Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By The Situation Room - January 30, 2012

BLITZER: Senator John McCain has been actively campaigning for Mitt Romney. That's making him a target of Romney's main rival, Newt Gingrich. Of course, Senator McCain has been down this road before as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Senator McCain is joining us now in the SITUATION ROOM.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in. It probably won't surprise you to hear that Newt Gingrich is now going directly after you as well. Listen to this.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every time we nominate a moderate, we lose. You know? So, 1996, we nominated a moderate, Bill Clinton wins the election by a big margin. 2008, we nominate a moderate, Barack Obama wins.


BLITZER: Talking about Bob Dole in 1996. You four years ago. What do you say about that?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I can only say that, again, his campaign seems to be getting a little desperate. I'm not the opponent, I Think, Mitt Romney is. But, seriously, I do resend a bit comments like that about Bob Dole, a man who left part of his body in the killing fields of Italy in World War II, and by anyone's account who served with him one of the best Republican leaders in the Senate we've ever had.

But, look, my differences with Speaker Gingrich go back to the pork barrel earmark days when they got the majority, Speaker Gingrich put out a memo, get earmarks for freshmen so they can get re-elected, K Street Project, incestuous relationship with the lobbyist, and the earmarks exploded. I fought against them. I said there were corruption. Members of Congress ended up in federal prison, and it's still one of the more disgraceful chapters of our history at that period.

BLITZER: He's really, I talk about Newt Gingrich, stepping up the rhetoric against Mitt Romney, today and yesterday, not just calling him a Massachusetts moderate. He's now a Massachusetts liberal. Listen to this. I'll play this clip.


GINGRICH: The conservatives are going to come together and decide they do not want a Massachusetts liberal to be the Republican nominee. We have a tremendous evident effort under way to reach out to conservatives to get them to see that the only effective vote to stop a Massachusetts liberal from becoming our nominee is to vote for Newt Gingrich.


BLITZER: And today, he went one step further. Listen.


GINGRICH: I don't believe the Republican Party is going to nominate a liberal who is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, pro-gay rights.


BLITZER: He knows you support Romney, but this is getting pretty personal and pretty heated.

MCCAIN: Tomorrow, he'll be a communist.


MCCAIN: It's too bad. It's too bad, because that kind of rhetoric harms our eventual chances in challenging President Obama. It's driving up the disapproval ratings, and that's why, I think, the debate should come to an end. In all due respect to your line of work, I think the debates should come to an end and let's get down to the regular campaigning.

Obviously, Mitt Romney is going to win tomorrow, and hopefully, that will put him on the road to getting this thing over with so we can -- the real fight can begin.

BLITZER: Well, you think if he wins tomorrow decisively in Florida, it's over?

MCCAIN: No, but I think he's certainly well on the way. You know, I don't think -- I think some of these candidates may hang around for a long, long time, but you know how big and important Florida is. BLITZER: Florida, Florida, Florida, as my old friend, my fellow Buffalonian, Tim Russert, used to say. It's obviously very, very important in a presidential election year. Let me get to some foreign policy issues, because I don't know about you. I suspect you're as outrage as so many Americans are, first of all, about what's going on in Egypt right now.

They're forcing, in effect, American citizens who are trying to promote democracy in Egypt to go hide out in the U.S. embassy in Cairo because the Egyptian military is cracking down on these folks, including the son of Ray Lahood, the former congressman, now the transportation secretary. You're in charge of this Republican institute designed to promote democracy in other countries. What do you say about this?

MCCAIN: I say what I said in a letter to the leaders, Egyptian leaders and Mr. Tantawi that this can affect our whole relationship, particularly, our military aid. It's terribly disappointing. These organizations have been in many, many countries many times. They don't sway anybody's public opinion. They help them with the fundamentals of democracy.

It was a Reagan idea, by the way. And I'm proud of the work that NDI and the International Republican Institute have done under the national endowment for democracy. We've done great work and why they're doing this, I don't know. And by the way, Sam Lahood was doing a great job over there.

BLITZER: Because the United States, as you know, provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid a year. The U.S. is providing Pakistan with billions of dollars in assistance as well, but other Pakistanis say they're going to go ahead and actually try this physician who is helping the CIA locate Bin Laden in Pakistan, trying for treason. He could get the death sentence as a result of that. What do you say about that?

MCCAIN: I say that there is enormous political turmoil in Pakistan, and we have to base our relations on them with the full and certain knowledge that the ISI is assisting the Haqqani network who are killing young Americans. And, we have to approach our relationship from a much more practical side.

And by the way, we should be calling for the overthrow of Assad. America should be saying, it's time to end his brutality as well.

BLITZER: When you say United States should be calling for Bashar al-Assad to go, hasn't the Obama administration done that?

MCCAIN: Not as vociferously as I would like for them to, and we should be broadcasting and announcing -- I'd love to see the president give a major speech about, not just the Arab spring, but especially this situation. You know, these people in these countries that are struggling for freedom, they look to America. I'd love to see the president much more vocally involved.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks for coming in.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf. 

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