Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, warned the federal government shutdown is risking America's military readiness.
“Is part of the problem in [Washington, D.C.] that you have two sides who aren’t really interested in negotiating but digging in and saying, look, this is truly 100 percent the other side’s fault?” asked moderator David Gregory.
“Ultimately, I think both sides are really pretty much at the same place," Panetta replied. "You know, once you get past some of the rhetoric and some of the extremes, the fact is everybody knows we’ve got to extend the debt limit in order to avoid that catastrophe.”
A clip of Panetta commenting on the government shutdown of 1995-1996 was then played, eerily echoing the same sentiments held by many critics of the government shutdown today,
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“If there's anything we've learned over the last few months is that the policy of threats and basically holding the country hostage, whether it's on a continuing resolution or a debt ceiling or raising these kinds of blackmail approaches to try to get their agenda adopted has not worked. It's been a disaster,” Panetta said in a Jan. 21, 1996 interview on “Meet the Press.”
“David, I’m really surprised that the lessons that were learned 17 years ago, that you don’t shut the government down, that you don’t hurt the American people, that that lesson obviously was not learned and it’s been repeated,” Panetta said. “You don’t win in this town politically by hurting the American people.”
“Why would you allow a small minority who can’t get their way to basically take out their vengeance on their fellow citizens? That’s what happened,” he added in an apparent reference to the right wing of House Republicans.
Gregory asked Panetta if President Barack Obama, his former boss and fellow Democrat, bore some responsibility for pushing this confrontation too far.
Panetta responded, “The American people are angry, they’re frustrated, they’re mad. They think that this town has gone nuts in the way they’re dealing with this. I think both sides will bear some responsibility for that. But I think the president has also indicated he’s willing to negotiate on the key issues. The Republicans want to negotiate on the key issues.”
Regarding military readiness, Panetta had this to say:
“I think our readiness has been badly damaged. We’ve got 12 combat squadrons that have been grounded. Half of the Air Force is not combat-ready,” said Panetta. He continued, “We’ve got 800,000 federal employees that have been furloughed under sequester and are now taking a hit on the shutdown. All of this is impacting on our readiness and our ability to handle a major crisis outside of Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, the United States inches closer and closer to default as Washington D.C. remains at a standstill. Watch the full interview in the videos above.