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Notes from the January 16, 2011 broadcast of Meet The Press

January 16, 2011

Today’s broadcast began with an update on the condition of wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford (D- AZ) from in-studio guest Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY). Giffords is making “extraordinary progress” in her physical recovery.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) then joined host David Gregory by satellite. (Note: In the preview at the top of the show, Coburn was shown with a very full beard, but he appeared clean shaven for the interview.) The conversation began with a discussion of gun control. Schumer pointed out some non-legislative reforms which could be taken to reduce the ability of those with mental illness to buy guns.

Gregory noted that Schumer was showing unusual restraint in his rhetoric on gun control. Schumer said he was trying to heed the call for more civility.

Gregory asks if the big problem with our political discourse is that everything is described as an apocalyptic event or change. Coburn rejects the premise, but he later also rejects the idea that President Obama is trying to injure the country or steal our liberties.

Schumer said he has received some agreement on the idea that Democrats and Republicans should sit together at the State of the Union address. Coburn said we get in trouble when we question the president or Senator Schumer’s love of country. But we do have differences in ideology.

On the debt ceiling, Schumer says it is playing with fire to use this as a political issue. Coburn says the danger of growing, long term debt is even greater than the problems caused by not raising the debt ceiling.

The roundtable included David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Al Sharpton, and Tim Shriver. They agreed the president’s speech last week was very good. This column by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was also praised.

In discussing mental illness, the group actually touched on many important issues including de-institutionalization, Reagan-era policies, freedom, etc.

Brooks repeated a key theme of his column this week… the roots of civility lie in our own humility. If we think we know everything and are nearly perfect, then it is easy to dismiss others and be rude. On the other hand, if we acknowledge that other people have worth and worthy ideas (and we need them), civility is much easier to achieve.

The program concluded with thoughts about tomorrow’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and included a clip from one of Dr. King’s appearances on Meet The Press. “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps,” King said.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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