Below are some of the notable comments made Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Sunday Sound: Heard on ‘This Week’
Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of Defense
Panetta on Being Secretary of Defense
PANETTA: Well, you don’t get a hell of a lot of sleep, let’s put it that way. There are a lot of challenges. You know, as director of the CIA, got an awful lot of intelligence about all the horrible things that could go on across the world. In this job, I get the same intelligence but I’m responsible for a lot of the operations dealing with those threats. But I have probably the greatest strength of our country is the men and women in uniform that serve this country, put their lives on the line. And that’s something that I get to see up close and I’m very proud of them and proud of what they do.
Panetta on Afghanistan
PANETTA: Listen, we still have a fight on our hands. The American people need to know that. The world needs to know that we still have a fight on our hands. We’re still dealing with the Taliban. Although they’ve been weakened, they are resilient. We have the concern about the safe haven in Pakistan, the fact that they can seek refuge in that safe haven, that’s a concern. But we’re on the right track. General Allen has laid out a plan that moves us in the direction of an Afghanistan that can truly govern and secure itself. And that is going to be our greatest safeguard to the potential of the Taliban ever coming back.
The “Disturbing” Sentencing of The Doctor that Helped Find Bin Laden
PANETTA: It’s – it is so difficult to understand and it’s so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist in our times. This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against Al Qaeda. And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that, because what they have done here, I think, you know, does not help in the effort to try to reestablish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
TAPPER: Secretary Panetta, can we call Pakistan an ally when they do something like this, when they sentence a doctor who helps the United States find bin Laden, who has killed more Muslims than I can count? How can we call them an ally when they sentence this guy to prison?
PANETTA: Well, Jake, this has been one of the most complicated relationships that we’ve had, working with Pakistan. You know, we have to continue to work at it. It is important. This is a country that has – that has nuclear weapons. This is a country that still is critical in that region of the world. It’s an up-and-down relationship. There have been periods where we’ve had good cooperation and they have worked with us. And there have been periods where we’ve had conflict. But they’re dealing with the terrorist threat just like we are.
Readied Plans To Carry Out a Military Strike on Iran
PANETTA: We begin with the fundamental premise here. The fundamental premise is that neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon. International community’s been unified. We’ve put very tough sanctions on them as a result of that, and we are – you know, we are prepared for any contingency in that part of the world. But our hope is that these matters can be resolved diplomatically.
TAPPER: The American Ambassador to Israel said a few days ago that the U.S. is quote “ready from a military perspective to carry out a strike on Iran.” That’s true?
PANETTA: One of the things that we do at the Defense Department, Jake, is plan. And we have – we have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves.
Leon Panetta Dismisses Romney’s Afghanistan Criticism
PANETTA: Without getting into the campaign rhetoric of what he’s asserting, I think you’ve got 50 nations in NATO that agree to a plan in Afghanistan. It’s the Lisbon agreement, an agreement that, you know, others, President Bush, President Obama, everyone has agreed is the direction that we go in in Afghanistan. What is that direction? It’s to take us to a point where we draw down by the end of 2014.
That is the plan that has been agreed to. And it’s a plan that is working.
And very frankly, the only way to get this accomplished in terms of the transition that we have to go through is to be able to set the kind of timelines that have been set here in order to ensure that we fulfill the mission of an Afghanistan that governs and secures itself. That’s what this is about.
Sharing too Much with Hollywood?
TAPPER: There’s been a lot in the press in the last few days about the fact that the Obama administration cooperated with the filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Michael Boal, who are making this Bin Laden film. Can you assert that nothing inappropriate was shared with these filmmakers?
PANETTA: Yeah – nothing inappropriate was shared with them, Jake. You know, we get inquires everyday from the entertainment industry. We get inquiries from people writing articles, from people writing books, people doing television shows. And the process that we’ve established is that you know, we will work with those individuals. We’ll try to make sure that we give them accurate information so that the historic record is protected. But you know, we do not share anything that is inappropriate with anybody.
Preparing to Prevent “Cyber Attacks”
TAPPER: The Pentagon has acknowledged recently China is the biggest source of cyber attacks against this country, including stealing our military secrets. Newt Gingrich spoke about this threat on the campaign trail often. He said cyber attacks, cyber spying, are quote, “acts of war.” Do you agree? Are they acts of war, and how would the United States respond?
PANETTA: Well, there’s no question that if a cyber attack, you know, crippled our power grid in this country, took down our financial systems, took down our government systems, that that would constitute an act of war. But what we’re involved with here is the effort to make sure that never happens. And in order to do that, we’ve got to engage. You know, I think it’s important for us to engage China in this effort. That’s one of the issues I raised when the minister of defense came here from China. How can we better engage on this issue, to share information and to ensure that those kinds of attacks never happen, because this is an area where the technology is developing quickly and where clearly it is becoming an adjunct in terms of any country that moves against another country militarily.
This is something we’ve got to pay attention to. And it’s not only with China. We’ve got to engage Russia. We’ve got to engage other countries in an effort to try to develop some kind of standards here that will assure us that just as we did in the nuclear area, we can take steps to prevent a mistake that could be very damaging to our security.
On Memorial Day Weekend: Panetta Reflects on the Vietnam War
PANETTA: We can never lose sight of men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line, fight and die for America. When the people to agree or disagree with the cause, when there are men and women willing to do that for this country, that is something, that’s a strength that I hope we always appreciate and are grateful for in the future.
Obama and Romney Develop a Narrative
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: In terms of talking to Republicans privately, they say they do feel like Romney hasn’t quite made the transition from coming across as a very wealthy, successful businessman to being an actual job creator. So that’s I think one of the transitions that he still needs to make, really telling his narrative in story form. He doesn’t quite do that, doesn’t quite talk about his Bain — you know, what you are saying, these are the four companies that I helped succeed, invested in. So I think that’s what we’re going to see in these coming weeks.
BROWNSTEIN: I think we are at a point in this election where we’re right now standing with a double negative. We don’t have a majority that is convinced they want to re-elect President Obama for a second term and we do not have a majority that is convinced that they want to turn power in Washington to Republicans.
And the core argument I think that this Bain attack is designed is to effect is to basically link Romney’s private experience with his public agenda and to argue that in both cases essentially he’s trying to enrich the few at the expense of the many. And as governor said, one of the big vulnerabilities that Romney has, is that in many ways his agenda looking forward is — faces significant doubt — the idea of converting Medicare into a premium support program, another 20 percent marginal tax cut. Obama wants this to be a choice as much as possible. But the referendum inexorably is a big of it with an incumbent and on that front he is not looking at a majority today.
GRANHOLM: And the Millennial generation, we were talking about earlier, the Millennial generation is going to, I think, create the bubble for victory for Obama. There are 4 million Millennials that have aged into the system every single year since 2008. That means 16 million new Millennials are available to vote. They support the Obama administration 2 to 1 over Romney. If only half of them vote that’s a significant bubble. Those Millennials, I think, will make a huge difference.
BROWNSTEIN: Romney has just seemed to be spooked throughout the whole process at the thought that the right will mobilize against him.
The risk here is that, as I said, I mean, I think the key swing vote in this election are those upper middle class white voters, many of whom are somewhat disappointed in Obama economically and ideologically, but who are clearly not convinced they’re ready to turn the country back to the Republicans.
Is It “Dangerous” For Romney To Engage Donald Trump in the Campaign?
WILL: I do not understand the cost-benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefit, what voter is going to vote for him because he’s seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low, and you can still intrude into American politics. But again I don’t understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?
CLAMAN: Well, it’s a dangerous game that Mitt Romney is playing here, because Donald Trump doesn’t have a lot to lose by keeping this birther conversation alive. And that’s the point. I mean, it’s to raise money. I mean, he is, as you said before, and I’m quoting you here, Donald Trump is sort of their version of George Clooney. Not as handsome.
CLAMAN: President Obama and Mitt Romney, better get off the whole birther issue, the cars on dog roofs, the Bain Capital, these are side shows. Americans care about the main act and that is jobs, the economy. And at this point, we’re not seeing enough jobs. The economy incrementally getting better, and where are the ideas? We better start presenting them.