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MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript

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SCARBOROUGH: With me now is a man who is a war hero in his own right, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Joe, and it's good to be with you. And I don't deserve the appellation, particularly after watching those brave young men.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Senator, I wanted to ask you, we look at these amazing video pictures from Baghdad and from Iraq, and yet that doesn't tell the whole story of what kind of heroes, what kind of character these American soldiers have. Could you tell us and tell the American people just what type of young men and women we have over there fighting for us?

MCCAIN: Joe, they're summed up in my mind a picture that we all saw last week of an Iraqi woman on a bridge, wounded, bleeding, three American soldiers under heavy fire go on that bridge, risk their lives, take that wounded Iraqi woman to safety. That's what these American young men and women are all about. And, you know, the British, I'm sure, are just the same, but I don't think there are any other armies in the world that are like these young men and women are.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Senator, you know, these young men and women truly are the heroes in this war, but there are also a lot of people up on the Hill and in Washington, D.C. that fought for this war of liberation for all the right reasons. You obviously were out in the forefront on that. There were many others on both sides of the party, on both sides of the aisle. But isn't this a vindication for you; also a vindication for Don Rumsfeld and George Bush, that this war is a just war and is a war that needed to be fought?

MCCAIN: I wouldn't include myself with those who had to make the tough decisions. The president of the United States, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, those -- General Myers, General Franks, they're the ones that had to make the tough decisions.

You, as a member of Congress, know that the easiest thing for to us do is to sit on the sidelines and second-guess. But they had to -- and they took the heat, as you remember, when there was some questioning about the conduct of the war. I'm proud of them. I'm proud of their leadership. I'm proud of the president of the United States.

And I'm proud of a young woman named Lori Piestewa, who was a Hopi Indian, who lived up on the Navajo reservation, who was our rescued POW's roommate, who gave her life. There is great sadness on the Navajo and Hopi reservation these last few days, but there is also a long tradition of Native American service and sacrifice to our country. And we celebrate Lori Piestewa's life and her death.

SCARBOROUGH: And her story is a remarkable story, and I know that everybody's thoughts are with her and her family, and especially her young child.

But, Senator, I've got to tell you, I think you're being a bit too humble, because you did stick your neck out there. You were aggressively talking about the need to fight this war of liberation in Iraq, not only for the people of Iraq, but also for the people of the entire Middle East. And part of that had to do with the preemption doctrine. Do you think we've now seen why the preemption doctrine is possibly taking the place of containment in a post-9/11 world?

MCCAIN: Well, I do, Joe. I think our new policy is a combination of containment, where we have to contain, but preemption, where there is a clear and present danger. And, you know, Joe, I think that we've got to understand when we do find -- and we will find these weapons of mass destruction -- that this was the proper thing to do. We're now looking at a possibly nuclear-armed North Korea, which then makes it far more difficult an issue to address.

But we will -- the president in this scenario tried every single option over and over and over again before he resorted to the military option. And those, who are concerned about some kind of adventurism on the part of the United States, don't be nervous. Don't be nervous. It will only be when there is a clear and present danger to the United States.

But also, Joe, these pictures that you are now showing indicate that the United States' fundamental belief that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights applies to the Middle East, as well as to the rest of the world.

SCARBOROUGH: You're exactly right. One person who has been nervous throughout this entire war and leading up to the war is House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. She made big news today when she said this:


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: I have absolutely no regret about my vote on this war. The same questions remain, the cost in human lives, the cost to our budget, probably $100 billion. We could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less.


SCARBOROUGH: Senator, you and I both know there are good men and women on both sides of the political aisle, but at the same time, isn't it fair to say that the Democratic Party, many on the left of the Democratic Party have had a blind spot when it's come to national security since the Vietnam War?

MCCAIN: I don't know if it's a blind spot or not, but I think that they have had an enduring reaction to the Vietnam War. In the '91 debate over the Persian Gulf War -- which in the Senate was much closer, the vote was 53-47 -- I heard continuously over and over again, "Vietnam, Vietnam, body bags, body bags." I think that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy about the role of the United States in the world, and what we need to do to meet the challenges that were brought home to us so forcefully and tragically on 9/11.

I respect their views. I respectfully disagree. And the American people will make the decision as to who's right, and the polls I saw today was 77 percent of the American people support President Bush.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Senator John McCain, you are, whether you like it or not, a true American hero.


SCARBOROUGH: And we appreciate you being with us tonight.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Joe. You're very kind.

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