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JOHN KING, USA

Jared Loughner in Court; Arizona Politics; Gun Laws

Aired January 10, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening everyone from the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Tonight the alleged assassin in a weekend massacre here faces his first round of justice. Police released this photo of Jared Lee Loughner not long after his appearance in federal court in Phoenix. Loughner acknowledged he was aware of the five counts of murder and attempted murder could land him in prison for life. And he was ordered held without bail.

Here at the Medical Center, the assassin's prime target, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, remains in critical condition. Her doctors reporting so far they see no additional brain swelling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day that goes by and we don't see an increase, we're slightly more optimistic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In Washington, President Obama this morning led a moment of silence to honor the six killed and 14 wounded in the Saturday shooting spree. We visited the crime scene a bit earlier today. It was still off-limits and investigators were still gathering evidence there. This community is in mourning, and also in the middle of a perhaps inevitable raw political debate, over whether heated political rhetoric here and nationally somehow shares blame. Today I sat down with three political rivals, the leaders of the local Democratic, Republican, and Tea Party organizations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope it will bring us together. I think we need to take -- we need to take a breather from politics at the moment. We have fellow people Tucsonans for their lives, for their survival. If you take the professions of the victims out, you have a massacre in our backyard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More of that conversation ahead, and a closer look at the congresswoman the gunman allegedly targeted because he didn't like her answer at a town hall three years ago. But we begin with the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, and his day in court. CNN's Ted Rowlands was there -- Ted. TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Loughner was absolutely coherent in this relatively short hearing, it lasted about 15 minutes. He was brought in from a side door wearing a tan prison uniform, jail uniform. He sat with his lawyer and then was brought up to a podium when the judge took the bench. And immediately when the judge took the bench, he asked him, are you Jared Lee Loughner and Loughner responded in a very strong voice, leaned into the microphone, yes, I am Jared Lee Loughner.

That kicked off what turned out to be a question and answer session to some extent as they went through the business of this proceeding where Loughner participated with "yes" answers typically, but when asked a question, he answered the judge. We weren't sure what to expect. We had heard rumors or we had heard stories that he had disrupted classrooms and we knew that he wasn't talking to law enforcement, so it was clear there was a possibility he would say nothing.

In fact, the judge at the beginning of the hearing said, I'm going to ask you questions, you don't have to answer any of them, but he did answer all of them and conducted himself very well in that he was very rigid and just was focused on the proceedings at hand. The judge did read all of the counts against him. At one point, when the judge in this case, Lawrence Anderson (ph), read the murder charge that was subjected to the shooting of the federal judge in Tucson, John Roll, it seemed like this judge paused a little bit, because he was obviously reading the charge of murder and he was dealing with one of his colleagues, another federal judge on the bench in Tucson, other than that the judge and the defendant very clear, very succinct and a quick hearing. He'll be back in court the 24th of this month. That will be when the preliminary hearing is set.

KING: And, I want you to get into a little bit more detail because the descriptions we hear, you mentioned the classroom, we've seen the YouTube postings of somebody who can sort of ramble, have incoherent thoughts, jump from one idea to another, but in court today, a coherent presentation, yes, is that right?

ROWLANDS: Yes, absolutely. The judge at one point held up a document that the defendant had helped fill out, which was having to do with whether or not he would be eligible to have the taxpayers pay for his legal defense, and the judge said, did you sign this, because I can't read this very well. I know it's difficult to sign something in handcuffs, but did you sign this?

And he said, yes. And he asked did your lawyer help you fill out this form? And he said, yes, my lawyer helped me fill out this form. Everything the judge asked, he understood and immediately answered in a very succinct manner with a very strong voice. Typically there are a lot of times in these situations the defendant will come up with a very weak voice, be very nervous. He was very strong, very rigid, and very determined, it seemed, and very focused as well, something we weren't necessarily expecting.

KING: And Ted, this is the very first hearing you mentioned, it will be a few more weeks we see him back in court. I assume nothing at all, no indications at all of the strategy we will get from the defense team?

ROWLANDS: No, not at all. They are just assembling. Judy Clarke was appointed officially by the judge, pending some paperwork that she has to get, basically, OK'd to practice in Arizona, because she's licensed in California. But this is a prosecutor with a lot of experience. She is not going to go in any direction early on in this case. She'll see what she has; she'll see what she's up against and plot it from there. She represented Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and others. So this is a very seasoned public defender, and you're not going to get any indication on where they're going this early on.

KING: Ted Rowlands for us on the suspect's first day in court. What else are we learning about this alleged assassin? Well, Drew Griffin has been spending considerable time reporting on that. He joins me here. And Drew, the pattern that people seem to be suggesting is someone who had a long period of growing erratic and more erratic behavior.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: John, I think we can now trace this back to his junior year in high school when we began to see this mental deterioration in what happened with Jared Loughner. Friends say he was bright, a saxophone player in the band, then, all of a sudden, a change. Drug use, he doesn't come back his senior year.

And then it really accelerated in his -- well just last summer. He goes to a Pima County (ph) community college elementary algebra class. Five times during a very short period of time the campus police are called in because he's either noisy in class, disrupting class, challenging the teachers. He became, according to the teacher and the students, a very threatening person and so the school did act. The school dove in and interdicted with him.

KING: And dove in and interdicted and the questions people ask, you've seen comparisons to Virginia Tech, where you had a student who obviously showed some mental health issues, some unstable behavior. And people in this community are asking, people around the country are asking, was the behavior so difficult, so problematic, so troubling that should someone have gone to authorities? Should somebody have tried to get him mental health care?

GRIFFIN: Well, to help people, right, let me tell you what exactly what did happen. The school held a behavioral assessment committee on this guy. So that was administrators, a police chief, other administrators got together, along with an outside psychologist or psychiatrist, and evaluated his condition, and the disruptions. And they determined the proper procedure was to tell him and his parents, listen, you're not invited back to this school until you get a mental evaluation. That was the school code policy that they say they followed, followed to protect the other students. Not to necessarily heal or help this kid, but to protect other students in that class. So he was kept from coming back to the campus and they felt that is what was their legal burden to do.

KING: And the teachers and the students in that classroom, did they feel they had a hothead, they had someone who was unpredictable, or did they feel they were in the presence of somebody who could take the steps that he allegedly took the other day?

GRIFFIN: John, we read some of the e-mails in real time during the class, other students were saying, this guy scares the crap out of me. The teacher himself, who I interviewed, Ben Begahe (ph) specifically said, look, we all felt this guy could come back with a gun. Even though he wasn't overtly saying that, even though he wasn't overtly saying he was going to come back and kill anybody, he never said those words, but he was creepy in a way. And they really felt that this guy was a guy who could do exactly what he's now accused of doing. In fact, Ben Begahe (ph), the teacher said, look, I was shocked when I saw his name, but not surprised.

KING: Not surprised, horrible. Drew, great reporting, thanks so much -- Drew Griffin with us tonight.

When we come back, a bit ahead, we'll take a much closer look at the congresswoman who in this hospital behind us is clinging for life tonight.

Just ahead though, a discussion in this state and around the country about guns, about the culture of guns, and about the often volatile politics right here in Arizona. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was supposed to deliver her State of the State address today, but she told lawmakers in Phoenix that could wait. Why? One of the reasons, you see these pictures behind me, this is the makeshift vigil outside the hospital here, the makeshift vigil where people have been gathering and they're lighting candles, just stopping by.

The congresswoman is inside; other victims of the shooting are inside. It's a remarkable scene outside. One of the reasons, one of the reasons the governor said in this state right now politics is on hold, but she also sounded a bit of a defiant tone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Saturday's events were not just an attack on those individuals we loved and lost, but an assault on our constitutional republic, on our democracy, on all we treasure and all hold dear as citizens and public servants. Arizona is in pain. Yes. Our grief is profound. We are yet in the first hours of our sorrow, but we have not been brought down. We will never be brought down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Governor Brewer earlier today joining me for a conversation about the raw moment in this state. Ed Montini, he's a columnist at "The Arizona Republic," he's in Phoenix, and Jessica Yellin, our national political correspondent is here with me. E.J. Montini, I want to start with you first. You've covered this state for so long, on the one hand, we have a very raw political debate unfolding, and on the other hand, you have the governor saying, let's everybody take a deep breath. You see the national commentary, people say well, it's because of the immigration and the other raw debates in this state, they've created this climate. And others say you know that's hogwash. That this is somebody who's demented or has mental health issues, who acted for whatever reason, but don't connect those dots. Tell us about your state.

E.J. MONTINI, COLUMNIST, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Well I think that actually there's an element of truth to both of those statements. I mean the fact of the matter is when people say that it could have happened anywhere, that's probably true. But then again, it did not happen anywhere, it happened here. And I think since it did happen here that those of us who live here and have lived here for a long time have a responsibility to face what really has been, as you know, since you were here recently yourself, a very toxic political environment, where people were saying things about one another that really went beyond the pale, and they have been for quite some time, both in the recent immigration debate and then in the recent political campaign.

KING: Well let me follow-up on that point because you wrote this blog posting today, now comes Representative Jack Harper (ph), who not only inserts his foot in his mouth, but tries to swallow his entire leg, telling "USA Today" if Sheriff Dupnik (ph) would have done his job, maybe the shooting doesn't happen. At a time when everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric this is what we get?

MONTINI: It's exactly correct. Yes, he said something along the lines (INAUDIBLE) if everyone were carrying guns, there would be fewer victims. When you know it's difficult enough to get through a tragic situation like this, trying to have at least a rational conversation about toning down the rhetoric when you have elected officials who are going out of their way to say inflammatory things like that. It's just ridiculous and stupid and actually brings down -- it does just the opposite. It ratchets up the rhetoric.

KING: And Jessica, one of the conversations inevitably, whether it's after Virginia Tech, whether it is after this incident, people start asking questions about not only the politics of guns but the laws of guns and questioning -- it is a -- some people here would say, you don't understand us if you come from an urban area, if you come from somewhere else, and guns are an important part of the culture here, but even today, when I was having lunch with a Democratic, Republican, and Tea Party leader, several people in the restaurant complained to me about easy access to guns here, so it is a political debate reopened.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. You know Gabrielle Giffords herself is a Second Amendment defender talked about carrying a gun herself, or owning a gun. And I've talked to several people, Democrats and Republicans here, who think that any changes to the gun laws wouldn't fly after this. But I will tell you that he was able to buy this extended clip of ammunition that allowed him to get off 31 rounds because the assault weapons ban had expired and until that expired, those were banned. So that's something we're hearing folks in Washington talk about reintroducing, as you know, a measure to ban that kind of clip. Is this the kind of debate that could open up after this? Yes. But activists who pushed on these issues says it has to happen very quickly afterwards, otherwise whatever political will is there goes away.

KING: But, Ed Montini, this was a very emotional volatile tough campaign here. Gabby Giffords survived just barely in her congressional race, a very tough district. She won. Has the tone, has the tenor, has there been more outreach in conciliation after the debate or are those very debates, immigration, what some would call health care rationing, budget cuts and other things --

MONTINI: Right.

KING: -- are those things all going full force?

MONTINI: Well they're still -- I think they're still going full force here. I mean the fact of the matter is we're also going to be all too soon in another really divisive immigration discussion coming up when Arizona and other states introduce laws to -- that essentially would alter the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That's going to be a very divisive debate. It's not going to help anybody.

It's not going to aid very much to a conciliatory tone throughout the entire country. So that's going to keep that issue out there in front. And as far as the guns go, though, in Arizona, I think Representative Giffords, it's true, she was a very strong Second Amendment supporter, and I really think you do have that mentality here in Arizona.

And I think that to a degree, I'm not sure I buy into the argument that Arizona is all that much worse for its, what would be considered, very liberal gun laws, easy access to weapons. There are some things in this state that really should be changed, like a loophole that allows people to buy weapons in gun shows without any kind of checks whatsoever. But for the most part, Arizona isn't much worse off for its relatively liberal gun laws than any other states are.

KING: Here's something that came up, one example from the last campaign, that some say, "A", let me be clear, nothing, nothing to do with this incident, but, "B", as an example of the kind of rhetoric, the kind of demonstration in politics that maybe everybody can take time and reflect on at this moment, because of this tragedy, and think maybe next time we'll do things differently. Jesse Kelly announcing for Congress in this very race, the Gabby Giffords race here.

"Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." Essentially, a fund-raiser, show up, shoot an M16, get on target for victory. The question is, and we use this in the media, so we should not criticize the politicians. We say "battleground states". We say "targeted districts" --

MONTINI: Right.

KING: -- so we have to be very careful in criticizing the politicians, but should all of us, all of us maybe say, whoa, whoa, and step back a little bit. Or is there no other way --

MONTINI: Yes.

KING: -- it is -- it is races are targeted.

YELLIN: There's a difference. Should we --

MONTINI: I think it would be a tragedy -- yes --

KING: You think it would be a tragedy?

MONTINI: I think it would be a tragedy if we didn't own up a little bit to our responsibility to speak in more civil tones throughout the media. Not just, you know, politicians, community leaders, media members, I think we all have a certain responsibility in that area. And I think it would be tragic if we didn't use this horrible event to at least have a discussion about that and maybe try to turn the corner a little bit on that. Do I think that will actually happen? I'm not convinced of that at all in my own state. Hopefully, nationally, maybe it will.

KING: You were saying it's not could we or should we?

YELLIN: Well, Governor Jan Brewer herself is an exceptionally polarizing figure to some. And she set a good tone in that sense today, saying she's rising above it. I heard that the speaker of the House here set a wonderful tone in the "State of the State" as well, rising above it. And this is an opening for President Obama, who introduced himself as this post partisan president, never really got the opportunity to do that, to try to do the same, reaching out, maybe, to John Boehner, who's also tried to set a lovely tone after this. And see if there's a way to come together on the kind of rhetoric everybody uses in public.

KING: Jessie Yellin thanks. Ed Montini, good to see you again. I wish it was under better circumstances. We will continue later in the program, more of a conversation about the tone and the rhetoric in our politics.

But up next, a closer look at the congresswoman clinging to life in this hospital, Gabrielle Giffords is a cautious Democrat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Congress on your corner was what Gabby Giffords calls her open meetings when she's here in Arizona's Eighth Congressional District. Authorities say it was at one of those sessions back in 2007 when Jared Lee Loughner asked the congresswoman an odd question, about words and their meanings and it was at the beginning of a Congress on your corner session just this Saturday morning when Loughner allegedly walked up behind Congresswoman Giffords and opened fire. Her doctors here at the University Medical Center say she isn't out of the woods yet, but they're cautiously optimistic. One of the few people who has visited her daily is her campaign manager, Mike McNulty, who is with us tonight. And just take me inside; you were in there again for several hours today and the doctors say they are optimistic; they say she's responding to commands. Tell us, tell us exactly what that means.

MIKE MCNULTY, REP. GIFFORDS CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, there is -- there is such a small chance that someone who has been shot through the brain will recover that we all started out pretty much desperate with grief, but the reports have been stupendous and encouraging and everyone is hopeful and, frankly, those of us that know her will to go on are convinced that she is going to pull out of this.

KING: When the doctors say she's responding, be more specific about what they're doing and what she is doing.

MCNULTY: It's simply asking her to raise fingers, to squeeze on their fingers. It's not at a point yet where they can ask her to talk, because she's still on a respirator. But the signs that she is conscious are manifesting and we're very excited.

KING: And is she distinguishing between the different people talking to her?

MCNULTY: I don't know.

KING: You don't know that?

MCNULTY: No.

KING: You don't know, what are your biggest questions about her health and prognosis?

MCNULTY: Whether God has bigger things for her in mind. There's really -- it's inexplicable that she -- that we could actually entertain the idea that she might end up back in the House of Representatives again. That would be a complete miracle.

KING: People say why? Obviously, it's an inexplicable act. It's a heinous act, but people say why did this alleged assassin start maybe three years ago targeting Congresswoman Giffords. Does anyone on the staff remember the question at the town hall three years ago, remember that encounter, come away with it any sort of wow or why?

MCNULTY: Not anything in anybody's mind brought back this guy. He was just anonymous.

KING: And nothing else in the records, no other -- we know there was a letter, a form letter essentially saying, hey, there's one of these events, why don't you come, but nothing else? No complaints, nothing in the records, in the files?

MCNULTY: No, he disappeared. KING: Nothing -- nothing. I want to listen -- I first came to this district back in 2006 when then State Senator Gabby Giffords was running for Congress. And I want our viewers to have a better understanding, so let's listen to some sound from the congresswoman over the years, beginning my visit here back in 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why do you think you have a chance in a place that has been held by a Republican for quite some time?

GIFFORDS: Those of us that live in southern Arizona, particularly in the Eighth Congressional District, feel very, very discouraged and angry about the direction of the federal government. Arizonans needs reform that protects us from being denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition. We need reform that guarantees care if we lose our job or if we move. Arizonians need reform that fosters competition and delivers us, the customer, the lowest cost and the best service.

KING: After the election, nothing on immigration reform until after the election?

GIFFORDS: Chances are it's going to happen after the election. Let me tell you I serve on the House Armed Services Committee. Last week I voted to authorize $760 billion in the National Defense Authorization Act. That's a lot of money. Hundreds of billions of dollars going abroad securing other nation's borders, securing other citizens. It is time that Americans are safe on their own property, on their own land.

The First Amendment, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is that last snippet there, her speech on the House floor the day before she flew home when they were reading the Constitution and she read the First Amendment, the right to free speech and free assembly. I don't know whether irony is the right word -- I don't know if there is a right word, but for this to happen at an open event like that.

MCNULTY: She is absolutely committed to giving her constituents a forum to say what they want to say and has been doing this for over four years. She had town halls, even when other congresspersons ducked it, because she wanted her constituents, as vituperative as they might be, to have a forum to talk. She thinks it's --

KING: Did she ever talk about fear? She thinks it's healthy. That was very clear. In the times I met her she's very gregarious and outgoing, talks about the district and getting around the district, but your office was targeted during the health care debate. Did she ever talk about risk?

MCNULTY: When she had a -- when she had a forum in Douglas (ph) where someone was protesting and their gun clattered to the pavement and could have gone off and shot somebody, it was very -- it was really a wake-up call. But she's had so many opportunities to withdraw and avoid the public and has rejected all of it. She just thinks that it is her job to be out there among the people.

KING: I ask -- we have on the bottom of the screen, who is Gabby Giffords? And she is a centrist Democrat, a Blue Dog Democrat --

MCNULTY: Let me -- can I say this?

KING: Yes, you can.

MCNULTY: The "Congressional Quarterly" ranked all the congresspersons one to 435 and ranked her 217. She's not just a centrist. She is the center. She is the fulcrum of American politics. She is what people fear that there are no more of. People are fleeing to the left and the right and Gabby Giffords stands staunchly in the center and here we have someone has put a bullet through her brain. The center is in trouble.

KING: You say the center is in trouble. Now, that in and of itself -- that in and of itself seems to you think that targeted because she was in the center or we don't know that --

(CROSSTALK)

MCNULTY: This crazy guy probably doesn't know anything about politics. We don't know.

KING: But the night -- the night before she was shot, she wrote an e-mail to Trey Grayson (ph), who not many people in America know, but he's the former secretary of state in the state of Kentucky. He lost the Senate primary to Rand Paul, and he has now been named to a prestigious job at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard. And she wrote an e-mail talking about how this is so great. She is praising a Republican -- this is so great. I can't wait to get up to see you because we need to talk about ways to reinvigorate the center in moderation.

MCNULTY: I think -- I think if you interview Republicans in Congress you will find that they are comfortable working with her as a Democrat, far more than most people.

KING: What would she say if you could tell her about this? These people behind her, al the candles, all the prayers, all the gifts?

MCNULTY: She would find it as overwhelming as we do. The people in the state really love her. You can see here, in downtown, the north side of town, all over this community. People are just wracked with grief.

KING: You mention your optimism. There were a few minutes on Saturday morning when you thought your boss was dead.

MCNULTY: You know, I heard it on NPR. When you start out knowing -- hearing that someone is dead, it is devastating, anyone who's been through that will know that. And every couple of hours, a little more hope, a little sort of bubble of golden, like wishful thinking takes over. And you think that maybe she'll pull through, despite the odds, and the odds are terrible. And still, she keeps getting better.

KING: You are, and these people behind us are, and the country is praying for your boss and we wish you the best and we thank you for spending your time with us and sharing your thoughts with us..

MCNULTY: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Thank you.

When we come back, we'll revisit and a visit a very important question for the country right now. Is it time to reflect and tone down our political rhetoric?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One of the debates here in Arizona and across the country now is-no, you cannot connect any political rhetoric, any political ad, any political Web posting to the tragedy, the heinous act that happened here in Arizona. But still, many people are asking the question, is it a moment where perhaps we should still learn a lesson and dial back our rhetoric and the vitriol in our politics.

Let's have a conversation with two of our political pros: Democrat Paul Begala and Republican Alex Castellanos.

Let me just start with the basic question. Is that an overhyped theme at the moment, or should we all, should we all, in politics, the strategists, the elected, we in the media, think about this?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, John, I think we certainly have to. Anyone who has a megaphone has a responsibility. Now, that's not to say that any particular rhetoric caused this mass murder. I'm not saying that. I'm not alleging that. I'm not accusing it.

But we do know. I went back and looked at my old boss, President Clinton, spoke on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City terrorist attack; 168 Americans were murdered in an act of terrorism. And he said, those of us in public life need to understand, our words fall on both the serious and the delirious. And I think it's good for people like me. And I've been doing that, frankly, since Gabby Giffords was shot. Looked back on things that I've said, and I have some real regrets.

I can't promise you it will be perfect, but I think it's really important for people to take a look at what they've said. I've been surprised at how defensive the right has been. I'm not saying that right-wing rhetoric caused this. But I am saying that incendiary rhetoric can set somebody off. We don't know if that's the case in this situation, but certainly, we all ought to take a look at what we say.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: John, I think all of us are concerned that was it something that any of us contributed to the culture that caused something like this? There's certainly a sense today that America's angry. That America's upset. And it's not just anger on the left with MoveOn and your calling of George Bush Hitler, or anger on the right, there's plenty of that. But a lot of American of the mainstream that's upset, too, and I think we don't want -- there's a government that's failing them, that's indebted them for years. We don't want to get to a place in this country where we think that somehow we don't, we've censored ourselves from criticizing our own government and trying to change it and make it better.

I think someone as opinionated, who is such a fierce fighter in Congress, and she believed, as Congresswoman Giffords. I don't think any of our leaders would want to take us to that place. The day we become so politically correct that we can't disagree vigorously, laugh at each other, poke some fun as well, you know, that's the day we become less American.

KING: Let's focus just on this district. The question is, of course we want vigorous debates. And I would say we should have them about ideas and ideals, not about personal integrity, but let's look at this race. Sarah Palin has been criticized by some because of a Web posting she put, where she put this district in the crosshairs, one of 20 districts. And I believe we can show people. Sarah Palin's district, it's time to take a stand. She targeted this district as a district targeted races across the country.

But many conservatives say, OK, if you are going to criticize Sarah Palin, look at this. This is from the DailyKOS.com. Who the primary? And they are showing Democrats that they believe, it is a liberal organization, that they should be targeted in primaries and they say she should be in the bull's eye, and puts a bull's eye. This vote certainly puts a bull's eye on their district, including this district here.

Paul, to you first, and then to Alex. It's the language here. We use sports metaphors a lot in politics, but we also use "battleground," "bull's eye," "targeting," "crosshairs." Should we think again?

BEGALA: How about the word "campaign"? When I was on your show Friday, I told you that I had just been at the National War College doing a debate with our friend Kevin Madden, in the company of heroes. And Madden and I were both sheepish and laughing, frankly, with the soldiers and sailors and the airmen and the Marines, about how silly we political people are, when we say -- use the military jargon. But it is the jargon of the business.

No sensible person thinks that Governor Palin wished any ill on Gabby Giffords. That's not my point. My point is, we should have this vigorous debate, but you know, I'm a Catholic. My faith teaches me to love the sinner and hate the sin, right? And if you translate that to politics, it means have a vigorous, name-calling even, I guess-maybe not name-calling, but angry debate about ideas issues. But we ought to be able to dial back the personal attacks.

Ten democrats, 10, received death threats when that health care bill was being voted on. One of them had her children's lives threatened. A congressman in Virginia, his brother had his gas line cut in the mistaken belief that was the congressman's house. I mean that is way beyond the pale. And when that happened, Republican leaders needed to step up-and some did. And step up and say that was wrong. John Boehner did, to his great credit, but too few did not -- too many did not.

CASTELLANOS: Let's get real here a little bit about this. Politics should be a place for spirited debate, and it shouldn't just be about ideas. Actually, character matters. The character of our leaders matter. If I'm going to give you my car keys to take me somewhere, I don't only want to know where you promise to take me, where you stand on issues. I want to know who you are. Can I trust you to take me there? We should be able to engage in deep and personal and emotional debate. Yes, they should be mature debates. They should be about big and important things.

There's certainly no place in politics for, you know, actual physical personal attacks. But the day we stop allowing ourselves to challenge each other's-in the strongest ways-about these big issues, we're deciding what kind of country we're going to be. You know, Paul would rather have us be a more European-style social democracy. God bless, Paul. Wonderful guy. He's a little bit mistaken about that. The day we can't challenge each other, and not only do it emotionally, but have fun with it, and actually care about these things. Thank God we live in a place where we can care enough to disagree and are allowed to do so.

KING: Paul and Alex, appreciate your thoughts on this. We'll continue this conversation in the days and weeks ahead.

When we come back, other news headlines tonight, including Tom Delay the former Republican leader is sentenced to prison.

And we'll talk to our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, does Congress, do members of Congress think this is a teachable moment?

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JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Joe Johns with the latest news you need to know right now.

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KING: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life in this hospital behind me in Tucson, Arizona. Her colleagues in the Congress are wondering what next from this. Let's check in with our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, do they see a big change here? Or just a temporary time- out in a tough political climate?

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I heard a lot of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say that they do hope this is more than temporary. This being the change we really are seeing in terms of tone and tenor. Take a look at this picture. There was a moment of silence here in Washington today. When that happened, hundreds of mostly staffers, but also some members of Congress, from both parties, gathered on the steps of the House.

And somebody who was there was Emanuel Cleaver. He's the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He's also a minister. He gave an impromptu prayer there. And afterwards, I talked to him. And he said he sure hopes that things change here when it comes to the rhetoric from both parties.

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REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, (D) MISSOURI: Hopefully, this is a transformative moment. If it isn't, it should be. Whether the shooter was inspired by speech or not, to do his dastardly deeds is irrelevant. The truth of the matter is, the tone is toxic here in Washington and I think we've been exporting it around the country.

What happens when you're toxic? Your colleagues walk up and pat you on the back, boy, that was good, you called him, you called her such a good name. And that's celebrated.

BASH: You see that happen?

CLEAVER: Every day, here.

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BASH: Every day, he sees that happening. And John, he said to me, quote, "Democrats say dumb the things too." Anybody who thinks it's just the Republicans, they don't know what they're talking about. And he hopes that this is a time that they change. I heard the same sentiment from some senior Republicans I talked to as well.

KING: And what are they saying -- initially right after the shooting, there was a lot of talk, do we need more security for members of Congress? In recent hours more saying, well, we can't do that. What is the sense? Do they need more, or do they just have to move on from this?

BASH: Most of the people I talked to, members of Congress, say it is going to be very, very difficult. The reality is it is going to be very difficult to give members of Congress more security. But they are taking it on a case-by-case basis.

And after this happened, more information has come out about other incidents that we never knew about. One member of Congress in Pennsylvania telling me there was a threat, a serious death threat against someone on their staff. They got law enforcement to help them. And it does happen more frequently than we realize. But people are going to be more vigilant. I heard that from every member of Congress I talked to today.

KING: Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

Dana, thanks.

This breaking news to give to you. President Obama, we are told, will travel right here to Arizona on Wednesday. Arizona on Wednesday, the president of the United States coming to this state as he deals with this tragedy. CNN, of course, will bring you thorough coverage of that trip.

When we come back: What is happening in this community. How much of a shock? How will it affect the politics? I sat down today with the leaders of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party here in Tucson. That conversation, just ahead.

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KING: This community is in shock because of Saturday's shooting. To try to get a sense of how it would impact the political discourse, impact the community, I sat down today with three political leaders. They have very different views, but on some issues, they're united. The leader of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party; we sat down at a restaurant here, a wonderful restaurant, called Abeuro Canello (ph).

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JEFF ROGERS, CHAIRMAN, PIMA CO. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I've been here 31 years. I've never seen an ad by a congressman with a gun. We saw two Republican candidates this year in Arizona film ads with automatic weapons. We saw a third, Jesse Kelly, have a fundraiser where he said come shoot an automatic weapon with your candidate. It has some words about Gabrielle Giffords in that ad. I think it's fair to say that I've been here 31 years. I haven't seen a campaign like this one in 2009. It started right after the inauguration, the heated rhetoric coming from various sources. We haven't seen this kind of rhetoric in my 31 years in Arizona.

BRIAN MILLER, CHAIRMAN, PIMA CO. REPUBLICAN PARTY: I would like to say I think, again, this is a -- if there's a teachable moment, it's this. We talk about how we want to lower the heat, lower the vitriol, but again, you can't do that, and then keep pointing fingers at people when we have no idea what the motive was behind the shooter, what his motive was.

That's why I think it was irresponsible for public officials to make comments on this. There's obviously an ongoing investigation. The fact is that random or isolated acts of violence have always occurred and they will always occur.

TRENT HUMPHRIES, ORGANIZER, TUCSON TEA PARTY: Let's be honest, too. At my home before we did this meeting, I had a representative from the sheriff's office at my home, because after the sheriff made his remarks, I got a lot of hate mail. People saying that I wish it would have been your family instead of this family that was killed. You have blood on your hands.

One of the people killed was my neighbor who lives just down the street from me. His wife was shot, too, and she's in the hospital. This is personal. This was my neighborhood that this happened in. To see those things, you know, this -- this goes way beyond politics. Right now is the time for the national people to back off, let us mourn, let us handle this, and get the investigation done. And then if there's things to be taken -- if there's things that went wrong, if there are things that could have been done differently, let's talk about that. But allow us to mourn.

KING: You say allow us - it is your community. This is "The New York Times", not a community newspaper, a national newspaper. A harsh spotlight on the state's politics. Arizona has been a -- a frontier, an emotional frontier, in very tough issues, particularly the immigration debate. Which, again, somebody in New York City or somebody in North Carolina is not going to understand what it's like to live in a border community, to understand what has gone on in recent years.

What, you say, we should back off. You include me in that, I assume, and I completely understand. What does it do to you when you see that?

HUMPHRIES: You know, it's -- again, there will be a time to have these discussions. It will be happening. But right now, Paul Krugman immediately after the thing comes out with blaming Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, TV, all of those things right away. That was not helpful. You talk about harsh discussions. Where there's a line drawn on one side, there has to be responsibility taken on both sides. All of that mail in my inbox came almost directly from the comments the sheriff made, and people blaming my organization for what happened. Nobody in this city, nobody in this town, that knows me and my organization, believes that to be the case. Probably not even Jeff Rogers.

ROGERS: I concur. We've seen some really nasty, horrible things emanate from some of these Tea Party people across the nation, but we haven't seen that here in Tucson. Remarkably, in this state, this is probably one of the most sort of calm, civilized places in this state. I mean, we -- we have legitimate policy differences between the three of us sitting here, but we're able, on a daily basis, to discuss them in a kind and gentle manner. And oftentimes we find ourselves in agreement on some things that surprise folks.

But, you know, this community, Tucson, is a very close-knit community and not typical of the rest of the state in some degrees.

MILLER: I would also say I think one of the assumptions we're making is that people in politics have all the answers. I would argue this is primarily a -- a cultural thing. And politics reflects culture far more than the other way around. And you have this happen. And no policy, no law, no -- nobody in a suit is ever going to have the answer to make something like this stop. This is a cultural thing. And it's up to every individual to take responsibility for the state of our culture and our -- you know, our religious leaders, our community leaders, our club leaders. KING: You make an interesting point in the sense that, again, it is perhaps inevitable and reflects on society and particularly the political system that one of the conversations that immediately happens is about guns. You see comparisons now that you had a student who clearly showed unstable behavior, irresponsible behavior, some viewed it as threatening behavior in the classroom. How come nobody connected the dots? That was in June, July of last year, he bought the gun in November. How come nobody connected the dots and somehow prevented this guy from buying a gun? Can you legislate that? People said that after Virginia Tech. They're saying it now.

ROGERS: I think it was justifiable to say it after Virginia Tech. As we conduct the autopsy on that killing, we saw that there were a -- that information was available to officials and they should have acted on it. I don't think that's the case here. Unless something more surfaces, from what we know so far, this was a man who some had troubled moments at Pima College and hopefully somebody would have done more than they did, but there really wasn't anything there officially to classify this person as being a prohibited obssessor (ph).

So, we could say the system is imperfect, and I agree, but where -- what do we do next to make it more perfect? And you do have to realize this is, as David Fitzsimmons, the cartoonist, that Trent mentioned, this is a serious gun culture in this state, and it is a little over the top. When you can have guns in bars and now they're proposing our -- the people running our legislature now to allow guns on school campuses, we're -- it's troubling. And hopefully this is another moment that we can go, wait a minute here. Perhaps we're going too far in this state with our liberal gun laws.

MILLER: Well, there again, Jeff wants to get into politics. I think there is a time for that. I just don't think it is now. There will be time when Brian and Jeff, we will go toe-to-toe, on the gun issue. It's 48 hours later. And it's -- I don't just see it's the time right now.

HUMPHRIES: Yeah. Again, you know, Gabrielle Giffords, herself, there's pictures of her on her website firing automatic weapons. She owned a Glock. It's something maybe other states don't understand, but gun ownership is a very, very --

MILLER: And he could have legally owned a weapon in any 50 states. So, it has nothing to do specifically with Arizona.

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KING: As you see, some disagreements there between the Democrats, the Republicans and the Tea Party, but polite, civil disagreements by three men who respect each other. That's the way it ought to be. As we leave you tonight, look at the remarkable scene behind me, still vigils under way, people coming by to leave gifts for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and others recovering in this hospital. It is a remarkable scene as we leave you tonight and say goodnight. We'll see you tomorrow.