing. And it seems that there is very little willingness, somehow, amongst our elected representatives to actually go forward and come up with a solution.
PATELAnd to actually work together to make us more secure and pull us together as a country, rather than kind of maybe retreating into our own very narrow lanes. And it's a really, really sad situation. And I have to agree with all of your callers, right? It's deeply saddening that this is what we've come to. And the contrast between now and sort of the aftermath of 9/11, I think, is also striking. Obviously, not nearly the same level of deaths and the same toll on the country, but there was definitely much more of a sense of coming together then and trying to work through this.
DESJARDINSThere are some three million Muslims in this country. A few more Muslims than there are Hindus. Fewer Muslims than Jews. Just to give a sense of the population that we've talking about, in one sense. We've also been talking about this idea of gun ownership, as well. And Eric Lichtblau, I'm curious, do you have a sense of who these 1,000 or so potentially violent extremists are that the FBI's looking at? You know, do we know anything about them as a group? I assume that's protected information. But I'm curious, I think many Americans make an assumption about who the FBI's following. I'm wondering what the truth is.
LICHTBLAUSure. We do know a fair amount. We actually know a lot because of the ones who've actually been prosecuted. There have been about 85 in the last couple of years tied to ISIS. Now, when we say tied to ISIS, they may have no direct connections. They are basically inspired by the social media. They look at the videos of beheadings and horrible anti-American rhetoric. And these 1,000 fit that same profile. They are often, you know, younger men who are on social media a huge part of their day, and are just sort of digesting all of the violent extremist rhetoric that they get over, sometimes over encrypted social media, which makes the FBI's job even harder.
LICHTBLAUA lot of them are converts to Muslim. There seems to be a much more -- a much higher degree of that as opposed to native born. Some of them are American citizens born here like Omar Mateen. Others are immigrants, first generation. It's...
DESJARDINSBut it is to say that it is mostly related to Islamic terrorists and not say, Christian militant groups or Americans who are not Muslim. Is that right?
LICHTBLAURight. I think the FBI would say that there, at this point, is a higher number of Islamic inspired radical extremism among the people they're looking at than other militia types. But that's not to say that the domestic, homegrown militia types are not a threat. Those are still a threat. The Dylan Roof type is, in South Carolina, in the tragedy there, in the church, is still an obvious threat. But right now, the higher priority for the FBI, rightly or wrongly, is the Islamic inspired radicals.
PATELYeah, I mean, I just wanted to jump in for a minute. Because I think we are sort of slipping so much in terminology that it makes me nervous. When we start talking about, you know, they're looking at extremists, they're looking at Islamic extremists, they're looking at radical extremists. The government's job is to look at people who are potential criminal threats, right? I mean, that's the whole point of what the FBI is supposed to be doing. And I also want to push back a little bit against this idea that well, you know, it's the social media that's driving this. I mean, I think everybody recognizes that you have a complex political situation going on in Iraq and Syria.
PATELWith lots of different actors, with lots of different priorities. And so, this idea that the internet is to blame and that's why these people are either trying to travel to Syria or, you know, planning or potentially, you know, seem to be planning attacks, is a different story. I think it just is -- it's just too easy to sort of slip into these things, and I just want to just make that point.
DESJARDINSJames Fallows with The Atlantic.
FALLOWSYes, two quick points. One is a factual one. I think the caller from Orlando was mentioning that Donald Trump had received more primary votes than anybody in history.
DESJARDINSI'm glad you brought that up. That's right.
FALLOWSYeah, that's only among Republican candidates.
DESJARDINSThat's correct, yes.
FALLOWSHillary Clinton got several million more votes than he did this cycle.
FALLOWSThe other is the caller from Tulsa, Antonette. I think she was making -- I was listening to her with all, sort of, the complexity of analysis that she was presenting. Why can't we say it's all these things working together? That reminds me again of what it's been like for me and my wife in the past couple of years. The actual texture of the country, people recognize that it's a complex world with complex issues. And somehow, especially in this campaign, all the subtlety has been just blasted off at the national level. And I think that the American public, generally, is aware of the much more complex, difficult, long term nature of all the issues we're facing.
DESJARDINSI wonder, it's clear that our elected officials are going more toward one side or the other. That has something to do not just with American sentiment, but with re-districting. We've got Congressional districts that sway one side or the other more often now. But I'm curious, do you find, when talking to Americans out there about this, that, are they really kind of in the middle and just following just a little bit on one side? I'm more worried about security than I am, perhaps, about freedom. Just by a little. Or are there -- or are people taking more hard stances on either end?
DESJARDINSRight now, I feel like, in the media, when we go to a Trump rally, we're seeing one type of person. When we go to Bernie Sanders' rally, we're seeing one type of person. Thinking about the people who are not at those rallies, where do they fall?
FALLOWSYes, and so it's been striking to me, when we were in South Dakota or South Carolina or whatever, and if we asked people about national politics, you could evoke these very, almost stereotyped Trump rally versus Sanders rally answers. If you didn't ask about national politics, it didn't come up. And people were talking about, will this vocational school actually make a difference in whether our kids, who have a sort of limited education, can they rise? Will preserving this river make a difference for our town and its prospects?
FALLOWSAnd so, there's something about national politics in this era, has sort of blasted out all of the complexity from peoples' neurons.
DESJARDINSI'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Talking about complexities of American life right now, Eric Lichtblau, what have you learned about where we're going with the security verses liberty debate? For a long time, that was a debate over cyber and wire-tapping. The NSA wire-tapping was a story that you broke. But what, when you're thinking about the stories you think you'll be covering in this arena, this conflict in American identity, to some extent, what do you think in the next six months is coming?
LICHTBLAUWell, I think the (unintelligible) issue always comes up after a national crisis because the knee jerk reaction is to crack down on security. Donald Trump has taken that to new levels, in terms of saying ban all, ban all Muslims. But even among, I'd say, the more sober minded counter-terrorism people, there is a need to say, we need to do everything possible to stop the next attack, to stop the next Orlando. And inevitably, that is a threat to freedom of religion, to freedom of -- to association. And you do worry that the scales tip too far the other way. That seems to be an inevitable reaction after times of tragedy. And I think we need to be aware of that.
DESJARDINSI'll ask you, Eric, and maybe any of our panelists know, Donald Trump maintains that as President, he absolutely could ban all or most Muslims from entering the country. I'm curious, do we know if that's true? Is that -- does not the Constitution present a problem to that idea? James Fallows.
FALLOWSAs national legislative politics has become more and more cumbersome over the last say, two generations, Presidents have arrogated to themselves, more and more, sort of executive order authority and left it up to people who disagree to challenge them in the courts. So, sort of the default assumption is the President can do pretty much what he or she wants to begin with. And then somebody else will challenge it. And this is why, in my view, questions of temperament are so important when we choose a President, because there's just a lot of leeway that the legislative paralysis has left to the President.
DESJARDINSOkay. Faiza, go ahead, Faiza Patel.
PATELNo, I mean, I was just going to agree with you. And also, to point out that you know, in the wake of September 11th, there was also the (unintelligible) Program, which was a special registration program for immigrants from Muslim countries. Which was instituted by George Bush. You know, the program was very heavily criticized and eventually was dismantled. But it is not an inconceivable thing. And one of the things, I have to say, that really worries me is when you talk to Constitutional scholars, they'll say, well, you know, there's checks and balances.
PATELHe won't really be able to do all the things he says he's going to do. And anyway, the federal bureaucracy, you know, is a difficult ship to turn. They won't comply. And frankly, I think that's all well and good. But if you've ever been at the short end of these measures, if you've ever been part of a community that's actually subject to something like (unintelligible) or the round ups that happened after 9/11. Or what happens at airports constantly now. That's pretty cold comfort, frankly.
LICHTBLAUAnd also, remember that, just a few months ago, we had the controversy that now is forgotten, over the Syrian refugees that President Obama wants to bring in 10,000. And Donald Trump and the Republicans vociferously opposed that, even though we have the worst refugee crisis in generations going on. Because of the fear of, among those 10,000, could there be the one terrorist? So, it's an ongoing debate that is wrapped around both national identity and religion and security.
DESJARDINSWhat an important conversation this is. I want to wrap it up by asking each of you quickly, what do you think is at stake in this election, in this area? Jim Fallows.
FALLOWSTo my understanding of the American idea and American exceptionalism, is that we are the country founded on the idea that anyone could potentially be part of our national experiment. And I think that the tone of this election so far is raising that as a fundamental issue. Do we want to be that kind of country, or do we want to be a sort of a -- a tribalist country as a lot of others are. I think that's at stake.
DESJARDINSEric Lichtblau of The New York Times.
LICHTBLAUWell, it seems like we've been divided into two countries more than ever before.
DESJARDINSAnd Faiza Patel, I see you close to the mic with a lot of thoughts.
PATELWell, I actually think -- I mean, there's definitely the sort of, the idea of America is very much under challenge under this campaign. But I also actually think democracy is very much under challenge because if (unintelligible) . The reason why we have all of these rights is not just because of the rights, but also because they contribute to us being a democracy. If you can't speak and if you can't practice your religion, you can't talk, you know, can't associate with people, you're not going to be able to participate in our democracy.
PATELIf we don't have a free press or one that has access and isn't, you know, subject to horrendous libel laws, you also have constraints in democracy. So, I actually think what's at stake over here is very much our fundamental democratic values as much as our individual liberties.
LICHTBLAUAnd I'm glad that Faiza mentioned the free press point. Because, you know, Donald Trump just banned The Washington Post, one of our great newspapers, from his events. He's threatened to try and loosen the libel laws to go after media reports that he doesn't like. You know, that's also in the First Amendment, last time I checked.
DESJARDINSAmong several other media organizations, that I know he's revoked credentials from.
DESJARDINSSo, well, this is a conversation that I know our country is having. As I said, pretty much in every home, in some way, in schools, and across workplaces. I want to thank all of our guests, James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic magazine. He'll be flying to Fort Dutch, Kansas tomorrow to continue his coverage.
DESJARDINSOh, Dodge City. I'm sorry. Thank you. And Eric Lichtblau from the New York Times. Thank you. Faiza Patel, co-director of Liberty and National Security Program for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York University. Thank you all for a very important conversation.
DESJARDINSAnd I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You've been listening to The Diane Rehm Show.
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