Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By John King, USA - June 28, 2011

YELLIN: We are joined now by Senator John McCain of Arizona who was one of the sponsors of the resolution expressing report for the action in Libya.

Senator, thank you for being with us. We just heard your colleague Dick Lugar say, the president placed experience above constitutional responsibility in the case of Libya. Is that fair?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think to a certain degree it's fair, but it is what it is. It's clear that we are engaged in hostilities. I wish the president had come much earlier to Congress, not only or approval, but in consultation. But the fact is we cannot afford to have Moammar Gadhafi survive and we have to make sure that we continue this effort. I would like to have seen, obviously, more U.S. air essence, but I believe Gadhafi is crumbling.

If he stays in power, it's the end of NATO, it's a new terrorist threat that we face as well as crimes against his own people.

So the Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution that Senator Kerry and I put forward. We hope to debate it and pass it on the floor of the Senate as soon as possible.

YELLIN: You clearly are expecting that this will advance and pass the Senate. But clearly, the larger Republican Party, the presidential candidates in your party are taking a much more isolationist view.

Their tone on the presidential campaign trail is somewhat different from the tone you're striking. Take a listen to some of what we are hearing out there. I'll ask you to react to it.


JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you create a no fly zone and you're into that extent, that's an expense, that's a risk. If we are going to go that far, is it in our national security interest?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What possible vital American interest could we have to empower al Qaeda of North Africa and Libya? The president was absolutely wrong in his decision.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't start a war in Libya. I'd quit bombing Yemen and I'd quit bombing Pakistan.


YELLIN: That was Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. Today, Tim Pawlenty and other Republican contenders said, quote, "parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to outbid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments." Do you agree?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do. I think that there's been a tension with the Republican Party. One of my responses among many about our involvement in Libya is that, you know, after Rwanda we said never again.

Gadhafi's forces were at the gates of Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people and he promised that he would go house to house and kill anybody he thought opposed him. That's why, one of the reasons why we intervened.

Not to mention the blood of 90 some Americans as a result of bombing of 103. The fact that he has been involved in acts of terror and if he survived, he certainly would again so that and other reasons clearly indicate it is in the United States' national security interest.

Look, I think we could have gone in earlier. We could have gone in harder. We could have made sure that he was out of power earlier.

YELLIN: What do you attribute it to? Do you think it's pandering to political base?

MCCAIN: I think that there is an isolationist wing of our party. I understand the war-weariness of the American people are incredibly war-weary. I understand the economic issues are very important, you know, the expenditure of tax dollars.

By the way, the Transitional National Council of Libya have said they will reimburse us for our expenses incurred in assisting them. I understand that there is a segment of American, a big segment that says, look, stay out of everything.

I understand that. But as Secretary Gates said, if you want to retreat to fortress America then you're going to have to pay a very heavy price because they'll follow us home.

YELLIN: We've been talking about Libya, but I'm sure you've heard the late news today out of Afghanistan. In Kabul, there is an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel. Do you think the administration is doing the right thing by scaling back U.S. troops there in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: I think it increases the risk dramatically. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that everything will work out all right. But I think it's important to recognize that there is no recommendation by any military commander to take this action just as there was no recommendation in 2009 to declare that there would be troops beginning to leave in 2011.

YELLIN: Turning to domestic politics. Today, Sarah Palin is taking a trip to Iowa and it generated a lot of buzz about her potential presidential ambitions.

Her daughter Bristol Palin said that her mom has definitely made a decision. She just haven't told us so I wonder what do you think it's going to be? Has she sought your advice?

MCCAIN: She has not sought my advice on this issue. I think if she runs, she will be a formidable candidate. As you know, I'm staying out of the primaries. I think it's only appropriate for me to do so. I think she would add a great deal to the competition.

YELLIN: Do you think she'll run?

MCCAIN: I don't know. I honestly don't know.

YELLIN: In your view, do you think she is just playing around with the media and the political world?

MCCAIN: Never. Would any politician ever do such a thing? Any politician you and I know ever do such a thing?

YELLIN: Yes, you're right. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer talking about another candidate in the field, Michele Bachmann, predicted that Michele Bachmann will be Palinized in this campaign, suggesting the media will tear her apart. Do you share that concern? Do you think that is a fair assessment of what media does to women in these races?

MCCAIN: I don't know and I probably shouldn't say, but I'm still saddened by the attacks that have been made on Sarah Palin and her family.

It's been like nothing I've ever seen. So I can understand why Michele Bachmann would think that could also happen to her. It is what it is. We are all big men and women and we should be prepared to take what comes.

YELLIN: Senator McCain, thank you so much for your time.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.


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John King, USA

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