Face the Nation Transcripts June 21, 2015: Brooks, Scott, Nunes

The latest on the shooting in Charleston with Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, and others
The latest on the shooting in Charleston with... 47:19

(CBS News) -- A transcript from the June 21 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included: Sen. Tim Scott, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, Jeff Pegues, Sherrilyn Ifill, Mary Ellen O'Toole, Rep. Devin Nunes, Michael Gerson, David Ignatius, Gwen Ifill and Hugh Hewitt.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: a shocking racist manifesto surfaces, as Charleston and the nation try to heal.

As the Mother Emanuel AME Church opens its church for first time since last week's shooting, there are new disclosures from the gunman himself about what drove him to kill nine African-Americans in a racist rampage.

We will get latest from Charleston and talk to South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, plus the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. We will also examine the root causes of this kind of violence and how to address them.

Finally, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will be here to look at terror threats against Americans.

It's all ahead on Face The Nation.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

This morning, hundreds poured into the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. It's the first time service since a gunman opened fire on a Bible study class Wednesday night. The church is the oldest AME church in the south and central to the community, where it has come to be known as Mother Emanuel.

The front page of Charleston's local paper, "The Post and Courier Gazette," paid tribute to the Emanuel nine. People from across the state and the country have visited memorials outside the church to pay their respects since Wednesday's shooting. And just a short time ago, bells rang in places of worship across the nation in honor of the nine victims, none so powerfully as those in the city of Charleston itself.

We begin our coverage with CBS News justice correspondent Jeff Pegues, who is outside Mother Emanuel AME Church.

Jeff, what is the latest on the investigation?

JEFF PEGUES, CBS NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, the FBI is taking steps to verify the authenticity of Dylann Roof's purported manifesto.

It was found on a Web site that also contained photographs of the accused killer.


PEGUES (voice-over): Here is Dylann Roof burning an American flag, with the Confederation Flag, and pointing gun at a camera. The Web site also contains a 2,400-word manifesto which says he was not raised in a racist home, but the event that truly awakened him was the Trayvon Martin case.

It prompted him to search for information online. He found some of it on extremist Web sites and concluded, "It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right and I have never been the same since that day."

The manifesto details hatred towards blacks, Hispanics and Jews. The author says: "I have no choice. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well, someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world. And I guess that has to be me."

911 OPERATOR: All units responding, 110 Calhoun Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Active shooter, multiple people down.

PEGUES: On Wednesday night, investigators believe Roof went to the Bible study meeting, first sat with parishioners, and then stood up, pulled out a handgun and fired as many as two dozen shots.


PEGUES: John, the peace and security of the church was shattered on Wednesday night with the shooting. Congregants today hope to reclaim that feeling.

DICKERSON: Jeff Pegues in Charleston for us, thank you very much, Jeff.

Joining us now is South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott.

Good morning, Senator.

There has been a lot of debate in the wake of this shooting about the causes.


DICKERSON: Was it racism, guns? Why do you think this happened?

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, before we jump into the why, I want to really at least acknowledge the nine victims that lost their lives, one of whom was a friend of mine, Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and state senator. He was just a jewel of a person, a prince of a man, and a God-fearing guy that believed in building bridges. When we look for as to the reasons why this happened, it's hard to understand, when evil is just over taking the heart, the mind is just demented. This was obviously a case of racism. His actions were driven by hatred, and that is the clear and dominant reason this happened.

DICKERSON: When you look at the shooter's manifesto, Senator, it is extraordinary. He says that there is not enough racism in the world and that that is what this -- what drove him to this action. What is your reaction to that?

SCOTT: Well, there's no doubt that when your mind and your heart are consumed with hatred and with racist motivations, that he sought to create a race war, according to, I believe, his own words, in this country, what he's done for South Carolina and what he's done for Charleston is, he's brought our community together.

One of the beautiful scenes that I have had, that was etched into my memory now is Morris Brown Church, when we had such a diverse gathering of Charlestonians and South Carolinians coming to pay homage, pay respect to the families and to love on them, and just a day-and-a-half later, to have several thousand people show up, two- thirds or more not being black, here at home to see that kind of a unified group of people coming together to pray for and to just hug the families so much about what he has sparked, which is bringing people together.

I think we're going to have a robust conversation going forward about race relations, a robust conversation going forward about bringing people together. And I look forward to participating in that conversation. The entire state now is, without any question, taking a leap forward.

What the enemy meant for evil, I believe God will bring good out of it.

DICKERSON: As a part of that conversation, Senator, some people are talking about the Confederate Flag. What does that flag symbolize to you?

SCOTT: Well, there's no doubt that South Carolina has a rich and provocative history, and that flag is a part of the history. And for some, that flag represents that history. And for so many others, it represents a pain and oppression.

I'm looking forward to our state leaders getting together and having robust conversation after the funerals about what is the next step. If you look back in our history, just 15 years ago, you saw the compromise that was reached by both sides that thought that that was a permanent compromise.

And now we have heard indications that there will be an ongoing conversation, a real debate and discussion about next steps. So, that will be coming soon. And after the funerals, we look forward to participating in it. DICKERSON: Senator, Mitt Romney has said the flag should be taken down. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention said this -- and I'm quoting from him -- "That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and Confederate Flag cannot coexist without one setting the other on fire."

So, what is your personal stance in that conversation you say needs to take place about the flag?

SCOTT: Certainly powerful words from some strong leaders from around the country and here at home. And I am going to make sure that I am a part of that conversation.

My voice will be clear. My position will be stated. I'm not going to make any breaking news here. I have made the commitment to wait until after the funeral to start that debate. And I'm going to honor that commitment.

DICKERSON: Another element of that debate, quickly, the president said in the wake of this shooting, it's not enough to just show sympathy. And he wants to make it harder to get guns.

What's your opinion about that?

SCOTT: Well, listen, the first thing that you should do in the aftermath of an amazing atrocity is to look for solutions to prevent it from happening again.

What I do know is that the gun laws that were broken did not stop this monster, this killer from carrying out his acts. What I do know is that the gun laws that prevented him from bringing a gun into the church did not work. So, looking for the right legislative solution to make sure that it doesn't happen again, I think, when there's that much evil in the heart, it is hard to think of the right legislative solution for that problem.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Scott, we thank you very much for being with us this morning.

We turn now to the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, who is also in Charleston, this morning.

Good morning, Mr. Brooks.


DICKERSON: I want to start with the two big questions. Why did this happen and how do we keep it from happening again?

You have talked about the atmosphere that created this. What did you mean by that?


Well, first of all, I want to extend my condolences on behalf of the entire NAACP family to the victims of this horrific tragedy and to the family of Emanuel AME Church. I also want to just lift up that we as Americans will get through this. We cannot underestimate the evil that occurred here, but we cannot, through our faith, underestimate our capacity for good.

There is in this country a -- certainly a climate of caring, but there's also an atmosphere of hate. What we have seen in this city across the last few days is a climate of caring. People have come together. They have wrapped their arms around one another. They have extended a love to one another.

That speaks to the best of who we are. But there's also an atmosphere of hate. This young man who entered a Bible study and received the right hand of fellowship, perhaps received an open Bible from the pastor, laid down that Bible, laid down the hand of fellowship and took up a gun and assassinated nine people in what can be called no less than a flesh and blood obscenity.

This crime may have occurred in moments, but it came into being over some time. This young man was indoctrinated, radicalized, if you will, with an ideology of white nationalism or a racism, and so the point being here is we have got to look at not only this individual act of brutality.

We also have to look at the atmosphere from which it emerged. And we have to address that. When we think about the fact that, in this country, there are 784 hate groups, the level of hate crimes in this country has remained constant over years. We have to allocate resources to address these hate groups and these hate crimes.

The fact of the matter is, the Justice Department underestimates the degree of hate crimes in this country because they have to rely on self-reporting. That is a challenge. And the fact that we have at least 200,000 to 300,000 hate crimes in a given year is unconscionable and inconsistent with our values as Americans. So, we have got to address that.

DICKERSON: Is -- one of the things I think people are wrestling with here is this -- was this an isolated incident of a crazy, evil person, or was he taking soundings from a larger cultural racism? Where do you stand on that question?

BROOKS: Well, here is what I would note. This young man was wearing a flag of the pre-Nelson Mandela apartheid era South Africa. He also wore a flag of the nation of Rhodesia, drove a car embellished with the Confederate Flag.

Each of these symbols is illustrative of an underlying racism in this country among a minority of Americans, but a level of racism and racial bigotry and racist ideology that we cannot blink, we cannot ignore, we have to address. It is a moral ugliness in our midst, but we have got to address that.

And so that means very specifically our houses of faith have to speak to this challenge. We, as democratic and moral leaders in this country, have to speak to that, but we also need vigorous prosecution and vigorous investigation of these hate groups and the resources to do so.

To be clear, we cannot tolerate a de minimis amount of racism and bigotry in our country. It must be stamped out, and particularly this which is of a violent nature. The fact that you can have young man enter a Bible study -- think about that, a Bible study -- and target this particular church, this particular city, this particular category of Americans, namely African-Americans, and carry out this brutality and evil in our midst, it has to be addressed, with resources, with a moral commitment, with a prosecutorial commitment.

DICKERSON: Mr. Brooks, defenders of the flag that flies, the Confederate Flags that fly, say that what you have just described is a level of evil that's going to exist whether the flag flies or not.

BROOKS: Well, I would beg to differ.

The NAACP has led a boycott of the state of South Carolina for years on end because we are endeavoring to bring that flag down. The fact of the matter is, that flag represents exclusion, it represents bigotry, it represents bias.

There are white nationalist groups across the country who see that flag as representing their values. The fact of the matter is, our American flag represents the values of the majority of Americans. That is inclusion, that is democracy, that is the spirit of our founding fathers and our founding mothers.

That Confederate Flag does not represent those values. And in 2015, it's an anachronistic emblem of a bygone era, at best, and most likely and most representative of a set of values that run contradictory, that run counter to who we are as Americans. It has to come down. It must come down.

DICKERSON: I want to ask you a final question about one of the victims -- the mothers of one of the victims who was there in the church who spoke at the shooter's bond hearing.

And she said to him, "We enjoyed you," used that expression.

You're a minister. You have led Bible study of exactly this kind. That sense of forgiveness has struck a lot of people. Where does that forgiveness come from, to say, "We enjoyed you" to the man who killed her son?

BROOKS: It speaks to the faith that is taught in the church across the street and the faith that Americans hold dear in their hearts all across this country.

The fact is that we have group of parishioners, students of Scripture, who extended grace and love to a stranger. And their family members in the wake of their death are still extending grace and love and forgiveness to one who is a stranger. That speaks to the commonality of the faith of those who were slain and those who were left behind, but also to this city and to this country.

That is to say, we have within us a tremendous moral capacity to forgive and to love. But it's not enough to forgive and love. We have to also hold accountable. We have to also say to this young man and to those who may have influenced him, we will not allow you to corrupt our democracy. We will not allow you to taint our democracy with this kind of bigotry, this bias, and violence. It is simply unacceptable.

DICKERSON: Cornell -- all right, Cornell William Brooks, thanks so much.


DICKERSON: And we're back with the president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, and former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole.

Mary Ellen, I want to start with you.

You have studied the criminal mind. Where does this person fit in that, the shooter?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The violence that he exhibited is just so extreme.

And with that manifesto, it gives us a little insight into his thinking. But what's really important to understand is, when someone acts out this violently, it doesn't -- they didn't snap. This evolves over a long period of time.

It goes back to when -- frankly, it goes back to when he was a small child. You develop your coping behaviors. You develop your outlook on life. You develop an attitude towards violence. And all of that evolves to the point where the world is a bad place to live. The world is filled with enemies. You hate people.

But you can see, it just takes years for that kind of thing to develop. And there's no reality check. There's no one that stands in and says, that is simply not acceptable. And then it gets to the point where people are merely objects.

And that can also be supported by someone who has a personality type that has no empathy for other people and feels no guilt for what they do. So, it's a deadly combination. And it's very complicated in terms of getting to the point where he walks into that church. So, it didn't snap -- it didn't start at the Trayvon Martin case either.

DICKERSON: There have been other young men shooters like this. Is this in that same pattern? Is this -- or is there something distinct about this?

O'TOOLE: Well, this case has a lot of distinctive aspects to it.

The one distinctive aspect that is just chilling was his ability to sit and face his victims and interact with them for an hour. And they obviously were not threatened by him, because they would have called the police. And then, after the hour to stand up -- there was no bonding that took place. So, that suggests to me that this is someone that doesn't bond with other people. He stands up and he starts to kill them.

DICKERSON: Sherrilyn, when you look at this, help us understand it.

SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Well, you know, in 2009, you may remember that the then Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a report.

And in that report, she suggested that we were in the danger of people like this. She suggested then that right-wing extremist groups and white supremacist groups were ramping up and they were in threat of radicalizing and operationalizing people like the people that were just described.

And she was denounced for that report, as you may recall. As a matter of fact, at the time, then Minority Leader, now Majority Leader John Boehner specifically denounced her for referring -- using the term terrorist to describe what he said are American citizens who disagree with the direction that Washington Democrats are taking the nation.

This was a report that she issued after the massacre in the Sikh temple in which six people were killed, after three police officers were killed in Pittsburgh, in both cases by right-wing extremists and white supremacists. She was ringing the alarm bell that there is a problem. And it was politicized. It was put right into the well of partisan politics.

So, for African-Americans, who are well aware of this threat, and who recognize that it exists, and who have lived with this threat for many, many decades, there is a feeling of vulnerability, of not being taken seriously.

The part that is supposed to bring us all together as a nation, Republicans and Democrats, black and white, is the safety of our nation. That's first and foremost. If you call yourself a patriot, if you say you love this country, then first and foremost you care about the safety of its citizens.

And what we have seen too often is the safety of African-American citizens sacrificed for the purpose of partisan gain, sacrificed because people are afraid to say the truth, allowing themselves to traffic in the tools of white supremacy, like the Confederate Flag. This has to stop.

So, we're at moment where, yes, there are these people that have been described who are out there and we can't find every single one of them, but we have a law enforcement apparatus in this country that is reported to be one of the best in the world. And we have had the alarm bell rung.

And we have to see a different stance of our law enforcement apparatus towards ferreting out and using their power to find these kinds of individuals and to stop this radicalization.

DICKERSON: Mary Ellen, are there warning signs for these kinds of individuals, and how do you -- what is the structure for moving on those warning signs?

O'TOOLE: And I agree with you, because someone like is -- was already hating -- I call them an equal opportunity hater. They're going to be drawn to this supremacy ideation.

But there are warning signs, and there were many warning signs in this, and they occurred over months. And one of the most profound ones is leakage. And leakage to communicating ahead of time what you're going to do you. And you tell your friends, or you may inadvertently tell an adult. But you communicate what your plans are.

And then you have other warning signs, obsession with prior school -- or prior mass killers. And then it's taking on a persona of being someone that's a warrior. And that's what we saw in the pictures. So, people can see that as he's evolving down the road towards violence.

IFILL: But people did see it, and yet they didn't react in the ways you would expect.

O'TOOLE: And they didn't react.

IFILL: And that's where, again, the atmosphere that we create about what the danger is and who these people are is critically important.


IFILL: You know, he had a friend who said, I heard him saying all this stuff, but I don't judge people.

I think you get to judge somebody who is a white supremacist, if you're an American citizen. But we have created a context in which these are people with just a different viewpoint than me.

This is dangerous, fatal for black people. And I think we need leadership, leadership not only in Congress, leadership in law enforcement, to call this what it is, domestic terrorism. And we have to use all of our tools to get at that.

DICKERSON: And for us to speak up as well.


DICKERSON: Thank you very much.

IFILL: Thank you.

DICKERSON: We will be back in a moment with some personal thoughts about forgiveness.


DICKERSON: The attack on the Mother Emanuel AME Church was not just a murder of nine African-American worshipers. Like all terrorist attacks, it was an effort to send a message, to use violence to sow hate. The shooter left one person alive to bear witness to what he had done.

But, two days later, at his bond hearing, members of the victim's families stood, and one after the other forgave the alleged murderer and prayed for him.


NADINE COLLIER, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM: You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof -- everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they -- they lived and loved, and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won't win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very angry with you. But one thing that Depayne has always joined in my family with is that she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. And we have to forgive.


DICKERSON: This is what it looks like to bear witness, to testify. The shooter took life, but he also tried to steal the faith that gives the community its strength.

But that cannot be taken. Those calls for forgiveness prove that. They are a tribute to those nine victims and the power of the faith that brought them together on a Wednesday night in June to pray.


DICKERSON: Some stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.


DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

We'll have more on the Charleston story in a moment. But for now, we turn to foreign news this week.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled to Yemen and got a rare look at one of the world's most dangerous fronts in the war on terror. She filed this report earlier.


CLARISSA WARD, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three long months a Saudi Arabian led coalition has been bombing Yemen. The goal, to push out Houthi rebel forces who swept to power last fall and ousted the president and who the coalition view as a proxy for their arch rival Iran. We were among the first outside journalists to get inside Yemen to see the effects of the war firsthand. We landed to the news that an airstrike had hit Sana'a's old city, a 2,500 year old cultural heritage site known for its distinctive mud brick houses. At least five people were killed.

At the scene, Abdullah Kukullah (ph) showed us the remnants of his family home.

ABDULLAH KUKULLAH: They destroy our people for nothing, any reason. We are not to -- belong to Iran or to anybody. We don't like war. We don't like to destroy anybody.

WARD: While most of the airstrikes have targeted military installations now under the control of Houthi forces, civilians are paying a high price. An estimated 1,300 have been killed so far, many more have fled the violence. And it's not hard to see why.

WARD (on camera): This is the sound of everyday life here in Sana'a. We can hear outgoing anti-aircraft jets overhead. They're supposedly bombing over in those mountains over there.

WARD (voice-over): A Saudi lead blockade on the country is compounding the situation. Eighty percent of Yemenis are in need of aid, but vital food, water and medical supplies can't get in, and people cannot get out. At the Thowera (ph) Hospital, we met Abdul Muhammad (ph), who is recovering from shrapnel injuries.

WARD (on camera): From the rockets?

WARD (voice-over): His relative explained that Muhammad needs surgery overseas if his eye is to be saved, but that he can't leave because of the blockade.

Many people here blame America for supplying the bombs that Saudi Arabia is dropping. Officially, the U.S. isn't taking sides in this war, though it shares Saudi concern that Iran's influence is growing here. The Houthis deny that they are backed by Iran, but at a rally we attended, it was clear where the group's sympathies lie.

WARD (on camera): They're chanting the Houthi slogan over and over again, inspired by the Iran Revolution, (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE), "death to America, death to Israel."

WARD (voice-over): both America and the Houthis share a key enemy, al Qaeda. This week it was announced that their leader here, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was killed in a drone strike, but the group is now in a strong position, having used the vacuum created by months of fighting to expand territory and rally recruits. Perhaps the only winners in this war, which is costing the people of Yemen so dearly.

For FACE THE NATION, this is Clarissa Ward reporting from Sana'a, Yemen.


DICKERSON: And we're joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Always a pleasure to be here.

DICKERSON: Start -- let's start with Yemen. Why is Yemen so important in the war against terrorism?

NUNES: Well, the proximity that it holds to the entrance to the Suez Canal is why it's such a -- geographically such an important place. But let's also remember that you have a country that's essentially geographically very difficult. High mountains in the north, Houthis that are Shiites being supported by Iran, al Qaeda kind of everywhere into the west, and then -- or to the east, and then you have what the remnants of whatever is left of the government, which I believe the Saudis and UAE and other allies of ours are trying to support. And it's going to be a long, drawn out civil war there.

DICKERSON: And al Qaeda that's there, though, the U.S. drone strike killed the number two in al Qaeda there. There's also the bombmaker of al Qaeda who is there, in terms of a central place for the -- for the growth of al Qaeda.

NUNES: Well, AQAP has long been one of the number one high value targets of our intelligence services and our military. And, thankfully, we were successful with our counter terrorism operations this week.

DICKERSON: I want to ask you about that. There seemed to be some confusion about who the drones had hit. This is not the first time that has happened. Why is the intelligence fuzzy -- so fuzzy?

NUNES: Well, what you have to remember, we don't have an embassy there. It was amazing that your reporter could get into there. So our embassy has been evacuated. So it's tough to really know who we can trust. So my guess is that it just took time to get the information out of Yemen so that we could, in fact, confirm that these guys have been killed.

DICKERSON: That's what's happening in Yemen. Let's turn to what's happening in the United States.

There have been more arrests of people who are ISIS sympathizers or would like to be a part of ISIS. What's the nature of that threat?

NUNES: Well, we face the highest threat level we have ever faced in this country today.

DICKERSON: Including after 9/11?

NUNES: Including after 9/11. And there's a couple of reasons why. One is the flow of fighters that have went from Europe and other western countries like the United States to fight in Iraq and Syria who have now come out. We don't know -- we don't know all the people who have went in, nor do we know the people who have -- who have been back and are now on the streets in the United States. The FBI director says there are cases open in 50 states.

The second, and probably more important fact is, that on the Internet young people are being radicalized here in the United States. So you saw the attack in Boston. You saw the attack in Texas. And when you -- you're beginning to go into encrypted chat rooms to where even investigations do no good. So it is -- it is critical that the American people, when they see something that looks suspicious, they need to get it to the proper authorities because we are having a tough time tracking terrorists cells within the United States.

DICKERSON: You talk about the level of the threat. July 4th is coming up. Some people have talked about that date. Is it -- what's the association between the level of the threat and the coming holiday?

NUNES: Well, clearly, July 4th is a day that Americans celebrate as our Independence Day. Lots of people, even here in our nation's capital, there will be thousands and thousands of people out to watch the fireworks. And then this will happen in every city, every community across America. So it's just tough to secure those types of areas if you have someone who wants to blow themself up or open fire or other threats of that nature. And we just don't know or can track all of the bad guys that are out there today.

DICKERSON: You mentioned social media. There was a report this week the State Department's frustrated with its social media response to the ISIS social media. In your view, what is the solution? I mean is it better tweets or is it going and attacking the people who are sending out the social media messages from ISIS?

NUNES: Well, radical jihadists have gotten better. So you've -- they went from al Qaeda, to now the leaders of al Qaeda have now formed ISIS, and they're very good now at communicating in English and they're very good at communicating through separate avenues to where it's very difficult to track. And so that's why when you get a young person who is willing to get into these chat rooms, go on the Internet and get radicalized, it's something that we are -- are, you know, not only unprepared, we're just not used to it in this country.

DICKERSON: How do we fix it?

NUNES: I this it's going to be -- it's going to be very difficult. I mean, number one, we have to have a long term strategy to defeat radical jihadism that is -- that is spreading all over the globe, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

DICKERSON: And final question, about Charleston, the massacre there, was it terrorism?

NUNES: Well, it could be domestic terrorism when you look at -- clearly it was a hate -- a hate crime in my -- from my book, and clearly racism. You have to leave it up to the prosecutors for the legal definition of how this guy will be charged. At a minimum, he's going to serve life in prison and possibly receive the death penalty.

DICKERSON: But leaving aside the legal, just as a regular person looking at this, what should --

NUNES: I think you easily call it domestic terrorism. I mean if somebody, just from a layman's point of view. I don't know about from a legal point of view.

DICKERSON: Absolutely. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us.

NUNES: Thank you.

DICKERSON: We'll be right back with our panel.


DICKERSON: And now we're back with our panel.

Gwen Ifill is the co-anchor and the managing editor of "The PBS Newshour."

Michael Gerson is a columnist for "The Washington Post."

And we welcome to the broadcast, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who is also the author of "The Queen: The Epic Ambition of Hillary and the Coming of A Second Clinton Era."

And David Ignatius, also of "The Washington Post."

David, I want to start with you.

Yemen, the killing of al Qaeda's number two, how important was that?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it was -- it was a significant strike. I was struck listening to Chairman Nunes about the deteriorating situation in Yemen. The U.S. has very few weapons now, other than these drone attacks, which are so controversial.

The second thing that was really striking in what he said is that we are at the highest domestic threat level, if I understood him, in our -- in our recent history, even higher than after 9/11. You couldn't hear that and not wonder at all of things that he knows that are coming at us or are -- are on the radar that could cause -- cause trouble.

DICKERSON: President Obama once pointed to Yemen as a kind of symbol of how things could go well. That was not too long ago.

Why -- why have things shifted so badly?

IGNATIUS: Yemen, tragically, is a place where the U.S. did try to do it right. We had a strong embassy team. The embassy reached out to the different groups and tried to sponsor dialogue. The U.S. military tried to train Yemeni soldiers to fight this fight themselves.

And it all crumbled. I mean the best efforts that the U.S. has made, I think, in a number of these Middle Eastern countries came to naught. Now we have no embassy there. We have very few weapons. It just shows that these are countries that are coming apart and we don't have the tools to put them back together.

DICKERSON: Let's hit it and switch to Charleston now and talk about that.

Hugh, what do you make of what happened?

President Obama says that it's guns.

Where -- how do you pick apart what happened in Charleston?

HUGH HEWITT, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW": I start with the nine saints who were assassinated. I was at mass this morning at the Cathedral of St. Matthews down the street and the pastor preached on these people.

They were studying the gospel of Mark, the fourth chapter, the parable of the sellers (ph). And they're -- they've already brought back 30, 60, 100 fold in grace and forgiveness, the example of their families was amazing.

But the reading today was about the sea being in the middle of a storm and the apostles being afraid.

And so people are afraid after this, and rightly so, of Yemen, of domestic terrorists. And they have to be called and they have to reflect upon the fact that there are many good people in Charleston sitting around in small groups praying for souls like that tormented killer.

And I think that's the good part of this. I'm not sure we should go to political solutions yet. I thought Senator Scott was right in that.

DICKERSON: Gwen, you also went to church this morning.

GWEN IFILL, HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: I did. And he preached from exactly the same scripture. And the question that my pastor raised at Metropolitan AME Church, where we feel very closely affected by this. Many people, including my pastor, knew Reverend Pinckney and had connections in South Carolina.

So there was a lot of emotion there and there was a vigil there on Friday.

But they preached that same -- he preached that same sermon, but he said that the -- he pointed out how the disciples had questions, who is this person who's -- who's appeared and has calmed the seas?

And that that's what we need to have and that before we race to answers, that we have to have questions. And that forgiveness itself is a wonderful thing, but it's a process. It's something that you strive toward. It's something you have ambition toward. It was amazing to hear those souls talk about that on Friday. But you also knew that they weren't all the way there yet. They couldn't be. But that doesn't mean that we stop there. And that's where it's never too soon to start talking about solutions, because we have, as Senator Scott was talking about, robust conversations all the time and then they fade away and nothing else happens.

DICKERSON: Yes. And it will be interesting to see what happens in that robust conversation once it starts.

Michael Gerson, we don't -- forgiveness is something we don't see usually in politics in this kind of way.

MICHAEL GERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. No, it is a reminder that there's something impossible at the heart of the Christian faith, which is love your enemies. It's something that I don't know I could do.

And when you see it evidenced, it has a tremendous power. This forgiveness is -- comes from a position of strength, spiritual maturity, institutional strength. This is not a weak virtue. It comes from the strength to love. That's what Martin Luther King talked about, often pro -- preached on, the strength to love.

And I think that's what we've seen demonstrated in this circumstance.

DICKERSON: Hugh, I want to ask you about the debate that's risen up. We -- we're going to switch to the solutions portion here about the flag in Charleston.

It -- what's -- what do you think will happen?

HEWITT: Well, if I were a state senator or a state legislator in South Carolina, I would vote to remove the memorial. I happen to have been in Columbia with my wife at the state capital when the first debate was raging. And I was walking up the steps and I was stopped by the lieutenant governor. And he wanted me to see -- he said, please understand, that's not our state. And the flag came up in the 2014 gubernatorial debate. And Nikki Haley said it never comes up when CEOs move to South Carolina.

I think it will be gone and it will be gone very quickly.

But I -- I do respect people like Senator Walker -- Senator Scott and Governor Walker, who don't want to throw themselves into the political thing without focusing on, you know, I -- I didn't know Pastor Pinckney, but I have worshipped with Cecil Murray, a great AME pastor, in Los Angeles and Mark Whitlock, a great AME pastor in Orange County. And I just want to grieve those people for a while, because I just think that to bring up the flag and to rush to this, although it has to be done in a few weeks, ignores these extraordinary -- Mrs. Hurd, she's really one of the most extraordinary people I've read about, ferocious shoe warrior, one of her friends called her, librarian. I mean they're -- they're all just wonderful people.

And I -- I don't like the debate going there that quickly. IFILL: I think that we -- it goes there that quickly because we -- the natural human instinct is what do you do, how do you stop this, how do -- and so we look for symbols. And the flag is a good and enduring and return -- recurring seal -- symbol.

So when Mitt Romney said yesterday, the flag should come down, he had said that before. When Hillary Clinton said the flag should come down, she had said that before.

But then she took it beyond the symbol and started talking about race and the conversation that we should be having in this country about race.

So we can get distracted and get really past talking about the victims, you're right. We can go to the symbol of the flag. But at some point, more than a robust conversation has to happen.

The president's solution is -- is guns, to speak to guns. Other people's solution is to speak to domestic terrorism, as we heard Congressman Nunes talk about.

But someone wants to move -- but the key to this is moving past the commiseration and on to some sort of action that speaks to the...

DICKERSON: And where do...

IFILL: -- underlying problem.

DICKERSON: We're going to get back to that underlying problem in a moment and talk about guns and some other things.

We'll be right back in a moment with more from our panel.


DICKERSON: And we're back with our panel, Michael Gerson, the causes of this.

Where do you put your finger on that?

GERSON: Well, America has, at least, here, two problems.

There's racism. These Americans are dead because they were African- American. That's the simple fact of this -- this matter.

And we really need to question how does that jump from generations and get to young people like this?

That's a really important question in our society.

And then we also have the problem of angry young men radicalized by the Internet, which is broader than this -- than this circumstance. It's actually -- when you combine those two problems, the racism and the angry young men, you get domestic terrorism. That's what the -- what -- what you end up with. And in those cases, it's not a web of conspiracy, it's -- it's actually the signs of radicalization in an individual somehow that we need to get at and become more conscious about.

DICKERSON: David, the president said this doesn't happen in other advanced countries.

What did you make of that and his...

IGNATIUS: I thought one of the really moving parts of this terrible story this past week was watching President Obama on Thursday morning, angry, deeply wounded himself. He looked older, tireder (sic) than I can remember.

But he was speaking from the heart about this problem. And it struck me that in the remaining time that he's president, after Ferguson, after New York City, after Baltimore, after now Charleston, this issue of violence against African Americans and how we talk about it, how we begin to move to a different place, is the issue before the president. It's his chance to do something that he can uniquely do. And I hope that's still in him. He sounded so beaten down by the problem I hope it's still there.

HEWITT: It reminded me, John, I tried to, but I don't agree with him on anything, pray for the safety of the president every day because there are a lot of haters in this country that would like to harm him and his family. And I think this reminds us that, because of race.

But what Michael said about the Internet, people forget, about eight years ago, an anti-Christian, not anti-black extremist attack, new way and youth with a mission in Colorado murdered four people over the course.

He had been radicalized. He was a young man. Stanley McChrystal was in my city last week, said, 100 million times a day, ISIS touches someone with their message of radicalization. Angry young men on the Internet make for, whether they are empowering racists or they're empowering jihadists or they're empowering anyone, it's a nightmarish problem that we haven't begun to cope with.

DICKERSON: Gwen, the president mentioned guns, but as David suggested, he seemed exhausted by -- and he then later said, no, I'm not defeated.


IFILL: Yes, the next day, he came out and kind of played it back away from that a little bit.

DICKERSON: But what can the president do?

IFILL: Well, in reality, we know that what the political reality is in Washington, which is there's not a lot of stomach for guns. In fact, I think we heard Senator Scott may have been one who said, you know, there are no existing gun laws that would have stopped this from happening.

But there was always -- there was even pushback to the president's claim that this is the more violent -- more gun-ridden nation than others, which caused the White House to send out a tweet in which they said that they're 279 times more likely to have -- we are 279 more times to have gun violence here than in Japan, 49 times more than France, 33 times more than Israel. We are a violent culture in many ways.

And the question is, how does it manifest itself?

And in this case, some people try to step around race, say it wasn't really about race. But then when we saw the manifest, we saw it was.

GERSON: I would also add, though, that this is an opportunity for a Republican candidate to do a big-picture speech, address issues of race and violence. I think that that is a missed opportunity to some extent.

Republicans looked awkward in their initial reaction to this news, like they didn't know how to deal with it --


IFILL: Yes, but Bush did get it. He did come around to that.

GERSON: -- he did. And a couple of them now have come out against the flag. But I think this is a case where a Republican could give a big-picture speech and put some of this in context and have a real message.

DICKERSON: Why was there awkwardness?

Do you read it as awkwardness as well?

HEWITT: I do. I do and it's because they don't -- when facts are coming in, so often when I'm on the air, when there is breaking news, the story is not correct. If anybody come forward and said anything on Wednesday night, like they would have been wrong. They would not have known about the manifesto, they would not have known -- it's a hardcore white racist domestic terrorist. We didn't know that until yesterday.

And so I think candidates especially are tentative, but they need to be non-awkward now, and I think Michael was right. There is an opportunity here and for Ms. Clinton and Senator Sanders and Jim Webb, anyone who wants to lead this country has to talk about violence seriously.

DICKERSON: Michael, you used to write speeches. And so if someone was going to give this big, kind of a speech, they needed inroads a little bit if you're a Republican, inroads into the other party to make their case.

What would you say if you were writing such a speech? GERSON: Well, I think it's a challenge. But I do think that there is an enduring problem that is transmitted between generations that has to be broken. The question is how we root this out in our laws and in our lives. And that, I think, is a question Republicans should have an answer to.

How do we root out racism in our laws and in our lives? And then to go and to talk about this additional problem of young men radicalized on the Internet, which is a much broader challenge.

IFILL: But first you have to acknowledge it. And the thing that struck me about the manifesto pictures yesterday was these are not selfies. Someone took those pictures. He's 21 years old, he didn't get radicalized yesterday. Somewhere in his life this happened.

So it's not just one lone wacko; it's not just random violence. There is something underlying it, which we have to speak to.

IGNATIUS: John, as you think about how these pieces would be put together, as Michael says, one enduring part of this is going to be the faces of those parishioners, who lost their loved ones, expressing forgiveness.

And the persistence of the black church that they were part of -- and that church has been burned down, I think, twice over.

And it came back. The story of Martin Luther King and these terrible church bombings, this church kept coming back and believed and had faith and didn't react violently.

And if the country is going to build, there it is. That is what you build on.

DICKERSON: All right, David, the last word.

Thank you all very much. We'll be right back.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. But before we go, we remember the victims of Wednesday's killings.