An American flag sits by the scene of Thursday evening's shooting in downtown Dallas on July 11.

An American flag sits by the scene of Thursday evening's shooting in downtown Dallas on July 11.

President Barack Obama leads an interfaith service in Dallas today and meets with the families of police officers shot and killed last week. Earlier in the week, two black men were shot by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, sparking protests in many cities across the country. At a meeting with law enforcement leaders July 11 at the White House, the president said he considered the killing of the police officers a hate crime and spoke of the need to support law enforcement and, at the same time, to acknowledge concerns about racial bias. The presumptive presidential candidates have weighed in as well. Join us to talk about political leadership in a polarized debate.


  • Eliana Johnson Washington editor, National Review
  • Derrick Harkins Senior vice president for innovations in public programming, Union Theological Seminary; former director of Faith Outreach for the Democratic Party and adviser to President Obama; former senior pastor, The Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
  • Mark Landler White House correspondent, The New York Times; author of a new book, "Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power"
  • Matthew Schlapp Principal and founder, Cove Strategies; chairman, The American Conservative Union


  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama is in Dallas today. He'll lead an interfaith service and talk with families of police officers gunned down there last week. The nation is reeling from the killings of those officers and from the deaths of two black men shot during encounters with police in Louisiana and Minneapolis.

  • 10:07:20

    MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about political leadership and the national dialogue on race and police practices, Eliana Johnson of the National Review, Mark Landler of the New York Times, Matthew Schlapp of the American Conservative Union. And joining us from a studio at NPR in New York, the Reverend Derrick Harkins of Union Theological Seminary.

  • 10:07:46

    MS. DIANE REHMI'm sure many of you will have comments, questions. Feel free to give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send your email to Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.

  • 10:08:06

    MR. MARK LANDLERGreat to be here.

  • 10:08:06

    MR. MATTHEW SCHLAPPGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:08:07

    REV. DERRICK HARKINSGreat to be here.

  • 10:08:08

    REHMMark Landler, if I could start with you. President Obama has been speaking out on the need for mutual respect between police and protesters. Talk about the tone he's using and the kind of balance he's seeking.

  • 10:08:29

    LANDLERWell, Diane, it was fascinating to watch his sort of attempt to respond to these events evolve over three days when he was overseas. He was actually in Poland and Spain for much of the period of time before and immediately after the Dallas shootings and his initial response, as he was flying to Europe, was -- actually predated the Dallas shootings by a few hours so he was responding the shootings of the African-Americans in Baton Rouge and in Minnesota.

  • 10:09:05

    LANDLERAnd what was interesting about that statement was that in that statement, which he made shortly after landing in Poland very late at night, he actually talked about the need for balance and the need to recognize the risks and dangers that law enforcement faces in these situations. So there was a sort of a -- he almost anticipated the horrific events that unfolded in Dallas just a few hours later.

  • 10:09:32

    LANDLERAnd then, when he woke up, after, I think, probably four or five hours of sleep at the most, he then had to go before the cameras again the next morning in Poland to react to the Dallas shootings. And in that statement, he took a much stronger line, sort of castigating the shootings as a despicable and vicious act. And then, he was asked about it yet again a day later at a news conference.

  • 10:09:58

    LANDLERAnd at that point, I think he really began to articulate the case that you'll hear today in Dallas when he speaks, which is the sort of need to both acknowledge the problems of racial bias in the criminal justice system, but also to recognize the risks that police officers face and to, I think, argue, as he has done so many times in the past with, I guess, very little success to show for it, the need to have a kind of a reasoned debate about this where both side acknowledge the validity of the arguments on the other side.

  • 10:10:35

    LANDLERAnd I think he'll make that case yet again. But, you know, it's a case he's made many times in the past and I think there's some frustration on his part that he doesn't seem to be getting through and that, indeed, the positions on the two sides might be hardening rather than softening toward one another.

  • 10:10:54

    REHMNow, you're talking about the African-American community and the police community. I'm wondering about Republicans and Democrats and the kinds of tones that they are taking. Eliana, what have we heard from presumptive nominee, Donald Trump?

  • 10:11:18

    MS. ELIANA JOHNSONWell, it's been so interesting, Donald Trump's reaction to the shootings in Dallas, in Louisiana and in Minnesota. This is really the Donald Trump that Republicans have been waiting to hear from. He issued a statement in the wake of all three shootings, both acknowledging the horror of the victims of the police shootings and of the police shootings -- or the shootings of the police in Dallas and gave a measured, a sedate statement and then he did something that he has not done the entire campaign season, which is he stopped talking.

  • 10:12:02

    MS. ELIANA JOHNSONHe cancelled his campaign events and he did not draw attention to himself as he did, as I'm sure people remember, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando at the gay nightclub and in the wake of the Brexit vote, when he talked about how wonderful it would be for his golf club over in the UK. And this is something that Republicans have been yearning for him to do and have been exasperated that he has been incapable of doing.

  • 10:12:30

    MS. ELIANA JOHNSONAnd I think people are wondering where was this Donald Trump two and a half months ago, three months ago, six months ago?

  • 10:12:35

    REHMNow, he did tweet out Sunday morning some, perhaps, very different kinds of thoughts.

  • 10:12:48

    JOHNSONThat's right. We heard something a little bit different him on Sunday, but by comparison to the over-the-top and inappropriate things that we've had from him, calling attention to himself and congratulating himself for predicting terror attacks, as he did after the Egypt Air flight was struck down, as he did in the wake of Orlando and drawing attention to his own businesses over in Scotland, this was really, I think, quite different and certainly represents we've gotten a pivot from Donald Trump.

  • 10:13:30

    JOHNSONAnd I think something of a pivot from the president, as well, in -- I think he's given quite a bit of support to the complaint at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and we're seeing from him now, really an acknowledgement that parts of the movement have really boiled over the top, as we're seeing protesters cheer as policemen are injured.

  • 10:13:55

    REHMMatthew Schlapp, Trump did tweet out on Sunday morning, "look what is happening to our country under the weak leadership of Obama and people like crooked Hillary Clinton. We are a divided nation." So in effect, he was blaming the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton for the shootings and the killings of the police and those in the African-American community.

  • 10:14:35

    SCHLAPPYeah, I can understand that perspective. I can also understand the perspective of people who think, wow -- even Republicans I know who voted for Barack Obama were really hoping that, in this country, we'd get to a place where racial tensions would subside. And I don't blame President Obama for not having solve the problem, but the sad thing is is that not only is the problem not solved, it seems to be, in many ways, boiling over.

  • 10:15:00

    SCHLAPPIt's a really sad thing in our society that maybe it's not about an election, maybe it's not about even the election of a historic figure like the first African-American president. Maybe there's something deeper here. Maybe there's something deeper in us, in our society where these wounds simply are either not solvable or incredibly difficult and will take a very long time to solve. I'm hopeful, but I do think Donald Trump has been mostly restrained on these series of events.

  • 10:15:29

    SCHLAPPI think it has been the right tone, but I believe both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I'm sure, because this is such an important issue for the country, they're going to have to explain what their political perspectives and why their policies would be better than the other. I think we should expect that each one will probably blame the other for making the problem either better or worse. I guess they'll both blame the other for making it worse. That's the way it tends to work.

  • 10:15:51

    REHMWhat Donald Trump mean or what is he implying when he says he's the law and order candidate?

  • 10:16:04

    SCHLAPPWell, you have some people saying that this is a terrible thing, that his tone is almost a Nixonian tone, that he's going to, you know, inject the fact that there's a -- blaming racial minorities for problem of security and crime in society. I don't believe, you know, I don't see that as what the intent here is. I think the intent here is to say, look, in these communities, when you have crime running rampant, when you have people with real problems about just being safe in their person, in their home, you know, that affects all Americans.

  • 10:16:33

    SCHLAPPThat affects all kinds of diverse Americans who are living in these communities, too. So, you know, my thinking is what he's saying is that there's a feeling of the American voter that America is unsafe, that it's not secure and that relates to the economy, to national security, but I also think it relates to our communities and I think he is connecting to many of those voters who have those fears.

  • 10:16:56

    REHMWhat do you think, Mark Landler?

  • 10:16:59

    LANDLERI was going to make one other point, which is that we'll hear another Republican voice today, one that we haven't heard for quite some time, and that's former President George W. Bush. He's expected to speak at this service today in Dallas. And, you know, President Bush brings a very interesting and, I think, different perspective to this as a Republican who really ran on reaching out to the African-American community.

  • 10:17:23

    LANDLERAnd I think was always frustrated that he didn't do better with African-American voters, despite sort of a, you know, initially a platform of compassionate conservatism, a record of reaching out to other groups and sort of a distinct contrast, at least, to what we've seen, for the most part, in Donald Trump's candidacy -- I believe he's been restrained the past couple of days. So I'll be fascinated to see the tone he strikes and what effect that has on the debate.

  • 10:17:52

    REHMMark Landler, he's White House correspondent for the New York Times. After a short break, we'll hear from the Reverend Derrick Harkins, take your calls, comments. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMIf you've just joined us, we're talking about the fact that President Obama, former President George W. Bush, Vice President Biden, they're all in Dallas, expected to speak at the memorial service for the slain police officers. Here in the studio, Eliana Johnson, she's Washington editor for National Review. Mark Landler is White House correspondent for The New York Times and author of a new book titled "Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power." Matthew Schlapp is principal and founder of Cove Strategies and chair of The American Conservative Union. And the Reverend Derrick Harkins is senior vice president at Union Theological Seminary.

  • 10:21:09

    REHMAnd, Reverend Harkins, I would like to direct to you an email from Tamarac, Fla. Tony says, I still yearn for responsible leadership from all sides. I would love to see our leaders follow Dr. King's example and stress nonviolence. I wonder what evidence the president had for declaring that the two shootings were not isolated incidents. He needs to realize that not everyone is as cerebral as he is and his words can stoke resentment. What's your reaction to that?

  • 10:22:02

    HARKINSWell, thanks, Diane. First of all, it's interesting, I had the occasion in the space of the last couple of days to talk to a couple of police officers -- one retired and several, you know, who are presently on the force here in New York. And they grievously talked about what they saw on those video tapes. And it's fascinating because I think there's a uniqueness to what we're experiencing now, even beyond the horrific events of the past, that's really pushed us into some radical truth telling.

  • 10:22:28

    HARKINSIt's interesting because, when the president first spoke the other evening after the initial shootings, he talked quantitatively. He talked about the percentages of instances when African-American males are pulled over by the police as opposed to not. So he wasn't rendering it by way of opinion. So I think your listener needs to understand that there's some quantifiable issues that have to be dealt with here. And hopefully, in the course of these next numbers of weeks, one of the things that I'm hoping happens is that we get rid of this false dichotomy -- the idea that if you say that black lives matter, then somehow you're oppositional to the idea that blue lives matter or that all lives matter.

  • 10:23:08

    HARKINSPeople need to understand that none of those sentiments are in contradiction with the other. You know, we've had people who have just kind of retreated to ideological corners and have capitalized on that. But I will say this, I'm encouraged because I've heard from people who I didn't expect to hear from in ways that I didn't expect to hear from them.

  • 10:23:27

    REHMSuch as?

  • 10:23:28

    HARKINSPaul Ryan, in the well of the House the other day, gave what I consider to be a remarkable speech, where he not only spoke of course about the horrific, evil tragedy of what happened in Dallas, but he also talked about the injustice of what happened in Minnesota and in Louisiana. And he talked about the right of protestors to protest. So I think what that did is it took away some of the powder, if you will, from some on the right who would like to simply discount any and all of these voices, be they from Black Lives Matter or elsewhere.

  • 10:23:58

    HARKINSNewt Gingrich said the other day and, you know, political aspirations or whatever aside, he made the point that no white person in America can truly understand what it means to be black in America. These are extraordinary things. And I guess just my profession, I'm -- I barter in hope. So I think to hear those kinds of sentiments from those people encourages me that, once we get sort of past this Rubicon where we are now, hopefully we can find ourselves in some places of real -- to your listener's point -- maybe we can get to that place of community that Dr. King, the beloved community that Dr. King spoke of.

  • 10:24:37

    REHMMy concern, Mark Landler, is that what's happened is part of an escalation because it has not reached that point where people are talking with each other about how to change what's been happening.

  • 10:24:59

    LANDLERWell, I think you have a point. And I think that where, you know, some of the hopeful prognoses fall down is that, when you start to talk about the solutions, President Obama certainly feels that some form of stronger gun laws are a key part of the solution. And I think, today, he will say that. I'd be surprised if he didn't.

  • 10:25:21

    LANDLERI mean one of the points he's made -- strongly made it on the trip in Europe -- is that because Texas has an open-carry law, that several of the protestors, not the sniper alone but that several protestors came to this protest with, you know, long weapons slung over their shoulders and that it was really only a miracle or an example of extremely restrained and effective policing that the police didn't end up accidentally shooting one or two of these people in the confusion that erupted after the gunman began shooting.

  • 10:26:00

    LANDLERAnd so I think that the president is going to raise this issue. And when he does, I expect that there will be the predictable cleavage between...

  • 10:26:08


  • 10:26:09

    LANDLER...people who will say, well, you know, that isn't the problem and we need to address it in different ways. And I think President Obama, in the term -- in radical truth telling, as the Reverend said, I think he will hit that point hard in the speech today. But then I expect that we will see the debate sort of take a very familiar shape on this issue.

  • 10:26:28

    REHMAnd what about Hillary Clinton? We've talked about what Donald Trump had to say after the event. What did Hillary come forward with?

  • 10:26:38

    LANDLERWell, she came forward with, you know, in some ways a very similar response to President Obama, talking about the evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system and the need to search for practical solutions, while also condemning, you know, shootings of law enforcement. I mean, it's interesting, she's going to appear later today or perhaps shortly in New Hampshire with Bernie Sanders, who's expected to, you know, at long last endorse her.

  • 10:27:07

    LANDLERBut, you know, if you recall, one of the areas where Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton parted company in the primary was on gun rights. Bernie Sanders, from Vermont, a state that has a very strong gun tradition. And so, you know, it's a sort of a fascinating subtext of today's joint appearance, that these two aren't necessarily eye to eye on this issue either. I think Democrats in general view the gun-rights issue as a more promising issue for them politically than they have in prior election cycles. And so it'll be interesting to see to what extent she frames her response to this around the issue of gun rights. I know the president -- or I strongly expect he will today. It'll be interesting to see how she does it.

  • 10:27:49

    REHMAnd, Eliana, there's so much research out there. And some of it seems to point to racial bias. Others -- a new study today from a gentleman at Harvard, Professor Roland Fryer, seems to indicate there's no racial bias. Whereas the report from The Washington Post that looked at an 18-month period seemed to indicate there is clear racial bias. Are any of these studies likely to make a difference in the thinking in the population about what's going on between African-Americans and the police?

  • 10:28:42

    JOHNSONWell, I do think these studies fall in the category of having a conversation in radical truth telling. You know, these social movements, political leadership have prompted these studies. Roland Fryer, the economist at Harvard, said that these incidents of police shootings -- he is an African American -- he said that they angered him so much that they've prompted him to undertake this study, which looked at 12 years of police data. And he actually did find racial bias, though not in shootings. He found that African Americans are more likely to be the subject of physical force, of touching, handcuffing, pepper spray, but not actually of shootings. That they're actually less likely to be shot by police, both fatally and not fatally.

  • 10:29:31

    JOHNSONAnd it's fascinating, his research and his findings are fascinating, I think, because the narrative of Black Lives Matters has been, I think, embraced by many, many politicians, both on the right and the left, and has come to be really a part of the national conversation. And to come back to his research and think about how that may become a part of the conversation now, what does it mean, exactly, if African Americans are more likely to be touched and roughed up but not shot? I will be fascinated to see how that is now integrated and used by the president.

  • 10:30:13

    JOHNSONThe Washington Post study I'm a little bit less interested in because it looks at a far smaller period of time and takes into account less data. But I do think that the Harvard study by Professor Fryer is fascinating. And I'm very interested to see how politicians will use this, since it does show racial bias but not in exactly the way people might have expected.

  • 10:30:37

    REHMDerrick Harkins.

  • 10:30:39

    HARKINSSure. And I think the point's so well made that we wouldn't be having this closer examination or these studies undertaken if we had not gotten to this point of activism that we see now. And I think it's quite interesting. I thought for certain that the protests would subside after Dallas. But I think, again, there's been a real nuanced understanding that one, again, does not contradict the other. And I'm hoping that on the other side of all of this, with these studies and with the sentiments that have been voiced, that we'll move in the direction of solution, which in my estimation includes policy.

  • 10:31:12

    HARKINSAnd I can't imagine a conservative, a progressive, anyone who would not want better policing, better practices, you know, executed around the country in those places where we've -- the kind of discrepancies that these studies are showing. So I can't imagine that anybody would not advocate for better policing standards across the spectrum. And if they're not, then that's tragic.

  • 10:31:36


  • 10:31:37

    SCHLAPPYeah. I mean, I don't want this conversation to go too far without being honest and tell you that I think the rhetoric that I have heard from some folks out of Black Lives Matter has gone too far. I thought it was inappropriate at the Democratic debate where, you know, the Democratic candidates were basically put into a position where they needed to say, black lives matter over all lives matter. I think if they had woven in the reverend's concept of all lives matter, including black lives, including every subsection you can think of, including blue lives, I'm okay with that. But I'm not okay with some of the rhetoric I've heard from Black Lives Matter. And I think, you know, our words matter.

  • 10:32:14

    SCHLAPPWe've just spent some time here talking about like Donald Trump, when he goes over the line, his tone is off. Okay, it's fair to chastise him. But our words matter. And if they hear -- if people who are feeling that they're left out of the American experience, if they hear words that say the cops are out to get them and out to kill them and out to rough them up and out to destroy them, and then you see what's happened with people that take very bad decisions and irresponsible decisions, I think we all need to chastise each other when we go over the line. And I think what they have done has been over the line many times.

  • 10:32:44

    REHMMark Landler.

  • 10:32:46

    LANDLERI mean, I -- to go back to what Eliana said earlier, I think the president actually made a point of saying this the other day, not just in reference to the debate in totality, but talking specifically about Black Lives Matter. And he said, look, in every protest movement, there are these dissident voices -- or, as he put it, there are people who just say stupid things. And he urged them, in this case, not to because it has a predictable effect of hardening positions on both sides.

  • 10:33:14

    LANDLERI wanted to make one other point, just because I think it'll be an interesting centerpiece of what the president says today in Dallas, which is that Dallas has the kind of tragic symbolism...

  • 10:33:23


  • 10:33:24

    LANDLER...of having been a police department that was confronting these issues, probably in as about as honest and open a way as any other big-city police department.

  • 10:33:34

    REHMWith an African-American...

  • 10:33:35

    LANDLERAfrican-American police chief who President Obama has spoken to in the past and was aware of the work he was doing, a police chief with his own personal history of having a son who was involved in a police shooting. So I think the president will talk a lot about that in the speech today and try to use the Dallas Police Department as an example of a way forward in all this.

  • 10:33:55

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have a number of callers who'd like to be part of the program. Let's go to Vernon in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning to you.

  • 10:34:16

    VERNONGood morning, Diane. I'm glad to talk to you. I listen to you all the time.

  • 10:34:19


  • 10:34:20

    VERNONAnd I wanted to talk to you before you got off the air. Thank you.

  • 10:34:24

    REHMGo right ahead, sir.

  • 10:34:26

    VERNONOkay. I'm -- I'll be 73 on my birthday. And I lived this and I've seen all these things happen. I've been involved in all this. And I'm not involved in Black Lives Matter but I've been stopped by the police and had all kinds of situations. I'm not going into detail. But I will say this, that back in the '40s and '50s, we were always taught how to act around police, how to carry ourselves and how to be, you know, how not to be combative and all this kind of stuff. This is back in the '40s and '50s. Here it is, now, 2016, and we're still -- it's worse. It's worse. And Cincinnati, I can tell you right now, is not the model city that it purports. It's got -- we've got a lot of problems here.

  • 10:35:16

    REHMI think, as Vernon says, Cincinnati has its problems. There's no city in the country without its problems. But the question he raises, the kinds of teachings that parents have to do for young, black men -- don't wear a hoodie with a hood up, make sure you respond very carefully and thoughtfully to a police officer, don't do anything to antagonize them. Reverend Harkins.

  • 10:35:51

    HARKINSYeah. But the insidious and awful thing about that is that you are putting an undue burden, an unfair burden on people because of the color of their skin. And I think it -- how -- the temerity of a Rudy Giuliani, first of all, to lecture anybody about being a parent or being a good family man, and then to put out this trope of, well, if only people would comply. If only people would be obedient. I think it's insidious that we let the argument rest there and we again ignore the issue of policing and the better practices that everybody will benefit from. I'd like to think that that would be the focus, as opposed to telling a young man he can't wear a hoodie. You know, just how outrageous is that?

  • 10:36:34

    REHMDo you think, Matthew Schlapp, that police in cities and townships around the country are going to make more of an effort as a result of what's happened?

  • 10:36:52

    SCHLAPPYes, Diane. And I also think we have to just acknowledge a few facts, which is, there is prejudice everywhere. The idea that somehow we're going to rid the police force or any other institution of racism or bias -- we've just got to understand we're people and we have, you know, we're subjective. And that's going to be a fact we're going to have to deal with. The second thing is, we've all been -- seen good policing and bad policing, every one of us. And I think we need a lot more training for police. But we also need to applaud them when they do a good job. And we don't do that enough.

  • 10:37:22

    REHMMatthew Schlapp, he's chairman of the American Conservative Union. Short break here. More of your calls, comments, when we come back.

  • 10:40:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. I think we'll go right back to the phones, to Amy in Bristol, Tennessee. What's your comment, Amy?

  • 10:40:13

    AMYHi, Diane.

  • 10:40:14


  • 10:40:14

    AMYMy -- I have a question for the panel.

  • 10:40:19


  • 10:40:19

    AMYYou -- I hear a lot of talking about tone when it comes to the candidates and their response to this, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's tone and things that they're tweeting and whatever. Do you think they're going to -- that either of them is actually going to talk about any kind of policy that will actually, you know, they'll try to put into effect that might make some changes or...

  • 10:40:44

    REHMYeah, during the break we were talking about the issue of guns and the extent to which it's likely to come up during the campaign, and certainly depending on who gets elected, you talked about, Mark Landler, you talked about the difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on this, and of course he is expected to endorse her today. Do you think if she is elected she will push for some kind of greater gun control?

  • 10:41:24

    LANDLERI do. You know, she's been clear about it on the -- on the campaign trail. You know, by the way, she also has a sort of a set of criminal justice reform proposals, and remember her first major policy speech as a candidate was actually on the issue of criminal justice reform. So there are -- you can go to her website and read a number of proposals in this area, and I think she will push them.

  • 10:41:49

    LANDLERAnd the interesting issue is -- and, you know, then you can get into political handicapping, but were Donald Trump to lose and were he to lose by a margin where the Democrats recapture the Senate, would she have a window to actually get something done? We were talking during the break about whether or not President Obama had a window early on that he didn't use when he had a strong majority.

  • 10:42:10

    LANDLERNow I think we'd have to acknowledge you don't just need to have a two- or three-seat majority, you probably need to have a solid majority to get something done given the complexity of this issue. But yeah, I expect that she would try, and I think that Donald -- that Bernie Sanders' position on gun control actually, you know, made him a bit of an outlier in his own party. And so this is not an area where this Trump-Sanders -- the Trump-Clinton debate is playing out, as it is in other parts of the Democratic platform.

  • 10:42:39

    SCHLAPPDiane, the politics of gun control has really changed. Yes, Bill Clinton put in this semi-auto, semi-automatic weapons ban, but -- and it did expire under President George W. Bush. But Democrats for a long time, especially Democrats from the South or Democrats from swing districts, really thought touching gun control was a real problematic thing politically. I think over time you're seeing the Democrats say no, it's really not. I mean, Barack Obama did not run in 2008 on being for gun control. That was not one of the -- he actually talked about how he supported the Second Amendment. And I think you're seeing a subtle shift in what Democrats do.

  • 10:43:13

    SCHLAPPI do think it's fair to say to President Obama now, at the end of his presidency, if you cared so much about gun control, you should have pushed it when he had 60 votes in the Senate, and he had overwhelming historic majorities in the House. He didn't push it for whatever his reasons were, but one of the reasons he didn't push it is he didn't probably see the politics as lining up as neatly as he might see it now.

  • 10:43:32

    REHMHe did not have enough Democratic votes to go with it.

  • 10:43:36


  • 10:43:37

    SCHLAPPMaybe, maybe, but I -- you know, Diane, I think that even when you don't have enough votes, sometimes you have the votes to start to make the argument. You've got to make the argument to win the vote. And he didn't want to make that argument. And I think now it's a great political weapon for him to say hey, let's pass it now when he doesn't have the votes, and he doesn't have the votes because the American people have said we want Republicans to run Congress.

  • 10:43:56


  • 10:43:58

    JOHNSONWell, people talk about the enthusiasm gap on this issue. I think the truth of the matter is that the United States is, at its heart, a pro-gun country. And I think that that's revealed itself at the times when in real moments of crisis, in the wake of the Newtown shooting, when the president really seemed certain and really reporters seemed certain that this was the moment when we were going to pass a gun control bill, the president could not muster the votes in the Senate. Even when Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin offered a compromise amendment, he couldn't get the votes in the Senate to pass it.

  • 10:44:39

    JOHNSONThat's not because senators are owned by the NRA. That's because those senators that the voters in their districts don't -- simply don't support these bills.

  • 10:44:51

    REHMReverend Harkins, the question becomes would passing some form of greater gun control affect relations between blacks and whites.

  • 10:45:06

    HARKINSOne thing we talk about at Union Seminary all the time is intersectionality and the fact that gun control issues or gun issues and the overlapping issue of violence are inextricably connected. I think yes, I think first of all, sensible gun laws, I mean, even if we're not talking about where some of us might like to go in a much more radical sense, even sensible gun laws would be the beginning of a place where you could begin to have a policy that at least lowered the temperature in some respects around some of these issues.

  • 10:45:37

    HARKINSI think it's going to be quite interesting in Cleveland, in a few days, with open carry as to how that particular law is able to abide with a political convention and all of the furor and heat that's going to be in that city. But again, I think it points to some -- I'll call them morally obvious things (unintelligible) . We need to understand that even if there is a Second Amendment guarantee in some people's minds, there has to be a sensible way to enact that Second Amendment.

  • 10:46:03

    REHMNow here's the question. Will those delegates be able to carry guns onto the convention floor, Mark Landler?

  • 10:46:14

    LANDLERWell I -- based on my reading, I haven't reported this myself, it sounds like the RNC is not going to allow people to carry guns onto the convention floor. There is an issue about the periphery of the actual, you know, center where they're holding the convention and to what extent you'll be able to carry guns up to fairly close proximity to the site. And I think some of that is still being worked out. But it's an open carry jurisdiction, as the reverend points out. So, you know, the law is the law.

  • 10:46:43

    LANDLERAnd, you know, if there weren't already enough fears about the potential for violence in Cleveland, this only sort of adds to that combustible mix.

  • 10:46:55

    REHMAll right, let's go to Dallas, Texas. Ian, you're on the air.

  • 10:46:59

    IANThank you, Diane, for taking my call.

  • 10:47:01


  • 10:47:04

    IANI have sort of a hybrid question and a comment. I live in Dallas, Texas, and after the shootings, I mean, everyone's been upset, just like they have been all around the country. But it seems like the trend here that I've noticed with all of the shootings of African-American males, it seems like in this part of the country, people flock to the defense of the police officers, and they understandably and correctly say that these people put their lives on the line for the defense of everybody every day.

  • 10:47:31

    IANBut the response, generally speaking, is that these people can seemingly do no wrong. I mean, even in cases where there's obvious, if not flagrant wrongdoing, then at least questionable practice, people seem to be offended, almost, when people suggest that police officers could do their jobs a little better, even not going as far as saying that they're doing something wrong. And I suppose my question is how that public opinion or how that sentiment, which seems to pervade Texas at the very least, how that is going to affect or how you think that's going to affect any policymaking going forward.

  • 10:48:01

    REHMI think that's a good point, Matt Schlapp.

  • 10:48:03

    SCHLAPPYeah, I think what makes Dallas so different to a lot of people is that these people were not targeted because of what they were doing within an altercation or an episode. They were simply just targeted because they wear the blue uniform. And I think that really struck a chord with people, that the very vocation you choose to help society by being a first responder that you would be representative of this hate and rage, and you would be assassinated, whereas in these other episodes, you have human interaction that goes terribly awry.

  • 10:48:33

    SCHLAPPAnd so there's this idea of, okay, what caused that, and why did this person make this terrible decision? But Dallas really is unique and strikes a chord because if it's just by putting on that blue uniform that you can be targeted in such a hateful way, that really struck the American people.

  • 10:48:50

    LANDLERI think there's also a point to be made about the role that police officers' organizations play in all this because there's almost a sense, I think, that they function a bit like teachers' unions do. When we talk about teachers, I've heard this said by people in the administration, that, you know, we all knew when we were growing up we had one or two teachers or maybe a few teachers that weren't that good at their jobs, and yet the teachers' union has this sort of dogmatic view that you can't criticize individual teacher performance.

  • 10:49:17

    LANDLERAnd I think the police officers' organizations function somewhat the same way. They foreclose the possibility of even saying, look, in a police department of several thousand, there are going to be bad apples, and we have to acknowledge that and not just sort of reflexively defend any and all people who wear a blue uniform.

  • 10:49:36

    REHMHere's an email, which says, I am 53 years old and have had to address officers are sir while being called boy. My experience is having been pulled over in my own neighborhood several times, to the point of threatening to complain to the police chief of my town where I had lived for over 10 years. I am the father of five young, beautiful, educated, African-American grown children. I worry I may lose one of them to afraid police shooting, as they are perceived as a threat. Derrick Harkins?

  • 10:50:30

    HARKINSI think we've got to grasp the fact that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed across the spectrum of various police departments across the country. I think the reality is that there are issues that need to be addressed on a societal level. I think as well that when you look at a situation like your listener just shared, we need to move from -- I heard Cornell Brooks from the NAACP say this so well. We need to move from this predisposition of predation on the part of police officers or police departments, to protection.

  • 10:51:04

    HARKINSYou know, the militarization of police departments across the country, regardless as to whether there's a perceived threat or not, can only heighten the temperature. And I think it's incredibly important -- you know, when we talk about whether there are irresponsible statements made from people within Black Lives Matter, we also have to understand, to the point that was just made, that there are incredibly irresponsible statements made from the heads of police unions, et cetera, that simply retreat into a corner of, again, the police can do no wrong. That's got to change.

  • 10:51:30

    REHMMark Landler, some people have said that as a country, we've become so polarized, racially and in many other ways, politically certainly, that trying to get at the heart of these matters and truly make changes is not really going to be possible. I realize that's a very pessimistic view, but I wonder how you react.

  • 10:52:03

    LANDLERWell, you know, it was interesting watching, from my vantage point as a White House correspondent, President Obama sort of move through the last three or four days. And I'll be interested to see where he winds up today in Dallas because I think there is a sense that -- you know, this'll be the 11th significant speech he's given in the wake of a mass shooting. Not obviously all of them are this form of a police officer incident. But, you know, he's used words, and Matt was saying earlier words matter, he's expended thousands, tens of thousands, of words on this issue and tried to come at it from a number of different vantage points.

  • 10:52:39

    LANDLERAnd yet it doesn't seem to help at all. The situation just gets worse. And he actually finds himself, I think at times, disputing the notion that we as a country are being, you know, in some 1960s-style social upheaval. You know, he actually pushed back against that idea in Europe and said he rejects that. And the other point he made, which hasn't come up yet in this conversation, is that, you know, there's also a technological aspect to this, which is that video and dashcams and Facebook Live has brought this to people's consciousness in a much more vivid and unsettling way.

  • 10:53:17

    HARKINSIt doesn't make us feel any better to watch it.

  • 10:53:20

    LANDLERDoesn't make us feel better.

  • 10:53:20


  • 10:53:20

    LANDLERDoesn't make us feel better. Now you could argue the good side of that is it forces us to confront it.

  • 10:53:26


  • 10:53:26

    LANDLERBut it also then raises the issue of whether we as a society are on the brink of some sort of abyss, and I think the president will try to push back against that notion, even as he forces us to confront all these hard truths.

  • 10:53:40

    REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Matt Schlapp, I'd be interested in your view, if Donald Trump were elected, if Hillary Clinton were elected, could either one make more of an impact on this particular issue than the other?

  • 10:54:10

    SCHLAPPOkay, so the first point is we're reading everything about what's going on in the UK, Brexit, a new prime minister and everything else. They have an interesting form of government, where they have a prime minister that handles government and a head of state, right, who handles speaking to the country about these big moments.

  • 10:54:24

    SCHLAPPIn America the president is both together, and I served for President George W. Bush in his first campaign, in his first term. He tried so hard, and I know I had meetings with him, he cared about this more I think than he cared about almost anything else, yet how do we -- how do we heal this. And I'm not so sure at this point in 21st-century America the president can heal this. I mean, we elected Barack Obama, I think we've all acknowledged that these problems in many ways have gotten worse, not better.

  • 10:54:49

    SCHLAPPI actually think we've got to look at each other. We've got to look at ourselves. We've got to look at our communities. We are the ones who have to solve this. We can't elect somebody to solve this.

  • 10:54:57

    REHMWhat do you think, Eliana, can either one of those two make a difference?

  • 10:55:03

    JOHNSONIt's hard for me to believe they can. You have Hillary Clinton, now the head of a Democratic Party that's divided against itself, Bernie Sanders endorsing her today, a grudging endorsement, and Donald Trump, the head of a Republican Party that's divided really against itself and at war with itself. So I think looking to political leaders right now for -- to heal the country in this moment is a fool's errand.

  • 10:55:32

    REHMSo would you agree with Matt, it has to come from the community itself?

  • 10:55:38

    JOHNSONYeah, I do think so, and I think that's the reason that you're seeing George W. Bush, who rarely makes public appearances, step up today with President Obama. I think that's an acknowledgement that it's not going to come from a single party or one single person.

  • 10:55:52

    REHMReverend Harkins?

  • 10:55:53

    HARKINSI think that's the point. I think you're looking at -- I'm hopeful because I think there are voices that are taking shape and are formulating now around these issues that are going to have impact going forth. I mean, I think who would have thought, you know, that Open Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, April Garza (PH) from Black Lives Matter would have the impact upon current societies that they do and not just them but the thousands of people who are really trying on all sides of the spectrum to address these issues.

  • 10:56:22

    HARKINSAnd I'm encouraged because, as I said earlier on, I'm hearing from conservatives in ways that I would have never expected to hear from them. And I think maybe we are at a point where it is indeed, again crossing the Rubicon. Maybe we're at a point where the critical mass is such that we've got to do better. So I'm going to be hopeful. That doesn't mean it's going to change within the next day, month, week or even year. But I definitely think there are voices and people committed to this that were not even a few months ago.

  • 10:56:52

    REHMAnd on that optimistic note, we'll have to close it. Thank you all so much, Reverend Derrick Harkins of Union Theological Seminary, Matthew Schlapp, he's with Cove Strategies and chair of The American Conservative Union, Mark Landler, White House correspondent for The New York Times, and Eliana Johnson, Washington editor for National Review. Thank you all so much.

  • 10:57:24

    LANDLERThanks, Diane.

  • 10:57:24

    SCHLAPPThank you, Diane.

  • 10:57:25

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:57:25

    HARKINSThank you, Diane.

  • 10:57:26

    REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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