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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript


Location: Unknown


SCHIEFFER: All right, well, David you'll be back if our roundtable a little later in the broadcast. I want to turn now to John McCain, who is a member of the armed services committee, the ranking Republican on armed services. Senator, what can the United States do here? Obviously, no one wants this thing to spiral out of control.

MCCAIN: Well, the United States, obviously, should be as heavily involved as they possibly can. I'm not sure how much influence that this administration has. Remember, the president's first priority in 2009 was the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obviously, there was no progress there. And there are various reasons for it. We won't waste the time. But I think it's several things make this issue very dangerous. One is Egypt and the whole change in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. Egypt was always a reliable break on these Palestinian factions. Apparently, President Morsi is playing an active role, that's good. The Iron Dome that was just talked about -- if it hadn't been for Iron Dome, the Israelis would be in Gaza right now, and so that's a worthwhile U.S. investment -- when we talk about foreign aid sometimes. And third of all, I think that it's very important that we recognize that the United States of America has got to push as hard as we can to resolve this Israeli-Palestinian issue. And so many events are - hinge on making that process go forward.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what can the president do to get that process going? Again first thing, obviously, is to get this -- get some sort of a cease-fire in place here?

MCCAIN: Well, the first thing I would do is not do what he did back in 2009 and have preconditions on Israel and settlement freezes, that made it a nonstarter among other things.

MCCAIN: The second thing I would do is I would find someone even as high-ranking, frankly, as former President Bill Clinton to go and be the negotiator. I know he'd hate me for saying that, but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together as an honest broker. But we have a lot of work to do to regain some credibility because we're crumbling all over the Middle East. Al Qaeda is on the comeback. You saw in the last couple of days, fighting between the Kurds and Iraqis on the border. The whole Mali situation where al Qaeda has taken over. Al Qaeda training camps are in western Iraq. The Iranians continue, as we see the latest IAEA report on their path towards nuclear weapons. You look at the whole Middle East and it has been a significant failure, not to mention our reset with the Russians.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about Libya. You were talking a lot about that. You and the president really kind of had a little set-to last week over the situation in Libya because you said once again that you would oppose the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state. A lot of people in the administration say she is the odds-on favorite to replace Hillary Clinton. Because of her performance on television after it the Benghazi attacks when she said it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt, and not -- and was not a terrorist attack, are you standing fast on that?

MCCAIN: Well, she has a lot of explaining to do. And I'm curious why she has not repudiated those remarks. On this show, the Libyan national president, obviously, said it was al Qaeda. Bob, this goes back to the beginning, this, quote, "light footprint" policy of this presidency. After we helped the Libyans oust Gadhafi, they needed a lot of help, and they could pay for it, by the way, with an army, secure their borders, get rid of these militias. It was in a country that was basically chaotic, and we did almost nothing. And then there became these reports from our embassy and other personnel about attacks on our embassy twice, both in April and in June, the assassination attempt on the British ambassador. The British closed their consulate. The list goes on and on. On August 16th there was a message sent back, we could not repel a sustained attack on our consulate. So what was the State Department doing? What was -- why didn't we on September 11th have military forces capable of intervening in a fight that lasted for seven hours? So all of these questions need to be answered. And finally, for the president of the United States in the second debate said, I said that it was an act of terror in the Rose Garden or September 12th. One, he didn't. That night, we now know, on September 12th in "60 Minutes" he said, quote, "it's too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved." And finally, on September 25th at the United Nations, the president said a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I mean, even on the 25th, after it was well-known this was an al Qaeda-affiliated attack and not a spontaneous demonstration, there still was this obfuscating, and that is not appropriate for the American people.

SCHIEFFER: let me ask you, Senator, because people ask me...

MCCAIN: And could I just say -- finally say, I wish the president wouldn't get mad at me. I wish he would spend our time together in finding out what happened, what caused it, and what we need -- four brave Americans died. Their families and Americans deserve to know and how do we prevent a future occurrence?

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this because this is a question that people ask me. If the administration misled people, if the administration was reluctant to say that this was a work of terrorists, if, in fact, it was, why would they be so reluctant to say that?

MCCAIN: I think you could assume if you're -- you know, you look at their narrative. Their narrative of the president, I got bin Laden, al Qaeda is on the run, that narrative of reelection campaign. He hasn't gotten them. Al Qaeda is not on the run. Al Qaeda is making a strong comeback all over the Middle East. They've got terrorist training camps in Iraq. They've taken over a country, Mali, in North Africa. They're all over Libya. And so it may interfere with that narrative. But, again, also there's one other aspect that we've covered in other times. They said they wanted to not give classified assessment of what happened because they didn't want to betray sources. Well, if classified assessment changed the unclassified assessment, then why in the world would you keep that information from the American people?

SCHIEFFER: In other words, what you're saying is that the unclassified version told one story, and the classified information told another story. It's not they were just withholding details. You're saying they gave two different stories. MCCAIN: Well, it certainly -- without the mention -- the unclassified without the mention of al Qaeda. And we all know now that al Qaeda-affiliated groups were behind this and that it was not a spontaneous demonstration. So we really need to get through this. We need to work together for the sake of these families. But to tell the American people even on the 25th of September when it was well-known, before the United Nations, that, quote, "a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage," we know that. But...

SCHIEFFER: But would you -- Senator, would you be willing to reconsider Susan Rice's nomination, if in fact she's nominated, or if she can explain to you -- give you a better explanation of why she gave the answers the gave?

MCCAIN: I give all -- I think we give all nominees the benefit of a hearing process, et cetera. Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, I was wrong, I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago. That might be a beginning.

SCHIEFFER: But until then, you will remain opposed to her nomination.

MCCAIN: Under the present circumstances, I don't -- until we find out all the information as to what happened, I don't think you could want to support any nominee right now because this is -- this is very, very serious, and it has even larger implications than the deaths of four Americans. It really goes to the heart of this, quote, "light footprint" policy that this administration has been pursuing. And all of the failures throughout Middle East that are now -- the chickens are now coming home to roost.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator, thank you so much for being with us. We'll get another take on this in one minute.


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