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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


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BOB SCHIEFFER: --we appreciate it. Thanks to both of you, you too, Norah.

All this during a week when North Korea defied world opinion and test-fired an intercontinental missile that exploded after takeoff, not to mention multiple bombings overnight. We're told that the American embassy in Afghanistan is in lockdown right now. There was new artillery shelling in Syria. Someone who knows about all of that, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee John McCain is with us now. And thank you, Senator McCain, for coming in.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona/Armed Services Committee) (overlapping): Thanks, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about this Afghanistan deal.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (overlapping): Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: It sounds pretty serious. What do you know?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I think that it's probably a manifestation that the Taliban still has some strength. I think part of it is due to the fact that we have continued to send messages that we are leaving. The President as soon as he agree, announced a-- a surge of troops in Afghanistan, announced the withdrawal date, continues to emphasize withdrawal. And that's a bad news. I think the good news is that we have gotten rid of two major issues that stand in the way of a strategic partnership agreement--night raids and the issue of detention-- detainees.

By the way, Senator Lindsey Graham has done a tremendous job in that area, which I hope would send the message that the United States is going to be there in a strategic partnership with Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond. But every time the President announced another withdrawal, his military commander said it increases the risk. That's what we're seeing here.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to shift to the other side of the world because you're just back from the Syrian--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (overlapping): Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --border. You were in Turkey. You talked to people over there. Syrian army this morning, we're told is again shelling the city of Homs. When you had a little news conference over there with our Clarissa Ward, you said something-- well, I'm going to just to play what-- what you told her.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I think it was a failure from the start. Most of us knew because there was no pressure for Bashar Assad to actually stop the killing. So we think it's going to require military action on the ground in order to get him to leave.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So I want to give you a chance to talk about that.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Sure, absolutely.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Are you talking about sending American troops in there?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Of course, not. I, you know, I have said and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, and I have said continuously no boots on the ground, no unilateral action. But for the United States to sit by and watch this wanton massacre is a betrayal of everything that we stand for and believe in.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So what do we do?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: So, we, along with other countries-- and we lead for a change, lead, not-- not lead from be-- behind but lead from in front. Over there, they are waiting for American leadership. We have announced that we are now providing them with nonlethal equipment. That doesn't do very well against tanks and artillery. We met with the free Syrian army leadership. We met with the Syrian national council. In the refugee camps, we heard the stories of the murders, of the torture, of the rape that's going on.

And Kofi Annan's proposal-- by the way, among other things-- if it were enacted does not call for the removal of Bashar Assad. And I-- the President's policy is supposed to be the removal of this-- of this massacre of-- of his own people. So we need to get a sanctuary for the free Syrian army. We need to get them supplies. We need to get them weapons. And there are many ways to get weapons to them. We showed that in Libya. We showed in Afghanistan and many other times. It's not a fair fight. It's not a fair fight. And-- and so--

BOB SCHIEFFER: But, I mean are you-- are you talking about somehow supplying them with tanks and that-- and things of that nature?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Oh, no. But-- but antitank weapons might be very useful for them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And what about troops on the ground?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Of course not, of course not.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Of any kind? I mean U.N., Arab?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: If-- I think we saw in Libya that there were other countries that did some work on the ground that are willing to do so. There's many countries in the region that are ready to act that are fed up with Bashar Assad. And we can lead and help coalesce-- coalesce a-- a group of-- of nations. And by the way, again, Russia and China continue to veto any significant effort that comes from the United Nations. Wouldn't-- how many times are we going to push that reset button? This-- it's time for the United States to lead. We went to Bosnia because ethnic cleansing was going on. We went to Kosovo because ethnic cleansing and massacres were going on and that was under President Clinton. We regretted that we didn't try to do what we could to stop the massacre in Rwanda. Well, the massacre is going on as we speak.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about another major development that happened this week, and that is the North Koreans defied world opinion earlier this year. We thought we'd made a deal with them to give them food in exchange for them dialing back on their nuclear program. They fired, basically an intercontinental missile which could be used, most people say, to put nuclear weapon all the way--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --to the United States' West Coast if-- if that happens some day. I mean, we hope it never does. But the thing blew up on the-- on the-- shortly after taking off. Have we handled this right?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: For twenty years now, we've been going through this Groundhog Day exercise, confrontation followed by negotiations, followed by aid, followed by confrontation. I mean, it is-- it is remarkable how many times we have seen this movie. And, meanwhile, the North Koreans continue to make progress on nuclear-- now we're going to hear there's going to be another nuclear test. And by the way, Iranians will be paying attention to what we-- how we react to another Chinese nuclear test. And finally, the key to all of this--


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Excuse me, as to what the North Koreans, if they do a nuclear toast. Finally, key to this again is China. China is the only country that can really exert influence over North Korea, and why they continue to prop up a regime that has a hundred and fifty thousand people literally eating grass in a gulag. So, we worry about North Korean behavior as far as development of nuclear weapons and means to deliver them.

There's also tied to Iran on terrorist acts. In the Bush administration we lifted restrictions against them in the hope that they would be coming back to the table. This is a failed policy by numerous administrations. And it-- and again, what would-- what do we suggest, make sure that China understands that this is a key issue in our relationship with China.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little politics. I can't let you go without that.


BOB SCHIEFFER: You know Mitt Romney really stirred up some stuff this week when he said that ninety-three percent of the jobs lost since President Obama--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --became president were women's jobs. Tim Geithner, the Secretary of The Treasury is coming on. I interviewed him later this-- earlier this week and he had some-- he had a response to that. But do you think that there is somehow a-- obviously, the women's vote is going to be very, very important this time around, do you think there is a way for Mitt Romney to close this gap because right now it looks like-- well, most polls show that the President has about a double-digit lead over him, and-- and there's no question the women's vote is going to be crucial.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Absolutely. And I do believe that Ann Romney was right when she said the women she talks to and the women I talk to traveling around my state are interested in jobs and the economy. And I don't know the exact percentage, but there's no doubt that a lot of women have been hurt very badly in this recession, and jobs and the economy is their number one priority. Now, they have other priorities, obviously, but feeding their families and being able to stay in their homes, in my home state of Arizona is their highest priority.

Mitt Romney will be addressing those issues. And this business of going around demagoguing a Buffett Rule-- wouldn't we all know that if you're really serious, if you are really serious about fixing this economy, you'd say, okay, here's the Simpson-Bowles commission, I'm prepared to fix the tax code, clean it up, and give people a few deductions, and you wouldn't have to worry about rich people paying less taxes.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think-- do you think Governor Romney ought to release all of his income taxes to way back?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't think it's necessary. I--

BOB SCHIEFFER: You-- he gave them to you.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, he gave them to me and that was confidential. So did a lot of other people--

BOB SCHIEFFER: When you were thinking about him for vice president.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: And we agreed-- we agreed with everybody. We considered that would remain confidential. John Kerry only introduced two years, Mitt Romney did, I did, two years is sufficient. And frankly, I'm not sure that's the key issue that Americans are really worried about.

BOB SCHIEFFER: John McCain, great to have you.


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