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Setting Himself Apart From the Other Candidates (Interview)

Location: Fox Hannity & Colmes

BYLINE: Sean Hannity; Alan Colmes

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Tonight on HANNITY & COLMES, Senator John McCain on what sets him apart from the other GOP presidential

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: And then, Congressman John Kasich weighs in on the race he left behind.

HANNITY: All that's coming up next.

COLMES: But first, let's get the latest headlines.


HANNITY: Welcome to HANNITY & COLMES. I'm Sean Hannity.
Congressman John Kasich, he bowed out of his own campaign for the White House. But he's still keeping a close eye on the race. He'll join us a little later on.

And, New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith will tell us why he left the GOP for a third-party presidential run.
But up first, it's not unheard of for a presidential candidate to write a book. But the latest addition to the political memoirs is not your standard hardcover stump speech. But then, Arizona Senator John McCain is not your standard Republican candidate.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Senator McCain was a war veteran. He was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and spent over five years as a prisoner of war.

In his new book, "Faith of My Fathers," Senator McCain credits their example with sustaining him through his years in captivity. So how has this prepared Senator McCain for his life in politics?

He now joins us. From Washington, Arizona Republican Senator, presidential hopeful, John McCain.

HANNITY: You want to take your usual shot as we start the show?

COLMES: Well, the shot's usually at me I think because I'm the liberal. But go ahead.

MCCAIN: Well, as we know, Sean's on a work release program...


MCCAIN: ... And the rumor is that he's taken off his electronic bracelet again. We'd better be careful about it.

HANNITY: This is my—exactly. It's the work release.

COLMES: Thank you for taking the shot at him, Senator, this time.

MCCAIN: Oh, it's all right. (INAUDIBLE) back in...

HANNITY: It's an equal...

MCCAIN: ... It's hard to do the show from prison.

HANNITY: Senator...


HANNITY: ... We have the staff laughing here, Senator. All right, let me ask you this. I want to put up on the screen from your book, "Many guys broke at one time or another," you write," I doubt anyone ever gets over it entirely. There is never enough time and distance between the past and present to allow one to forget his shame."

Tell us what you meant there.

MCCAIN: I meant that I didn't live up to the standards that I believed had been set for me both by my father and grandfather and the code of conduct and my fellow POWs who were much braver and tougher than I was. And...

HANNITY: Senator, you're talking about a confession that you signed. You were shot down over Vietnam. When you were shot down, as I understand, you had a broken knee and a lot of other injuries that you had to—broken knee and a lot of other injuries. Both arms were broken, broken knee cap.

But you're talking about the—I found this information unbelievable. The day before you signed this confession, you suffered a methodical beating from prison guards. They knocked out several of your teeth. They cracked your ribs, re-fractured your arm.

You then tried to kill yourself.

MCCAIN: Well, I made a feeble attempt. I'm not sure I would have gone all the way through it. But I was very despondent. I was not only worried about the effect it would have on my fellow prisoners but also on my father because I knew that it would be publicized.

And sometimes you reach a level of depression. But I've got to tell you most of my experiences there were far more spiritually uplifting.

HANNITY: Senator, I find this stunning. I mean, first of all, you are an American hero. Five-and-a-half years you were a prisoner of war. torture and misery that these guys put you through, you signed a confession. I would have buckled much sooner, Senator. And many of our viewers would have buckled sooner.

And I've got to tell you, what is most inspiring to me is you had an opportunity to get out of being a prisoner of war, and you didn't want to take advantage of that opportunity. You didn't want to leave your fellow prisoners behind.

MCCAIN: Well, that's...

HANNITY: Somehow you beat yourself up over this.

MCCAIN: Well, I can't do anything but repeat what I said, so I won't do that. But let me just say my great privilege was to serve in the company of heroes. I watched and observed 1,000 acts of courage and compassion and love. And I'll always be grateful for that.

My heroes are Jim Stockdale (ph) and Orson Swindell (ph) and Robinson Reisner (ph) and Everett Alvarez (ph). And the names roll off my tongue with great ease. I did not...

COLMES: Senator...

MCCAIN: ... perform like they did.

COLMES: ... Senator, it's Alan. Welcome back.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Alan.

COLMES: And thank you for taking the shot at Sean today.

MCCAIN: Well, he needed it.

COLMES: The thing is this. In fact, my line of opening questioning was really planned to be very similar to what Sean was saying. We may disagree politically. But you are a true American hero.
And you keep saying that you failed, as you write about in your captors, serving five years longer than you really had to. How can you say you failed?

MCCAIN: Well, I failed by very frankly not being as tough as many—look, I'm gratified for having had the experience of knowing such great heroes. I just wasn't one of them.

On the issue of the release, yes they offered me an opportunity to go home because my father was the commander-in-chief of all U.S. forces in the Pacific. I became aware, after I thought about it, it would be a big propaganda coup. It was also against our code of conduct. But more importantly, they would have used it against my fellow POWs by saying, "Look, you know, the admiral's son goes home and you stay."

And look, others went home early. I don't hold it against them for doing so. My position I think was such that I couldn't accept their offer because of the impact it would have had on my fellow POWs.

COLMES: You hold yourself to a higher standard than most people could ever meet, ever.

MCCAIN: That's not true.

COLMES: I'm curious to know, and I think it's quite modest of you to say that, I'm curious to know, I mean, you're a conservative. I'm a liberal. You're proud of being conservative. I'm proud of being a liberal.

How, what's the connection between what you experience—and your kind of unique for a presidential campaign-type book.

How did that shape your political views? How did that make you into the conservative you are today?

MCCAIN: Thank you for asking. I had always resisted offers to write a book about my experiences because of the way I feel about my performance. But then a book agent named Flip Roughy (ph) came two years ago and said, "Why don't you write a book about your father and your grandfather and you and the connection about the redemptive aspects of service to causes that are greater than your self-interest?"

And even imperfect people, as my grandfather and my father and I are, can find great satisfaction from service and sacrifice.

And so that's why I wrote the book. At the time I had not though about running—seriously about running for president of the United States. So it stops the day I leave Vietnam because I don't want it to be a political book.

I didn't want it to be position papers. What I really want it to be is I hope some young American will pick it up, read it, and be inspired to public service.

HANNITY: Well, I've got to tell you, Senator, it's a terrific Senator John McCain.

When we come back, we'll talk presidential politics with Senator McCain. And then, Ohio Republican Congressman, former presidential Senator Bob Smith. Please stay tuned.


COLMES: Welcome back to HANNITY & COLMES. I'm Alan Colmes.

We continue with presidential candidate Senator John McCain. He's the author of the new book "Faith of My Fathers."

Senator, do you believe there are still POWs in Vietnam?

MCCAIN: I don't believe there's any still left because there's no compelling evidence. But I think we have to pursue these cases which are still unresolved until every aspect of it has been resolved.
There is continued work over in Vietnam. And we are receiving cooperation from the Vietnamese government. But until we get all of these unresolved cases resolved, you can't ever close the book completely.

COLMES: Has our government been lax and not focused enough on this issue?

MCCAIN: I think for some years after the war they were too lax. I think thanks to the efforts of lots of people they got more serious about it later on. And I think they're still serious about it. We're

COLMES: I want to talk to you a bit about Pat Buchanan, who will be our guest here tomorrow night. Now this whole thing about him leaving—you're smiling, you see—for the Reform Party. And you have implored him not to, even though you and he are so apart on so many issues, whether it's the trade issue, abortion, you may have some abortion.

Should he be in the same party as John McCain when you are so different? And where do you stand?

MCCAIN: I think we have a diverse party. I think we need the debate in our party on trade and isolationism, although he would reject that, the role of the United States in the world, about protectionism in trade, about a number of other issues.

Pat's a most articulate spokesman for that point of view. And I think we need the debate. I hoped he wouldn't get out. And besides that, as you know and you'll find out again tomorrow night, he's an entertaining and engaging and informed guy.

COLMES: What would it mean to the Republican Party if he leaves?

MCCAIN: I don't know because I'm not sure what the impact is over time. But I do believe that from my dealings with the Reform Party, which I have dealt with on campaign finance reform, they don't have the same emphasis on the social issues that Pat Buchanan does. It would be an interesting kind of match-up there.

HANNITY: You were on Tim Russert yesterday, Senator. And there was a poll that he put up. If it's Bush and Gore, Bush wins 56-37. And it could be McCain and Gore, by the way. And I mean that sincerely. I don't think this race is over by any stretch of the imagination.

But then if it's Bush, Gore and Buchanan, Bush loses 17 points, Buchanan gets 16 points. That's one poll. There's another poll that shows Pat at 10 percent if he bolts to the Reform Party. This has got to be a disaster for the Republican Party.

MCCAIN: Well, I think it would if you didn't take into account that people don't know Governor Bush. They know the name.

A lot of those people that said Bush believe they're talking about his dad. And so he's not well defined with the American people. And so it's not surprising, whereas Pat Buchanan is pretty well defined.

Anderson and even Perot and others, early on their numbers are a lot Buchanan as a campaigner. He won the New Hampshire primary in 1996. He's articulate. He's smart. And he's very funny. Out at the Iowa straw polls, everybody believed that he gave the best speech.

HANNITY: He is a powerful speaker. He's a great communicator. He's a terrific debater, formidable candidate by everybody's account.

Some of the other candidates, though, have been very critical for George W. Bush, questioning his conservative credentials.

Number one, do you know enough about George W. Bush to determine whether or not he's a conservative? Do you think that's a fair accusation that's been thrown at him?

MCCAIN: I think he's probably conservative. I do not know a lot of his positions on the issues. But I'm confident we will as the campaign goes on because all of us will be forced to be very specific by the voters if we want their support.

HANNITY: I want to go back to the issue of your book. And I screen, "We sat in our cells, sometimes listening to the screams of a came for us. And come they did, again and again."

Five-and-a-half years, Senator, I can't imagine living a life like that.

MCCAIN: Sean, there were weeks and months where they left us alone. The last year-and-a-half, I lived in a big room with 25 other prisoners. There was—we made fun of these people. We called them funny names.


MCCAIN: We made jokes.

HANNITY: Sort of like you do Hannity and Colmes, you know.


MCCAIN: There was Soft Soap Fairy, and Slope Head, and the Bug and all the others. And really, these individuals lifted me up. And I'll never, ever, ever forget them.

HANNITY: Your story lifted me again.

COLMES: Senator McCain, thank you. I hope you'll come and visit us again. Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

COLMES: He dropped out of the race for the White House to become one of Governor George W. Bush's biggest supporters. We'll talk to Ohio Congressman John Kasich next. That's coming right up on HANNITY &

COLMES. Please stay with us.

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