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Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By John King, USA - May 8, 2012

KING: Let's visit with a man who knows all about the rough terrain of a presidential campaign, the 2008 Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.

Senator, forgive me, but to hear Mitt Romney taking credit for the resurgence of the auto industry, isn't that a bit of a parallel universe? He was firmly against the bailout.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, being against the bailout, what again was a deal they cut basically with the unions.

Mitt Romney and I don't understand why the auto industry -- and by the way, not Ford, who is doing very well -- but why GM and Chrysler didn't do the normal bankruptcy proceedings as thousands of small businesses all over America had to do, as they faced these rough times.

Instead, they got a special deal. They got taxpayers' money, billions and billions of which have not been paid back to the taxpayers. And they could have gone through the normal bankruptcy process. As I said, other companies and corporations did, remained viable and could be fine today.

KING: They say...

MCCAIN: Taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook.

KING: Companies say they would have run out of cash, that there was no private cash available, and they would have had to liquidate, meaning shut down and then maybe go through bankruptcy. Imagine all the turmoil that would have caused.

KING: Well, I wonder why Ford didn't have that do that, No. 1.

No. 2 is I don't accept that. That's the same thing that small businesses all over my state had to do.

What was the difference between the small business on Central Avenue in Phoenix and General Motors and Chrysler? They had -- they had Obama on their side to give the unions a special deal, and not have them go through the same painful process that thousands and thousands of small companies all over America had to go through, because they didn't have the clout with the Obama administration. That was fundamentally unfair.

KING: I spent a fair amount of time with you on the trail in 2008, and something that happened to Governor Romney yesterday reminded me of a few moments you had in that campaign. Listen here, Senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a president right now that is operating outside the structure of our Constitution. I do agree he should be tried for treason, but I want to know what you are going to be able to do to help restore balance between the three branches of government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Governor Romney at the event, Senator, chose not to address the "I think he should be tried for treason" part.

You took a different approach when people would say things that I would say, outside of the mainstream, outside of the norm in 2008.

You can't -- the candidate isn't responsible for everybody who's in the room. I want to make that clear up front. But how does a presidential nominee have to handle those moments?

MCCAIN: Well, I think you have to be on your toes. And a lot of times I did let some things pass, just because you're thinking of an answer, you're thinking about who the next questioner is going to be, you're thinking about whether you answered the last question correctly.

There's nothing more taxing intellectually during a presidential campaign than a town-hall meeting, because every word you say is parsed and repeated.

Do you remember when I said -- oh, my God -- I said, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong"? You remember that? I was...

KING: Really well.

MCCAIN: Oh, my God.

But anyway, so you've got to really be on your toes. And sometimes you really aren't listening real carefully to the question, because you're thinking about what you just said or what you're going to say or whatever it is.

And Mitt Romney afterwards said, of course, not going to be -- no one believes that the president of the United States should be tried for treason. Of course he said that.

KING: It's tougher, though, in the age of instant blog postings.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes.

KING: The other side immediately says, "Aha."

KING: It is tough. It is very, very tough. And -- and listen, in the town-hall meeting, it is the most difficult challenge, because it is an unstructured format, as you know.

KING: Many people might not know that John McCain is not only a Republican and a United States senator, but he's a huge sports fan.

Charles Barkley was a forward for the Phoenix Suns the last time the Suns made it to the NBA championship. And yet, you're picking a fight with him right now.

During the broadcast Sunday night he saw Mitt Romney in the stands at the Boston Garden, and he said, "You're going down, Governor. You're going down."

And you tweeted this: "Dear Charles Barkley, don't take it personally. You seem like a nice guy, but you're clueless. Mitt Romney wins. Want to bet?"

What do you want to bet?

MCCAIN: Whatever he'd like to -- to bet. But the fact is that Romney was there enjoying the basketball game. Charles Barkley basically gave a political ad for President Obama, and saying -- by the way, he said, "You're a nice guy, I like you," but he said "you're going down, bro." I'm not sure that that's appropriate at a baseball game, to tell you the truth, when Mitt Romney was there, trying to enjoy a basketball game, on a rare moment of relaxation during the campaign.

I've always enjoyed Charles Barkley. He's one of the most entertaining and, by the way, most gifted and hard-working athletes we've ever had grace the Phoenix Suns. But the fact is, I don't believe he's right. And so I thought it might be appropriate. You know, that's what twittering and tweets are all about.

KING: I know Charles pretty well. Maybe I'll get you guys together for dinner. You can work out the details of that bet.

MCCAIN: It would be a pleasure.

KING: John McCain, Republican of Arizona, appreciate your time tonight, sir.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on. (END VIDEOTAPE) 

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