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Week In Politics: People On Alert After Another Attack On The Capitol

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Investigators are looking for a reason a man rammed his car into two officers standing in front of a security barricade at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. That driver and one of the officers have died. Officer William Evans is the second U.S. Capitol Police officer to die in the line of duty this year. NPR senior editor, Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Of course, the first line-of-duty death this year was Officer Brian Sicknick. He was bludgeoned in the January 6 attack by Trump supporters on the Congress and the vice president. This latest incident, I think, is rubbing wounds that haven't healed and is fearsome on its own.

ELVING: Yes, another martyr among the Capitol Police force and another season of flags at half staff in the Capitol. The name here, William Evans, you mentioned - an 18-year veteran of the force, killed yesterday by a driver who also injured a second officer at a barricade just outside the Capitol building itself. We won't get over January 6 for some time to come, Scott. Any time the Capitol complex goes on lockdown, such as yesterday, it's like the entire capital city, all of Washington, D.C., goes into a kind of cardiac arrest for a period of time. And this attacker, identified as a 25-year-old man from Indiana, was fatally shot by police. He does not appear to have been part of a larger terrorist action or linked in any way to the January 6 insurrection, a solo actor in this case, so far as we know.

SIMON: Ron, we can't get through the week without asking about what's going on with Matt Gaetz.

ELVING: Probably way too much to deal with in a minute, Scott. There are a lot of allegations. And Gaetz insists he's the target of a massive and fraudulent extortion scheme. But just to review the core of the allegations, the 38-year-old congressman and prominent Trump supporter is reported to have been under investigation for relationships with teenage girls. And with these relationships, there may have been money involved. There may have been illegal drugs, according to a couple of unnamed sources. And while Gaetz is not entirely without his supporters, he does appear to be increasingly isolated in Congress. And his future in politics or as a TV personality is very much in doubt.

SIMON: A surge of jobs this week - some good economic news, but there's some caution in some minds, too, isn't there?

ELVING: Nine hundred thousand new jobs, nearly a million. That's a mighty healthy-looking gift horse. And it's a welcome sight, to be sure. But, of course, there are going to be people who look a gift horse in the mouth because there could be a Trojan horse effect down the road. If the economy expands too fast, that can mean inflation. And depending on how much inflation, that could be bad news for people on fixed incomes and for businesses trying to plan their futures.

SIMON: I wish I could think of another horse analogy, but I'll save it for next week.

ELVING: (Laughter).

SIMON: It's a holiday weekend for so much of the world - holidays of rebirth, renewal, delivery from bondage. But I feel moved to ask a question this week about what I'll call bystanderism. We've seen video of attacks on Asian American woman in front of a building in New York and then of an Asian man on a subway. One of the saddest things is to see people just standing by.

ELVING: Sadly, Scott, it's not a recent development. Some of us still remember the murder of Kitty Genovese back in the 1960s as she was stabbed late at night in an alley behind her apartment building in New York. And at the time, it was reported that there had been dozens of people who heard her screams for help without doing anything. That turned out to be very overstated. But it became a kind of symbol for people not caring about their neighbors, and it was part of the path to the 911 emergency call system we have today.

Are we better people than half a century ago? Are we worse? One thing is surely different. We all have a lot more electronic devices that we carry around with us. And those can be used to videotape what's going on. And that was certainly significant in the George Floyd case, as we've seen in that trial this week, when many people taped what they saw going on. And many people also called the police on the police. And the dispatcher testified as to how she sent other police officers there to the situation because she was hearing from bystanders.

SIMON: Yeah. I suppose none of us really know what would happen if we were in that position. But it's just difficult to see people standing by while someone else is in danger. NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thank you.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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