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Week In Politics: Deadly Sniper Attack On Dallas Police


And we turn now to politics with columnists David Brooks of The New York Times, who joins us from member station KUT in Austin, Texas, this week. Hi, David.


SIEGEL: And sitting in for E.J. Dionne, Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post. Hi, Jonathan.


SIEGEL: We'll get to the presumptive presidential candidates and their doings in a moment, but first I want us to address the terrible events of this week, video of black men dying at the hands of police in Louisiana and Minnesota. And then, of course, last night's deadly attack on police in Dallas. First, David, do you see some way out of what appears to be a crisis in police-community relations and, in particular, police-race relations?

BROOKS: Yeah, I think I do. I think we've had sort of an epidemic of sweeping overgeneralizations in this country. Not - people are - not all African-American men behind the wheel of a car are dangerous. Not all cops are engaged in some race war. And I guess, for Donald Trump, not all Muslims are involved in terrorism. But we've gotten sloppy with our generalizations. And this has infused the particular extreme members of our society, and we don't want to overgeneralize about those extreme crazies who are doing bad things. But - but we have gotten sloppy in our thinking, and we've tended to group people a little too quickly.

SIEGEL: Jonathan, do you agree with that?

CAPEHART: Yes, but I do have to say that I am concerned about what's to follow. I mean, I think as a result of what happened in Baton Rouge and what happened in Minnesota, we were once again having the necessary and clear-eyed conversation on police-community relations, particularly between African-Americans and law enforcement, and the conversation about how black lives matter as much as everyone else's, which is the foundation of that movement. But I also think it's - it could have put a halt to the ongoing movement towards improving the relationship between the community writ large and law enforcement, which is something that the president's Task Force on 21st Century Policing has been pushing for at least a year.

SIEGEL: I wonder, is there a dialogue of the deaf here in that, very often, African-Americans will say we feel jeopardized, we feel we're in jeopardy in the presence of police if there's a traffic stop, and the police say, but by your very saying that, you are jeopardizing police officers on the job? And we can't seem to get off that spot often.

CAPEHART: Well, I think that the videos that we have seen on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think made it possible for everyone in this country to see with their own eyes and to hear with their own ears what African-Americans have been complaining about for generations. And so while I understand the criticism that is coming from certain members of law enforcement, there is no denying once you see particularly the Facebook Live video from Philando Castile's girlfriend about what happened in real time - there must be a conversation about that. And there must be - not must be - I hope that there is some level of empathy from the broader American family as to what's happening to their fellow Americans who happen to be African-American.

SIEGEL: David, do you think there is that - that empathy felt thanks to streaming videos?

BROOKS: Yeah, how could you not after watching those videos? You know, I think this has been a phase, you know, since Ferguson, of consciousness-raising, of learning, of more open conversation. And for some of us, some of the parts of the conversation have been harder to take, but honest - from Ta-Nehisi Coates or from Michael Eric Dyson today in The New York Times - but honest and instructive. And so I do think this has been a period of education. And it hasn't always been easy, but then, periods of education are not always easy.

And I do think the solution is going to come. You know, Dorothy Day, the great social worker, had a phrase, stay small. And if there's going to be a repair in community-police relationships, it's going to happen one at a time, from cops adjusting their behavioral techniques and their patrolling techniques so they're actually in the community and establishing relationships one at a time. We've had a history of racial bias in this country stretching back centuries. It's not going to be solved in a month or a week or a year. But I do think this has been a period of increased openness.

SIEGEL: That's it for consciousness-raising. We're going to turn now to the presidential campaigns. The events in Dallas led both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to put their campaigns on hold. But before that, each had a very eventful week. For Mrs. Clinton, it was the news from FBI Director James Comey that he would not recommend an indictment for her use of her email system, although he was very critical of her handling of classified information.


JAMES COMEY: There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about those matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

SIEGEL: And for Donald Trump, it was an odd week in which he doubled down on his acknowledgement of the anti-terrorism talents of Saddam Hussein. And he defended his campaign's use of a six-pointed star in what many people had considered anti-Semitic imagery.


DONALD TRUMP: So you have the star, which is fine. I said, we shouldn't have taken it down. You know, they took the star down. I said, too bad; you should've left it up. I would have rather defended it - just leave it up and say, no, that's not a Star of David. That's just a star. It tells you about corrupt Hillary - corrupt Hillary.

SIEGEL: All right, let's start with Hillary Clinton. David, is she significantly set back by the finding that, prosecution or not, she didn't handle her email the way the experienced, trustworthy veteran policymaker that she's running as would have handled her email?

BROOKS: If she was facing a normal Republican candidate, she would be set back grievously. I agree with both parts of what Comey did - not to indict her, but I also think the criticism and the editorialization for which he's come in for some criticism is absolutely warranted. And when you look back on Clinton's statements on this whole affair, the brazenness of her lying on this is really quite astonishing. Whether classified documents were emailed around, how many servers, there's just a whole string of falsehoods that came out of her mouth. And it would be a grievous blow if she were facing a normal candidate. I'm not sure it's going to be. But it still should be sobering to those - to anybody of - Democrat or Republican.

CAPEHART: I mean, there's very little I could criticize or disagree with David on - on this. I mean, Secretary Clinton - former Secretary Clinton took a beating rhetorically from the FBI director in terms of her handling of this entire situation. But I have to say that, agreeing with David, had she been up against a normal Republican candidate - any of the other candidates who ran for president - she would be in dire straits. And instead, what - the clips you played show that Donald Trump was effectively snuffing out the big opening he had to really hammer away at her qualifications.

SIEGEL: Well, there he was, David. He'd been dealt three aces by FBI Director Comey, and what did he make of it?

BROOKS: He hit terrible. He's had another terrible week. Mike Murphy, the Republican consultant, said, we're used to Donald Trump ramps - rants, but occasionally he slips into full bore on drunk wedding toast. And that's what this speech was. It was an astonishing performance of resentment, of rambling, of incoherence. And I guess what strikes me about Trump these days is the - here's a guy about to get the Republican nomination - rising tide of anger, defensiveness and resentment, both in that speech and when he went to visit Republicans in Washington.

SIEGEL: Yeah, that was quite a meeting with Republican members of Congress and the Senate, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Yeah, where he dressed down members of the Senate who weren't supporting him. And in addition to the rambling, he also praised Saddam Hussein and his distaste for mosquitoes.

SIEGEL: Jonathan Capehart (laughter) of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks to both of you.

CAPEHART: Thanks a lot, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.