On Face the Nation Sunday morning, CBS host John Dickerson asked Wayne LaPierre serious questions about gun massacres and how to prevent them.
But LaPierre—the fire-breathing gun-pusher who runs the National Rifle Association—dismissed such silly qualms. His answer to last week’s slaughter of 49 people in Orlando: more guns and more bullets.
“They are on the verge of overwhelming us,” LaPierre said, speaking of ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group. “We need to face what’s coming. They’re trying to kill us. Every American needs to start having a security plan. We need to be able to protect ourselves because they’re coming.”
Dickerson tried again.
“What does that mean, ‘security plan?’” Dickerson asked LaPierre. “Should everybody get an automatic or semi-automatic or should we lift limits on automatic weapons?”
LaPierre ducked the question as if it was a bullet headed for his head.
“I, I, I, I think we’re talking about the fact that law-abiding people need to be able to own firearms to protect themselves,” he said. “They’re coming and they’re trying to kill us and we need to be prepared.”
In the Orlando mass killing, a self-taught ISIS sympathizer also wounded 53 people with an assault rifle a week ago Sunday in a gay night club. Police killed him after a three-hour standoff.
Partial transcripts of his conversations with police negotiators will be released Monday, attorney general Loretta Lynch said as she made the rounds of the current-events weeklies.
In the wake of the slaughter on “Latin Night” at the Pulse night club, some people suggest stricter gun-safety laws to keep hand-held murder machines away from psychopaths like the Orlando killer who was a religious bigot, a homophobe, quite possibly mentally ill and a scary threat to many people who knew him, including the FBI.
But LaPierre airily dismissed suggestions from President Obama, from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and from many senators that something needs to change about gun laws.
“The President, the whole gun-ban movement, said ‘Hey, don’t look at terrorists. Look over here. Divert your attention. Take your eyes off the problem,’” LaPierre said.
He said the president and his supporters “Don’t want to face the embarrassment of their failure in the terrorist area and they want to cover their butts and not talk about it . . . The politically correct policy of the White House are intruding right now in military, terrorism, law enforcement.”
Dickerson tried again with LaPierre, who appeared on a remote camera.
“You’re kind of making it sound like it’s a conspiracy,” Dickerson said. “Aren’t people just trying to figure out why people should be able to have access to weapons that produce bullets so quickly and maybe we should do something to curb that? That seems like a human reaction.”
LaPierre could not be swayed.
“John, we need to look right in the face of who these people are that we’re facing,” he said.
LaPierre said the meek, limited laws being proposed in the Senate—and coming up for a vote on Monday—were like trying to stop a freight train “with a piece of Kleenex.”
Toward the end of the interview, LaPierre began to rant about the “elite media” as he waved a copy of The New York Times.
As Dickerson ended the conversation, LaPierre blurted “Let’s get the bad guys off the street. Attack the terrorists and leave the good guys alone.”
‘Like a real amateur in politics, he seems to confuse the enthusiasm of the crowd in front of him at the moment, in a high-school auditorium, with the larger electorate.’
A similar discussion took place on ABC’s This Week when host Jonathan Karl—subbing for George Stephanopoulos—interviewed NRA lobbyist Chris Cox.
“We have a serious problem in this country, a catastrophic situation,” Cox said. “It has nothing to do with firearms.”
Instead, Cox said, “radical Islamic terrorists” were to blame, although the majority of gun massacres in the United States have nothing to do with such religious politics.
Karl persisted, asking why people need what he called “weapons of war.”
“We have a failed policy when it comes to keeping America safe,” Cox said. “We have a God-given right to defend ourselves.”
The NRA will involve itself and its money in many political races this year, he said, and politicians who don’t obey the right-wing NRA “will pay a price.”
Karl ended the conversation with what sounded like a Freudian slip.
“Chris Crock—Chris Cox—thank you for joining us,” he said.
The NRA has endorsed Trump, who said last week he wished to open a dialogue with the gun group about perhaps not selling guns to people on no-fly lists or terrorist-watch lists.
But his true gun sensibilities were revealed on CNN’s Reliable Sources when host Brian Stelter showed video of Trump talking before the flags of the United States and the state of Texas, working the crowd.
Just think, Trump said, what if some of those gay Orlando bar patrons (drinkers, many of them, at last call) had guns strapped to their ankles or their hips.
“And this son of a b(eep) comes out and starts shooting,” Trump said.
Mr. Stelter said to observe Trump’s “feedback loop” with his audience, which cheered louder and louder as Trump paused for 15 seconds.
“Boom!” Trump said, pointing his large, masculine, index finger outward, as if it were the barrel of a gun.
“Boom!” he said again, this time pointing his finger at his head.
“You know what?” Trump shouted to the cheering mob. “That would’ve be a beautiful sight, folks. That would’ve been a beautiful, beautiful sight.”
A caustic reaction to Trump’s rally persona was offered on Fox News Sunday by George Will.
“Like a real amateur in politics, he seems to confuse the enthusiasm of the crowd in front of him at the moment, in a high-school auditorium, with the larger electorate,” Will said.
Pass the remote . . .
THIS WEEK Among Karl’s other guests was Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who led last week’s filibuster that forced Republicans to allow a vote on up to four proposals.
Conceding that the background-checks bill will be hard to win, he added: “We still have hope we can get Republicans to support the bill stopping terrorists from getting weapons. Something important happened last week… millions of people rose up and joined our effort.”
He said he hoped to build an infrastructure “that rivals the gun lobby.”
As for the gun-show loophole that gets around background checks, Murphy said “We should be making our gun laws less full of Swiss-cheese holes.”
In the pundit panel portion, Molly Ball of the liberal Atlantic magazine said “There is a lot of pent-up energy on the left for gun control. It is a culture issue.”
As people often do, Ball used a psychiatric reference when discussing Trump.
“There was this battle between sort of the super-ego and the id of the Trump campaign,” she said.
Rich Lowry of the conservative National Review, reflecting on Trump’s recent statements and his plunging poll numbers, said “Three weeks of unforced errors in a spectacular way and they’re still only five or six points behind Hillary. The bad news is it’s not clear when the unforced errors are going to stop.”
FACE THE NATION Dickerson spoke by telephone with Trump—something most networks are avoiding these days, feeling that they are being exploited.
In that Trump has renewed his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, Dickerson asked him “Should a Muslim buying ammunition and weapons get extra scrutiny?”
“I don’t know,” said Trump, who then turned to a general discussion of radical Islam.
Dickerson pressed on with short, polite, pointed questions, his specialty.
DICKERSON: “Just as a bottom line here, are you talking about increasing profiling of Muslims in America?”
TRUMP: “Well, I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country. Other countries do it. And you look at Israel. You look at the others . . . I hate the concept of profiling. But we have to start using common sense. We have to look at it seriously.”
Later, Dickerson steered the conversation to Trump’s diminishing support in Republican ranks.
“You said to Republican leaders ‘Don’t talk. Be quiet,’” Mr. Dickerson said. “Who was that directed toward?”
Trump replied without using the names “Paul Ryan” or “Mitch McConnell.”
“Well, nobody in particular,” Trump said.
Both men have found fault with Trump’s recent statements about a Mexican judge and his apparent gloating about how he predicted the most recent massacre.
When asked directly about House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Trump said: “They should go about their business. They shouldn’t be talking so much. They should go out and let me do my job… Let me run for president.”
A live guest in the studio was Senator Diane Feinstein, the California Democrat who said she bumped into LaPierre on the way into the studio and that they first debated 24 years ago.
“I deeply believe that these weapons of war don’t belong on the streets,” she said. “How deeply embedded are members of the Senate and the House to the National Rifle Association? Because you never will be able to meet what the NRA wants and achieve anything.”
Michael Gerson of The Washington Post noted that Trump intimated President Obama might be a jihadist agent.
“This is very, very dangerous in the daily conduct of the war against terrorism,” Gerson said.
Regarding what Ryan and McConnell must endure from Trump, Gerson said: “They’re willing to swallow it. He’s already accused his opponent of possible complicity in murder. Now, he’s accused the President of treason. There’s nothing they won’t take.”
‘This is a gut candidate who lies with unusual enthusiasm.’
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Host Chris Wallace presented Lynch at the opening of the show and that made for a slow start. On this and every other show, she spoke in generalities, avoided answering specific questions and rarely said the words “Islam” or “Muslim,” words Republicans and conservatives want to hear.
Instead, she mentioned here and on other shows that the LGBT people and Hispanics were the targets of the “hate” and “terrorist” action. The Republicans are proposing a 72-hour waiting period for persons with names on a warning list to be determined. Lynch said the Justice Department wants more flexibility.
Wallace showed a quotation from Lynch last week that said “We have to push back on the voices that prey on fear and sow division.”
Wallace asked “Were you talking about Donald Trump?”
Lynch answered “I was not . . . but I was talking about the climate of fear.”
Later came a better guest, Senator Jeff Sessions, who remains one of few top Republicans still supporting Trump.
Regarding Trump’s suggestion that President Obama resign, Sessions told Wallace: “If he’s not going to lead, not going to be a force for protecting our security, maybe he should step aside. I think that’s what Trump was saying.”
WALLACE: “You’re not really serious?”
SESSIONS: “No, you know, he doesn’t mean he’s gonna resign or step aside.”
Wallace asked Sessions about one of Trump’s most intriguing innuendoes about President Obama. They showed Mr. Trump’s words on the screen:
“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,” Trump said of Obama. “It’s one or the other. Either way is unacceptable. We are led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he’s got something else in mind.”
Wallace asked: “Do you know what that ‘something else’ Trump refers to that he thinks President Obama has in mind?”
“No,” Sessions said. “I don’t.”
“Forgive me,” he said to Sessions. “That certainly seems to imply that he is sympathetic to radical Islam.”
“No,” Sessions replied. “I don’t think he means that.”
MEET THE PRESS Most of the shows mentioned in passing the revived “Dump Trump” movement among Republicans who think his negative energy might cost the GOP the Senate and the House. But Chuck Todd of NBC was the most forceful.
His first words were “Are we seeing the re-birth of the ‘Dump Trump’ movement?”
Kendal Unruh, a Republican delegate pledged to Ted Cruz, said delegates to the convention in Cleveland should be allowed a “conscience clause” that permits them to take the nomination away from Trump.
“We have the Kryptonite,” she said.
Todd showed his interview with Ryan, slightly stale three days after recording.
“Why do you trust him?’ Todd asked Ryan about Trump. “He essentially accused the president of treason.”
Ryan answered by saying something about Clinton. He said his job as Speaker and running the convention is “a ceremonial position” and “my opinion is not relevant here.”
He avoided using Trump’s name most of the time, referring to him as “the nominee” and “he.”
“This is a very strange situation,” Ryan said. “This is a very unique nominee.”
Mark Halperin, speaking of the Republicans, said “There’s a meteor headed to Planet Earth. You do what you have to do.” (Hey, didn’t a meteor bring baby Superman—Kal-El—and Kryptonite?)
He later said “The Democrats are on the precipice of nominating the most pro-gun control candidate in the history of either party.”
Todd showed an anti-Trump add from the Priorities USA Super-PAC.
“Donald Trump,” said the words on the screen. “Too Dangerous for America.”
STATE OF THE UNION Sessions, the Trump loyalist, checked in at CNN, where Dana Bash subbed for host Jake Tapper.
“Somehow, some way, we should be able to make this work,” he said of Monday’s pending gun-safety legislation in the Senate. He said Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims would not include “diplomats and business people” who make regular trips.
When Bash said people found Trump’s comments “disgusting” and “highly offensive,” Sessions referred to critics as “talking heads,” even if they were Senators.
A better guest was Sen. Ron Johnson, who is trailing the Democrat Russ Feingold in the polls. In that Trump’s voter disapproval (70 percent) can hurt down-ballot candidates like Johnson, he said “a number of movements are afoot” to deny Trump the nomination.
Would Johnson endorse Trump?
“It has been my intention to support the Republican nominees and, again, nobody can predict the outcome of this thing and so I think things remain reasonably uncertain,” Johnson said. “I’ll be an independent voice. Where I disagree with a particular nominee, I’ll voice it, whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or anybody else.”
On the pundit panel, Hispanic Republican Ana Navarro said she attended the right-wing brainstorming session last weekend at Mitt Romney’s mansion in Utah. Romney, the 2012 nominee, opposes Trump.
“It felt like Thanksgiving dinner with a most dysfunctional family,” she said. “You thought you were going to get stabbed with a fork at some time.”
She said the choice facing Republicans this election “is a very heated, emotionally charged, physical, gut-wrenching decision.”
“If we try to have a coup in Cleveland, we’re going to get slaughtered in Cleveland,” Navarro said. “So you’ve got two choices: Do we get slaughtered in Cleveland in July or do we get slaughtered in November across the nation? It’s a bleak scenario for Republicans.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra was asked by Bash if he is being vetted as a vice-presidential candidate by the Clinton campaign.
He squirmed noticeably and said, vaguely, “To my knowledge, I don’t, I can’t tell you, I know, I know that I’m in constant communication with the campaign,” he said.
Imagine a Hispanic on the Democratic ticket to draw the kind of ethnic group that Trump has demonized. Hey, it just might work.
RELIABLE SOURCES John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, realistically assessed the strategy of the NRA.
“They’ll wait for the outrage to fade, which it will,” Avlon said. “And then they can block legislation that’s got 90 percent approval of the American people. So that’s part of calling ‘B.S.’”
Carl Bernstein continued his torrent against Trump.
“Pathological liar,” Bernstein said. “Let’s start there. Does he believe in a free press? Who is Donald Trump? A neo-fascist, a particularly American kind of neo-fascist, a strong man who does not believe in democratic institutions.”
Avlon followed up.
“This is a gut candidate who lies with unusual enthusiasm,” Avlon said of Trump. “If you end up printing something a candidate says that you know to be false, you become part of the problem . . . Trump and the press have a twisted relationship.”
Back came Bernstein, taking offense that Trump calls Clinton “Crooked Hillary.”
“Let’s take a look at Donald Trump’s crookedness in his business affairs,” Bernstein said.
MEDIA BUZZ On Fox, host Howard Kurtz asked of Trump’s travails “Is Trump bringing this on himself or is media bias on the right and the left to blame for portraying his campaign as a train-wreck?”
(Pssssst! Howie! It’s Trump’s fault!)
Best part of the show offered clips of late-night comedians talking seriously about the Orlando massacre. One was Samantha Bee, who hosts Full Frontal on TBS.
“Can we get semi-automatic assault rifles out of the hands of civilians?” Bee asked. “The ones that mow down a room full of people in seconds? Yes! I do want to take those guns away.”
On The Late Show on CBS, Stephen Colbert said: “It’s as if there is a script that we as a nation have learned. By accepting the script, we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time, with nothing changing.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.