MSNBC's Schultz Derides GOP 'Fearmongering' on Iran As Panetta Hints at Military Strike

On Monday's The Ed Show, MSNBC host Ed Schultz accused Republican presidential candidates of "fearmongering" on the issue of the danger posed by a nuclear Iran, but, ironically, on the same day the CBS Evening News led its show with an interview with Obama administration Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who hinted at the possibility of a nuclear strike on Iran within the next year because the radical Islamic state is believed capable of assembling a nuclear bomb within that time.

As he interviewed Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshare Fund about the latest on North Korea, Schultz switched over to talking about Iran:

 

During several recent GOP debates, there was a lot of - I guess you could say fearmongering is what I call it - about Iran getting nuclear weapons.

After Cirincione suggested that the Bush administration was to blame for North Korea and Iran advancing their nuclear programs, Schultz took a crack at GOP candidate Rick Santorum. Schultz: "I mean, Rick Santorum made me feel like we were going to get hit in 10 minutes."

The same day's CBS Evening News relayed Defense Secretary Panetta warning that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year:

SCOTT PELLEY: The Secretary of Defense says tonight that the United States will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon. In an interview with CBS News, Leon Panetta says that, despite efforts to disrupt their nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less. ...

Panetta told us that Iran needs only one year to build a nuclear weapon.

So are you saying that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012?

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It would be, you know, sometime around the year that they would be able to do it, perhaps a little less. The one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.

PELLEY: So that they could develop a weapon even more quickly than we believe?

PANETTA: And faster, that's correct.

The Defense Secretary soon hinted at the possibility of a military strike by the United States:

PANETTA: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them.

PELLEY: Including military steps.

PANETTA: There are no options that are off the table.

Below are transcripts of the relevant portions of MSNBC's The Ed Show and the CBS Evening News from Monday, December 19:

#From the December 19 The Ed Show on MSNBC:

ED SCHULTZ: During several recent GOP debates, there was a lot of - I guess you could say fearmongering is what I call it - about Iran getting nuclear weapons. Here it is:

 

MICHELE BACHMANN: Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally, Israel, off the face of the map, and they've stated they will use it against the United States of America.

RICK SANTORUM: -and we should be planning a strike against their facilities and say if you do not open up those facilities and not close them down, we will close them down for you.

NEWT GINGRICH: If, in the end, despite all of those things, the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.

MITT ROMNEY: If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.

SCHULTZ: Have at it, Joe. What do you think?

[JOE CIRINCIONE OF THE PLOUGHSHARE FUND]

SCHULTZ: I mean, Rick Santorum made me feel like we were going to get hit in 10 minutes.

 

#From the December 19 CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: Good evening. The Secretary of Defense says tonight that the United States will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon. In an interview with CBS News, Leon Panetta says that, despite efforts to disrupt their nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less. Secretary Panetta spoke with us at the end of an overseas trip, during which he reviewed strategy in Afghanistan and officially ended the war in Iraq.

On the way home, he boarded the jet nicknamed "The Doomsday Plane." This is the command post where he and the President would direct a nuclear war. In an interview for 60 Minutes, we sat down in the compartment where he would execute the Commander-in-Chief's orders. Panetta told us that Iran needs only one year to build a nuclear weapon.

So are you saying that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012?

 

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It would be, you know, sometime around the year that they would be able to do it, perhaps a little less. The one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.

PELLEY: So that they could develop a weapon even more quickly than we believe?

PANETTA: And faster, that's correct.

PELLEY: If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built, what sort of complications does that raise for you?

PANETTA: We share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us, and it's a red line obviously for the Israelis. If we have to do it, we will do it.

PELLEY: You just said if we have to do it, we'll do it.

PANETTA: That's right.

PELLEY: What is "it"?

PANETTA: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them.

PELLEY: Including military steps.

PANETTA: There are no options that are off the table.

PELLEY: A nuclear weapon for Iran is?

PANETTA: Unacceptable.

PELLEY: Panetta told us that, while the Iranians need a year or less to assemble the weapon, he has no indication yet that they have made the decision to go ahead.