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Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By The Situation Room - January 9, 2012

BLITZER: He was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Now Senator John McCain is backing in the Republican effort to unseat President Obama.

Senator McCain is joining us now live from Capitol Hill.

Senator, always good to have you.

Let's talk politics for a little while, because these pro-Newt Gingrich super PACs, if you saw a report from South Carolina, they are going after Mitt Romney with a vengeance right now. I'm going to play a little clip for you, because it's getting really, really ugly, Republican on Republican.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain Capital the day the company the day the company was formed.

His mission?

To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.

Mitt Romney and them guys, they don't care who I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: he's for small businesses?

No, he isn't. He -- he's not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that hurt so bad, to leave my home, because of one man that's got 15 homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow!

All right, that's pretty tough. But if you turn on a TV station in South Carolina, you're seeing that all the time right now.

Senator, what do you think about that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think it's -- part of it is symptomatic of primaries, which are always tough and sometimes even more personal in the attacks than the general election are. But it's also, Wolf -- and you and I have discussed this on the past, a result of the worst decision, I think, at least in the last 50 years or so, of the United States Supreme Court, called Citizens United, called Citizens United, where they basically unleashed, without transparency, without accountability, huge amounts of money that are from the so- called independent campaigns, which you and I know are not independent.

And it has unleashed this flood of money. News reports are a wealthy casino owner in Las Vegas has written five million dollar checks or so. I don't blame them for doing that, because it's now the -- the -- the system under which we operate, which leads to this kind of campaigning and will lead to corruption and scandals, I guarantee it. When you have that much money washing around campaigns, there will be scandals.

And, by the way, I noted this morning that no candidate has applied for matching funds.

Why should they when we have all of this unaccounted for money washing around political campaigns. BLITZER: And, you know, when I was in Iowa, you know, a couple of weeks ago, you couldn't turn on a TV without seeing the pro-Romney super PACs destroying Newt Gingrich.

MCCAIN: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: And his numbers went down to -- these attack ads, based on your experience, what's going on, they work, don't they?

That -- that's why they do it, all the negative advertising?

MCCAIN: We all decry it, Wolf, but as long as it moves numbers, money will be invested in that kind of campaigning. And I'm sorry to say it, but that happens to be a reality.

Also, it has to have some basis in truth in order to, I think, have a significant effect. We'll see whether these ads have an effect on Romney in South Carolina. I kind of don't think so.

BLITZER: How worried are you, though, that this -- this internecine warfare between Republicans -- Newt Gingrich going after Mitt Romney, vice versa, that this is simply going to hurt the Republican candidate, the nominee, whoever it is, helping get President Obama reelected?

MCCAIN: I think it's a real danger and, obviously, I'd like to see it over with a Romney win in South Carolina, followed by one in Florida. But it is what it is, Wolf. And I think there will be plenty of time for our nominee to recover. But it certainly has a damaging effect.

BLITZER: Listen to Newt Gingrich go after Mitt Romney yesterday on the "Meet The Press" debate, because it got very personal.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And, Mitt, I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you because you're the frontrunner, but...

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: But...

(BOOS)

GINGRICH: -- but can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney. The fact is, you ran in '94 and lost. That's why you weren't serving in the Senate with Rick Santorum. The fact is, you had a very bad reelection rating. You dropped out of office. You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, if you had a chance to speak to Newt Gingrich, what would you say to him right now?

MCCAIN: I would say you're not helping yourself much, because I still think you have to give people a reason to vote for you. And I don't think that some of the language is normal to be used -- that he's using -- is normal to be used in even the most heated of campaigns.

But he's a very intelligent man, a very smart man. And he certainly I wouldn't second guess his campaign. If he thinks that's the best way to campaign, then I wish him luck.

BLITZER: Because the other day, he said Mitt Romney was a -- a liar. You heard that.

In all the years that you were out there campaigning when you were running for the Republican presidential nomination, even running, challenging Barack Obama for the presidency, did you ever call him a liar?

MCCAIN: No. No. And I've said several times that that's not something that I think is -- is language that most voters would respond to in a positive fashion. And, you know, I don't intend to analyze Newt Gingrich or anybody else, but I think there was a sense that he had, in his own words, that it was inevitable that he was going to win the nomination. And apparently now it looks like he's not. And I think that it's -- it has stung him rather badly.

But, look, I -- I lost my general election campaign, so I'm a little bit reluctant to tell people how they should campaign, except that I still believe that Mitt Romney has the experience, the background, the cali -- the qualifications, the family to lead us to victory over President Obama.

BLITZER: And what do you say to those folks, that they're using this in these campaign commercials, that, you know, a lot of people lost their jobs after Bain Capital. He was the CEO, Mitt Romney -- they took over those companies. They downsized, they outsourced and people got unemployed. This is going to be an -- a big issue, it certainly already is in the Republican contest, but I'm sure if -- if Mitt Romney gets the nomination, it will be a big issue against President Obama, as well.

How do you re--- how do you rebut that?

MCCAIN: Well, I -- I compare that with a half a billion dollars that we put into Solyndra as opposed to the $5 million they put into Staples that now hires, I've forgotten, 10,000 people or more, whatever it is. Unfortunately, in the free enterprise systems, there are winners and losers when there's competition within the free enterprise system.

When you total up what Bain Capital did, the successes far outweight -- weigh the failures. And if you're not willing to allow, as tragic as it is, for some enterprises to fail, then obviously, that is the essence of socialism. So I think when you look overall at the job opportunities that Bain provided for thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans, that they can be pretty proud of their record when you look at it overall.

Any lost job is a tragedy. Any lost opportunity is a tragedy. But when you are in in the business of the free enterprise systems, there are winners and losers. Bain Capital has a clear record of great winnings and job creation.

BLITZER: One final question and we're out of time, Senator.

What does it say to you that Bill Daley is leaving his job as White House chief of staff?

Jack Lew, the budget director, is stepping up to become the new White House chief of staff.

This sudden switch, what does that say to you?

MCCAIN: Well, obviously, I don't know the inner workings of the White House. I had a lot of dealings with Bill Daley when he was secretary of Commerce. I had some dealings with him on this latest free trade agreements.

I happen to be a great admirer of Bill Daley and I miss him and I thank him for his public service.

BLITZER: Nicely said.

Thanks very much, Senator, as usual.

Senator John McCain joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf. 

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