Today, Chris Wallace is going to be talking to Mark Kelly about gun control, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl about the new Pope. I forget sometimes that instead of having the decency to take Easter Sunday off, these dumb shows instead try to inject themselves into the holiday. Will these shows take Christmas off? We won't find out until December 2016.
But first off, gun control -- a matter that the Senate is prepared to take up, at least somewhat. If you're expecting a lot from Congress on this matter, I'd dial back expectations, as it's going to be a heavy lift just getting an improved background check system in place. Anything having to do with actual guns or actual ammo is just not in the cards for this current clutch of Congresscritters.
Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, is here to talk about the state of play -- which finds the issue of gun safety fading from the zeitgeist. Wallace cites a CBS News poll that finds that from December to not, support for stricter gun control has dropped from 57% to 47%.
Should President Obama had moved faster? Kelly says that the demand for action in the public was plenty swift. And, he says he can understand that in "a polarized environment," like Congress, that "things can take a long time." Kelly doesn't seem to blame Obama for anything. He doesn't even mention him.
Kelly goes on to do a little Poll Critique 101, suggesting that "gun control" is a term that "doesn't poll well," but when you ask about improving universal background checks, you get "incredible momentum."
Wallace says that momentum aside, there are five Republican Senators poised to filibuster the effort to pass a bill that strengthens those background checks. Kelly says that he would tell one of those Senators, Marco Rubio, that "94% of his constituents support a universal background check," and that 88% of Rand Paul's constituents feel the same way. Impeding a debate on the bill and a subsequent vote on the bill "doesn't make any sense." (It makes sense if you consider the fact that both Paul and Rubio will probably run for President and probably imagine that a vote for universal background checks will hurt those ambitions.)
Kelly laments the fact that "we have a very powerful gun lobby" that "controls the debate." He nevertheless believes that Sandy Hook is a flashpoint, that should lead the "NRA to listen to their membership" -- which approves of improved background checks.
Kelly says that Chuck Grassley's alternative bill -- which does not improve background checks -- is a "mistake."
Wallace shifts to the hidden camera project that Kelly undertook back at the beginning of March, in which he went to a gun show in Arizona and managed to get a complete background check submitted and completed at the point of purchase within five minutes and thirty-six seconds. The point being, as Kelly states it, "It is not the burden that the NRA says" it is, and that it's a "simple common-sense thing we can do to keep criminals and the mentally ill from getting weapons."
Wallace points out that Jared Loughner was nevertheless able to pass a background check and obtain a weapon, and that the NRA's contention is that the sort of information that would be useful in cases like Loughner's, never gets passed along to the proper authorities, and never becomes a part of the background check. (Isn't that the point of improving the background check system, though?)
Kelly readily admits that the right information is not getting passed along, in many cases, and obviously Loughner's information should have been "in the system." He suggests that improving the system will make the system better. Kelly is happy to point out that the NRA has a point about the flow of information needing to be more complete and more frictionless. He says he's ready to work with the leadership of the NRA to make it better. I have a funny feeling that the reason the NRA has pointed this out isn't to drive an effort to make things better. I have a funny feeling that it's basically: "FATALISM OMG. SHRUG? BUY A GUN."
Wallace says that the NRA argues that by asking private sellers and gun shows to keep records of sales, it creates the protoplasm for a national registry of gun owners which in turns creates the opportunity to confiscate guns. Basically, the paranoid style in American politics as it applies to wooly-eyed nimrods who think having an unaccountable gray-market in weaponry is a signal virtue of democracy. Kelly says, "Well, I don't think it's logical." That's sort of being charitable! Of course, Kelly is the guy who has to try to work with all these people.
Kelly says that Jared Loughner's parents also went through a tragedy, and he should have been receiving better treatment. But, looking forward, he says that we need to focus on getting the "dangerously mentally ill" to have greater access to treatment and no access to weapons. He disputes the notion that improving mental health system has been a forgotten aspect to this debate.
In a move that's somewhat gymnastic, we shift to matters ecclesiastic, as Cardinal Donald Wuerl is here to talk about the new Pope, Francis, who I'm reliably told I shouldn't call "Francis I" because there hasn't been a "Francis II," yet. Okay, I guess! I am really hoping today to learn whether or not I'll be able to purchase Papal indulgences in bulk using Amazon Prime.
I'm not sure how any of this will be interesting, but in for a penny, in for a pound. Wallace wants to know what message the Pope was sending when he went out and washed people's feet and what not, and Wuerl says that the new Pope wants to demonstrate that actions are as important as words, in terms of leading people to the Catholic Gospel.
He says that as they were mulling who would make a good new Pope, Wuerl says that the Cardinals were looking for someone who could continue the Church's evangelical momentum while righting the administration of the Holy See. This is distinct from what the Saint Louis Cardinals were looking for -- someone to replace starting pitcher Kyle Lohse and stronger play at second base.
"Can you envision someone better than Pope Francis?" Wuerl asks, and the answer is, of course, "How the heck should I know?" That's pretty much a member of the Cardinal conclave saying, "Dude, didn't the Cardinals do awesome? We did so awesome!"
Wallace asks him to "take us inside" the conclave, and Wuerl says that there is a "solemnness." Also, they wear their fancy mass clothes. Also, it's quiet. "The one thing you are supposed to be doing is listening with your heart," he says. To preserve this, the Swiss Guard are asked to prevent, with deadly force if need be, Mark Halperin from reporting on the conclave.
The meetings are "solemn." Counting the ballots are "solemn." The votes taking is "quiet." Everything is solemn and quiet until the new Pope is in place, and then it's off to Ibiza!
What will Wuerl say to "gays who are good Catholics" who want to get married? Wuerl says that everyone is welcome in the Church but there is a "moral law" that everyone is expected to follow, until it changes from convenience.
Essentially, the future legally married gays of the Catholic Church would face the same fate as the current previously married and subsequently divorced and remarried members of the Catholic Church -- the union would not be recognized, but there would be no excommunication.
Wuerl seems to think that "changing the definition of marriage" to include same-sex couples is going to force a "lot of adjusting." Not really, actually! Got a pretty firm conceptual grasp of the matter, to be honest with you. I feel bad for you though, Cardinal Wuerl. Get some help, son!
And now it's panel time, with Bill Kristol and Mara Liasson and Ed Gillespie and Charles Lane.
So, North Korea is getting all steaky with the war talk. He wants to bomb Austin, Texas, or something? Kristol says that it's "not good," and he says that the specific threat is one of nuclear proliferation -- what little capacity they have, in terms of nuclear warmaking ability, is priced to move.
Liasson says that the danger is whether or not all the fantasy talk of war gets out of hand -- suddenly, South Korea is legitimately at risk. Gillespies says that the Pentagon and the administration has responded sensibly -- by beefing up missile defense, sending support to South Korea, and urging China to get engaged. Lane says that the administration's choice to stay short of "rising to the bait" is the right strategy.
Kristol says that we need to get "serious about missile defense," which means spending money on missile defense, so, you know, convince your pals in the House Republican caucus to raise revenues, there, bucky, and get back to me.
The conversation shifts to the ongoing deliberations over marriage equality in the Supreme Court. Kristol says that it looks like the Court is going to strike down parts of the Defense Of Marriage Act, and not "impose a universal right to same-sex marriage on the nation," which Kristol would not prefer.
Wallace notes that the public opinion is changing very fast -- fast enough to make a court decision in favor of marriage equality something of an impediment. Liasson warns that marriage equality advocates could become victims of their own success, the argument being that with the sort of support that can be mounted at the ballot box now, in support of marriage equality, it creates a firmer anchor than a court decision would. Liasson says "it's a lot more meaningful and profound" to adjudicate these matters at the ballot box.
Gillespie says that the Republican Party is not going to change its tune on marriage anytime soon, though they'll probably support stuff like survivorship benefits. He goes on to say that while he doesn't imagine that there will ever be a Republican Party platform that says the party is in favor of same-sex marriage, there's a good chance that they will at least debate the merits of maintaining a plank in the platform that explicitly calls for banning it. "The Federalism argument of this issue has been interesting," Gillespie says. So...it's sort of kick it to the states time.
I think you might get through 2016 with that footing, but around about 2020, it's just going to be too weird for the GOP to not explicitly support marriage equality. It will be like a museum relic come to life. In seven years time, such a huge percentage of the marriage-equality opposing population is going to be dead!
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
This Week is going hardcore in their efforts to inject themselves into the Easter holiday, with a conversation with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and a religious roundtable, all of which is going to be fueling the argument that they should take this day off every year and let all of us have normal lives. I can guarantee you that no one producing this show had this thought today: "Boy, we have a great show lined up today!" Instead it was, "Let us go through the motions and maybe we can make brunch before the bottomless mimosa pitcher deal ends."
But Martha Raddatz is, at least, in South Korea, where she says there is a "sense of unease" tonight because the latest round of belligerence from North Korea is of a different stripe than what they are used to. Raddatz says that the U.S. is attempting to communicate their displeasure with the saber-rattling through diplomatic channels, but who knows? Pyongyang be cray, et cetera.
So, maybe Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) is gonna sort all this stuff out for us? He is here, anyway, so he'll have to do.
King says that while the threat of North Korea hitting the United States with missiles isn't entirely empty, it's still not of paramount concern. Rather, we should be worried about what "Kim Jong Un is boxing himself into." Is he boxing himself into a shipping container? Like in the Velvet Underground song "The Gift?" Because I would not worry about that. King says no -- "He's trying to establish himself, trying to be the tough guy." And, per King, he's getting so "out there" that he might not be able to "get back in."
He reckons that South Korea would be even more inclined to meet hostility from Pyongyang head on, so any flash could become a conflagration in short order.
Does it make sense to try to pick up the phone and call North Korea, because that's what Dennis Rodman said to do, after he's returned from the first leg of his World Class Idiot Tour of 2013. King says that it doesn't make any sense at all. "This is like an organized crime family running a territory."
Okay and with that we're switching to a political roundtable, with Cory Booker and Matt Dowd and Katrina vanden Heuvel (who we'll shorthand as KvH from here) and Jeff Zeleny.
Stephanopoulos observes that the SCOTUS Justices seemed to spend all week squirming under the burden of having to decide these marriage equality cases. Dowd says that the takeaway is that it's surprising to see the Court so out-of-tune with the nation. "The country is more evolved on this that any other social issue that's come before the Court," he says, adding that the Court's reluctance is really baffling.
King, who is opposed to marriage equality, sympathizes with the Court, and thinks that state legislatures should decide the matter, not courts. Booker disagrees: "Thank God we didn't wait for the states on women's equality under the law, thank God we didn't wait for the states African-Americans' equality under the law." KvH says that the Supreme Court is just lagging behind: "Marriage equality has won." "Whatever happens in the Court...we are going to see a social, moral, and political paradigm shift."
Zeleny notes that the sudden ardor for marriage equality among Democrats who have suddenly flipped their support is born out of a fear of the consequence of being on the wrong side of the issue. Sounds about right. What will drive the GOP to do the same, beyond the personal conversions of folks like Rob Portman? Zeleny suggests that the donor class, who don't care about banning same-sex marriage and see the divisiveness as an impediment to agenda-setting, might make it harder for GOP candidates to stay opposed to marriage equality.
King says that there's "change out there, no doubt about it," but isn't so hot to change himself. He and Dowd get into it a little bit:
KING: I mean, my concerns are changing the institution that quickly just because you have six senators switching last week, or you have polls reversing in eight or nine years, again we have to look at the consequences of changing a 2,000 year institution. DOWD: George, I want to talk about that first is, this issue is changing already. People sort of developed this myth about 2004 that gay marriage -- the amendments on the ballot had an effect. I was there. They had no effect on the ballot. This issue has been changing for awhile. But the argument to me that people say this is an institution that's been a traditional institution for 2,000 or 3,000 years, ignores the fact that the institution that was -- if you really want to go to a traditional marriage, it wasn't monogamous, races couldn't marry, women was property and they couldn't give consent. That was the traditional view of marriage for 2,000 years. It isn't this -- a marriage has always evolved over the course of time and this is just another evolution.
KvH says that marriage equality is just one important aspect of LGBT freedoms, and she hopes that renewed attention to "reviving the federal Nondiscrimination Employment Act."
Shifting to guns, Booker says yes, shame on us if we've stopped paying attention to the need for gun safety legislation.
BOOKER: Well, shame on us, because the tragedies haven't stopped. There are still thousands of Americans that are being murdered every single day. We had an innocent man in my city injured by a handgun that didn't come from our -- the handguns in my city are not coming from within our state. And so this is very problematic. When you have the majority of the people, 90 percent Americans, 80 percent of gun owners agree on sensible gun reforms that would stop the carnage.
For more on that, click here.
Booker wants background checks and reforms to straw purchasing and secondary markets. "Imagine TSA saying, we're not going to check 40 percent of the people that board our planes. That's what we're doing right now."
King supports President Obama's position on the matter, and you can tell that he's got a little touch of sadness when he laments the fact that it's going to be "very difficult to get very meaningful legislation through the congress." He is, I think overstating the extent to which public opinion scuttles the possibilities, as opposed to his colleagues' unbending support for the status quo. I'll allow that the public does not support an assault weapons ban as robustly as they support improving the background checks.
Zeleny adds that the President's political colleagues pose just as big a problem -- in smaller numbers -- as King's: "I mean, you can go down the lists of Democrats who are running for re-election, who are up for reelection in 2014 who are not supportive of anything beyond background checks. Max Baucus from Montana, Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, et cetera."
KvH nevertheless suggests that movement is happening -- it's just not dramatic, sudden shifts: "This congress doesn't move very well. It took five years to pass the Brady Bill in the '90s, a ban on assault weapons and large capacity assault -- magazines. So, I think you're seeing movement, responsible gun owners are being peeled away from the NRA. You're seeing movement. You're seeing a movement. You're seeing money come in which didn't exist in the '90s, so it couldn't counter the NRA's countervailing, huge amount of money. The movement, I think, will play a role as it did in the '90s to slay this beast. And we will see -- and it will force a vote on certain amendments even if you don't get the assault -- military style assault weapons ban."
Dowd says that the cause is undermined when it's championed by elites, like Michael Bloomberg, who seem to come from an "I know what's best for you" place. But, he says, the larger story is that Congress is just terrified of the mythic status of the NRA, who aren't nearly as powerful as they're made out to be.
Zeleny offers the state of play on immigration reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One issue that actually is moving in congress right, or seems to be moving in Congress, immigration reform. We only have a couple of minutes left. But Jeff Zeleny, it does appear there was a breakthrough on this issue trying to get a bipartisan immigration proposal just this weekend? ZELENY: Right. And this is a big deal. This has been historically one of the key sticking points here -- the guest worker program. And unions, big labor, has always been opposed to this. So there was an agreement reached Friday night between the labor coalition and the business coalition over this guest worker program. Senator Schumer was sort of brokering this. So now they're taking it back to the gang of eight. Senator Marco Rubio released a statement just this morning. And he is saying this sounds good, but hold on a little bit. Conservatives and Republicans are slightly uneasy of looking like this is being pushed through. They still want to have some debate on this. But this is a big deal.
KvH says that the GOP needs to get this right, to protect their electoral futures. Dowd generically agrees, as he's done for the past five years. King says that border security remains the cardinal issue in the immigration debate but that, "If that can be done, then I think you'll find strong support for it."
And from here, This Week is going to try to make Easter happen. Cardinal Dolan tells this show's audience the same things that Wuerl told Fox's audience. Pope Francis has opted for humble trappings and it seems to matter to people, and that will hopefully get people more involved in the Church, the "insider view" of the conclave was that it was serious and solemn. He says that the pre-conclave period was probably more difficult, because it was the part where he got familiar with his fellow Cardinals and the possible Pope-nominees and the process. He won't divulge who else was a contender in the Papal chase. He says that Francis' biggest challenge is "reconnecting Jesus with the Church." See, "Jesus" has very high approval ratings but the Catholic Church does not, so it's sort of like a branding exercise.
Dolan is no more amenable to evolving on marriage equality than Wuerl is, so it goes. He is a big fan of Nelson Mandela, though. So, there's that.
Now it's time for a religion roundtable featuring Sojourner's Jim Wallis, "author and atheist" Susan Jacoby, Islamic cultural scholar and Nico Pitney lookalike Reza Aslan, Reverend Calvin Butts of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Dr. Richard Land, from the Southern Baptist Convention.
Wallis says that the "news cycle" has become "depressing." No kidding, dude! His conclusion is that as a nation we've forgotten the concept of the "common good," and the notion of a social compact, and this is because it probably sounds like SOSHULIZM or something. But, he says that it's nevertheless part of our secular and religious traditions, and could be renewable.
Stephanopoulos notes that Wallis and Land, who are of different minds on most matters, have recently come together on immigration. Land says that they "both agree that immigration reform is tearing the social fabric of the country. It needs to be done. The lack of doing it is causing havoc that will be difficult to repair in the social fabric of the country."
Meanwhile, Dr. Butts does not believe in marriage equality, but he says that "in terms of men and women having their rights as citizens and human beings, we certainly affirm that. You should have every right as a citizen of this nation and every right as a human being to enjoy the freedom that we believe God has given you."
Butts says that he would not "stand in the way" of anyone "making that choice," it's just that he chooses to "extol what I believe my religion teaches."
Jacoby says, that "what Dr. Butts said is music to my ears." "If all religious people trying to influence politics could separate what they teach and preach in church, and which of course every religious institution and person has the right to state their convictions, just as I do," she says. She objects, however, to stuff like the Newtown ceremony, which didn't seem inclusive of atheists. That was maybe just an oversight, though? Stephanopoulos points out that Obama does strive to keep "non-believers" included.
The conversation shifts to the rise of Islamaphobia. Aslan points out that "anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is at unprecedented levels" and "about two-thirds of Americans believe that Muslims should not have the same First Amendment rights as other Americans."
"About one third of Americans believe that Muslims should be forced to carry special ID’s that identify them as Muslims," he says, "That’s 100 million Americans who believe that."
Aslan says that this Islamophobia is not rooted in Christianity or Judaism, it's simply cresting on a wave of fringe right-wing groups.
Wallis points out that religion is losing it's foothold with the young. Land says that "we can disagree without being disagreeable," and that "no issue is forever settled." Butts says that it can be "difficult to translate your religious belief into public policy." Jacoby says that the mission of atheism is not to proselytize -- it's just to create space for atheism in the public square.
Aslan says that the way to "counteract" religious extremism is not by "excising it from society" or "removing it from politics," just "by making sure that those voices of moderation, those voices of pluralism, those voices that are dedicated to what America stands for rise above the voices of extremists."
MEET THE PRESS
Wait, David Gregory gets Easter off? O-kay, I guess. Chuck Todd will be running the show today, and will be talking about gun safety legislation, immigration reform, and marriage equality. Chuck Schumer and Jeff Flake will be talking about their work on the Gang Of Eight, presumably. Plus, panels. Woo. Let's get through this.
Okay, well, it looks like we are starting with a panel discussion, actually? First up is a discussion with David Axelrod, former Republican Congressman Tom Davis, Eugene Robinson, and Peggy Noonan.
Does Obama want to actually sign immigration reform into law? Or would he prefer the matter go unsettled, so that it continues to impact the GOP negatively in future elections. I don't see why he'd want that? There won't be any "future elections" with "Barack Obama" on the ballot and it's an open question whether he has the ambition to actually help the Democratic Party with their electoral hopes beyond the next set of midterms. Axelrod, for his part, insists that Obama wants to sign an immigration reform bill. "It's a legacy item for him," he says.
Davis reckons that the conversation over immigration will be fruitful for the GOP in the midterm elections. Peggy Noonan says that it's "hard to resolve" some cultural issues and that some of them will be "bubbling out there for a long time." Robinson disagrees, saying that some cultural issues are speeding their way to resolution -- marriage equality being one of them.
And from here, we are jumping to a discussion of that immigration reform measure, with two members of the so-called Gang Or Eight, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
Is there a deal done? Schumer says it is "on track":
SCHUMER: Well, with the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the "Gang of Eight." Now, everyone, we've all agreed that we're not going to come to a final agreement until we see draft legislative language and we agree on that. We drafted some of it already, the rest of it will be drafted this week. And so I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week. Senator Leahy has agreed to have extensive markup and debate on the bill in April. And then we go to the floor, God willing, in May.
Todd asks Schumer to reconcile that with Senator Marco Rubio's contention that there is "no deal" yet. Schumer says that it's a matter of "semantics." "Each of us has to look at the language and approve it," he says, "but I don't think on the business/labor side, there's any disagreement." There will be "little kerfuffles," he says, but no "problems." Schumer says that it's not likely that Rubio will "walk away" from the process, because he's been an "active and strong participant." Rubio, he says, is "protecting some of the things that he thinks are important in the bill" but in the end, everyone is "on track."
Schumer says that he was "glad to go to the border" and that it's "huge" and he has an appreciation now for the problems they have in Arizona. But the border security matter is important to timing. The GOP is going to argue that you get border security FIRST, and "path to citizenship" (or something) SECOND. So, it will be interesting if this all flies with Flake in just a minute:
SCHUMER: So look, we've come to a basic agreement, which is that first, people will be legalized. In other words, not citizens, but they'll be allowed to work, come out of the shadows, travel. Then, we will make sure the border is secure. And we have specific metrics that are in the bill. I'm not going to get into what they are, to make sure that that happens. And after that happens, there's a path to citizenship. And I think there's agreement among the eight on all of us, and I think most of the American people agree with that, that we should certainly do-- we made a great deal of progress in securing the border, I'm sure Jeff would say that. But I would join him in saying we have to make more progress.
Todd asks Schumer about Representative Don Young's use of the term "wetback," and whether that makes Young "fit to serve." Schumer says that the comments were disappointing, as was his first attempt at an apology, but the second attempt at an apology was peachy keen!
Moving to guns, Todd wants to know if maybe the moment or the momentum has passed for advocates of new gun safety legislation. Schumer says he still believes that the expanded background checks have still got both a good chance of passing and the potential to do a lot of good.
Is Bloomberg being helpful by running attack ads against lawmakers who don't support gun safety legislation -- including some Democrats? Schumer says that he "respects" his "passion," but each Senator will have to make up their own mind.
Flake, for his part, sounds a lot like Schumer on the immigration reform issue: "Well, we're much closer with labor and business, agreeing on this guest worker plan. That doesn't mean we've crossed every I or dotted every T, or vice versa." Vice versa? Huh? No, no, Jeff Flake! Don't go crossing I's and dotting T's out of a sense of completist obligation!
Would Flake walk away from a deal if he couldn't recruit any Republicans beyond the Gang Of Eight? He says he is committed to the goal, and that they will "stick together as a gang" and have sleepovers and movie-nights and play Gears of War with each other. More to the point, Flake says that he has support from other GOPers, beyond the Gang.
Todd asks Flake also, if Rubio is important to the Gang Of Eight, and Flake agrees that he is. It must be fun for Flake and Schumer to be asked these questions. Good for Rubio, though! No one is walking around saying, "Man, we just can't do this if we don't have Chuck Schumer and Jeff Flake involved!" I think that if you swapped out Flake and Schumer on the Gang of Eight with a couple of decent casseroles, no one would be pessimistic as long as Rubio was there.
Todd seeks an answer from Flake on the "metrics" of "border security":
TODD: This is your home state of Arizona. You've talked about-- you've said that there are two sort of border sectors in Arizona. One is the Yuma sector, one is the Tucson sector. And you say that Yuma has got it right. Well, what does that mean? That there is operational control. Can you explain what that means in layman's terms to the viewers out there?
FLAKE: Yes, I was in both the Yuma sector last week and the Tucson sector and there is a difference. In the Yuma sector people still get through. But our border patrol and other agents have a reasonable expectation of catching them. That's probably the best explanation of what operational control means. You'll never stop everyone from coming through. And you have a lot of commerce, legal commerce that happens at the border as well. So when people talk about having a sealed border, we don't need a sealed border, we need a secure border. That's what we have in Yuma. We're just quite a ways from that in the Tucson sector.
TODD: And when that is done, that's when would trigger the pathway to citizenship?
FLAKE: Yes. First, we've got to get to -- as you mentioned, some kind of metrics -- from the Department of Homeland Security. In a recent report that they had increased apprehensions was used in one part of the report to indicate that we had a better situation, in another part of the report, decreased apprehensions was used to demonstrate the same. So we've had trouble getting good metrics out of the Department of Homeland Security. We're going to have to have that before we move further.
Spot the difference? The elephant in the room is process -- does border security come before the rest of the reforms? Flake implies yes, Schumer thinks they happen concurrently.
Moving to gun safety legislation, Flake says that he'd support a strengthening of the background check system, but a universal background check system would not be something he could support. Todd asks why, and Flake contends that the paperwork would be significant, and also you could no longer lend your pal a gun to go on a duck hunt. Flake believes that a large amount of good can be gone if we "scale back" from universal background checks.
Could Flake support a GOP presidential candidate who was in favor of marriage equality? Flake says that it is "inevitable" that such a candidate will emerge and that this candidate will have the full support of the party. Flake says he still "holds to a traditional definition of marriage," but points out that he's supported both the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the Nondiscrimination Act.
Okay, I think we are paneling for the rest of the show, so let's get through it together and then move on with our lives. Axelrod discounts the polls that say passion for gun safety is on the ebb, pointing out that there is at least fervent desire to alter the background check system. Davis says that the intensity is very strong among those who don't want changes, and their representatives have to motivation to act. Noonan says that everyone should have done small-ball gun stuff as quickly as possible, instead of "talking about a big thing." Robinson says that the Senate just doesn't move quickly.
Axelrod and Davis discuss the efficacy of Bloomberg's anti-gun campaign:
CHUCK TODD: Did you see, David Axelrod, we had Mark Pryor, "I'm not going to let somebody from New York City tell me..." Mary Landrieu, Heidi Heitkamp, they've all used this same wording, these are Democrats who don't seem to be happy with the role Michael Bloomberg is playing.
DAVID AXELROD: No, in the short term, I think he's a good foil for them to certify their authenticity. But as I mentioned, in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, New York, there are members for whom I think this could be an issue, especially if Bloomberg turns up the heat in the upcoming campaign.
CHUCK TODD: You used to do a suburban district.
TOM DAVIS: Right.
CHUCK TODD: That's the one you represented. There is a different type of voter there than there is in a majority of these Republican...
TOM DAVIS: The problem is, there aren't that many districts like that that are still Republican. There are some, and they will have a vulnerability and these are the Republicans that are most likely at a crossroads, particularly, on background checks. And I think to that extent, the mayor and others add pressure on these members to vote this way.
We just saw Schumer and Flake discuss immigration reform, but Todd asks Noonan to summarize the discussion in a windy fashion and she does so. I use this as an opportunity to go get some more water to drink.
Robinson thinks that the immigration deal gets done, because of the impetus of losing the Latino vote. Davis says that there's reason for skepticism -- all those House members whose seats are safe. Axelrod contends that the national political picture forces those members to consider something larger than their own seats. We'll see, I think Davis makes a good point.
We try to move to marriage equality and other social issues. Noonan says that the abortion issue will never ever go away. Robinson says that's about right, and that "the best we ever get on abortion is a truce."
Nevertheless, as David Axelrod points out, the issue was a winning one for Democrats. "These were once wedge issues for Republicans," he points out, "now they are wedge issues that work against Republicans." Davis concurs, to a point:
DAVIS: Politics is race, ethnicity, culture, before you get to economics at this point. And even many groups who agree with Republicans and some of these social issues, the branding on ethnicity -- as we talked about -- immigration is so bad they won't even look at Republican candidates. So it works in the Democrat's favor in many of these cases. Abortion is a different matter. You look at abortion, and actually the country's moved slightly right. And Americans are very conflicted.
And STILL there are twenty-one minutes left! Sweet sassy molassey. Now the panel has altered -- the topic is marriage equality and it will feature NBC News' justice correspondent Pete Williams, MSNBC host Al Sharpton, the National Organization For Marriage's Brian Brown, Noonan, and actor Rob Reiner.
Let's dispense with the legal analysis up front, before we get to this party in the back:
PETE WILLIAMS: Well, what I think we're not going to get is some sort of sweeping ruling on same-sex marriage. We're probably not going to get some sort of sweeping ruling upholding Prop 8. On the Prop 8 cast, this is the case from California, this is the proposition passed by 52% of voters that stopped same-sex marriage in the state.
It seemed like the Supreme Court is just not ready to rule one way or the other on it. And they're going to find some way to send this case back to California stamped "Incomplete." Either by saying that the Prop 8 proponents did not have the correct legal standing to enter the court in the first place, or that they're just not ready to decide it. Now, you know, people may think that's weird. But the Supreme Court doesn't have to take any case. And there sometimes are some situations where they say, "We're just not ready." On DOMA, I think they will--
CHUCK TODD: Defense of Marriage Act.
PETE WILLIAMS: That's the Defense of Marriage Act. It passed by Congress, signed by President Clinton in 1996. It says the federal government cannot recognize same-sex marriages even in the states, now numbering nine, plus D.C., that recognize same-sex marriage. I think the court will find some way to strike DOMA down. But that will not affect any state in terms of whether it has to allow same-sex marriage.
Reiner says that even if the SCOTUS kicks out the Prop 8 case, it's a victory. "The reason we set out to do this to begin with was twofold," he says. "One was to strike down Prop 8, which if they send it back as Pete Williams described, we will have accomplished that. The other reason we did it, and the big reason was to educate the country. Was to put this on a national platform, to have this national discussion, which we've had and we've seen the the polls move dramatically." Yes, indeed.
"The snowball is rolling down the hill," he says, "and it's inevitable."
Brown says it's a myth to suggest that it's inevitable, and he disagrees with Williams' contention that the SCOTUS is going to punt the Prop 8 case.
Brown says that "marriage is the one institution that brings together the two great halves of humanity, male and female, in one institution," because in addition to having no respect for the LGBT community, he also harbors animus toward mixed-doubles tennis.
Todd notes that once upon a time, we thought that interracial marriage would never come to pass either. Sharpton says that the Court isn't ruling on the fate of people who voted one way or the other on Proposition 8, it's ruling on whether people have rights in the main: "When you look at the DOMA case and you look at Ms. Windsor who was forced to pay over $350,000 in the state tax because she did not have the right of her partner who had passed on, who they had built this wealth together, her rights are violated."
Noonan, for whatever reason, has found the entire debate over marriage equality to be shallow. The shallowness is in the laws that have prevented it. Reiner and Williams disagree with that. Reiner says the same-sex marriage is a civil right and predicts: "There will be gay marriage in this country, without question." Brown says that "it's a slur" to equate the people who oppose marriage equality with the people who oppose inter-racial marriage. Sharpton disagrees:
SHARPTON: What we are fighting here is the rights of people to be protected. It is not the same thing as racial, but it's the same thing when you have others decide the prerogatives of people's lives. And you cannot fight for one's rights without-- out fighting for everyone's right. And I think it is absurd for people to say that we're going to stand for people to have the right to determine their lives irregard-- regardless, rather of race, but they can't do it regardless of sex. And it's a cop out to say, "Have a civil union. Just shack up, don't get married."