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Public Statements

CNN Larry King Live - Transcript (2)

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CNN Larry King Live - Transcript
Thursday, November 3, 2005

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

CALLER: Upon the completion of the December elections, can we start to process of bringing 20,000 troops home for Christmas?

MCCAIN: WE can start bringing the troops home when we have a secure , a more secure Iraq, a functioning government, and the situation under, in more control.

If we do that, if we set an artificial date, then the insurgents will just sit back and wait for them to leave. Look, this is long. It's hard, it's tough.

We've raised our expectations too often. This is a very tough sled. We cannot afford to lose. I'll be glad to have a debate and discussion with anybody whether we should have gone to war or not, and I'd be glad to tell you why I still think it was the right thing to do, but we are there now, and if we left and we failed, it would have the most severe and profound consequences for America. And we've got to succeed. I'm sorry for the long answer, Larry.

KING: Did we reproach Iraq well?

MCCAIN: No, we made horrendous, very serious mistakes post-Iraq war if I understand your question.

KING: That's right and that cost lives, right?

MCCAIN: It cost lives, it cost treasure and it cost us incredible time that we could have, if we'd have handled it differently, from the beginning, when we allowed the looting, to the not having enough troops on the ground, to having mismanaged many other aspects of it.

But one of the great tragedies of war is mistakes are made. The key is to fix them.

KING: But what if you think they're wrong in the first place?

MCCAIN: Well, if you thought that they were wrong to go in, I think that's a very legitimate discussion and debate. I happen to believe the sanctions were eroding. We weren't going to be able to hold Saddam Hussein. You saw this oil-for-food scandal that many of our people who opposed going to war in Iraq were making billions of dollars off of Saddam Hussein in a corrupt regime.

Our pilots were being shot at every single day. Saddam Hussein had used and acquired weapons of mass destruction, and there's no doubt in my mind, when the sanctions collapsed, he would go back to the acquisition and eventually use of them. That's his history.

KING: We'll be right back with Senator John McCain. The book is, Character is Destiny. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We are reformers, Republican reformers who can make our party bigger and change politics in this country for generations. Don't fear this campaign, my fellow Republicans. Join it, join it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Senator John McCain. Allamagorda, New Mexico, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Senator McCain. My father was stationed aboard the USS Ursinski at the same time you were. He was in the allied division at that time. And I was wondering exactly what did you do to get through being a P.O.W. for so many years?

MCCAIN: Well, there was really three things. One is faith in God, which is something I think most of us shared. Faith in one's country, and when that was a belief that our country was doing everything to bring us home. And faith in our fellow prisoners.

Many times the Vietnamese by keeping us isolated or treating us in different ways, would try to turn us against one another, like we would hear a confession of war crimes played over the radio. We had to believe that our friends did everything that they could to keep from doing that, before they reached the point where they had to.

People, you know, say, oh, must have been terrible in prison. Of course it was terrible in prison but some of the richest and most wonderful moments of my life took place while I was there because I was privileged to observe a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love. And those I know best and love most were those who I served with.

KING: You could have gotten out much sooner, right, because of your father's position in the Navy.

MCCAIN: Yes. They offered me a chance to go home early. Our code of conduct says that you return in order of capture, except for sick and wounded. And I'm just glad, Larry, that I didn't know it was going to be another three years that I was going to be there.

KING: Inola, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Given the highly peculiar and surprisingly consistent humiliation of Islamic prisoners as well as what can be argued as a less than adequate number of U.S. forces needed to secure Iraq, do you believe that the U.S. is actually trying to provoke a broader war in the Middle East?

MCCAIN: I do not. I am convinced that we've got our hands full in Iraq. And we certainly aren't trying to do that.

And I believe that these brave young men and women would be astonished if ever presented with such a proposal. No, that's just not.

KING: Have we set an example, though, that we will go wherever there's a demon?

MCCAIN: I don't think we have. I think that particular demon was unique because he was the only one that had used weapons of mass destruction before. And he was particularly odiously cruel, as we know from the mass graves, and other things.

But I think that, we got to carefully define this, Larry. I believe that the United States of America has a noble mission in the world, and that is to spread freedom and democracy in places where it's never been, and to help people. But it does not mean militarily that we go in, and force it on them. I think we went to Iraq, because it was perceived to be a very real threat. And I think, over time, it would have proved to have been.

KING: You think Iran may be a bigger threat now?

MCCAIN: I think it's a very serious problem. I think we need to go to the u.n. And if the Russians and the Chinese veto sanctions against them -- the statements by this president of Iran, where he said that Israel must be exterminated, is a very, very serious situation. And we've got to treat this very, very seriously.

And by the way, I'm not saying that we initiate military action. I'm just saying as the president has, we cannot completely eliminate that option, but there's a lot of things we can do in the meantime. But do not underestimate that these people are very, very dangerous if they acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

KING: Long island, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, yes. My question is concerning the rationale of the Iraq war.

MCCAIN: Yes.

CALLER: Now Senator Lieberman said that the war was a threat to America, whereas Howard Dean, Governor Dean said the Iraq war was more of a threat to the region. Now, I'm curious what do you think the threat was more about? And I think even Republican Dick Armey said in fact, that it was more of a threat to our region, and specifically our allies to the region and not necessarily a threat to America, but he still supported the war because he said overall our vital American interests are at stake here. And it...

KING: All right, senator?

MCCAIN: I think it was both. I think that he was a threat in the region. He'd already fought a war in the Iranians, as you know and had also invaded Kuwait, where we had to go in the first Gulf War. So I think he was a threat in the region. But I think if he's acquired weapons of mass destruction, which by the way, every intelligence agency in the world, including the French, said he had, and in the past, that he would have certainly attempted to harm the United States of America, as well. So I think it was both, to tell you the truth.

KING: We will take a break and we'll be back with more. Senator McCain's book is "Character is Destiny." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take the next call, how's your health, senator?

MCCAIN: Excellent. Excellent. It's been five years since I had my melanoma. And I, again, as most people have gone through what I went through, I'm a fanatic. Wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen!

KING: And how is Cindy?

MCCAIN: Oh, she's doing wonderful. Thanks for asking. Doing just fine. Thanks.

KING: Tuscon, Arizona -- a fellow stater -- hello.

CALLER: Hello. How are you? I'm thrilled to have a chance to talk to you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CALLER: Recently, something has troubled me. I had seen in our newspapers that you gave a raise to the congress. And then I also saw that you gave -- denied minimum wage people to have a raise. My question is, why do you think you need a raise and they don't?

MCCAIN: We voted down the pay raise in the Senate. I have given my pay raise to charity for many, many years.

KING: Why do we keep the minimum wage at $5.15, a little unrealistic, isn't it?

MCCAIN: It's got to be raised, Larry. There's this fight between Republicans and Democrats about small business and trying to give some kind of a carve-out to small businesses, because of the fact that many times they can't pass on their increase in the minimum wage.

But it's wrong that we have not raised the minimum wage in all these years. I agree with the caller. It's time the Republicans and Democrats sat down, but we do need to take care of the family businesses and the small businesses in some way, either through giving them some kind of tax incentives, or there's a variety of ways, but we need to look at that aspect of it.

KING: It's been how many years since it was increased?

MCCAIN: Oh, God, what...

KING: A long time.

MCCAIN: Yeah, 10 years, or seven. I don't know. It's been -- whatever, it's too long.

KING: Wyckoss, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Larry, I'm a big fan of your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: This is for Senator McCain. I was wondering, Senator, if you were to run for president, how do you plan to reach out to liberals and the Democratic voters within this country?

MCCAIN: Well, I would try to reach out to all Americans, because when, once you're elected president, obviously you're president of all the people. And as I've said before, the only way we're going to get things done on these major challenges we face -- look, we're facing a fiscal disaster, my dear friends, because the unfunded trillions and trillions of dollars associated with Social Security, Medicare, et cetera, we're going to have to work together on it.

I still remember, and many of us do, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill stood next to each other in the Rose Garden and said, look, we're going to fix Social Security, and they did for a while. We need more of that.

KING: So you would appeal to liberals by saying you'd be a president for all the people, but you wouldn't cop out on, you're opposed to Roe-Wade, right?

MCCAIN: Yes, I am opposed to Roe v. Wade. You've got to stand on principle, but that doesn't mean you don't include people in the political process. Again, I've seen many examples of -- well, Senator Kennedy and President Bush worked together on the No Child Left Behind Act. The No Child Left Behind Act may have some flaws associated with it, but I still view it as a major milestone in trying to improve education in this country. KING: That's right, and some might interpret it as a liberal act.

MCCAIN: Well, I think some also might interpret it as an accountability act as well. So, anyway.

KING: It's all how you frame it.

MCCAIN: Eye of the beholder.

KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back, our remaining moments with Senator John McCain. The book "Character is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember." All of his books have been major best-sellers. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I will remember that his family and his country lost a good man, but I will also remember that, while many of us may be blessed to live a longer life than he did, few of us, few of us will ever live a better one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is Pat Tillman in the book?

MCCAIN: Yes, he is, Larry, and I know that many of our viewers are familiar Pat Tillman. He was an undersized overachiever that played football at ASU, and then was the 262nd draft choice, and then was a magnificent player for the Arizona Cardinals. 9/11, he said he hadn't done enough for his country. He and his brother joined the Army, fought in Iraq, and Pat was tragically killed in Afghanistan under terrible circumstances.

KING: By friendly fire.

MCCAIN: Yeah, it was a very sad thing and it was mishandled by the Army, but...

KING: Yes, very much so.

MCCAIN: ... Pat Tillman to me, you see, epitomizes everything about America that's great and wonderful, and yet Pat Tillman would be the last person to say that he was an American hero. And I can't tell you how magnificent I feel as an American to have fellow citizens like Pat Tillman.

KING: How do you explain him?

MCCAIN: I explain him as just a young man who felt a sense of patriotism to his country. He thought a lot. Pat Tillman was a real thinker and a reader. And I think that he felt this sense of duty. As he said, quote, "I haven't done a damn thing for my country," when he and his brother went down and enlisted.

And by the way, they were playing a game -- I think it was in Oakland -- and he came in the locker room to say hello to his teammates, and came in by a side door and left by a side door. Wanted no publicity. Never granted an interview. It's just -- I'm so proud that he was an American.

KING: Ironic, though, that he would be killed by...

MCCAIN: Friendly fire.

KING: ... an American bullet.

MCCAIN: Fog of war, my friend, fog of war.

KING: I wonder how you accept that as a family. That must be the hardest thing. It's hard enough to accept a child, but then to accept that, and then having it mishandled.

MCCAIN: Well, they investigated -- the first reports were that he -- were not that he was killed by friendly fire, and then the Army botched the investigation. It was terribly hard on his mother in particular. But I think over time, they will realize it doesn't matter. What matters is that he served his country with heroism and he fought in the cause of freedom. And by the way, in Afghanistan, thanks to our sacrifice and effort, they're doing pretty well there.

KING: Senator, we got 30 seconds. What's your biggest worry?

MCCAIN: My biggest worry right now is that we prevail in the Iraq war. We've got to do it soon. I'm worried about American support slipping, and we've got to do a good job there. That's my greatest worry.

My second one is the financial burden we're placing on future generations of Americans because of out-of-control spending.

KING: Deficits the highest ever, right?

MCCAIN: It's just disgraceful. We're out of control, my friend.

KING: Always good seeing you, John. Thank you so much.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Forgive me for calling you John, we've known each other for a long time.

MCCAIN: Long time.

KING: United States Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. And the book, "Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember." Every book he's written has been a major "New York Times" best-seller.

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow night, a major program on the visit of Charles and Camilla. Excited! And we look at the royals tomorrow night.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0511/03/lkl.01.html

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