Interviews with John McCain and Michele Bachmann

Interviews with John McCain and Michele Bachmann

By John King, USA - February 8, 2012

KING: As we reported a few moments ago, CNN has learned the Pentagon is compiling contingency plans for humanitarian assistance and possible, possible military options.

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations tells CNN in her words the aim is to resolve this through peaceful means.

Is there more the White House could and should do?

Arizona Senator John McCain is the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Senator, should the Obama White House, should the administration be doing more on a unilateral basis?

MCCAIN: I think we can do a lot more on a multinational basis, John.

And, by the way, I think the time for -- quote -- "peaceful means" has long ago been exhausted, in all due respect to our ambassador to the U.N.

But the fact is that we could do things like providing them with intelligence information, with satellite information, with information on the movements of the Syrian armed forces, Bashar al-Assad's armed forces. We could provide medical help. We could provide, as the -- well, the Turks have said that they welcome any refugee into Turkey and they will make them safe. We should consider no-movement zones.

We can consider a wide range of options, including provision of weapons to the Syrian national army, but -- the rebellion -- the rebellious ones, the ones that are trying to overthrow Assad.

KING: Do you see any scenario that should be on the table that would put U.S. boots on the ground inside Syria, whether they be covert operatives or outright military action?

MCCAIN: I do not at this time, John.

I think that there's sufficient number of other nations' personnel that probably would blend in better and also might do the work that needs to be done. But I think there's a lot of technical help that none of them have except us that we could be of great assistance. But, no, I don't see American boots on the ground.

But I do see looking for ways to provide them with any assistance possible. The estimates are 6,000 Syrians have been killed.

KING: Senator, I want to shift your attention to presidential politics. MCCAIN: Sure.

KING: You were the Republican nominee in the last cycle. You won Florida. That essentially wrapped up the nomination. You got bumped up a few times after that, but you were on the path to the nomination.

Governor Romney suffered a trifecta last night, losing Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. What is the conservative base saying to a man many thought, after Florida and Nevada, was the inevitable nominee?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that, in Florida, the conservative base was very active on behalf of Mitt Romney.

I think this was really very small numbers of people that turned out. And I respect their views, but I don't believe that they are representative of the broad majority of Republican voters.

KING: But is it a problem, Senator? Is it a problem? Governor Romney won Minnesota four years ago. He went to that state and said, I'm the conservative alternative to a guy named John McCain. He won Colorado four years ago with the same message. We need a conservative alternative to John McCain. And a lot of people turned out.

You say not that many people turned out. Is that the problem; Governor Romney is not exciting people?

MCCAIN: Well, I think when most voters felt that it really didn't have any significant, direct impact on the selection of the nominee, it mattered.

Look, I'm not saying that Mitt Romney has a smooth and easy path. I lost 19 states when I was competing for -- and successfully -- for the nomination. And I'm sure that there'll be some bumps in the road. But I'm confident that, in Arizona, that he will do well. And I'm sure that, in Michigan, he will do well and a number of these other states, Ohio, and that he will be our nominee.

But, look, it's never easy, nor should it be easy. And I think he will be a much better candidate against President Obama once he emerges victorious, which I'm confident he will.

KING: Well, what's your sense of what's happening? I think sometimes the grassroots, sometimes they follow the leaders, if you will, institutional politicians, but sometimes they rebel against them.

For example, Governor Pawlenty was with Governor Romney in Minnesota, and it meant zip, forgive me. What will having John McCain on his side in Arizona mean?

MCCAIN: Probably zip.


MCCAIN: No, I hope it has some effect. But I do also think that endorsements are very much overrated. They give certain legitimacy to a candidate, but I'm not sure that they help make up a voter's mind.

So, I really believe that when you have 1 or 2 percent of the registered voters turning out, that that's not a very good indicator. But I do congratulate Senator Santorum on his victory, and certainly the Romney campaign knows we have a challenge.

KING: A challenge ahead for a man who knows that challenge quite well.

John McCain, Senator, appreciate your time tonight.

MCCAIN: Thanks, John.

KING: Once again, Congress nears the deadline precipice, deja vu over extending the payroll tax cut, lawmakers, yes, in a political standoff yet again.

Then, the military looking to unleash -- look at that -- this robo-mule. I will explain coming up.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: A faster way to get through airport security, the tradeoff between convenience vs. your privacy.

And in about 10 minutes, former GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, what she's saying about Rick Santorum's surge in her home state of Minnesota.


As he celebrated his victories last night, Rick Santorum said it was proof. Tea Party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came in a bit earlier. Let's talk to her now.


KING: As he celebrated his victories last night, Rick Santorum said it was proof Tea Party supporters and evangelicals will not settle for Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight is a victory for the voices of our party: conservatives and Tea Party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party and building a voice for freedom in this land. Thank you!


KING: Minnesota's one of the states Senator Santorum carried last night. That, of course, the home state of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who had hoped her presidential campaign would catch fire with those groups now behind Santorum's surge.

Congresswoman Bachmann joins us now.

It's good to see you. Wow, wow! What happened last night? And how serious should the fire alarm be in the Romney campaign?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, last night was a shot across the bow. And I think what we saw is the voters haven't made up their mind yet on who the Republican nominee should be. But really, the biggest signal that was sent is that Barack Obama is in big trouble. And this is why.

It's because of his radical policy on forcing the Catholic Church and other religious organizations to pay for contraceptives, against church doctrine. Again, the Catholic Church would have to subsidize people's -- people's contraception when that isn't what the church teaches.

KING: I...

BACHMANN: Because of that, you saw this unbelievable reaction. Because I think you'd have to say, John, quite fairly this was the first social issue election that we've had so far. That's what you saw in Minnesota. That's what you saw in Missouri and Colorado. You saw social conservatives weigh in in a big way for the first time. And I think it's because of Barack Obama's policies.

KING: And so if the race has changed, then it's not about "I'm a businessman. You can trust me with the economy." It's about who do you want to send to Washington to stand up to President Obama might disagree with how you characterize that. But to stand up with President Obama on social issues, does that mean advantage Santorum going forward in your view?

BACHMANN: This was a big advantage for Rick Santorum tonight.

KING: Will it be if you go to Michigan and Arizona and Washington state on Super Tuesday?

BACHMANN: I think one thing that what we're seeing is that the issues of the date also really drive these elections. So the Republican Party has always been a three-legged stool. We're a party that believes in strong national security, defense. We believe in strong fiscal conservative policy but also strong social policy.

What you saw last night was the social conservative wing of our party saying, "We are very concerned about this issue." Plus also we saw the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals make the decision to strike down the people's will on the definition of marriage as one man, one woman. All of that came together. And I think you saw the results last night.

KING: And why don't those voters trust Governor Romney?

BACHMANN: Well, I think they wanted -- they wanted to make a sound last night. And I think that the candidate that they've been hearing talking about this issue, that's the candidate that they got behind.

But I think this race is far from being settled. Every single state has had a very different issue set. We're not done. Michigan will be different from Oklahoma and the states going forward. They'll all be very different. And I think that we'll continue to see multiple results going forward all the way to Tampa.

KING: How worried are you that the turnout is down so much?

BACHMANN: Well, I think each of these candidates represents part of our party. And that's why we have to come together and have unity. We are seeing tremendous fractualization (ph). And I think once we pull everyone together, it will be more than just the party. It will also be independents and disaffected Democrats. Then I think you'll see the momentum, but we haven't seen that critical mass yet. And I think that's where we need to go.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, appreciate your time tonight.

BACHMANN: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. Good to see you. 

John King, USA

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