Restraint urged in Fort Hood speculation
By John Amick
Today on the Sunday talk shows:
CNN: STATE OF THE UNION - Casey calls for more attention to stresses on military
General George William Casey Jr., chief of staff of the United States Army, said Sunday the Army is conducting a thorough investigation into the mass shooting at Fort Hood Army base in Texas that left 13 dead and 38 wounded, but he stressed that no assumptions should be made surrounding the motives or religious beliefs of alleged shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
"We have to be careful," Casey said. "Because we can't jump to conclusions now based on little snippets of information that come out. And frankly, I am worried -- not worried, but I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that. It would be a shame -- as great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well."
Regardless of how many additional troops President Obama sends to Afghanistan -- the plan he is expected to announce in the coming weeks is reported to include tens of thousands of more American troops -- Casey said the rate of combat deployments must continue to improve.
Read more after the jump.
"We're off of 15-month deployments," Casey said. "We're beginning to come off of stop-loss, and we're beginning to gradually increase the time the soldiers spend at home between deployments.... We need to continue to make progress toward that goal of one year out, two years back for the active force; one year out, four years back for the Guard and reserve."
Casey also stressed the increased need for access to mental health professionals for troops.
"I can tell you that we have put a huge effort into the mental fitness of this force over the last several years," he said. "You know, since 2007, we have mounted a major stigma reduction campaign that has greatly reduced the stigma to coming forward, to get help for mental problems. We have a way to go."
President Obama will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood on Tuesday for those that were killed. Casey said he hopes the president will send an encouraging message to soldiers to serve proudly, as exemplified by the base's quick reaction during Thursday's tragedy.
"That as horrific as this incident was and what it showed about the bad side of human nature, the reaction of our soldiers is something to be extremely proud of," Casey said he expects Obama to say. "And the full -- and I think he'll also let them know, let the people know that the full support of the United States is behind them."
McDonnell: I don't want Va. in public option plan
Virginia's new Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell said he would do what he could to keep Virginia out of any public option plan created by health-care reform legislation.
Either way, my preference would be not to have Virginia participate, from what I know this plan contains," McDonnell said Sunday regarding whether he would choose to opt-in or opt-out of a public plan. "However they structure it, if it gives flexibility to states, I think that's a good thing. We've outlined a number of things I think we can do at our state level ... that will help our people have more access at a lower cost, but I'm very concerned about turning this significant section of the American economy over to the federal government."
As far as his place in the national political debate, McDonnell said he won his own race because voters saw what he stood for, and that was different from priorities coming from a Democratic majority in Washington.
"Bills like card check, cap-and-trade, some of the unfunded mandates on business and the stimulus bill, some of the other micromanagement of the free enterprise system, significant tax increases, those are the things that I don't think are good for our citizens or good for our business," he said. "And I believe in our federal system that the governors, Republican and Democrat around the country, closer to the people can make some of these decisions better."
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Lieberman prepares committee for Fort Hood probe
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will seek to move forward on an investigation surrounding the mass shooting Thursday at Fort Hood Army base in Texas, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), the committee's chairman, said today.
The chairman said the scope of the probe would address the motives of the alleged shooter Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan and whether signs of "Islamic extremism" were apparent, but missed or ignored.
"It's premature to reach conclusions about what motivated Hasan," Lieberman said on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. "But it's clear that he was, one, under personal stress and, two, if the reports that we're receiving of various statements he made, acts he took, are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism."
Lieberman said if the shootings were fueled by such viewpoints it was the worst act of terrorism in America since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act and, in fact, it was the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11."
The committee's investigation would work in collusion with any federal investigation by the Army or FBI, Lieberman said.
Congressmen continue health-care debate after vote
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) continued sparring Sunday morning about health-care reform, after Saturday night's 220-215 vote in favor of the Democrats' health-care plan.
Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, defended the bill, saying the expansion of coverage and inclusion of a public option is an unprecedented step in reforming America's health-care system while reducing the national deficit over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Pence insisted the Democrats didn't get the message from Americans after months of public worry over the prospective Democratic reform proposals and an election day last Tuesday in which two states (New Jersey and Virginia) that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 voted for Republicans in their own gubernatorial races.
"I think the American people are deeply frustrated with a liberal establishment in Washington, D.C. that is ignoring their will," Pence said.
Van Hollen said Obama's election in 2008, when he ran in part on health-care reform, was the mandate from Americans to pursue such legislation to address rising costs and the uninsured that Republicans ignored while in power.
ABC: THIS WEEK - Casey urges restraint on Fort Hood speculation
Gen. George Casey attempted Sunday to tamp down media-fueled rumors that alleged Fort Hood-shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had a history of inflammatory or controversial statements about America's wars in the Middle East and, if so, Hasan should have been scrutinized more carefully.
"I think we need to be very careful here about speculating based on anecdotes like that," Casey said, echoing previous statments made on CNN. "We are encouraging all of our soldiers and leaders that may have information pertaining to the suspect to come forward with that information to the criminal investigation division and to the FBI. So, I realize there is a lot out there. We all want to know what happened and what motivated the suspect, but I think we need to be very, very careful here in these early days to let the investigation take its course. These are professionals and they will sort through this."
Though Casey said he did not want to discuss details of the shooting because of pending investigations, he did discuss how the Army concluded that the shooter acted alone.
"My understanding from being down there and talking to the investigators and General Cone (Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, Fort Hood's commanding officer) was there were two or three soldiers that were seen running from the area, and people assumed that they were running from the police," Casey said. "And they just checked them out and have since decided that they weren't part of this."
Party chairs argue health-care reform
Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele sparred on "This Week," rehashing debate from last night's House vote on health-care legislation and Tuesday's election results.
Kaine heralded the Democrats' action on health reform as unprecedented and warranted considering Barack Obama's election in 2008 and the two Congressional races Democrats won Tuesday.
"(An) overwhelming majority of Americans want to see this," said Kaine, the current governor of Virginia who was not up for re-election. "And what the Republicans are doing -- (they were the) party of no on the stimulus. They were letting the economy go into a free-fall, not willing to do a single thing about it, losing 800,000 jobs a month, GDP down by 6.5 percent at the end of the Bush administration. They stood back, they were going to let it collapse."
Steele bemoaned the plan as a government takeover and said the two Republican gubernatorial-race victories in swing states Tuesday are proof that Americans, especially independent voters, are worried about Obama's plans for the nation.
"There is a reason why you lost, and it has nothing to do with the president's popularity," Steele said. "Independents came to Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell (New Jersey and Virgina governors-elect) because they had something to say. They talked about the issues that they were confronting every single day. They (voters) were concerned about how you leverage what is happening here in Washington with what is going on in my state. You're talking about health care, there is a downward pressure on my economy, in my neighborhood, in my household. So people made this convergence, this connection between the so-called national issues and the kitchen table issues."
CBS: FACE THE NATION - Members urge caution regarding Fort Hood
Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) urged Sunday careful consideration and respect of the investigations surrounding the shooting at Fort Hood army base in Texas before jumping to conclusions on the motives of the shooter and vigilance of the military in identifying troubled soldiers.
When pressed if his own committee would hold an investigation into the shooting, Skelton said he would wait for the current investigations to guide his decisions.
"If they are not thorough -- we will, of course, have additional hearings, briefings on this," he said. "It's a tragedy of the first order. It's a tragedy not just for the soldiers and their families that were there. It's a tragedy for all of the families that wear the uniform."
All the guests agreed that focusing on adequate mental health care and support for soldiers is an issue that can be addressed immediately. Finding out the details of the event, and understanding the how and why will likely have to wait.
"We have to look at the broader issues, not just this incident but are we taking adequate care of these soldiers?" Reed said. "Are we providing the adequate support systems for the families? Are we also -- have appropriate command responsibilities for all of our soldiers, including our medical personnel?"
Graham pleaded for rational understanding of the shooting rather than hysterical knee-jerk reactions to the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and his religion or statements being attached to him.
"At the end of the day, maybe this is just about him," Graham said. "It's certainly not about his religion, Islam. It's not about the Army; it's not about the war.... And if we missed some signals, some clear signals, we've got to fix that. And I trust the Army to want to fix it, because it means more to them than any politician because it happened within their ranks."
Probing every disgruntled soldier is impossible and unwarranted, Graham posited.
"Does every soldier who shows discontent with the war and every soldier that has a bad performance report -- what are we going to do with those folks?" Graham said. "Let's see what the evidence trail suggests here and not overreact. Because we live in a free and open society. You can be in the military and disagree with policy."
When "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer said "some of have suggested" that Hasan was not investigated by the Army prior to the shooting because he was a Muslim, the panelists rejected the construct.
"This man's actions reflect on him," Graham said. "And if we missed some signals about him that we should have known, great. But let's don't take this to a level that we should not. Let's don't accuse people of basically giving him a pass because he's a Muslim. Because I don't think there's any evidence of that."
NBC: MEET THE PRESS - Casey laments rumors, says more troops are needed
Gen. Casey added to his previous comments (with CNN and ABC) on the Fort Hood shootings on NBC's "Meet the Press."
On a possible backlash against Muslim soldiers in the Army:
"I think those concerns are real and I, and I will tell you ... that they're, they're fueled partially, at least, by the speculation about--based on anecdotal evidence that people are presenting. I think we have to be very careful with that. Our diversity not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse."
On whether Muslims are in a difficult position in fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:
"I think that's something that they have to look at on an individual basis. But I think we as an Army have to be broad enough to bring in people from all walks of life."
On General Stanley A. McChyrstal's assessment that more troops are needed in Afghanistan:
"I believe that we need to put additional forces into Afghanistan to give General McChrystal the ability to both dampen the successes of the Taliban while we train the Afghan security forces."
Casey would not say, however, how many he believed should be added. McChyrstal has called for 40,000 additional troops. President Obama is currently weighing that assessment, as well as other options.
Posted at 2:49 PM ET on Nov 8, 2009
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