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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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And Senator John McCain believes it must remain an essential part of our foreign policy today.

Senator McCain is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the major lesson that the Obama administration, President Obama, to be more precise, needs to learn from what happened 20 years ago today in Berlin?

MCCAIN: I think the emphasis on human rights is vital.

Ronald Reagan was much criticized when he said, "Take down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev," and he called the Soviet Union an evil empire. But he also dealt with them on issues that needed to be dealt with.

So, I was deeply disappointed at the time of the demonstrations in Tehran that the president, especially, but also the administration, did not speak up for human rights. Now they are saying on the streets in the demonstrations most recently, "Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?"

We need to make it very clear that we're with them.

BLITZER: What about when the Dalai Lama came to Washington and wasn't received personally by the president because he's going to China, actually, in a few days? Was that a mistake?

MCCAIN: I can't say it was a mistake. I have to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

Obviously, I hate to get into these -- this phrase, "if I were president," but I would have met with the Dalai Lama. I would not have -- if I had been secretary of state -- I don't think that the secretary of state should have said before she went on her first visit to China, that -- she said -- quote -- "We're not going to talk about human rights."

We should always talk about human rights. We also have to put them in a context where they may not be the most important issue, but they're always important. And they should never be removed from our lexicon.

BLITZER: Have you seen any -- any change in Iran? I know you criticized the administration for not being more vociferous in supporting the opposition in the immediate aftermath of the election. But all the reaching out to Iran, trying to establish some sort of dialogue, has that achieved anything so far?

MCCAIN: Nothing that I have seen so far.

And, look, I'm not saying that the president should have done that. The president was elected, and that was an option he made. But there's got to be, at some point, if there's not any positive reaction from the Iranian government, that we then have to move on to other measures to try to prevent them from becoming a nuclear power, particularly since it's very clear that they are continuing to support terrorist organizations, whether they be in southern Lebanon or whether they happen to be in Iraq or even Afghanistan.

So, I think we need to -- to draw a line at some point. But, again, when Neda bled to death in a street in Tehran and it was seen around the world, that was the beginning of the end of this regime. I don't know when it's going to happen.

And I was surprised when the Berlin Wall came down. And I will probably be surprised when the regime in Tehran topples. But we should be on their side and on the right side of history.

BLITZER: Neda was that young woman who -- such a powerful image that all of us remember only a few weeks ago.

I know you're getting ready to fly down to Texas for the memorial service at Fort Hood tomorrow. You're the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I assume you have been briefed on what exactly we know about Major Hasan.

Do we believe -- do you believe that he was actually in contact with al Qaeda elements leading up to this?

MCCAIN: Wolf, I do not know.

I'm having a briefing. Senator Levin and I are being briefed on Monday on all aspects of this situation. There's all kinds of rumors flying around and reports. I don't think there's any doubt that this individual was not only disturbed, but displayed by his behavior a situation that called for some kind of remedy earlier than it did.

I say that with the benefit of hindsight being 20/20. But I do not have sufficient information to make a judgment on it. I'm sorry.

BLITZER: There are some who have actually made a very serious charge. And I'm going to play a little clip from a JAG officer, a military lawyer, who made this charge, because he knew Major Hasan. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS KENNIFF, ATTORNEY, ARMY JAG OFFICE: But, look, I think there is a culture of obsessive political correctness, not only within the country itself, but specifically within the military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that true, do you think?

MCCAIN: Again, I don't know. I think that there are allegations that political correctness may have prevented us from taking actions earlier.

But for me to reach that conclusion would be irresponsible right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: On Afghanistan, would you agree with the former vice president that the president is dithering?

MCCAIN: I'm not sure I would use that language.

But I worry that this delay emboldens our adversaries and makes our allies in the region and around the world -- we're sounding an uncertain trumpet right now. And, so, I would like to see the president make that decision, send the signal. And I'm confident that the majority of the American people will support the president, if he makes the case. And I think he can.

BLITZER: I'm going to give you and my alma mater, Senator, a plug right now. I'm going to recommend that folks go and read the transcript of your very thoughtful speech today at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington, D.C.

I know you put a lot of work into that speech, and especially important on this, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, setting the stage for the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Thanks, Senator McCain, for coming in. And we will be covering the memorial service tomorrow in Fort Hood.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf. And thank you for covering that service.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

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