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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript


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SCHULTZ: Very emotional day today at Fort Hood, Texas.

Officials at Fort Hood right now are going through the records of other soldiers. Lieutenant General Bob Cone, the base commander, says they are looking for a history of personal or psychological problems not related to their religion.

And joining me now to talk about what role the Congress can play in preventing another tragedy like this, New York Congressman Eric Massa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and veteran.

Congressman, good to have you with us tonight. I know it was an emotional day down in Fort Hood. But you know as a former military personnel and someone who served the country, the military will move on.

They are trained to face adversity, and sometimes incidents like this and tragedies like this bring a bond together for our military personnel. And moving forward, the tough questions have to be asked.

Congressman, were--in your opinion, why were there so many signs that were passed over? How can a man get reprimanded and then promoted? The American people are struggling with that tonight.

REP. ERIC MASSA (D), NEW YORK: Well, as am I. And first, thank you and good evening on a very sad day.

You had a good point. The Army, the United States military will move on. It‘s what we always do.

In Congress, we must be especially careful to do what will help and not will hinder this movement forward. We received a briefing on the House Armed Services Committee that I found most helpful just before we left Washington, D.C., late last week. And there, we heard what the details were that were known then. And more will be known.

I asked a very specific question. I asked the United States Army to consider classifying these as combat deaths, combat fatalities.

In the military, there are two different classifications between non-combat and combat fatalities, and I‘d like them to consider that particular classification. But the Army and the Department of Defense--now, Ed, this is bigger than just the Army--has a duty now to look very carefully at its internal procedures and at the issue in general of individuals who are conflicted.

Remember, we are a volunteer military, 100 percent. And we have a duty now and a great introspection to do everything humanly possible to make sure this does not happen again.

SCHULTZ: So the vetting process has to change. Do you feel comfortable that the military is capable of doing that, or should there be some outside oversight such as the Congress?

MASSA: No, I think the military is entirely capable of doing this. I salute the new secretary of Army, Secretary McHugh, a former colleague of ours, a Republican, a man for whom I have a great deal of friendship and respect. I think that he was very wise to immediately take his team to Fort Hood to establish a command presence.

This is an issue that the Department of Defense can best deal with. I would be very resistant to see the United States Congress, with its sometimes rather indiscriminate and heavy hand, make it harder. We must be very careful to assist the Army and not make it worse.

SCHULTZ: Congressman, there are two things that I think go hand in hand here. It seems to me that military officials are afraid to call this a terrorist attack, yet there are many Americans who call it like they see it--premeditated, went after fellow military personnel, motivated by an ideology that undoubtedly what was certainly well publicized and warning signs were missed. In the midst of all of that, there‘s discussion in this country about political correctness in the military.

Are you concerned about that? Are we being too soft on terror? What do you think?

MASSA: Here‘s what I‘d like to say, because I do not want to incorrectly steer the Department of Defense. They need to have some measure of focus without, as I mentioned, an overburdensome congressional oversight.


MASSA: We need to get answers, but we‘ve got to give them some time to get into this. I do believe that this was a combat action and that these lives were lost in the defense of their country, whether it‘s here or abroad.

SCHULTZ: Would you call it a terrorist attack? Congressman, would you label it a terrorist attack?

MASSA: So, on the surface it certainly appears that way, but when a guy like me jumps in and says that, without having all the facts, big mistakes can be made. And so I want to be a very calming leader in this terribly emotional time and let the Department of the Army do what it must do and then report those facts before I make any kind of statements.

You know, I spent my life in the U.S. military. I have great confidence in their ability, even when mistakes are made. And I think that that experience of being in the military is what gives me the ability to sit in Congress today and have confidence that the Army will answer these questions before I start making what could potentially be explosive statements.

SCHULTZ: Sure. Thank you, Congressman Massa. I appreciate your time tonight, your insight on all of this.

MASSA: Thank you.


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