MS. ROBERTS: So why is Senator McCain abroad when Americans are focused on the economy here at home and losing jobs, more and more jobs, as Bianna just reported?
For the answer we go to the Republican candidate in Colombia, in the midst of a three-day visit to that country and Mexico.
Senator McCain, thank you very much for joining us this morning. We certainly do appreciate it. You know that here --
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you, Robin. I'm here for -- I'm -- just say I'm here for one day. I'm in Mexico the next day and then I'm -- then I'm back home.
And also, drugs is a big, big problem in America. The continued flow of drugs from Colombia through Mexico into the United States is still one of our major challenges to all Americans. And the Mexican government is struggling right now with the battles against drug cartels.
Colombia continues to make progress, but a large percentage of the amount of cocaine that continues to come into the United States of America comes from this country. I've been here many times -- I've been here several times in the past, as well as with Mexico, and I think that it deserves our attention.
MS. ROBERTS: No discounting the drug problem, as you just stated.
Here at home, the U.S. economy is really at the forefront of voters' minds. We've seen that over and over again. So many want to know, other than what you just said, why are you in Colombia this morning?
SEN. MCCAIN: I'd be glad to repeat myself. I've come down here in two previous occasions. We have the issue of the drug trafficking from Colombia up through our hemisphere, across Mexico and into the United States of America.
Drug cartels have basically taken control of some towns on the Mexican border. There are still a couple of thousand people being held hostage by the FARC here. There is clearly a continued threat of drugs pouring into the United States of America which can harm us and our young people very badly.
I'm happy to say that there has been some success. The cost of cocaine on the street is up. I also think it's important for our economy to maintain a free -- to pass a free trade agreement between ourselves and Colombia. Colombia is our largest agricultural market in the southern hemisphere.
So I think there are issues. I've been involved in these issues for a long, long time, and I've spent the last two weeks talking about all over America the need for us to attain energy independence. And I've come up with specific plans and proposals to do that.
The American economy is hurting right now, most of all at the gas pump where they're seeing their -- the price of a gallon of gas go up and up and up.
MS. ROBERTS: You mentioned free trade, and it is part of the reason why you are making the trip to Colombia --
SEN. MCCAIN: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.)
MS. ROBERTS: -- and to Mexico. Again, here at home many are very fearful when it comes to foreign free trade. And in fact there was a new poll, over half the country feeling that it's a threat to the economy; 41 percent do see it as an opportunity for growth.
Senator, you recently spent time in Indiana and in Pennsylvania, spending a lot of time in communities there that are hit really hard with job losses. So what do you say to those people? What do you say to those people who are fearful that more jobs may be indeed headed beyond our borders and abroad?
SEN. MCCAIN: That our economy is in terrible shape, that we've got to take specific actions, keep their taxes low, less regulation, get -- start exploring and exploiting offshore oil deposits so that we can at least ease this burden, give them a little bit of a break from their gas taxes, get to work on nuclear, solar, wind, tide; invest in pure research and development in coal -- clean coal technology.
We must also, I believe, stop distorting the market by subsidizing ethanol and preventing sugar cane-based ethanol from coming into the United States.
I know Americans are hurting very badly right now. I have town hall meetings almost every single day, and I have a plan of action to bring our economy out of the situation it's in today, and I don't believe increasing their taxes is the answer.
I believe leaving their taxes low, getting off this dependence on foreign oil and doing it quickly, and we can -- I call it the Lexington Project, that we can -- as we send people to the moon, we can also get off this dependence on foreign oil and keep people in their homes and stop this job loss. We can do it.
MS. ROBERTS: We can do it. You have admitted that you're not exactly an expert when it comes to the economy and many have said that they --
SEN. MCCAIN: I have not. I have not. Actually, I have not. I said that I am stronger on national security issues because of all the time I spent in the military. I know -- (I'm ?) very strong on the economy. I understand it. I have a lot more experience than my opponent.
MS. ROBERTS: People feel that it is not a strong suit. You have other strengths as well, but that if you selected somebody from the business sector as a running mate that it could go a long way for you.
Mitt Romney's name has come up again, very successful, of course, with business ventures. Is he somebody that's at the top of your V.P. list?
SEN. MCCAIN: (Chuckles.) Robin, Mitt Romney is a great person and he's done a -- he's done a great job for us and we're really pleased at the cooperation and help that he's given us.
And he won millions of Republican votes, so there'll be a big place for him in the Republican Party in the future. But obviously we're not talking about specific candidates.
Thanks for asking, though. (Chuckles.)
MS. ROBERTS: Well, that's what I do.
Senator, thank you so much.
SEN. MCCAIN: Absolutely.
MS. ROBERTS: I do have a final question. Are you in a bird sanctuary or something? (Laughter.) We're hearing a lot of birds around you this morning there.
SEN. MCCAIN: Actually, we're in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth, Cartagena, a very old city. The Spaniards used to collect their gold to take it back to Spain.
And we're out on this little island, and it's -- it's really lovely here. And they encourage tourism here too. (Laughs.)
MS. ROBERTS: It looks like a beautiful spot.
Senator John McCain, thank you. I know we'll be talking a lot between now and November. Thanks so much. Have a good trip.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks a lot, Robin.