Guests on Sunday’s political talk shows discussed a broad range of topics this week, including the tragic shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to release portions of a classified report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics, and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down aggregate campaign limits.
Lawmakers and top military brass made the news show rounds to discuss the ongoing investigation into the Fort Hood shooting as well the complex hardships America’s service members face. Fort Hood shooter Spc. Ivan Lopez’s history of depression and mental illness took a center stage in much of the debate.
Retired Adm. Michael Mullen told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, rather than having a discussion about more armed personnel at the Nation’s military installations, officials should be looking for ways to better understand the underlying mental illness behind tragedies such as the Fort Hood shooting.
“I’m not one — as someone who has been on many, many bases and posts — that would argue for arming anybody who is on base. I think that actually invites much more difficult challenges,” the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Mullen said later, “Right now, in our thirteenth year of war, it’s a time of great stress for our military… just what I’ve seen in this particular example indicates the mix of characteristics and issues that are associated with that stress—to include anxiety and depression, possible post-traumatic stress, mild [traumatic brain injury], dealing with financial and personal problems.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) also suggested that the uptick of violence at military bases is directly related to inadequate focus on the mental health of U.S. veterans.
“We do a good job of healing broken bodies, but not such a great job at healing broken minds with our returning veterans,” he said.
Representative John Carter (R-Texas), a lawmaker from the district where Fort Hood is located, expressed a similar sentiment on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The issue of mental health among service members is critical. And we got two issues that come up in everything—why and what can we do,” he said. “And what can we do is we have to have to provide more resources both at the DOD level and at the VA level, and that transition needs to be smooth.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” McCaul said that, while he didn’t believe anything could prevent tragedies like that at Fort Hood 100 percent of the time, it’s time for the military to rethink gun policies on bases.
“They defend us overseas and abroad and defend our freedom abroad. So, the idea that they’re defenseless when they come home on our bases, I think Congress should be looking at that and having a discussion with the bases about what will be the best policy,” he said.
Discussing a likely soon-to-be-released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s renewed use of interrogation and detention tactics under the Bush Administration, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) derided former Vice President Dick Cheney on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think he’s proud of it,” Pelosi said.
The Senate report, which the Intelligence Committee voted 11-to-3 to declassify portions of last week, reportedly calls into question the value of intelligence the CIA gathered using controversial techniques like waterboarding.
“I do believe … that Vice President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA,” Pelosi said. “I think it came from Dick Cheney. That’s what I believe.”
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), during a separate segment on the show, accused Pelosi of politicizing the issue to benefit Democrats facing a tough election year.
“What worries me about that more than any other statement is that politicizes this in a way that’s horribly counterproductive and likely to lead people to the wrong conclusions,” Rogers said.
The Congressman went on to ponder, “Why now in an election year would you bring this up and then to say this is about Dick Cheney?”
Meanwhile, former CIA director Michael Hayden, who presided over the agency during much of the time the controversial tactics were employed, zeroed in on Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on “Fox News Sunday.”
Feinstein, who ordered the Senate report, recently said that its declassification would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”
“That sentence, that motivation for the report, may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report,” Hayden charged.
Feinstein shot back in a separate interview, saying, “I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission
Discussing last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision to strike down limits on aggregate campaign contributions, NBC’s David Gregory was critical of the ruling, asking, “How does this not at some point lead to corruption?”
“Here’s a new reality, right, American democracy for sale,” Gregory said.
Shaun McCutcheon, the victorious plaintiff in the case, said he views the decision as the Court supporting Americans’ right to “support as many candidates, committees and PACs you choose.”
“There’s lots of money in politics. Again, individual people exercising freedom of speech is a good thing, bringing competition to the process,” McCutcheon said.
The Alabama businessman added that donors “shouldn’t be limited to nine candidates or ten candidates.”
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman disagreed, saying that Americans with the wherewithal and inclination to give multimillion dollar checks to party leaders … are going to have a lot of influence.”
“But it’s going to be at the expense of the rest of us,” he added.