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Interview with John McCain; Interview with Xavier Becerra, Cedric Richmond

Aired July 21, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Barack Obama.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, black, brown, and white in America. The conversation on the street and in the briefing room.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're becoming a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

CROWLEY: Perfecting the union with our power panel, including one-time member of the Black Panthers and the Turbulent 1960s, Illinois congressman, Bobby Rush, and CNN's "Crossfire" host, Newt Gingrich.

Plus, profiling, a matter of law or a matter of the heart? Congressional Hispanic Caucus member, Xavier Becerra, and Congressional Black Caucus member, Cedric Richmond, join us.

And race relations five years after John McCain conceded victory to Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: We both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

CROWLEY: Our exclusive with Senator John McCain with his take on race in the Obama era and his showdown over Syria with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

I'm Candy Crowley. And this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY (on-camera): Since the not guilty verdict a week ago, the issues of race, justice, and guns have dominated the public conversation. In more than 100 cities, thousands took part in justice for Trayvon rallies. His father offered his thoughts.


TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: This sends a message to the nation that we're not going to sit back and let our children be killed and don't say anything about it.


CROWLEY: The subject of race is not always front burner, but it always simmers. Joining me now is Arizona senator, John McCain, who ran against then Senator Obama in a presidential contest where race was often a subtext and sometimes a headline. After your gracious speech, everybody sort of thought and even talked about a post-racial era. What has happened? MCCAIN: I think we were probably too optimistic. I think that old prejudices diehard, especially in hard economic times when some of the competitions were exacerbated. And I think the good news is, when you look at the military, when you look at the fact we have a president who is the first African-American president in history and we have made significant progress, but I think that recent events have obviously highlighted the differences that remain.

What I got out of the president's statement, which I thought was very impressive, is that we need to have more conversation in America. I need to -- I, as an elected official, I need to talk more to my Hispanic organizations in my state. I need to talk to more African- American organizations. I need Americans to talk to their friends and neighbors, not just those on their block or their circle of friends.

CROWLEY: I feel like we always say stuff like that, and then it dies down, and we don't do it.

MCCAIN: I think we continue to make progress, but there are events like this that highlight and emphasize the fact that we still have a long way to go. We cannot be complacent in our society when we still have a dramatic disparity between Black youth unemployment and non-Black youth unemployment when we have these still contradictions in our society.

When we see the city of Detroit in the largest bankruptcy in history. It's a wasteland. Basically, the city of Detroit is. What's the majority of the population in the city of Detroit? And that is -- who suffers the most now in Detroit? Obviously, we know the answer to that. So, do we have to continue and emphasize affirmative action programs?

Yes, without quotas. Do we have to do a lot of things in America? If you can salvage anything about this national -- debate isn't the word -- national clash of ideas, of thoughts about this Trayvon Martin case, it is that we've still got a long way to go, and I think the president very appropriately highlighted a lot of that yesterday as only a president of the United States can.

CROWLEY: Did you think that Trayvon Martin got justice?

MCCAIN: I trust the judgment of a jury, of his peers, of individuals. I can't second guess -- no one that I know of has said that this case was flawed, that it was corrupt, that there was anything wrong with the system of justice.

CROWLEY: But you understand how it could be seen as the president talked about through a prism of the history of injustice in the system?

MCCAIN: Absolutely, I can see that. I can also see that stand your ground law may be something that needs to be reviewed by the Florida legislature or any other legislature that has passed such legislation. Obviously, a lot of things need to come up for review, but to somehow condemn the verdict of the jury, you would have to show me where the jury was corrupted by any -- in any way. CROWLEY: Do you think that stand your ground -- the stand your ground law in Arizona is worth looking at again?

MCCAIN: I think that, yes, I do, and I'm confident that the members of the Arizona legislature will and -- because it is a very controversial legislation.

CROWLEY: Senator Cruz has said that he thinks this talk about changing stand your ground legislation is just the Obama administration's way to get at gun control. What's your reaction?

MCCAIN: I don't draw that conclusion. I just don't draw that conclusion.

CROWLEY: And let me just switch up subjects quickly and that is to show you the cover -- go ahead, of course.

MCCAIN: And one addition. Isn't this time for us to try to come together? Isn't it time for America to come together in light of several weeks of what is really exacerbating relations between elements of our society? I'd rather have a message of coming together and discussing these issues rather than condemning.

CROWLEY: So, you think Senator Cruz's argument at this point about gun control is inappropriate?

MCCAIN: No, no. I just respect his view, but I don't frankly see the connection.

CROWLEY: Let me show you the cover of the "Rolling Stones." This got a lot of play this week. This, of course, is one of the Boston bombers, one that's still alive. Lots of complaints. Stores pulled the cover. Inside is an article about how does a young man, you know, basically, who's been in the United States for some time, turn into a terrorist. When you see that cover, what did you think?

MCCAIN: I thought it's stupid. It thought it was glorifying an individual that represents a great threat to innocent lives and was responsible for the taking of innocent lives. And I thought it was stupid and I thought it was inappropriate, but for me to tell them to pull their magazine from the book shelves at newsstands, it's not up to me to do that. I think most Americans surrender to judgment on that. And, but -- also, "Rolling Stone" probably got more publicity than they've had in 20 years.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And there is freedom of speech and freedom of pictures and all those things. Senator, i want you to stand by for me. When we return, among other things, the former vice president's daughter is making a play for the Senate seat in Wyoming. Senator McCain is standing by his man. We'll find out why next.


CROWLEY: With me again, Republican senator, John McCain. The deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said at the forum yesterday that al Qaeda affiliated groups are gaining strength in Syria. They've grown in size, capability, and effectiveness. Does that change your argument, which has been very fierce for more U.S. help to these rebels since now the most effective rebels appear to be al Qaeda?

MCCAIN: Al Qaeda is coming back throughout the Middle East region and North Africa. Look at what's happening in Iraq and unraveling there. You can only judge this on the basis of the facts. The fact is there's no United States leadership in the Middle East. There's a vacuum there. And when there's a vacuum, bad people fill it.

And that's what's happening all over the Middle East. Now, is Syria specific? Of course. Jihadists are flowing in from all over the Middle East, and by the way, from Europe --


CROWLEY: -- to stay out?

MCCAIN: Well, if you think that doing nothing, that the situation will improve -- and no one that I know that knows the Syria believes that -- and I would argue that our failure, our failure to assist these people who are struggling for things we stand for and believe in has exacerbated this problem dramatically. Look, this brings us a little bit to Russia, but it's an unfair fight, Candy. It's an unfair fight.

CROWLEY: A lot of unfair fights sort of take place across the nation -- world.

MCCAIN: Russians are all in. Hezbollah with 4,000 or 5,000 troops. Iranian revolutionary guard. It is now erupting into a regional conflict. It was not that at the beginning. In 1930s, we had a thing called the Spanish civil war that -- when it came to become a proxy fight. This is now becoming a proxy fight between different interests in the Middle East and outside the Middle East, including significant involvement by the Russians, while we sit by and watch these people being massacred.

A year and a half ago, I asked when we were going to intervene when 7,000 had died. Now, a hundred thousand have died. A year from now, there'll be another 100,000 who have died, and we sit by and watch this happen and don't think that lesson is lost on all the other countries in the region, and it's a disgrace.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you, move you on to Russia, but I also want to ask you if you have any reason to believe that the administration is coming around to your very forceful opinions on this?

MCCAIN: Well, I had a meeting with the president, Senator Graham and I, this week, and it gave us an opportunity to engage in a discussion on the issue. And I hope that at least the options are being explored. But believe me, Candy, this -- the Middle East is erupting into conflict which will sooner or later -- sooner rather than later, affect American national security interests.

It is a huge problem. And you see Iraq unraveling, Afghanistan, we have huge problems there. All across, not to mention Egypt. The heart and soul of the Arab world is now in a situation which could lead to chaos for a long period of time.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to some domestic politics. Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, has decided to take on Republican senator, Mike Enzi, who currently hold the seat, in a primary for that Senate seat. What does this speak to inside the Republican Party? Does it not say that there is a faction of the Republican Party that is going to challenge longtime sitting senators from the right?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that may happen, and it's a free country and a free party, in my view. If people want to run for office, they can. If Liz Cheney wants to run for office, but I'm pleased to see that most people who have served with Mike Enzi have expressed our strong support because he's a good, solid, hard-working workhorse.

And all the old line about show horses and workhorses, Mike Enzi is the epitome of a workhorse in the Senate. Everybody is free to run, and I do not want to exclude anyone.

CROWLEY: But you're on team Enzi at this point?

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: And finally, you had sort of a set to (ph) with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about what he was willing to say in public. Have you, in private, gotten from General Dempsey what he would like to see happen vis-a-vis the U.S. and Syria?

MCCAIN: No, but Senator Levin and I have sent over additional questions. I hope he will answer those. They are required and agree to give their honest opinion even if it disagrees with the administration's opinion. General Dempsey didn't do that. I'm confident that we can work this out. One final word on Russia, it's time to get tough with Russia.

It's time that we speak out on these human rights abuses, on these convictions, on this autocratic KGB colonel that continues to oppress the Russian people in a way that we need to at least respond to, including expanding the Magnitsky law.

CROWLEY: And also on Snowden, I would -- of course --

MCCAIN: It has to have some effect, and right now, we are showing no response.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, thank you for coming this Sunday.

MCCAIN: Thank you for letting me squeeze that last one in.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.


CROWLEY: Thank you so much.

When we return, mending race relations in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, and we'll look at how minority unemployment factors into the equation.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA STAR: One of the problems with race, Erin, is we never discuss race until something bad happens, and then what happens is everybody protects their own tribe. You know, everybody says, I'm going to defend my tribe, whether they're White, Black, Jewish, Hispanic. It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong. We have this mentality we all want to protect our tribe. Listen, we've got to start talking about race when everything is calm.


CROWLEY: That was the outspoken and opinionated former NBA star, Charles Barkley, who says, while he agrees with the verdict, he hopes that it will cause an open dialogue about race in America. We hope so, too.

Joining me now for just that is Congressman Xavier Becerra of California and Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. Gentlemen, thank you both so much. I want to play something that President Obama said, addressing the issue of poverty and race relations and poverty and violence.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the violence that takes place in poor Black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country. And that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.


CROWLEY: So, no question that it has been a very difficult history and that that history remains in the mindset and in the memory of so many people. The question is, take away the Zimmerman verdict, these problems have been endemic in the U.S. for some time now. The first African-American president comes to office, and it's been five years, and these problems have not been addressed in minority communities.

Do you think that he has failed to address minority community problems?

RICHMOND: Well, I think it's a lot harder than anyone thing. And I can just go back to maybe eight years ago we established the council on Black men and boys in Louisiana to do just this. It's a systematic problem, and if you look at the fact that 42 percent of all African- American kids go to schools that are underperforming. You look at all of the socioeconomic factors. I think it's a lot harder.

Now, I will say I'm very happy that the president has come out to say and specifically say Black on Black crime, urban youth violence, and all of those things, because I think we have to be very specific in defining the problem before you can ever start to fix it.

CROWLEY: Sure. I guess my question comes from the fact, Congressman Becerra, that so often when you talk to minority congressmen, be they Hispanic or African-American, and say, you know, how do you think the president is doing, there is disappointment in those private conversations? And so, I'm wondering if you think there is more that can be done at a federal level, or are we talking about the kinds of programs you're talking about, just block by block, city by city?

BECERRA: Well, first, let's agree on something. This is bigger than one man. No one man, including the man in the White House, including a Black man in the White House, can solve this by himself or herself. And the president said something very important. We have a history on these issues. I think the more important thing that he said -- and I loved his speech -- was our children know how to deal with this better than we do.

And, that's the hopeful part of this. Every generation, we do it better. So, as you said, it's not going to be just a matter of instituting a particular problem, it's about doing this as a collective, as a people, that we're going to try to move together. We're going to heal and move forward together.

CROWLEY: There was also discussion by the president about profiling and looking at state laws and various things. It always occurs to me when we talk about profiling, George Zimmerman wasn't a law officer. When the president talked about walking through a department store and being trailed or car doors locking when he crossed the street, that's not legislatable, is it?

This is kind of, I think, what some people hope is that demographics and a changing America will do more to change the profiling mindset than any kind of law?

RICHMOND: Well, and the president said that was him 35 years ago. That's me on a daily basis, and especially when I'm home in New Orleans and I'm dressed down. It's something that Black men still go through to this day, which is women clutching their purses, hitting the lock button on store, or just basic attitudes. And even as a U.S. congressman, as a Black man, it is very, very frustrating, and you build up an internal anger about it that you can't act on.

And, so, I sympathize with Trayvon walking home, minding his own business, and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, you have someone there and then this incident occurs. And I just want to say I think Ben Jealous said it the best that I've ever heard, that our kids and myself, we have to worry about not only the bad guys but the good guys, too, because we don't know their intentions and we don't know how they view us.

So, it's so frustrating, and I don't think that people outside of African-American males can really sense the frustration and the anger when it happens, especially when you're doing exactly what you should be doing, in this case, Trayvon was just walking home.

CROWLEY: Sure, but Congressman Becerra, I think maybe a little bit can you identify with that? I do think it's right. The president talked about prisms, and your experience certainly informs how you see things, but we hear more and more Hispanics, particularly, in some of the southwestern states with the immigration and who has papers and who doesn't feeling that they're being profiled. But in the end, is that something that you can legislate?

BECERRA: And I don't think you can legislate attitude. And, one of the things that we find is - when I was pulled over once when I was 17, 18 years old, with some friends in the car late in the evening, the cop didn't stop us for any particular reason other than just to stop us. And you sort of factor that into your life. But there's something different going on here.

I've never seen a president of the United States address this, address it personally, and that's a big difference that now you've got a president that says, I remember when that woman clutched her purse. I remember hearing the door locks click. That makes you think a lot more when your own president says that, and hopefully, that's what helps us change attitude. It wasn't just the incident that was important, it's now really about the attitude.

CROWLEY: Now, moving on from this.

RICHMOND: And I think you're right about profiling. That's something that we can stop in the law enforcement sector, but we can't stop either racism or attitudes, and that, I think, will come from a dialogue.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much for being here this morning, Congressman Richmond, Congressman Becerra, safe flights for both of you.

RICHMOND: Thanks for having us.

CROWLEY: When we return, civil rights activists want federal charges filed against George Zimmerman, but will the justice department be able to deliver? Our panel weighs in next.





CROWD: No peace.


CROWD: No peace.


CROWD: No peace.

OBAMA: Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code, and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.


CROWLEY: That was President Obama reacting to calls for the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman while around the country yesterday there were rallies in the wake of last week's verdict. Joining me around this table for a look at the issue that's raised passions from both sides, Newt Gingrich, is CNN's CROSSFIRE host. Crystal Wright, editor and publisher of We (ph) should also mention that she was a delegate for Newt Gingrich last year when he ran for president. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. And Charles Blow, a CNN political commentator and opinion writer for "The New York Times." We're sort of out of time with all your titles.


CROWLEY: But let me start with a basic question. It seems to me that the president was lowering expectations a little bit there in that part of his speech, saying, you know this is basically, you know, has to be the state and local level to change the laws. People on the street saying, justice for Trayvon. What is -- what does justice for Trayvon Martin look like?

GINGRICH: Let me just say what I've been struck with over the past week -- and I watched Charles on a couple of shows and other conversations about this, there are two things going on. There's actually a case involving a specific set of facts, and there's a national explosion as people suddenly look up and are reminded that 4 1/2 years into this presidency, there are very deep, painful problems that not only have not been addressed, not even discussed. So I think you have a psychological thing going on, which is in the streets, and you have a legal case, and the president is partly saying there is -- and I think he's hinting -- there is no legal ground for the Justice Department to reopen this case, but the country needs to have some kind of conversation about how big the gap is between the black community and the rest of the country.

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: And I would argue with the speaker that not only are the dots not being connected in the streets, people that are protesting now, justice for Trayvon meant a guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, and the separate dialogue that none of us are talking about and the president alluded to is the huge poverty that has been dragging down black Americans for over 50 years, and that is a direct result of the breakdown of the black family. It's not like it's just happening out of nowhere, and that, I think, is part of the frustration we're not having an honest dialogue about.

SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: So as the lawyer on the set, let me say, first of all, I don't think the president was saying there's no hope at the federal level. I think he was managing expectations, and I think that's important for him to do. He was essentially saying there's going to be an investigation, but there's no guarantee that you can bring a hate crimes, a federal hate crimes action against George Zimmerman. I actually think the communities have been connecting the dots. I don't know that everybody's been listening. But people have been talking about poverty, the huge unemployment rate, especially for young African-American men in some cities reaching 50 percent and what that means. And you hear it bubble up from time to time, sometimes at presidential press conferences.

When people say justice for Trayvon, in this I have to say the speaker is right, they're talking about the case and ensuring that we do everything we can to ensure that someone is held and that George Zimmerman is held accountable for what happened to this young teenager, but we're also talking about the larger issue, and that's what the president spoke to. The larger issue of the way in which racial profiling across gender, across economic class affects African- Americans. It is the touchstone. It is the one thing that strikes to our very dignity, and that's what the president spoke to. Part of it is about law. But part of it is about something much broader.

CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think all of that's right. I think there is the individual case, but I think people are worried deeply about the precedents that are set if a person is allowed to walk away from killing someone and have no culpability in that whatsoever. And that -- I think that walking away speaks to the structural biases that exist within the system and within the laws, and people don't want those structural biases to (INAUDIBLE) to kind of get away scot-free.

CROWLEY: Let me - and I will let you make a point, Newt, in just a second, but I want to bring in somebody else. I want to show you something first that happened last year on the House floor, when one congressman broke official decorum and put on a hoodie after Trayvon Martin was killed but before George Zimmerman was charged in his death.


RUSH: Racial profiling has to stop, Mr. Speaker. Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Joining me from Chicago is Illinois congressman Bobby Rush, who was there on the House floor, as you just saw. Congressman, I heard a couple of things here. I know that you are having an urban violence seminar, meeting coming up. You represent one of the most certainly violent districts in Illinois. You've had a lot of problems with poverty, et cetera. When you look at, not the trial itself, but the aftermath, as Newt Gingrich was talking about, where do you see the base of this problem?

RUSH: Well, it certainly lies in every community in which there is a significant black population, in every state, every city, every municipality in America. There's not one inch of America that does not have this problem where there are minorities and where there are whites who are citizens. It's here in Chicago. Two years before Trayvon Martin, here in Chicago, we had a young homeless man who was accused of stealing a piece of -- a small container of toothpaste, and they said he ran out of the store. He was chased by a security guard down the street. Four or five people held him down, and the security guard strangled him to death. When I wrote in protest to the Cook County state's attorney, she said that she was not going to press -- bow down to political charges - political charges and charge this assailant with murder. So he's walking the street. Anthony Kyser preceded Trayvon Martin. So it's all over America.

CROWLEY: Has there been no improvement, congressman? In the years -- you have fought this battle for a very long time, and I think some things -- people feel like the fact that there is an African- American president says an awful lot about this country and prejudice.

RUSH: Candy, at certain levels it does. At certain levels it does. OK? At certain levels lit does. Young people -- and I wore that hoodie on the Congress floor, in the well of the Congress, I wore that to connect with the young people, to encourage them, because if it had not been for the courageousness of young people going to the streets, then Trayvon Martin would have been just like Anthony Kyser. No one would have known that he was murdered.

CROWLEY: Gotcha. RUSH: Yes. So that was my purpose. That was my purpose. There has been some progress. I don't want to say there has not. But any time during this trial, I think probably the most vivid picture that I can't get out of my head was this was the defense attorney and his daughters licking the ice cream.

It suddenly reminded me of pictures that I had seen years ago of lynch mobs standing around a black man hanging on a tree, and they were in all kinds of expressions of euphoria. It kind of brought these things back.

CROWLEY: Congressman let me - yes. Let me ask you to hold on a second. I want to get some reaction from our panel. Earlier, I cut you off. I want to give you the chance to --

GINGRICH: This fits perfectly with what I was going to say earlier. You have a congressman -- and I respect Bobby Rush. You have a congressman who represents the most violent city in America. You have a congressman who represents the city in which over 500 people were killed last year, 74 percent of them African-American. You have a congressman who represents the city which is 80 percent of the killings, according to police, are by gangs. Gangs have increased -- let me finish. Gangs have increased by 40 percent since this president was elected. There is no federal program to stop it. No one wants to have an honest conversation about it. And so you have a congressman whose own district is bleeding, who puts on a hoodie as a symbolic act, but he doesn't do anything about the gangs in his own district.

RUSH: Wait a minute.

CROWLEY: Hang on. First of all, congressman, let me let you --

RUSH: That's a charge, Newt, that is not going to hold, doesn't hold water. I have been working relentlessly since I've been in Congress, even when you were the speaker of the House and didn't want to hear any of these matters. I have been working on trying to deal with this violence. I'm astounded and ashamed about this violence. But this is also systemic to an overall problem. Chicago will take care of this violence. That's one of the reasons why on a Friday, the 26th, we're having this National Summit on Urban Violence. This was before the verdict we had planned this. The congressional black caucus is coming into Chicago so that we can work on solutions to this problem.

Now, what I challenge you to, Newt, especially today, I want to challenge you and your Republican cohorts. Today is a Sunday. Today is a day of worship. We serve and worship the same God. In Michael 6:3 and 8, the words tell us that we should love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Now, for those folks who are cheering the George Zimmerman verdict, I would challenge you and the rest of the, let us honor, and let us lift up the spirit of the words of Michael 6:8 (ph) to work together to have the conversation, but not just have the conversation. Let us deal with the disenfranchisement, and let us deal with the distortions as it relates to our nation. CROWLEY: I know everybody wants to respond. I need to take a quick break. We will continue this conversation when we return. I want to get your responses to Bobby Rush. We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: We are back with Newt Gingrich, Crystal Wright, Sherrilyn Ifill, and Charles Blow, as well as Congressman Bobby Rush.

GINGRICH: In the spirit of congressman Rush's last statement, I've been working for six months to try to get the black caucus and the House Republicans to swap districts. I think nothing would be more helpful than to get three days of the black member going into a Republican district and three days of that Republican going into a black district. So to whatever degree Bobby can help me to get this to happen, I think that begins a conversation that's real.

WRIGHT: But also wait. I want to pick up on something about what Republicans -- excuse me, Representative Rush because you had some time here, and you accused Republicans of not doing anything. Senator Mark Kirk got $19 million in funding to combat the epidemic of gang violence in Chicago. Representative Rush called him an elitist white boy because he's trying to solve a problem. You have 100,000 gang members in Chicago. This year alone 200 people were slaughtered, mostly blacks. Wait a minute. I just want to finish one point here. Over the holiday weekend, July 4th, 62 gunned down in Chicago -- I mean, shot. 12 died. I want to say one final thing. In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote "The Negro Family, The Case for National Action." You know what he found was dragging down black Americans, the illegitimate birth rate at the time was 23 percent. And there was increasing rise - wait a minute this is important.

CROWLEY: I need to get other folks in here.


WRIGHT: Increasing rise in 1965, and the birth rate is 73 percent. That is the problem --

IFILL: You've had your time. Here is the issue. In communities all over this country, I've lived in Baltimore for 20 years, the same is true in Chicago, Gary, Indiana, in New York, big cities all over this country. African-Americans have been at the fore of pushing against gang violence, against black on black crime. Every time one of these issues comes up, what we hear is this issue about black on black crime. The fact that there is crime within race, and there's no such thing as black on black crime. Most crime happens within the same race. There's white on white crime too. The reality is we live in a gun-soaked violent society. And what this verdict does is it takes a very particular issue that African-Americans for a long time have had with law enforcement, the issue of racial profiling, and now because of the stand your ground laws, because of our gun-soaked society, because of the concealed weapon laws. We're essentially saying that average citizens like George Zimmerman, who have a fear in our racially anxious society, that a young teenager is a threat, can kill that teenager and can kill that teenager with impunity, the issue of gang violence does not change the reality --

RUSH: I must -- I must -- I must say this. I must say this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The issue is not crime in the black community.

CROWLEY: Here's the thing. We can't hear any of you when everyone is talking. Congressman, if you'll hold on for one second, I just want to get Charles Blow in here and I promise I will -- since we have talked about your district here. Go ahead, Charles.

BLOW: I just hate when we reduce problems and try to say this one thing...

CROWLEY: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK) BLOW: ... is the problem. Racial scars are deep and racial memories are long. And I think that once you understand that a lot of things go into creating problems and there will be a lot of factors that will go into solving problems and we are not reductive in the way that we think about solutions to problems, that we understand that how bias works within us and within the system, that we understand that there is explicit bias and there is -- there is also implicit bias that we're not even aware of. That that feeds into a system, whether or not that is a police officer and the way that they interact with people that they come into contact with or whether or not that is a health care provider and whether or not they provide the appropriate and equal kinds of treatment. All of that -


CROWLEY: Let me --


Let me -- hang on one second.


Congressman, can I just ask you a quick question here...

RUSH: Sure.

CROWLEY: ... because we don't have much time. Would you...

RUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... go to Newt Gingrich's old district in -- whatever its current permutation is and stay there for three or four days go there and walk those streets? And I will ask the speaker if he's willing to go to your Chicago district. RUSH: Candy, I would do it in a heartbeat, but let me just say because I want us to understand that I not only am a member of Congress, I pastor a church. I pastor a church in the Englewood community. As soon as I get off this seat right now, I'm going to jump in my car and head to my congregation to preach this morning, all right? The Englewood community is probably one of the most violent communities in the city. I'm there. I've been there for 10 years. What I am calling on not only Newt but the other Republicans is if they are really believe in their faith, if they are really going to church this morning and it really makes a difference to them, then I am -- if there's one lord, one faith and one baptism, then demonstrate that. Demonstrate that by not just...

CROWLEY: Congressman -

RUSH: ... pointing fingers -- not pointing fingers at the problem.

CROWLEY: But joining in with the solution.

RUSH: But understand there is a real serious issue of disinvestment in our communities. Disinvestment.


CROWLEY: I hope you will come back, Congressman. I am really running up against the clock. Thank you so much. You've got 15 seconds --

RUSH: Newt, count me in, Newt. Count me in. And you come to Chicago.

GINGRICH: We'll get both sides to talk to each other.

RUSH: Count me -- count me in.

CROWLEY: We have an agreement.

RUSH: Count me in. You and I.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Newt Gingrich, Crystal Wright, Sherrilyn Ifill, Charles Blow, and of course Bobby Rush. Thank you.

When we return, saying good-bye to a journalist who loved making presidents squirm.


CROWLEY: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Fareed Zakaria, GPS is next, but first I want to say a word about veteran newswoman Helen Thomas, who died yesterday.


CROWLEY: She would have turned 93 next month. Most of her obits contain the word "pioneer." she was that, spending much of her career hacking through the thicket of male-only press clubs and Washington institutions. The first female to cover a president. First chief White House correspondent for any wire service. First female member of this club or that. Helen Thomas was also my first friend in the White House press corps.

I was in my 20s when I was assigned to that beat, pretty excited and totally afraid the biggest names in journalism working there wouldn't think I belonged. Helen was one of the first to reach out. No one was nicer or more helpful, all the more amazing given that she worked for UPI and I worked for the competition, the A.P. We were not close friends, but after I left the White House, we would see each other at girls dinners or covering the same stories. She would invariably mention something I've written. Her support was unfailing.

Helen the journalist was dogged, fierce and, yes, many times asked loaded questions. She drove press secretaries and presidents crazy and what's wrong with that? She was opinionated, more publicly in her later years when she was a columnist. Her offhand harsh words for Israel ended her career. Helen the person was funny and she loved gossip, particularly when it involved dalliances in the press corps and she was not about being the first woman to do this or that, she was about making sure that she was not the last woman to do this or that.

Last year I won an award given by the American News Women's Club. I had not seen Helen for some time. She was frail and the sheer effort it must have taken for her to get there overwhelmed me. I hugged her and thanked her for coming. She had that "I'm up to something" smile of hers and told me I wouldn't have missed it. I'm so proud of you. Good for you.

Helen Thomas had a full life. She did not live perfectly, but she lived passionately and she made a difference. Thank you, Helen, for hacking your way through the thicket to make a path for the rest of us. Thank you for being my friend.