Last weekend’s tragic shooting in Tucson may usher in new era of civility across the country and in the halls of Congress. That’s what President Obama hopes and called for at Wednesday’s memorial service for the victims.
“Only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation,” Obama told a crowd at the University of Arizona that included Mark Kelly, husband of shooting victim Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The shooting by suspect Jared Lee Loughner highlights several political and social issues that Aaron and Henry discuss in the accompanying video with former Delaware Senator and current Congressional Oversight Panel chairman Ted Kaufman.
Kaufman applauds Obama’s tone and sentiment in dealing with the shooting. “At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds,” the President said at Wednesday’s memorial.
However, contrary to popular perception, the former Senator says civility is not a lost art in Washington. “The vast majority of people I know in public life want to quiet the whole thing down,” Kaufman says. “If you look at most of what goes on the floor of the United States Senate, discussions in committees and everything else – it’s incredibly civil and incredibly thoughtful.”
That truth about civility doesn’t get the attention it deserves Kaufman believes because confrontation sells much better in the media, especially on TV. “Frankly, part of this is the fact that the media would much rather watch an argument between two people,” he says.
Kaufman makes a point not to blame the media for the uncivil tone but does go back to this point several times in the interview.
“We’ve got to have a dialogue on guns,” Sen. Kaufman says. “We never have a discussion because it’s so polarising.” Kaufman hopes the Tucson tragedy prompts a reasonable discussion on gun control, but says there’s a need to have more restrictions on assault weapons. “We should all agree there’s no earthly reason to have a 30-shot magazine.”
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