CBS’s King: Does Massacre Define U.S.? ‘Who Are We, Really?’

CBS Mornings on Tuesday used the evil, racist massacre of African Americans in Buffalo, New York over the weekend to generalize to the whole country. Co-host Gayle King wondered, “Who are we really, as America?”  Co-host Nate Burleson agreed, “This is who we are.” 

Later in the show, guest Ian Bremmer lamented the United States as completely mired in hate: “We elected Obama. Didn’t make a difference. The fact is the United States today is the most politically divided and dysfunctional of the advanced industrial democracies.” 

The author allowed that the United States is still a magnet to many: “The dollar is really strong. Many people still want to visit our country. These are some of the best technologies we have. It works. All of this is evident.” But, he concluded, “Washington is so divided that we can’t get the obvious done.” 

Is there anything obvious? Bremmer didn’t say. Talking about the despicable shooting in Buffalo, New York, King hinted that the massacre should define the country in our current moment: “And when they keep saying, ‘This is not who we are as America,’ a lot of people are saying, ‘Who are we, really, as America?’” 

Co-host Burleson offered a broader perspective, highlighting the greatness of America, in contrast to King’s broad generalization: “Both can exist. It is possible to be both a great nation and also manage some of the tragedies. This is who we are.” 



Here are some partial transcripts. Click “expand” to read more. 

CBS Morning

JAMES CORN: We are so sorry for your loss. 

GAYLE KING: That’s so true, James Corden. “Our heart and souls ache for you.” And when they keep saying, “This is not who we are as America,” a lot of people are saying, “Who are we, really, as America? 


NATE BURLESON (Norwegian): It is possible to do both. It is possible to be great and also manage some of the tragedies. This is what we do. 

8:30 AM ET

TONY DOKOUPIL – We will now turn to global affairs, and the possible occurrences of major crises over the coming ten years. In the book, The power and crisis: How three threats and our response will change the world are these issues outlined. Simon and Schuster is publishing it, a division of CBS. Paramount Global is the author. Ian Bremer is our author. Ian joins us now. He founded and is President of G-0 Media and Eurasia Group. Ian joins us now. We are grateful to Ian for joining us. 

IAN BREMMER – Good morning. 

TONY DOKOUPIL We’re currently dealing with white supremacy in Buffalo, which you claim is a greater threat to this country than radical Islam. Our government is also in agreement. 

GAYLE KING: This is not the opinion of the public. It’s still a different view. 

DOKOUPIL – Some people don’t think so. Is it really so difficult for people to come together on such a question first? You can also stop it. 

BREMMER – It’s not a pressing problem for most Americans. It’s because most people it hits are severely disenfranchised. This reminds of crack cocaine, which was a major crisis back in the ’80s/’90s. It was an issue that was well-known, but the problem was not in the inner cities. Was it really about the power players or about the performance of the responses? It’s performative. This global crisis is akin to what climate felt like 20 or 30 year ago, before everyone was affected. Remember? Remember? We are now responding. It is true. You can see the power of making a positive difference when the crisis is large enough. Even though the U.S. is still in turmoil and the U.S./China relationship doesn’t seem so great, there are times when you do actually feel that momentum. You can see it happening right now. 

KING: But I like how you say on page 22, early in the book, “No sources of outrage more deeply embedded in American life than structural racism and determined efforts of some to pretend it does not exist. William Faulkner said it best: Institutional racism doesn’t die. It isn’t even past.”

BREMMER: It isn’t past. 

KING It’s something I have heard from all politicians. It has been said by every elected official and FBI directors. They both, Christopher Wray and Comey. The Americans, however, don’t seem to understand the gravity of this issue. 

BREMMER: I was there when you started yesterday to respond to Buffalo. “I’m tired of being angry.” 

KING: Yeah. 

BREMMER: How can you feel this after so many decades of living? Jim Crow wasn’t around the corner. We elected Obama. Didn’t make a difference. Today, the United States of America is one of the most fractured and dysfunctional advanced industrial democracies. Dollar is very strong. It is still attractive for people to visit our country. These are some of the best technologies we have. It works. All of this is obvious. Yet, Washington remains so fractured that it is difficult to see the obvious. Funny thing about my book is that it ends up very hopeful. But even if that is impossible to fix, it’s not about waiting for the inevitable in an environment of crisis. These crises are what force us to take action. To be blunt, I’m not surprised by the Russian headlines that we’ve seen over the last few months. It makes me wish Putin would have read a previous draft. He thought we couldn’t respond. It turns out that we are able to. 

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