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NBC "Today" -Transcript

Interview

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NBC "Today" -Transcript

MR. LAUER: Senator McCain isn't just running for president. He's also the author of an upcoming book called "Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them."

Senator, good to have you here in the studio.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, thanks, Matt.

MR. LAUER: It's always strange for me to be sitting with a guy and we're running a tape that's a little bit like a political obituary there.

SEN. MCCAIN: (Laughs.) It's always darkest before it's totally black. (Laughs.)

MR. LAUER: How do you feel about where you are? You have to be disappointed. You must feel a little like Mark Twain; you know, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." But how do you feel about where you are right now?

SEN. MCCAIN: I feel fine. Look, we made a mistake, and those things happen. There's ups and downs in campaigns. We misjudged some of the budgetary aspects of it and we fixed it, and we're fine. And when you go out to -- I would hope that David could leave the White House and come out with me to New Hampshire, where I'm going tonight, and Iowa and South Carolina, where the enthusiasm is there. We're going to be in a big fight in September about withdrawal from Iraq; I'll be leading.

Look, I'm in the arena. He mentioned those issues. I'm in the arena. I'll be fighting because that's what I believe in and that's what I stand for. And over time, I believe people will judge me for what my vision for the future of the country is and my record.

MR. LAUER: Why are you skipping the Iowa straw poll? A lot of people think you're polling very far down in Iowa, tied for fourth in some polls there. Is it to avoid a bad outcome?

SEN. MCCAIN: Oh, no. We had never planned on the Iowa straw polls. We don't do straw polls. I was with the Gramm campaign in '96 and he tied in the straw polls, and a few months later lost. In all due respect, they're great fund-raisers for the party but they're not really that important. And I'd rather spend my time campaigning.

MR. LAUER: On Wednesday, Governor Mitt Romney was forced to go on the defensive. He was challenged on the fact that he has five sons, none of his sons serving in the military or have served in the military. You've got a couple of sons right now -- we know about your military record, a POW. You've got a son who's in the Naval Academy. You have another son who's in the Marines serving in harm's way even as we speak.

Is it a fair criticism of Governor Romney that none of his sons serves in the military?

SEN. MCCAIN: No, I think that's an issue that's within the Romney family. And with my family we discussed it a lot, and I'm sure that they do within the Romney family. But it's not up to me to criticize or to tell people's families how they should serve.

MR. LAUER: You've been in Congress a long time, in the Senate for an awfully long time.

SEN. MCCAIN: (Laughs.) Yes.

MR. LAUER: You know which way the wind is blowing. There are some people who say, Senator, that the momentum right now in Congress is so strong to pull the troops out of Iraq that it doesn't matter what's in that report in the middle of September from General Petraeus or even in reports that follow that. Even if we start to change momentum in Iraq and start to see more success, the momentum in Congress is already so strong that it's unstoppable. How do you feel about that?

SEN. MCCAIN: We are winning there. The strategy is succeeding. It's only been in place for a short time. The previous strategy, which I bitterly opposed and proposed this strategy, caused Americans to be very frustrated and angry and sad at the sacrifice that's been made. This strategy is winning. We can win.

MR. LAUER: But is it going to matter? Is it going to matter? Is Congress going to wait for it to take hold until we see true success?

SEN. MCCAIN: I believe that we can prevail in Congress. But this will be a seminal, historic moment in the history of this country, and the battleground will be on the floor of the Senate. I'll be there leading and fighting, and that's my job, because I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic, and we'll be back with more sacrifice.

MR. LAUER: The book is called "Hard Call," people who have made tough decisions. Let me, in our speed round as we end our interview here, ask you to make three hard calls, okay?

If you were asked tomorrow to take on the job of rewriting the baseball record book, would you put an asterisk next to Barry Bonds' home run record?

SEN. MCCAIN: As a baseball fan, yes.

MR. LAUER: Tainted record?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, it's sort of inappropriate for me, but in my personal opinion as a lifelong baseball fan, an asterisk.

MR. LAUER: All right, hard call: If you were out of politics tomorrow and you bought a radio station, would you put Don Imus back on the air?

SEN. MCCAIN: I'd give him a chance. I believe in redemption. I believe that people make mistakes in life and I believe in redemption.

MR. LAUER: Finally, another hard call. You have a --

SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks for these great questions. You're (wrecking ?) me. (Laughs.)

MR. LAUER: You have a 15- or 16-year-old daughter, Bridget, right?

SEN. MCCAIN: Yes.

MR. LAUER: We know the challenges facing children -- peer pressure, teen sex, drugs, alcohol. If you walked into Bridget's room tomorrow and she wasn't there and you saw her diary open on the bed or you saw her Facebook page open on her computer, would you read it?

SEN. MCCAIN: Sure. Yes, I would. I would, and I'd tell her that I'd read it. I mean, it's just like when children go online. Parents should know what our children are doing. But we tell our children that. We're not -- we need to know as parents what our children are doing. And, by the way, this issue of Internet child pornography is one of the most terrible and awful assaults on family and children in history, and we've got to fight that hard.

MR. LAUER: The book is called "Hard Call," and clearly you're not afraid to make some on live television. And I know you've been inspired by a lot of the decisions that were made by the people in this book.

SEN. MCCAIN: Right.

MR. LAUER: John McCain --

SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on, Matt.

MR. LAUER: It's good to have you here in the studio. Thanks, Senator. Good luck to you.

SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks.


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