Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By State of the Union - July 22, 2012

CROWLEY: I am joined by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

Senator, I want to talk to you in depth at the end of this about guns and the role of guns in society. But I know because of the Tucson shooting and Gabby Giffords that this is something you want to first get off of your chest.

MCCAIN: Well, just briefly, it's a terrible tragedy and that bears repeating. But I hope also that the folks in Colorado could look at what we did in Tucson. It was great healing. The president of the United States came and gave a great speech. It was really -- our community and our state united.

And I hope that the people of Aurora, and the state of Colorado, will also begin on that. It is tough, but I think that we have emerged in Arizona where there has been significant improvement. And so I hope that everybody knows how tough it is as well.

CROWLEY: I think Governor Hickenlooper sort of was headed in that direction, talking about the community coming together.

Let me move you first overseas and talk to you about Syria, this has obviously been a subject you have been heavily involved in, pushing for more U.S. action, more U.S. leadership, not boots on the ground, but getting some help to these rebels.

I want to play something that Leon Panetta said this week for you.


LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The violence there has only gotten worse and the loss of lives has only increased, which tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control.


MCCAIN: Really? Is that it? I hate to be sarcastic, but because of our failure to assist, because of our failure to lead other willing nations in the region, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Qatar and others, the situation has now deteriorated to a situation which is really, really very dangerous.

We now have...

CROWLEY: It is irretrievable?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it is retrievable, but I think it is far, far more complicated and difficult than if we had weighed in a long time ago. More al Qaeda fighters, media reports that chemical weapons are being moved around, Israel being very concerned about some of those chemical weapons reaching Hezbollah, the -- not to mention the massacre of 17,000, 18,000 people, while this administration has relied on the goodwill of Russia -- and the United Nations Security Council, relied on Russia for a long period of time that they would take Bashar al-Assad to Russia.

It has been shameful. It is shameful. And we need to -- and now the latest reports are that they are going to help, but they are not going to provide weapons. They want other countries to do that.

These are helicopter gunships, tanks, artillery that are slaughtering people, and now there is a risk, and I'm not saying it is going to happen, a risk that in his desperation, Bashar al-Assad might use those chemical weapons, and -- but clearly the Israelis see this as a serious threat, because the situation has gone on and on and on. More extremists have come into the fight, the more difficulty there will be after this is over.

CROWLEY: But, you know, we kind of are where we are where we are. So like as of right now, we are still sort of working through the U.N. or trying to work through the U.N., and you laugh, I mean, is...

MCCAIN: How many times...

CROWLEY: Do you just consider...

MCCAIN: How many times do we have to try that? Kofi Annan's plan has been an abject failure, we keep supporting that. We keep hoping -- pushing this reset button with Russia that somehow they and China will -- we are now bound by the decisions of the U.N. Security Council which are dictated by Russia and China.

What do we need to do? We need to get arms and equipment to them. We need to establish a buffer zone and...


CROWLEY: U.S. arms, you want to get U.S. arms to them. You don't...

MCCAIN: Sure, why not? Why not? Russian arms are coming in. Iranians are on the ground. Meanwhile, the Iranians are helping Bashar al-Assad and they are committing acts of -- they are committing terrorist acts around the world -- they are planning on terrorist acts. The talks with Iran on their nuclear development have broken down and where is the United States of America?

The president has not yet in my memory in recent times spoken up for the people who are being slaughtered in the streets of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, and others today. CROWLEY: Let me ask you quickly about another area of the world, and that is Israel. I want to play you something that President Obama was down in West Palm Beach, something that he said recently.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want everybody here to know under my administration we haven't just preserved the unbreakable bond with Israel, we have strengthened it. We have stood by Israel's side in the face of criticism. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer.


CROWLEY: Do you think that is true?

MCCAIN: Everybody knows that relations with Israel have never been worse, beginning with the demands for a freeze settlement back at the beginning of the Obama administration. The president sends his national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel to tell them not to attack Iran, thereby weakening Israel.

The relations have never been worse. And, again, it is a lack of trust on the part of the Israelis about what the United States of America will or will not do.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you back now to the situation in Colorado, and remind our viewers of what has happened. This is dating back to 1999, Littleton, Colorado, otherwise known as Columbine, 13 killed in a mass shooting.

2007, Virginia Tech, 32 killed.

CROWLEY: 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, 13 killed; 2012, Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed. Different circumstances, different people, but people look at this and say, can't we do anything to stop this?

MCCAIN: I don't know to tell you the truth what we can do. And this immediately leads to the issue of gun control.

The killer in Norway was in a country that had very strict gun control laws and yet he was still able to acquire the necessary means to initiate and carry out a mass slaughter. I think that we need to look at everything, if everything should be looked at, but to think that somehow gun control is -- or increased gun control is the answer, in my view, that has to be proved.

CROWLEY: But you would be open to the discussion. And I think part of what people are looking at are these magazines and these automatic weapons where you can shoot down 100 people. As I understand it, this suspect's gun jammed and he had to go to ones that didn't fire so rapidly, but he was able to buy and had on him a 100- round cartridge.

He was able to buy over three months four weapons, 6,000 ammo cartridges over the Internet. If we had put that all together, someone would have said, oh, we need to go check on Apartment 3B or whatever it was, because this guy is gathering up an arsenal, which also includes tear gas.

So then you get to this point where you don't want the government spying on what people are buying. On the other hand, what is the price? The price is all of these things that we have just read off?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, let's remember it is a constitutional right. Second of all, I think that if so -- if you could prove the case that that indeed that has a positive effect -- we had a ban on assault weapons that expired some years ago. It didn't change the situation at all, in my view.

So, look, I think that the strongest 2nd Amendment rights people would be glad to have a conversation, but to somehow leap to the conclusion that this was somehow caused by the fact that we don't have more gun control legislation, I don't think, has been proved.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, it's good to have you.

MCCAIN: Thank you for having me on. 

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