Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended his potential successor Chuck Hagel on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning. Speaking with Chuck Todd, Panetta expressed how "disappointed" he was with the seemingly never-ending confirmation hearing Hagel suffered through on Thursday. "It’s pretty obvious that the political knives were out for Chuck Hagel," Panetta said. "And that's what you think it was? You think this was totally political and totally partisan?" Chuck Todd asked. Panetta said his issue was with how they focused on remarks Hagel made in the past, and not the issues facing the Defense Secretary today. "What about the war in Afghanistan? What about the war on terrorism? What about the budget sequestering, what, what impact it's gonna have on readiness? What about Middle East turmoil? What about cyber-attacks?" Panetta asked. "All of the issues that confront a secretary of defense, frankly, those were — we just did not see enough time spent on discussing those issues."
Panetta also spoke briefly on the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty and torture's role in finding Osama bin Laden. "First of all, it's a movie," Panetta said, echoing previous government statements stressing it's a fictionalized account of what happened. "Let's remember that. I lived the real story." So, what's the real story? "And the real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to Bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence," he added. "There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used. But the fact is we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that." But Panette ultimately thinks the U.S. would have found bin Laden without advanced interrogation techniques, anyway. "I think we could have gotten Bin Laden without that," Panetta said.
In a separate interview on CNN's State of the Union, Panetta said "better intelligence would have given us a head start" in figuring out what happened in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. "This is not 911," Panetta said. "You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time. That’s the nature of it. Our people are there, they’re in position to move, but we’ve got to have good intelligence that gives us a heads up that something’s going to happen."
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and Fox New Sunday host Chris Wallace butted heads Sunday morning over LaPierre's assertion that every child in America deserves the same protection as the President's daughters. The NRA first made the argument in a now-infamous ad. LaPierre tried to defend the ad, but Wallace wasn't having any of it. "[The President's daughters] face a threat that most children do not face," Wallace said. "Tell that to the people in Newtown," LaPierre responded. "You really think that the president's children are the same kind of target as every other school child in America?" Wallace said. "That's ridiculous and you know it, sir." Wallace then posited that the ad made it a class argument, that it was wrong for "elites" to be privileged with armed security guards. "Yes," LaPierre said. "I'll tell you someone else who has security. You do," Wallace responded. "Sometimes..." LaPierre said, before beginning to stutter. Wallace pointed out that LaPierre had armed security at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and even today at the Fox studio. "I don't deny anybody the right to security when they need it," LaPierre said. "What I am saying is, it's ridiculous Chris for all the elites and all the powerful and privileged, the titans of industry to send their kids to schools where there is armed security, to have access to semi-automatic technology." Here's the video:
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told State of the Union host Candy Crowley that there will probably still be some U.S. troops left in Afganistan after 2014, but that the number would be "modest." "No one has ever suggested zero to me," Dempsey said. “I think that the ultimate number will be based on the mission and how deeply we want to be involved with their continued development. And also what they want." But Dempsey was quick to elaborate on what a vague term like "modest" might mean for the troops still deployed there. "My instinct that their development is moving at a pace, and their acceptance of responsibility, is moving at a pace that our numbers after 2014 can be modest," he said. "I can’t give you a number, because first off all, I’m not going to announce a number on CNN on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know the number... We really don’t have a number selected yet."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez a vote of confidence Sunday as he faces questions about whether he procured the service of some prostitutes while visiting the Dominican Republic. Reid has the "utmost confidence" that Menendez didn't do it, he said on ABC's This Week. "I have confidence he did nothing wrong. But that's what investigations are all about,” Reid said. "He has been and will be a great member of [the Senate Foreign Relations committee]." Switching gears, Reid also flat out said any new budget deal would have to also include new revenue. "The American people are on our side," Reid said. "The American people don't believe in these austere things. We believe that the rich should contribute. We believe we should fill those tax loopholes, get rid of them, I should say. And that's where we need to go." Surprisingly, Reid endorsed some of Mitt Romney's idea from the election, like eliminating "low hanging fruit" like some oil and gas subsidies, outsourcing initiatives and other possible loopholes.
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Being Super Bowl Sunday and all, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the league's position on concussion safety on CBS' Face the Nation. "We're all learning more about brain injuries," Goodell said. "We’re obviously learning more and more and investing more and more and that’s going to lead to answers even outside brain injuries, to brain disease." The league has constantly battled criticism over the safety of the game and how dangerous and pervasive head injuries are, most recently and prominently from the President and Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Bernard Pollard. Despite all of that, Goodell "couldn't be more optimistic" about the future of American football.
Former loyal Obama adviser Robert Gibbs was unimpressed with Chuck Hagel's performance during his Thursday confirmation hearing. On Meet the Press, Gibbs said Hagel "seemed unimpressive and unprepared" on questions he should have expected to face. "The disconcerting thing, obviously, for anybody that watched it was he seemed unimpressive and unprepared on the questions that, quite frankly, he knew was coming," Gibbs said. Gibbs also defended Hagel, to an extent, against what he said were unnecessary questions. Gibbs pointed to John McCain's line of questioning of the Iraq troop surge as an example. "The next defense secretary is not going to deal with Iraq and the surge," Gibbs said. "This was a vanity thing for John McCain to try to prove to a former friend who disagreed with him that he was right on the surge and that Chuck Hagel was wrong."
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