(CNN) – President Obama announced Friday that National Security Adviser James Jones is stepping down later this month. Jones will be replaced by Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
Washington (CNN) - National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones (Ret.) apologized Monday for a two-minute joke he told before a pro-Israel think tank last week.
"I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it," Jones said in a statement. "It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct."
The joke, which Jones told in front of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, involved a Taliban fighter who was lost in the desert in Afghanistan and stumbled upon a small store owned by a "Jewish merchant."
It was a double header Sunday for Vice President Joe Biden who showed up on two Sunday morning talk shows as the White House counterweight to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who made his own Sunday morning television appearance with a litany of criticisms against the Obama administration’s handling of national security matters.
There was a time when the White House ignored Mr. Cheney to defuse his impact. But the decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court and the decision to treat the Christmas Eve attempted bomber as a criminal suspect with Miranda rights have produced considerable blowback and “who’s tougher on terrorists” now shapes up as at least a secondary election year theme for Republicans.
The V.P. vs. former V.P. terrorist throw down went this way: Cheney says the “mindset” of the Obama crowd dangerous underestimates the nature of the terrorist threat. Biden, in “just Joe” fashion responded that Cheney is a nice guy and all, but he is misinformed, misleading and/or wrong.
The president’s National Security Adviser General James Jones tried to stay out of it – and who could blame him given the pummeling White House Homeland Security adviser John Brennan took after he accused Republicans of playing politics with national security. Still, Gen. Jones suggested that Cheney was misinformed and pointedly noted that the country has a sitting vice president who is well-informed and on the job.
On other subjects, Gen. Jones said the allied and Afghan military operation in Southern Afghanistan is going well and that he is increasingly confident Afghan President Hamid Karzai is capable of bringing political stability to his country.
Oh, and news flash: Cheney says he’s a “complete supporter” of what the administration is doing in Afghanistan and he, like Gen. Jones, thinks the time has come to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so that gays can serve openly in the military. Despite reports to the contrary, bipartisanship is not dead.
Herewith, the Sound of Sunday.
Washington (CNN) – One of President Obama’s top national security advisers suggested Sunday that former Vice President Dick Cheney, a persistent critic of the Obama administration on national security issues, might not be informed enough to criticize the White House.
Asked on CNN’s State of the Union about Cheney’s criticism of the way Obama has chosen to fight terrorism and treat terrorism suspects, national security adviser James Jones replied, “Well, you know, if it’s informed, then that’s one thing.”
Jones, a retired Marine general, continued, “It’s important that people understand that we have a sitting vice president [Joe Biden] who’s very much involved in the day-to-day operations of our national security. He’s a member of the national security council. He has access to all of the information.”
Asked by CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley whether he considered Cheney to be informed, Jones responded, “I don’t know what his information is. I just would ask people to consider the fact that these are very serious issues for our country and that when you take them on, you take them on in a respectful way. We consult and share with both sides equally of the political spectrum and we’ll continue to do that. In the national security council, we can’t do it any other way.”
Washington (CNN) – One of President Obama’s top national security advisers gave his support Sunday to the eventual repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy governing gay and lesbian service members.
Appearing on State of the Union, Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that he supported the positions laid out recently in congressional testimony by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Earlier this month, Gates informed Congress that the Pentagon is taking the first steps toward repealing the policy and Mullen said it was his personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly was the right thing to do.
“This is a policy that has to evolve with the social norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not. I think times have changed. I think I was very much taken by Adm. Mullen’s view that young men and women who wish to serve their country should not have to lie in order to do that,” Jones told Crowley. The Obama aide also noted that the president has signaled his desire to have the policy changed.
Jones also told Crowley that in his 40 years in the military, he’d seen similar changes in military policy where similar concerns about national security had been raised but proved to be unfounded.
“The best estimate is that [bin Laden] is somewhere in North Waziristan - sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border,” National Security Adviser James Jones said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “very, very rough mountainous area, generally ungoverned.
“And, we’re going to have to get after that to make sure that this very, very important symbol of what al Qaeda stands for is either once again on the run or captured or killed.”
“By, ‘we’re going to have to get after that,’ you mean a more determined, a more focused – some new effort to get him?,” queried CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
Washington (CNN) – President Obama’s national security adviser said Sunday that the administration’s announced date to begin the pull out of additional troops ordered by the president is a “glide slope” and a “ramp” to reducing forces, and not a “cliff” that would induce a precipitous decline in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“The president’s decision on 2011 has more do with a transition than anything else,” National Security Adviser James Jones said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Asked whether the White House was committed to removing troops even if the Afghan government and Afghan security forces weren’t fully capable by mid-2011, Jones explained that the date “is not a cliff, it’s a glide slope.”
“Certainly, the president has also said that we’re not leaving Afghanistan. We are here to see that Afghanistan succeeds. We can’t want this more than the Afghans do. If [Afghan] President Karzai leads his nation the way we think he can, [then] this is a very achievable objective.”
“2011 is not a cliff, it’s a ramp,” Jones reiterated when asked to respond to criticism that the president’s new strategy is flawed because it includes a withdrawal date, critical information for those who would do harm to U.S. interests in and around Afghanistan.
“Where’s the end of the ramp?” CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Jones.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A top military adviser to President Barack Obama said Sunday that politics does not play any role in the advice he gives to the president.
Last week, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, the former Republican presidential hopeful, said on the floor of the Senate that Jones was one of the president’s advisers who doesn’t “want to alienate the left base of the Democrat [sic] Party” as the White House considers whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Asked to react to McCain’s comments Sunday, National Security Adviser James Jones said he “took exception” to McCain’s remark.
“Sen. McCain knows me very well,” Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “I worked for Senator McCain when he was a captain. I’ve known him for many, many years. And he knows that I don’t play politics with national – I don’t play politics. And I certainly don’t play it with national security. And neither does anyone else I know. The lives of our young men and women are on the line. The strategy does not belong to any political party and I can assure you that the President of the United States is not playing to any political base. And I take exception to that remark.”
“This is a strategic moment,” National Security Adviser James Jones said on CNN’s State of the Union.
In March, the president announced a plan to send additional troops to the country in order to provide security for a national election and to begin to lay the groundwork for a larger footprint for the U.S. military operation in the country. The Afghan effort, many military observers believe, was under-resourced during the Bush administration because of the focus on the war in Iraq.
Jones pointed out that since March three developments have led the White House to reconsider its overall Afghanistan strategy: the national election occurred where there are questions about the legitimacy of the outcome; General Stanley McChrystal was named the new top U.S. commander in the country and McChrystal has concluded that the Taliban is stronger than previously thought; across the border from Afghanistan, the Pakistani government is doing much better than anticipated, changing the overall dynamic in the Afghanistan-Pakistan regional theater.
Jones also said Sunday that he did not believe Afghanistan was in danger of falling back into the Taliban’s hands.
“I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban,” Jones told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “And I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger – imminent danger - of falling.”
“The key in Afghanistan,” Jones also told King, “is to have a triad of things happen simultaneously.” In addition to security, the country needs economic development and “good governance and the rule of law,” Jones said.
On the issue of “good governance,” Jones said, “We have a lot more work to do and the Karzai government is going to have to pitch in and do much better than they have.”
Echoing an approach championed by Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jones also said Sunday that building up Afghanistan’s own police and army forces “will be an important part of whatever we decide to do.”