There are two types of people: those who ambush Republicans such as Steve Scalise with cheap shot political attacks, and people with decency. Chuck Todd on Sunday decided he wanted to be the former.
One might think a journalist would think through how to best take advantage of his first interview with the nearly assassinated Republican leader who recently returned to Congress. Scalise, for those who don’t know on account of how lightly it was covered by national media, was ambushed by a progressive gunman in June, while Scalise was practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. The shooter was killed by the security detail who protect Scalise. Also shot were Crystal Griner, one of the Capitol Police officers assigned to protect Scalise; congressional aide Zack Barth; and lobbyist Matt Mika.
The gunmen had discussed his hatred for Republicans extensively in social media prior to the shooting.
Politico published a great article on what Scalise went through on the field where the liberal activist shot him, in the hospital during the early fight for his life, and in a rehabilitation facility where he learned how to walk again. Here’s a portion:
The doctors impressed upon Jennifer [Scalise] how dire the situation was: The bullet had traveled through her husband’s hip, shattering the femur and doing significant damage to the pelvis. He’d lost a significant amount of blood. With bullet fragments lodged in his muscle tissue and organs, doctors had to keep Scalise open for hours after the helicopter landed, struggling to remove bits of shrapnel and plug fresh fonts of blood. ‘That night, it could have gone the other way a few times,’ Scalise says. ‘When I got to the hospital, they said I was within a minute of death if they didn’t get some blood back into my system. So it was very severe. And you know, I’m unconscious through all of that. So they cut me open [and] did a lot of procedures on me that first day.’
The “Meet the Press” host decided to spend the entire aired portion of his interview with the House majority whip pushing gun control. For eight minutes, Todd focused on what he sees as Scalise’s political shortcomings, and badgered him to adopt the views of his political opponents. Scalise, for his part, spent the entirety of the interview making Todd look like the uninformed and naive partisan activist he is.
“Meet the Press” is a political show, and Scalise is a leader in Congress. After someone is shot for his political views, there should be more than enough to discuss. Maybe Todd could have established Scalise was okay, and discuss what he’d been through. For many people, who have been hungry for media coverage of the shooting, it would be nice to establish in a news forum what’s going on with Scalise in his life. Ideally there should be some sort of humanity and rebuilding of trust in terms of how hostile liberal journalists deal with their political opponents, such as Scalise. If Todd wanted to address his own push to restrict gun rights, maybe limit it to 5 or 10 percent of the interview.
Instead, the undercurrent of Todd’s badgering questions was to tell the shooting victim he did it to himself. He began with the premise that Scalia was wrong on gun control. You can watch the interview here:
Here are three major problems with Chuck Todd’s push for gun control.
1. Sliced and Diced
The full interview, with the exception of one vague opening question about returning to a sense of “normalcy” after “everything you’ve been through this summer,” was about gun control. If you read the full interview transcript, or watch the unedited interview, it was actually a nicer conversation. It focused more on Scalise’s return to Congress, including how both Democrats and Republicans reached out to support him. It dealt with an actual issue that many people would like discussed on national news programs: tax reform. It was still overly focused on gun control, but nothing like the finished product, where all of the interesting viewpoints were excised in favor of Todd’s pet issue.
But even then, when only the gun control portions were included, the editing is most curious. For instance, one of the points Scalise kept making was that enforcing existing gun laws is key to their effectiveness. When he said that federal enforcement of gun laws under the Obama administration dropped 25 percent, that was not included in the final interview.
2. Incapable of Being Even Remotely Objective
With the exception of that opening question, here were all of the statements/questions Todd made in the edited interview. As you can see, they’re all focused on the push for gun control:
- Why do you make the case that it’s too soon to have a gun control debate?
- Do you feel as if this issue of mass shootings is a problem that the federal government has to figure out how to solve?
- But there’s been some things that weakened some aspects of of the mental health when it came to the database, where there was a fight to allow people that have had, if you get disability benefits because of mental health issues, you can still pass a background check. Should that be the case?
- Why do you think we do lead the world in these things, in gun deaths. Mass– We lead the world in these mass gun incidents. We lead the world in, um, death by guns. We lead the world in how many guns per person we have in this country.
- But they’ll tell you, you just go in Gary, Indiana. So I mean, you just go across state lines. And you can have all the tough gun laws you want in the world, but if you cross state lines, I mean, this is, that’s why they argue for a federal intervention.
- Let me ask you this philosophically. Is there a limit? Do you believe — is the right to bear arms unlimited or is there a limit?
- But is it unlimited?
- You believe it’s unlimited. So–
- So it’s not unlimited.
- So–so you do agree there should be some limitations.
- But you said there in law. Would you have supported those limits at the time?
- Do you agree with the automatic weapons ban?
- Alright, what do you make of this bump stock? Uh, of this accessory that takes a semiautomatic weapon and turns it into virtually an automatic weapon?
- Do you think [the ATF] should [review their authorization]?
- But you’re not ready to codify it in the law?
- Is there a point where somebody’s right to bear arms infringes on somebody else’s right to be safe and secure at a country music concert?
- Do you look- we’re learning that this guy stockpiled a lot of weapons, a lot, over the last year. We don’t necessarily monitor that type of sales. I know there’s always been some concerns about that. Had we been monitoring, he might have gotten a check in from the F.B.I. or A.T.F. that’s going, “What are you up to?” And maybe that might have intervened. Is that something you could imagine ever supporting, the idea that there is a limit on how many guns you buy in a year, in a month, in a week?
- Do you think we have too many guns on the streets?
In most of his responses, Scalise did a great job explaining the Declaration of Independence and the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. He explained to Todd that a government that monitors the people down to their gun purchases is tyrannical and totalitarian. He patiently explained that the right to keep and bear arms does not extend to shooting innocent people, and managed not to roll his eyes or walk out when Todd asked that question. And he kept making his point about the need to enforce existing gun laws rather than pass more gun laws.
Todd would be doing his employers proud if he were officially employed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. But he’s supposed to be a neutral moderator of the longest-running Sunday political program.
Instead, he has a long track record of advocating strenuously for limits on the Second Amendment. He frequently gives Republicans “advice” encouraging them to step away from defending the inalienable right to defense of life and liberty. When victims of gun violence argue in favor of gun control, he presents them as moral arbiters. When victims of gun violence argue against gun control, he badgers them for their political views.
Earlier this week, in the words of Huffington Post, “It Took Just 1 Minute For Chuck Todd To Shut Down Gun Control Critics.” Again, that’s great if it’s your job to oppose the Second Amendment as a partisan extremist. It’s not so great, when you’re supposed to be interviewing both Democrats and Republicans down the middle.
Here’s Todd pushing his gun control agenda this week:
WATCH @chucktodd: “When planes flew into the World Trade Center did we say now is not the time to talk about terrorism? When our banking system nearly collapsed in 2008 did we say now is not the time to talk about financial regulation?” pic.twitter.com/NNCRUESuQg
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 3, 2017
It’s fine if Todd wants to argue in favor of gun control. But he has no business arguing in favor of gun control while pretending to interview people as a journalist. The man who once presented himself as a referee ought to know better.
3. Naive and Uninformed
Here’s Todd a few weeks ago:
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) September 27, 2017
Again, Todd is not even trying to give the impression he is not hostile to his political opponents. He’s not trying to pretend he has no political opponents. But the manner in which he displayed his hostility is so profoundly ignorant as to be shocking.
As the Founders who declared independence and wrote the Constitution of the new republic repeatedly explained, governments merely secure the rights that are inalienable and endowed by God. Governments don’t create the rights. As the Declaration puts it:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…
A few years ago, MSNBC correspondent Mike Viqueira said: “The anti-gun control, pro-gun rights crowd has won the argument at this point. They’ve succeeded in framing the issue as one of essential American national values.” Todd responded by saying “nobody has sort of a rational policy debate about it.”
Here’s what Rep. Mo Brooks said moments after Republicans, including himself, were shot at on that baseball field. Asked if he’d changed his mind on gun rights, he said:
Not with respect to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment right to bear arms is to ensure that we always have a republic. And as with any other constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.
But we’re not going to get rid of freedom of speech because some people say some really ugly things that hurt other people’s feelings. We’re not going to get rid of Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights because it allows some criminals to go free who should be behind bars. These rights are there to protect Americans, and while each of them has a negative aspect to them, they are fundamental to our being the greatest nation in world history.
So, no, I’m not changing my position on any of the rights we enjoy as Americans.
For Todd, defending the inalienable right to defend life and liberty has no place in a “rational” policy debate about … the right to keep and bear arms.
Todd had a hard time accepting that Scalise is unwilling to abandon his principles after being shot on a baseball field for holding those principles. Todd also has a hard time understanding the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Todd has trouble with the American value of the right to defend life and liberty.
There’s no doubt he’ll continue his partisan push to restrict Second Amendment rights as if he were a paid employee of the gun control lobby. But to use his interview on the occasion of Scalise’s return to Congress was gross.