Interview with Senator John McCain

By This Week, This Week - February 19, 2012

MCCAIN: Jake, I think this is a very difficult situation. I am going to Egypt as a preplanned trip. I am not a negotiator, but I think it's important that I and the other senators in the delegation explain to the Egyptian leadership -- and, by the way, this is a Mubarak law that they are enforcing. This is not the Muslim Brotherhood we're talking about -- that this is a serious situation, has serious implications for our relationship. But for me to go to the Egyptians now and make threat I think could be nonproductive.

TAPPER: Before you go, Senator, I have to ask you, one of your most memorable campaign ads from 2008 involved you and a sheriff walking along the border, talking about completing the dang fence, and that sheriff over the weekend had to step down from this position in the Romney campaign after being accused of threatening to deport his ex-boyfriend, who was an illegal immigrant. As uncomfortable as this story might make you, I'm wondering if you have any reaction to this. He was in your most memorable campaign ad and was an important supporter of yours.

MCCAIN: Well, of course, Sheriff Babeu is a friend of mine. I do not know the details, except what has been published in the media. And I'm sure there will be a thorough and complete investigation, if there is any allegations of wrongdoing. All I can say is that he also deserves the benefit, as every citizen does, of innocence until proven guilty. But I appreciate the support that he gave me in my campaign and always will.

TAPPER: All right. Senator McCain, thanks so much for joining us. And be safe on your trip.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.



TAPPER: And we turn now to the president's former press secretary, who just last month officially joined the Obama re-election campaign as a top adviser, Robert Gibbs. Welcome back to "This Week."

GIBBS: Thank you, Jake. How are you?

TAPPER: I'm pretty good, thanks. So I want to get your reaction to this comment from Rick Santorum in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend. They're beating up each other, but they're also beating up President Obama quite a bit, and this is what Santorum had to say about the president's, quote, "different theology."


SANTORUM: This is what the president's agenda is. It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology...



TAPPER: Pressed by reporters as to what exactly he meant, Santorum said the president is, quote, "imposing his secular values on the church, and I think that's wrong." Your reaction?

GIBBS: Well, look, Jake, I think it is time in our politics in which we get rid of this mindset that if we disagree, we have to disqualify each other, that if we -- not just on political positions, but we question character and faith. It's wrong...

TAPPER: You think he was questioning his faith?

GIBBS: I can't help but think that those remarks are well over the line. It's wrong. It's destructive. It makes it virtually impossible to solve the problems that we all face together as Americans. People are not sitting at home this morning, Jake, thinking we more of this in our politics or our public discourse. It's time to get rid of this. It's time to have a debate on our political positions, but not question each other's character and faith.

TAPPER: Rick Santorum denies that he was dog-whistling about the president's faith, suggesting that the president is anything other than a Christian. You don't necessarily believe that.

GIBBS: Jake, I think that if you make comments like that, you make comments that are well over the line. I think this GOP primary is -- in many cases, Jake, has been a race to the bottom. We have seen nastiness, divisiveness, ugliness, distortions of opponents' records, of the president's records.

You just heard John McCain say it. It's affecting their standing, their own candidates' standing with the American people. We see it in their turnout numbers. Fewer and fewer Republicans are coming out to even participate in the process of nominating somebody to run against President Obama.

But I think, more importantly, Jake, it's just time to get rid of this mindset in our politics that, if we disagree, we have to question character and faith. Those days have long passed in our politics. Our problems and our challenges are far too great. The challenges that we face in the middle class through economic fairness and security is what we should be focusing on. It's what the president is focusing on each and every day.

TAPPER: Let's talk about one of those issues having to do with the economy. Oil is now over $100 a barrel. It's on the front page of the New York Times this morning. "High gas prices give GOP issue to attack Obama." And here's an AP story from this weekend. Quote, "Gasoline prices have never been higher this time of the year. At $3.53 a gallon, prices are already up 25 cents since January 1st, and experts say they could reach a record $4.25 a gallon by late April."

And here is Santorum, again, blaming the president for this.


SANTORUM: We have a president who, in my opinion, sees that energy consumption in America is a problem, not a good, that we need to have less energy consumption, and one way to do that is to make energy prices higher. His policies have done everything they can to slow down energy production.


TAPPER: That's the Republican attack. That's what we're going to hear probably for the next few months, if not all the way until November. Your reaction?

GIBBS: Well, look, it's clear that Rick Santorum and none of the Republican candidates saw the president talking in the State of the Union about an all-of-the-above energy policy. Just on Friday, the Department of Interior issued permits that will expand our exploration in the Arctic. The president has increased our fuel efficiency and energy efficiency standards so we do, do -- do use less energy, which will help drive down the price.

Our domestic oil production is at an eight-year high, and our use of foreign oil is at a 16-year low. So we're making process. There are no magic bullets to solve this problem. We're going to have to do all of these things. We're going to have to look for more energy here at home. We're going to have to conserve energy. We're going to have to make the energy we use more efficient. All of those things will help us get ahead of this problem.

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