The politics of police shootings

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 8, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There has been a vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement.

DALLAS POLICE CHIEF DAVID BROWN: The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Five of them, police officers, dead in Dallas, 12 shot. The investigation continues, but the sole suspect was killed according to police.

Let's bring in our panel and start there: Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press; welcome April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm certain, when you heard that press conference, you heard the president, I mean, across the political spectrum, there's a tone of soberness and lack of partisanship and malice in this event that I think is quite remarkable. And when you think about it, I think it has to do with the juxtaposition of these events.

The cops in Dallas were protecting the march of people who were protesting police brutality. That in and of itself is ironic and speaks well of both sides. They end up rushing towards danger in a heroic way a few days after an event and where police acted, at the best, recklessly, and, obviously, fatally.

So I think it shows that we are so intertwined an as a nation that we are not sort of dividing into the usual camps. I don't know how long this will last, but you get a sense that people are not going to use this. I hope, you know, you'll have some people argue with me for gun control or for whatever. But I think that is happening in this series of events much less than in others. It's almost like what happened in the Charleston shooting at Mother Emanuel church. The act of forgiveness, that remarkable redemptive act by the members of the church and the family I thought had a profound effect on the country in kind of bringing a reconciliation. That, I think, is a good thing to see.

BAIER: Obviously, the president, the attorney general both mentioned concern about guns, April, in their statements last night and today. Your thoughts on Senator Tim Scott and his reflections on all of this?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO: I really -- on the human side, I can relate to it, as an African-American, as an African-American woman, who has been profiled and stopped by police, particularly when he talked about Mother Emanuel Church and what happened with Dylan Roof. That stemmed from racism. That stemmed from the other side of the coin who did not like the fact that people were talking about what happened to Walter Scott or in Charleston, South Carolina, or talking about Eric Garner who could said "I cannot breathe" 11 times and died on the scene, or talking about Freddie Gray who was arrested without cause, basically, and died in police custody.

You know, there is a frustration in the black community. And it's not something that -- and I'm not even trying to liken my comments to what the suspect or the dead shooter said, but there is a frustration in this country, and it's been a frustration since the time Africans were enslaved in this country. This is not new. What's new is the visual and the fact that we've been talking as African-Americans for years about this within the community. Now you see our truth. And that's the problem.

BAIER: But there are people, April, who say, you look at these two shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, and horrific, but they say, how can you get to the motivation being racial this quickly?

RYAN: Let me say this. There is a truth, again, going back to truth and facts. President Obama spoke of it as soon as he landed in Warsaw, Poland.
He said, last year alone -- well, yes, last year alone, blacks were two times more likely to be shot by police than white people. This is such a real situation. "The Washington Post" is tracking the numbers of those shot by police in this country this year. So it is a real situation. It's a very real situation. We can't walk away from it. Hillary Clinton is talking about a conversation. And if we have a conversation, it can't just be black people talking to themselves. It has to be everyone.

BAIER: What about, Julie, how this administration, this president is dealing with this and his messaging?

JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think Tim Scott put it perfectly. This is a no-win situation, an incredibly difficult situation, always made more difficult when you're overseas, as president.
You have the time difference. You have the physical difference. It does sound like the White House is at least considering having the president come barrack from Europe early. He's supposed to go to Spain later this weekend.

Look, I think that the president in all of these conversations is going to mention gun control. I think he firmly believes that in all of these situations, we can't ignore it. So people will be angry about that, certainly, but that is just no surprise to me, to April, she's covered it for a long time. This is something he believes in passionately and I don't think you should expect him to walk away from that.

RYAN: But gun control does not mean taking guns away. It means putting the assault weapons ban back in place.

BAIER: All right, we're going to talk about guns to the second panel. But I want to get to the politics here in 2016. Just moments ago, both candidates reacted to these shootings. Let's take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They're not just police officers. They're mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. And they're all on my mind today. They're on everybody's mind. A brutal attack in our police force is an attack on our country and an attack on our families.

HILLARY CLINTON, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is the kind of call to action, and as president I would implement a very comprehensive set of proposals that I've been making for more than a year, including, we must do more to have national guidelines about the use of force by police, especially deadly force. We need to do more to look into implicit bias.
And we need to do more to respect and protect our police.


BAIER: You know, as Charles has talked about, there's a lot of talk, broadly, Charles, or Charlie, about how to deal with this but there is an election going on. How does this play one side or another as you're listening to both candidates?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, I think that, you know, I thought that both sides are going to obviously make our politics out of this. Whether it's advancing gun control or trying to stir up the deep discontent in the black community. It's just a reality of the case.

But I think Donald Trump is right about one thing. Racial tensions in this country today are far, far worse than they were eight years ago. And that is a -- we elected a president who for whatever you thought about him, he had a greater credibility as a half-black, half-white person to heal the wounds in this country that have dogged us for centuries. And he failed. He's failed miserably. And I think that the answer, the answer to that is very, very complicated. It's not a simple thing. And it's not simply gun control or bad cops. It's something far more difficult. And none of these politicians at the federal level are willing to have those open, serious conversations.

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