Congressional Voices Speak Out About Tucson

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric spoke with six members of congress, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D - SC), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D - FL), Rep. Michael McCaul (R - TX), Rep. Frank Guinta (R - NH) and Rep. Bill Huizenga (R - MI) about their reactions to the Tragedy in Tucson.

Sen. Gillibrand: I know that if anyone could pull through this, it's her. And I even talked to her husband a couple nights ago and, you know, he explained to me how he was telling the doctors that, "Wait and see. Gabby will be up and walking in two weeks." And I believe him.

Rep. Guinta: My first reaction was pure shock. The fact that we had just been sworn in - that there's so much hope and optimism about this Congress and the awesome responsibility that we all share.

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Rep. McCaul: I think we're all still trying to understand this. I think how we handled it as members of Congress and how we handle the discourse is very important, because I know it was important to her.

Her last race was very tough. And she personally talked to me about that. And I think, you know, it weighs on a member. But I think she would this place to be more-- less-- the tone could be less partisan.

Katie Couric:
Will any of you change the way you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis back in your districts? Talking to constituents? Putting yourself in a similar position?

Rep. Huizenga: You want to go out and engage and interact with your constituents. That's the nature of our government. And I think how we preserve that's going to be very important.

Rep. McCaul: I have started a practice where I would at least notify local law enforcement when I had public events. And I think that's a common sense security precaution that we should be taking because there is a lot of anger out there.

Couric: Given that this seems to be, from what we know so far, the work of a lone, deranged gunman - is now the right time to really analyze and discuss the political discourse in our country?

Rep. Clyburn: I think so. Look, I lived through the '50s and the '60s. And I can tell you I've seen those eyes that I saw on TV last night and this morning.

And we cannot go through that. We've got to really be very, very concerned about how we say things.

Rep. Gillibrand: We may never know what motivated him to commit these heinous crimes. But what we do know is that the climate and debate has degraded so significantly I believe over the last decade that it has to end. And whether this is the wakeup call or this is just the reason we're debating this issue now, it's important that we have this debate.

Couric: Let me read you something that was in a video released by Sarah Palin this morning. She said, "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state. Not with those who listen to talk radio. Not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle."

What is your reaction to some of the things that were included in this video posted by Sarah Palin?

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: I saw the video of what Ms. Palin said. The part that you didn't read was where she suggested that the advocacy that we are all making on behalf of more civil discourse is like we're trying to extract a blood libel.

Let's remember that Gabby herself talked about it just a few weeks ago, the fact that individuals who shall remain nameless used violent images and words in her campaign. And she talked about how important it was that we dial it back.

Couric: You think that's what she was doing? Defending violent rhetoric and imagery?

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: I think she has used violent imagery and violent language. And I think it appears to me that she's being somewhat defensive. Yes.

Rep. Gillibrand: I think it's the wrong message to take from this. And I think what you're seeing here on a bipartisan basis from leaders all across the Congress is that we will change the nature of the debate ourselves.

Couric: At the same time, was it appropriate in the immediate aftermath of this event by some people to blame right wing rhetoric?

Rep. McCaul We cannot politicize this event. And my concern is that right off the bat that the arrows are starting to fly. And you see it on both sides of the aisle. That I think is the great disappointment. And that's what we have to change up here.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: No one's blaming right wing rhetoric. We all agree that the language and the tone and the tenor of our debate has gotten too intense. And that we need to lead by example.

Couric: Congressman Clyburn, after this incident you said, "It seems like this gentleman was not satisfied with the way the election turned out." And you blame candidates like Sharon Angle for using incendiary language like, "Finding Second Amendment remedies," during her campaign. Do you think you spoke too soon?

Rep. Clyburn: No, I don't. Gabby predicted something like this. She, in her own words a few months ago pointed out some of the symbolism. And words are symbols. And I think that we are responsible for what we say and the way we say it.

Rep. Huizenga: I think there's been a general coarsening of society in the political realm or outside the political realm. When you look at the stuff that kids are watching on TV and the games that they're playing on the Internet, all-- all those different things. That's a concern that I have had.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: After my daughter heard that, you know, Gabby had been shot, the first thing she asked me was, "Mommy, are you gonna get shot?"

And then I, you know, did my best to reassure her. Tell her no. You know, Mommy takes precautions. You've been to my meetings. You know, we have-- you know, we take steps to make sure that we're all safe.

But then the next thing she said to me was, and this is where you don't realize how closely they're watching, "But Mommy, Florida's going to pass an immigration law like Arizona. And then people are going to be be mad at you."

You know, they're-- they're paying attention. The civil discourse is very important, because it's not just it's not just adults that this permeates. It's our children.

Couric: Katie: what do you think Congresswoman Giffords would think of the debate that has unfolded in the con-- in the country in the aftermath of these shootings?

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: I'm positive that she will want a debate to move forward.

Rep. Gillibrand: I'm hoping from this-- awful, horrific event that the bright light that we will see is new leadership, a new level of discourse, and people actually coming together to do good things for America.