I was almost feeling sorry for Sen. Mike Braun after this.
Tucker Carlson invited the Republican onto his show last night in what can only be described as a fiery, tension-filled interview. Before even bringing Braun on, Carlson spent several minutes putting up his old statements and essentially setting the scene. It was absolutely brutal, and as you’ll see, obviously goes much further ideologically than just discussions of qualified immunity.
Here’s the interview.
The Washington Examiner provides some excerpts via their coverage of the dust-up.
Carlson asked the Indiana Republican about his recent announcement of support for Black Lives Matter on Monday. The Fox News host noted that the movement has called for several controversial policies, including the defunding of police departments. Braun clarified his remarks and told Carlson that he supports the rights of the movement to protest peacefully.
“I support anybody that does have a grievance to be able to air it, and that is it. That doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter, it just means that if you think a certain sector of society has a grievance, it ought to be through transparency and the willingness to debate it and get it out there,” he said.
That’s not necessarily a bad answer. I think explicitly announcing support for Black Lives Matter, a self-proclaimed “Marxist” organization does carry connotations though. Even if you agree with the segmented off message regarding police brutality, it’s really hard to not end up associated with their other positions, from being “anti-capitalist,” to “de-funding” police, to their numerous ties to antisemitism. That’s why I personally keep my distance even though I agree in a vacuum that George Floyd’s killing was wrong. Braun has apparently pulled a Mitt Romney, though, and announced his support without providing the needed caveats.
But where things really got heated was when Carlson noted that Braun has expressed support for suing the officers involved in the Rayshard Brooks shooting, in which Brooks assaulted two officers, stole their taser, shot the taser at them, and then ended up shot when he attempted to fire it a second time.
“I want you to explain. I think it’s fair. You’re an office-holder. I don’t normally press people like this, but it’s not fair for you to filibuster without answering my question, which is very simple: The officer facing the death penalty had a guy fire a weapon at him. What should he have done then?” he asked.
“Probably not have killed the guy,” Braun said, later adding, “do you think he was going to get away? They were going to find him.”
For clarity, a taser is considered a deadly weapon in Georgia, and Brooks reached back to fire again. That’s when he was shot.
Other discussions centered on qualified immunity, where there are good cases to be made for reform. Unfortunately, like many politicians, Braun was unable to make any of them. His reasoning, in an obvious attempt to placate Carlson’s large audience, was that Democrats would “make hay” out of the issue in 2020 if it wasn’t reformed. That’s a really, really bad reason to change a law. Either have a buttoned-up answer for why you support something or you shouldn’t support it.
Braun told Carlson that he felt Republicans need to go after qualified immunity because Democrats were going to “make hay of this” in the 2020 elections. Carlson asked Braun why he cared what Democrats were doing.
“Who controls the Senate? Does Chuck Schumer control it? I thought Republicans controlled the Senate. And so you’re taking your cues from Chuck Schumer? You’re saying Chuck Schumer might criticize me; therefore, I have to pass a law that makes it easier to sue police?” he asked.
The issue of qualified immunity is being very misunderstood by most people discussing the matter. Many assume it protects police from criminal charges. It doesn’t. If an officer breaks the law, there is no immunity that protects them, and they can be arrested like anyone else. Qualified immunity only applies to civil court actions. While that sounds good on the surface, it could also lead to thousands of frivolous lawsuits that force a mass exodus from law enforcement. That would easily put us back in the 1970s regarding crime rates, which would cost tens of thousands of lives via murder over time, never mind all the other violent and “broken windows” crimes that come with that.
You don’t even have to look far for proof of how a reduction in law enforcement would go. Go check out the skyrocketing murder rates in places like New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis. While there are some parts of qualified immunity on the margins that could be changed, having officers be sued for things that will inevitably happen in the line of duty (mistakenly pulling someone over and detaining them, for example) would crush the profession and leave Americans unsafe. I don’t think that’s what the country really wants, even if they think they want it. The most abused rule in politics is not taking into account unintended consequences.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) June 30, 2020
In the end, Braun simply wasn’t prepared here and it shows how unimpressive many Republican politicians are. Carlson’s critique that he should worry less about appeasing Democrats is also a good one. If Braun wants to change qualified immunity, then he should make a case that stands on its own two legs. Not one that revolves around keeping Chuck Schumer from getting upset.
Republicans are playing with fire right now. The party is already disappointed in the last six years of lack of action from the GOP-controlled Senate. If the base of voters feels further abandoned, you may get a backlash that costs them the chamber come November.