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Public Statements

Discusses a Range of Issues (Interview)

Location: Fox News Sunday


BYLINE: Tony Snow


SNOW: Senator John McCain stormed into the lead in a series of New Hampshire polls last week, thus becoming the brand-new front-runner in the Granite State's Republican presidential primary. He joins us now.

We just saw this story about Senator Bill Bradley. You're going to have a press conference with him later in the week on campaign finance reform.

After this irregular heartbeat—and we all hope he's well...

MCCAIN: At least he has a heartbeat.

SNOW: That's right. Do you think it's important for all candidates to follow your lead and just dump out their full medical records?

MCCAIN: I don't know. I'd like to leave that decision up to them and to the media. I thought that probably I should, not only because of the fact that I'd committed to a full disclosure campaign, as far as the, you know, what we stood for and all those kind of things, but in addition, I thought that a lot of the media people would find it very interesting and entertaining. I'm an orthopedic surgeon's dream or

SNOW: You're the next best thing to a hockey player.

MCCAIN: That's right.

SNOW: With Senator Bradley, though, inquiring minds are going to want to know. Don't you think it would be sensible at least to put out that portion of his medical records?

MCCAIN: Yes, but that's a decision they have to make.

One thing I've tried not to do is decide for other candidates what they should do during this campaign.

SNOW: Another story we just saw in the news broadcast, and we've seen a lot of them in recent weeks, the president now says the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was implemented improperly. Number one, do you support the "don't ask, don't tell" policy?

MCCAIN: Absolutely, and I respect the individuals who are responsible for crafting it, including General Colin Powell.

SNOW: So the president is—what do you make of the president's latest statement?

MCCAIN: I don't know. It seems to me that that kind of statement undermines the men and women in the military who are trying to implement a policy that has been in existence for seven years. If the president wants to review the policy, that's fine with me. All policies should be reviewed from time to time, and I think it might be appropriate to do so. But to—this kind of thing.

What do you think the men and women now who are in positions of command all over the world in the military are saying to themselves this morning? "What's he talking about? I've been trying to do the best that I can."

MCCAIN: Now, if they're problems in this policy, then let's talk about them in an orderly fashion under a policy review, rather than this kind them in an orderly fashion under the aegis of a policy review rather than this kind of a—well, it's just kind of typical of this president, and naturally suspicions will arise that he's following on to help his wife's candidacy for the Senate. It's an inappropriate comment, especially in the context in which he made it.

SNOW: Is it political pandering?

MCCAIN: There's going to be that suspicion because otherwise you would think he would call the joint chiefs together over at the White House and said in a formal way, look, I need to review this policy. I don't think it's being implemented right or it's not working right, or something like that, rather than coming on the heels of his wife's announcement.

SNOW: A state representative, a Republican representative from your home state is a reservist and acknowledged homosexual. Now it looks like he's going to get the boot. Is that the proper policy?

MCCAIN: I don't know because I don't know the details of it. Steve May look at the specifics of his case.

Look, there will always be problems in a policy of this nature. This is the most volatile, emotional issue probably that we face in many respects, so I think we ought to correct where errors are made and we ought to implement policies that are correct, but if there's violations of it, like any other policy, then we should address them.

SNOW: Well, you've just said the president undermines moral when he doesn't follow—when he doesn't support military leaders. Members of the Army have already looked at this and said you violated the policy, and even though he's got top of the line marks, he's going to have to go. Doesn't it undermine their authority to say, well we've got to think about this?

MCCAIN: No. I'm his elected representative. I think every citizen has the right to come to their elected representative to seek help if they feel they're not being fairly treated.

SNOW: On gay rights, do you oppose same-sex marriages?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do.

SNOW: OK. You've meet with the log cabin—how about hate crime statutes, for them or against them?

MCCAIN: I think existing statutes are appropriate and I think we ought to pursue existing statutes, and I don't think that it's necessary to have additional laws passed just on that basis.

SNOW: So, you don't support Attorney General Janet Reno's request for hate crime statutes?


SNOW: That being the case, you've met with log cabin Republicans and it sounds like you're opposed to virtually every key portion of their

MCCAIN: First of all, they're Republicans, they believe in less government, lower taxes, a strong national defense. There's many issues in which we are in agreement. There's issues which we are in disagreements. You just articulated some of them. But every president should meet with people they disagree with, and in particular you should meet with members of your own party, even if you're in disagreement.

SNOW: What do you make of George W. Bush saying, well, I'm not going to meet with these guys?

MCCAIN: Again...

SNOW: Blown opportunity?

MCCAIN: ... that's a decision he has to make. Leave others to decide whether that's right or wrong. My position is that you should meet with everybody, no matter who you disagree with, and whether you disagree or not.

SNOW: Let's hit a hot button issue for Republicans...

MCCAIN: What did we just cover?

SNOW: Well, we're just getting warmed up. Abortion. You have said that you oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of a mother.


SNOW: The life of the mother clearly a case where you have to competing rights to life.


SNOW: What is the moral distinction between a baby conceived by rape and incest and a baby conceived in other ways? Why don't those babies have a right to life?

MCCAIN: You're exactly right. This is a terrible moral dilemma that everybody faces when they address this issue. I happen to have obviously come down on making a very difficult, Solomon-like, decision on this.

SNOW: Why did you choose those two?

MCCAIN: Because I felt that they were compelling reasons to make exceptions. But look, I understand on a talmudic (ph) level that it's very difficult to make that differentiation.

SNOW: What are those reasons? That's what I'm curious about.

MCCAIN: Well, I think the exception of rape and incest are clearly those that are compelling reasons that an exception can be made because of the unique circumstances surrounding those two situations.

SNOW: I'm—rape being because it's not consensual?

MCCAIN: Yes, and the trauma associated with it and all of the aspects of it, that are very, very difficult. And by the way, very, very personal.

SNOW: And many people say, "Well, there are other traumatic circumstances around abortion." If trauma is the key, then it seems to be you're on a slippery slope, are you not?

MCCAIN: Sure you are. You have to make—on many of these kinds of very difficult moral issues in America, you have to make decisions that are very difficult. I happen to have, after a lot of thought, come down on the issue of rape or incest.

And I know that that makes me less than pure and perhaps open to the same kind of discussion that we described. But it's a terrible personal people and work together to make adoption easier in America, to improve foster care, and work on areas that we can together to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion in America.

a business. The great middle in America would like to try to at least work together on issues we can agree on on this very difficult issue.

SNOW: If you reverse Roe vs. Wade States and people can debate it again, do you think it should be reversed?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.

SNOW: You do?


SNOW: Speaking of which, the United States Supreme Court...

MCCAIN: Are there any, is there any other non-controversial issue?

SNOW: I'll try—we'll try to work on it. We'll get there.


SNOW: You said Sandra Day O'Connor is one of your favorite justices of the Supreme Court.

MCCAIN: Yes. She's a wonderful person from my home state of Arizona.

SNOW: What do you think is her most significant contribution to constitutional law?

MCCAIN: I think one area she's worked on is the protection of the rights of Native Americans. And I think that's a much neglected area, our first citizens. I think obviously she has been involved in some key decisions, as far as reversing, or at least modifying, some of the more liberal actions of previous courts.

SNOW: When you talk about Supreme Court, the next president is probably going to pick the—at least three members of the Supreme Court, the majority of the federal bench have enormous impact. Do you or do you not think that a person's position on such issues as abortion should figure into whether you would appoint them to the Court?

MCCAIN: I think there should be one overriding factor or consideration made in that selection process. And that is how closely they've adhered in the past to the Constitution of the United States. I would not impose any litmus test.

But if they have closely adhered to the views of our Founding Fathers, to the Constitution of the United States, then they're my select appointee.

SNOW: Well, people on the left and right will both say their guys are adhering to the Constitution. Who do you pick as your referee?

MCCAIN: No. I think we all know that the Warren Court took great flights away from any envisioning that our Founding Fathers had about the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Judge Scalia is a fine judge, Judge Rehnquist is a great hero of mine, along with a couple of others.

So, I think it's pretty clear what strict interpretation of the Constitution is all about.

SNOW: So anybody recently appointed that you wouldn't have appointed?

MCCAIN: No, I don't think so.

SNOW: One of the things you...

MCCAIN: Oh, I wouldn't have appointed the Clinton appointees. I would have appointed others. I'm sorry.


MCCAIN: The Clinton appointees, I would not have appointed.

SNOW: You've talked a lot and feelingly about moral standards. One of the things you're now going after is the fact they use, I guess, cartoon characters in gaming? What's that all about?

MCCAIN: The gaming industry is now putting cartoons on slot machines. In other words, rather than the bar or whatever it is, there's like, cartoon characters.

MCCAIN: What's that all about? You know, let's not try to entice young children to be involved to make this very—frankly, a serious issue more attractive yet to young children. But I'm not advocating any censorship of them. I hope they'll show good sense.

SNOW: Now, you have said that your favorite rock band is...?

MCCAIN: Nine Inch Nails. Nine Inch Nails. Yes, my daughter who is now 15 has kept me up to speed. I think the Back Street Boys are her favorite, but I'm terribly concerned, she seems to become enamored with Ricky Martin and I know he is a handsome guy but that's not the one I want her to marry.


SNOW: Speaking of controversy, I want to flash up some Nine Inch Nails lyrics. This is one on their most recent album. It says, "I play a game. It's called insincerity *" you can figure out what all those things are.


SNOW: And after that the lyrics get really nasty.


SNOW: Are you sure you're a Nine Inch Nails fan?

MCCAIN: I was joking when I said it. Obviously, I have not seen their words of their songs. And I was trying to make light of this whole issue of the generation gap that many of us politicians have with younger Americans. But, no, I take exception...

SNOW: Well, your daughter does promotion in the rock business.

MCCAIN: Oh, my daughter Sydney. I thought we're talking about my 15- year-old daughter. Yeah. My daughter Sydney works for Capital Records. I'm very happy and proud of the work that she does. She is a wonderful young woman.

SNOW: Well, if it's any consolation, we've had to hide our daughter's Britney Spears album. We're going to take a break. We'll be back with more of Senator John McCain in just a couple of minutes.


SNOW: We're back with Senator McCain. Now joining the fray, our FOX NEWS panel: Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of FOX NEWS; Mara Liasson of National Public Radio; and Juan Williams of the Washington Post.

Senator McCain, Vice President Al Gore has said that he is the only candidate that's supported campaign finance reform before he ran for president. What do you think?

MCCAIN: I just think that—then, therefore, while he was inventing the Internet I was inventing television. I mean, he also said that he cosponsored McCain-Feingold three years after he left the Senate. That's a unique parliamentary maneuver.

Look, I welcome the vice president's involvement in this issue. But the real scandal in Washington was not Monica Lewinsky, it was the debasement of the institutions of government by the Clinton-Gore campaign— renting the Lincoln bedroom, selling seats on official trade missions—and frankly, that will be a stain on American political history.

SNOW: Are you afraid all the records are going to be destroyed and we'll never find out?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think Fred Thompson will tell you that we will never find out all the—including how many millions of dollars of foreign money came into that campaign.

LIASSON: Senator McCain, you've said a lot about campaign finance reform but not as much about other domestic issues. I want to ask you about Social Security. Most of the experts say that to keep Social Security solvent for the baby boom generation we're going to have to do one or a combination of the following three things, which is: cut benefits, raise taxes or raise the age of eligibility. Do you agree with that?

MCCAIN: No. I think you take 62 percent of the surplus, put it into Social Security, make it solvent, keep it off budget—and I mean really off-budget, not for use for emergency purposes. We spent $4.5 billion in emergency for the 2000 census. We didn't know the year 2000 was arriving, and—allow people to invest part of their taxes earmarked for Social Security to investment, in investments of their choice.

I am convinced that that will make the Social Security system solvent.

LIASSON: And not raise the eligibility age...

MCCAIN: And not raise the eligibility age limit or cut benefits.

LIASSON: And if you let people take the payroll taxes and put them into private retirement accounts, what happens when the market goes down and they're left without Social Security benefits?

MCCAIN: Well, since 1945 the stock market has had an average return of 5.5 percent. The return on Treasury bills is three percent. That's an average since 1945. And I don't think that this economy is going to meet although I'm very optimistic about it. But I'm confident that our last 45 -- nearly 50 years of experience will hold.

HUME: Senator, if you're optimistic about the long-term direction of the stock market, or perhaps the near-term as well, what prompted you say in one of those debates that you fear that this market's growth may be a bubble?

MCCAIN: What I said was that I am concerned that we haven't defied every single law of economics and history. I am excited about the future of America in this information technology revolution. But that doesn't mean there aren't going to be some cyclical effects still associated with it, and it doesn't have to be deep and it doesn't have to be severe. It can market to grow, just as it has, for example?

MCCAIN: Well, I just think it is—it is—the size of the growth is in some defiance of our history. Although this new technology has obviously allowed to define some of them.

I just think—and I'm very optimistic in the long term. But I don't think that it's appropriate for us to base all of our assumptions, i.e. tax cuts and others, on the most optimistic scenario. I think it's far better to pay for tax cuts with eliminating corporate welfare, that may come or any fluctuations.

But I am overall very—I'm not "irrationally exuberant," but I am very "rationally optimistic."

WILLIAMS: Senator McCain, one of the things that you and I have in common is that we were both born in Panama. We have the transition of the control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians coming up shortly. Are you in support of that treaty signed by Jimmy Carter in the '70s, or do you think that it was a mistake?

MCCAIN: I think it was a mistake, and there's nothing we can do about canal.

But I'm also very worried, Juan, about the political will in Panama to continue to use the revenues for maintenance and upkeep and modernization of the canal. People tell me that that's going to be a very tempting source of money for the Panamanian government.

MCCAIN: But it's—there's nothing that's going to be done about it. I wish we hadn't done it. But I have to move on.

WILLIAMS: Well one of the affairs that's been articulated, the Chinese shipping both militarily and economically, posing a threat. Do you in fact think the Chinese are out to dominate that canal and let's connect it for a second to Wen Ho Lee. Do you think Wen Ho Lee is guilty of espionage in that case out in New Mexico?

MCCAIN: I don't know whether Mr. Lee is guilty or not. I noticed he was just arrested and I think he deserves the benefits of our system of canal, but does that mean I think the Chinese are ready to strike and take over the canal? No, I wish that they had given those concessions on a more competitive basis than the government awarded them. But it's not a good thing, but I don't think it's reason for us to abrogate the treaty. I don't think any legal scholar would broach that.

SNOW: Senator, staying on the issue of China, the Chinese, according to press reports, are now aiming missiles at Taiwan. Do you—what does the United States need to do to demonstrate to the Chinese that it's serious and that it doesn't want China to do such things?

MCCAIN: Well, I think you can do several things. I think you could have a consistent foreign policy towards China, which this administration has not conducted. Candidate Clinton called them the Bloody Butchers of Beijing and in '98 he called them our strategic partners. They are neither.

I think we have to make it very clear the consequences of aggression against Taiwan far outweigh any benefits. From a practical standpoint, I would develop sea-based missile defense capabilities that I could move in international waters if necessary. I would also support Taiwan entry into the WTO. Look, the Chinese have got to understand that it is in their interest, not ours, in their interest, to enter the world stage as a superpower in a peaceful and cooperative manner.

SNOW: So in other words until the Chinese behave better, we'll treat Taiwan as an equal on the world state with China?

MCCAIN: They are a freely elected democracy. You know that because you see pictures of them in fist fights on the floor of their parliament on occasion.

LIASSON: Senator McCain, you are for China's entry into the WTO.


LIASSON: The deal that was struck to let them in doesn't require that they improve their human rights record. It doesn't call for any kind of labor and environmental standards, the kind of things the president called for at the WTO meeting in Seattle. Why is that a good thing?

MCCAIN: Because they are entering the world stage as a superpower. The question is how do we most beneficially affect that entry and obviously the responsibility lies with them. But I believe that free trade and knowledge and information will lead to democracy and freedom over time.

I also think that we need to have a very clear message to them we expect progress in human rights and treatment of the Tibetan people. Sanctions was against South Africa. And that was when every nation in the world joined in those sanctions. No other nation in the world would join us practically speaking if we impose sanctions on China. So it's not only a matter of practicality but a matter of how do you best think the Chinese will improve.

If you use Mao Zedong as a zero, and ten perfect, probably Deng Xiaoping was a three. A guy who was welcomed here as a hero. These people are about a six. We need to get them to a nine or ten.

HUME: Senator, you were widely credited after the second debate with having displayed a greater knowledge of Dean Acheson, a man about whom Governor Bush had just finished reading a book. And I want to ask you about him and what do you think, for example, about his role in the firing of Douglas MacArthur in the early 50s?

MCCAIN: First of all, I have not read the book. I've got a copy of it. But I think that Dean Acheson played a key role there. And yet, as Harry Truman had the sign on his desk, the buck stopped there. This was a situation where it was absolutely mandatory that Harry Truman and Dean Acheson assert the supremacy of civilian government over the military.

My personal hero is Douglas MacArthur. Anyone who has read "An American Caesar" knows this is an extraordinary man. But when he was acting in an insubordinate fashion he had to be removed from office. Dean Acheson played a very important role in that decision. But the real person who bore the responsibility and I think the historical credit was Harry Truman.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you a quick question about affirmative action. Are you in favor or opposed to it?

MCCAIN: ...equal opportunity, which they do not have in this country, I think it should be—and I do—I think it should be based on economic lines and not on ethnic lines.

WILLIAMS: And that makes you a supporter of vouchers in charter schools, is that right? But wouldn't that, in fact, therefore, undermine the quality of public schools available to most American children?

MCCAIN: I would like to see funds for a voucher—test voucher system come from corporate welfare such as sugar subsidies, ethanol subsidies and gas and oil subsidies. I would not take the money from existing public education. I'd like to test every school district in America, the poorest school districts and see if they work or not.

LIASSON: Can we follow up on this education issue?


LIASSON: You've said that a good teacher shouldn't be paid less than a bad senator.

MCCAIN: Exactly.

LIASSON: Now, I know you're not in the business of naming bad senators, but given how small the federal role is in education, how would you make that happen?

MCCAIN: I would...

LIASSON: How would you raise teacher pay?

MCCAIN: ... encourage, I would encourage in every one of the states in America merit pay for teachers, teacher testing, teacher competency and those who display that kind of competency should be—have their pay dramatically increased, those that don't, should be encouraged to find another line of work. It's a terrible inequity in America when a lawyers make an average of $79,000 a year and a teacher $39,000 a year.

SNOW: So, would you use federal money to provide that cushion?

MCCAIN: No. No, I would not.

SNOW: So, you'd encourage the states to find other ways to make money?

MCCAIN: And I would find ways to encourage the states to do that. I think it's a mistake for us to think that the federal government and the federal bureaucracies know what's best in Arizona, and I don't know why I mentioned New Hampshire...


... when they really know. But we've got to encourage choice and competition.

SNOW: Let's hit a series of issues very quickly. Number one, this Russia spy scandal. What do you make of this?

MCCAIN: I think the fact is, the Cold War's still over; countries still

SNOW: Is it no big deal as the president says?

MCCAIN: I think it's—I think it's cause for a review of the security procedures at the State Department. But I'm not trying to excuse this administration. But throughout our history, this kind of thing has happened. Internal vigilance is the answer.

SNOW: Spying is not new. Elian Gonzalez, a young six-year-old who's in Miami right now. His father wants him back. You and others—the vice president says, well, why don't we offer his father a visa? And we can figure out if he really wants his son. What do you think?

MCCAIN: I think his father should come to the United States or even to a neutral country and then declare his intentions for his son. I don't think any father in the world wants his son to grow up under communist tyranny without a lack of opportunity that he would have in a free and democratic nation.

SNOW: If the father for some reason wanted to stay in Cuba, shouldn't the father and son be reunited?

MCCAIN: I think this is a very tough choice, and we've faced it in the past. It was a son of a Ukrainian Russian back many years ago during the Cold War, as you might remember. He sued his parents so that he could stay in the United States. It's a very difficult choice, but I think

SNOW: He's a six-year-old.

MCCAIN: Yes. Listen, I know this is a tough decision. But his mother gave her life in order that this son of hers might have the opportunity for freedom.

SNOW: Final question, I want to—we're going to talk about this in the next segment. Rudolph Giuliani's policy towards the homeless, good idea or bad idea?

MCCAIN: Listen, I'm a great believer in Rudy Giuliani. He's changed New York, and I lean towards his position, but I don't know enough of the details to know about it. But this is going to be the most exciting Senate race in the history of America, and if I'm the Republican nominee, I'm afraid it's going to be overshadowed by it.

LIASSON: Senator McCain, can we get off all this substance and talk about political tactics and strategy for a minute?

MCCAIN: Sure. Sure.

LIASSON: You're surging in New Hampshire, you've had a wonderful week, you're on the cover of Time magazine. But I want to ask you if you think you can go the distance. You're behind in South Carolina, you don't have the kind of money and organization of George W. Bush. What's your plan for after New Hampshire? How do you win this nomination?

MCCAIN: Candidates have safes full of strategic plans and ideas. Ours is very simple. "Win," you know, in New Hampshire. Win in South Carolina, continue the traction that we're making, move into the succeeding states, and use the earned media, as well as the money that we're coming in.

Look, I have no illusions. We're still way behind, a long way behind. The reason why I'm doing well in New Hampshire is because we've been able to get out the message of reform, reform, and reform. And I don't know if I can get that message out nationwide. We're way behind. We're still the underdog.

But I'm very happy with where we've come to and we're having a lot of fun, and I'm not afraid of losing. So it's very enjoyable.

HUME: I was afraid you'd peaked too soon in New Hampshire, up 15 points in one recent poll.

MCCAIN: Obviously, I think that poll is an aberration. I think it's going to be very close in New Hampshire.

MCCAIN: Well, then it should be at 50 next week. But I think the point is that it's going to be very close. Governor Bush and his people are going to pour a lot of money into New Hampshire and the media. And I think and he's a very fine candidate. He's a good man, and I've enjoyed these debates and I think it's going to be very tight in New Hampshire. We've got a long way to go in South Carolina, as you pointed out.

And so, look, we're still—odds strongly against us. But it's been a lot of—it's been a great crusade.

SNOW: OK. Senator McCain, thanks for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.

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