CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Ike Skelton Lindsey Graham Jack Reed
Date: Nov. 8, 2009
Location: Unknown

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BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Chairman Skeleton is here in the studio with us this
morning. Our two guests from the Senate, Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed, are in their home states of South Carolina and Rhode Island. Let me start with the senators first because I want to get your take, Senator Reed and Senator Graham, on the health care bill that the House passed last night. Do you think, at this point, Senator Reed, that there are the votes in the Senate to pass the bill that the House passed? Because it does include the so-called public option--this government health care insurance program that would be run by the government. Do you think it's-- that's going to pass the Senate?

SENATOR JACK REED (D-Rhodes Island, Senate Armed Services Committee): I believe we're going to pass health care reform. I believe we must do this because it's essential to not just the quality of life here, but our economic success in the future. Senator Reid-- Harry Reid has introduced a public option. There's strong support there. But we are far from the-- the end of the debate in the Senate. It will take time. It will be careful, thorough, and deliberate. I hope that a public option is part of the final bill.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But, candidly, right now, you don't have the votes in the Senate for that. Am I not correct in saying that?

SENATOR JACK REED: I think there's a discussion about, as Senator Snowe suggested, a trigger to the public option. Senator Reid has suggested a opt-out by the states. There is a debate, or an active debate, about how the public option might come about. But, overwhelming, sixty percent of the American public want a public option. And I think we should be listening to them as much as listening to ourselves.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let's get the take from Senator Graham. Senator Graham, your friend the independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, on this broadcast last Sunday, said no health care reformlegislation is better than health care reform with the public option.Where do you think this is going in the Senate?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina/Senate Armed Services Committee): Well, let's start with the House bill. The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Just look at how it passed. It passed 220 to 215. It passed by two votes. You had 40-- 39 Democrats vote against the bill. They come from red states, moderate Democrats from swin-- swing districts. They bailed out on this bill. It was a bill written by liberals for liberals. And people like Joe Lieberman are not going to get anywhere near the House bill. It cuts Medicare about Five hundred billion dollars. It's over trillion dollars in new spending. It does have the public option. So the House bill is a non-starter in the Senate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Lieberman also said on that, that if it came to filibustering to keep that bill from passing in the Senate he'd join in that. Would you also be planning to do that if it looks like the public option thing's going to pass?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: And let me tell you why Joe feels that way and I do. I think the public option will destroy our private health care. Nobody in this country in the insurance business can compete with a government-sponsored plan, where the government writes the benefits and politicians will never raise the premiums. It will be a death blow to private choice. And all of these bills depend on reducing Medicare four to five hundred billion dollars over ten years. Seniors are not going to like that. That's unnecessary. So I just think the construct out of the House and what exists in the Senate is not going to pass. And I hope and pray it doesn't because it would be a disaster for the economy and health care.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we're going to shift now to the situation in this awful thing that
happened down at Fort Hood. Congressman Skelton, you're chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I've got to ask you. Here we have a man who was trying to get out of the Army, who had ranted about the U.S. war on terrorism, whose contemporaries had reported him to their superiors as, what is going on here? And yet somehow he winds up being the doctor that's sent down to Fort Hood to counsel our soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan and coming back. Who dropped the ball here?

REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON (D-Missouri/Chairman, House Armed Services Committee): Well, it's very difficult to say. We had a briefing two days ago by the Army, and they went through all that theyknew at the time. And they did say to us that they are investigating it. As you know the Army has its investigators. The FBI is investigating. And, Bob, the truth will out. I-- and I--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But shouldn't someone have caught this, Congressman?

REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON: That's wait-- that could very well be true. But let's wait until the investigation is over. If that is the case, they'll be front and center. But right now, let's give them a few days to find out just where the ball was dropped, if that's the case.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you plan to investigate?

REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON: I'm going to wait and see what they do. If they are not thorough we will, of course, have additional hearings, briefings on this. 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. You see, it-- it was not just a-- a fellow soldier that did this. It was a fellow soldier whose job it was to help people. And I can imagine how traumatized the average military family must be.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I don't think there's any question about that.
Let me go to the senators now. Senator Lieberman-- I mean, this broadcast seems to be talking a lot about Senator Lieberman and what he thinks about things. But he said this morning on Fox there should have been a zero tolerance for the kinds of things that-- that were being said. And as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, he says he is going to open an investigation. Do you think that's the right way to go, Senator Reed?

SENATOR JACK REED: Well, I think we do have to look closely at what the Army has done, what the whole armed services has done. But Chairman Skeleton has put it in the right context--we have to wait for their careful deliberations. There's a criminal investigation going on. But we have to look at the-- the broader issues, not just this incident, but are we taking adequate care of these soldiers? Are we providing the adequate support systems to their families? Are we also-- have appropriate command responsibilities for all of our soldiers, including our medical personnel? And these are issues that go beyond this incident, and responsible for the Congress to look at them.

REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON: It brings to the top of the table the issue of the post-traumatic system (sic) disorder. And we in our committee, we in Congress, have addressed this now for three years. In the bill we just passed it increases the mental health providers. It also requires additional research into this. It-- but that is being dragged to the front and center because of this incident.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me go now to Senator Graham. Senator graham, I think all of that is true. But after all, this doctor had not gone to Afghanistan. I mean, he hadn't gone to Iraq. He was fighting to not go there. The question I have is what happened here that this man who had a very for-- poor performance record at Walter Reed was somehow shuttled off down to Fort Hood, and he winds up being the one talking to these soldiers? It's not clear to me how this could have happened. And, clearly, it should not have happened. Senator?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, Bob, I'll be-- yes, sir. I'll be honest with you. I think, as Ike said, we're doing a lot. I'm on the personnel subcommittee to address post-traumatic syndrome, the Wounded Warrior Program. We've thrown a lot of money. We've put more medical personnel on the front lines of evaluating people. But, about this case, you know, it's easy to second-guess. And I want to, you know, I'm not going to go down that road yet. I mean, does every soldier who shows discontent with the war and every sold-- soldier that has a bad performance report-- what are we going to do with those folks? So, at the end of the day, 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. What did his co-workers say about his behavior? How strong were the warning signals? At the end of the day maybe this is just about him. It's certainly not about his religion, Islam. It's not about the Army; it's not about the war. At the end of the day I think it's going to be about him. And if we missed some signals, some clear signals, we-- 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--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Well--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --because it happened within their ranks.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Graham, let me just, kind of, cut to the chase here. Do you think that the fact--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (overlapping): Yes, Sir.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --that this man was a Muslim, obviously he was either part of some terrorist plot, and I think most suggestions are that he wasn't; it's looking more and more like he was just sort of a religious nut. And-- and, you know--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (overlapping): Yes.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --Islam doesn't have a majority, or-- or the Christian religion has its--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (overlapping): I'll corner on that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --its full, you know, full helping of-- of nuts too. But do you think the fact that he was a Muslim may have caused the military to kind of step back and be reluctant to challenge him on some of this stuff for fear that they'd be accused of discrimination or something like that?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I hope not. I hope-- I hope that's not the case. But to those members of the United States military who are Muslims, thank you for protecting our nation, thank you for standing up against people who are trying to hijack your religion. I-- I hope that's not the case, Bob. But we need-- his actions do not reflect on-- on the Islamic Muslim faith any more than a--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Well, I'm not suggesting that they do.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I know.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I'm just suggesting that--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: But some people are. Some people are, and I want to say, as a United States Senator, that I reject that. This man's actions reflect on him. 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-- of basically giving him a pass because he's a Muslim. Because I don't think there's any evidence of that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator Reed, what's your thought on that?

SENATOR JACK REED: Well, there are approximately three thousand Americans, men and women of the Muslim faith who are serving in the Army. They've been wounded. Some, I have been told, have been killed in action. Their record is one of service and dedication to the nation and selfless service. So I agree entirely with Senator Graham. This is not about theology. This is about doing your duty as a soldier. And also, I think we have to be careful not to leap beyond the current investigation. And I think, again, what we will find is that someone who has deep psychiatric problems. They're not unique to the Army. We've had terrible shootings in college campuses and office buildings. And those things are the result of ultimately of one person's psychological, psychiatric difficulties. The irony here is he was a psychiatrist. The irony here is he joined the Army as ROTC, at Virginia Tech, came through the Army. He was not sort of just here as a transient.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Let me just interrupt you, because I want to get one final comment. The irony also is that why did he wind up there in that particular job? Do you think this is a sign that the military is simply overextended, Sen-- Congressman Skelton?

REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON: The Army is strained. I've been saying that for some time. That's
why we increased the size of the Army this year. But let-- let me say this, Bob. We should not rush to judgment. I'm an old prosecuting attorney and I know that it takes time to investigate. We have excellent Army investigators. We have the FBI, and they're as good as they come in investigating this whole issue. The truth will out. We will soon find out answers to the very questions that you're asking. And the chips will fall where they may. Right now, I think our-- out sole concern should be those families--the military families, the Army families, and those that suffered injuries and death.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, gentlemen, I want to thank all of you for being here to talk about this this morning. We'll be back in one minute to talk about the election that now seems like it was about a year ago. It was just on Tuesday.

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