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An interview with John McCain

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The former GOP nominee talks Mitt Romney and New Hampshire, as well as, Newt’s attacks, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio in an interview from today’s show:

HH: An hour until polls close in New Hampshire, and very few people in the country know more about the Granite State primary than United States Senator, John McCain, who won it not once, but twice. Senator McCain, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. It’s great to have you.

JM: Thanks for having me on, Hugh, and very interesting times.

HH: Tell me how you think the state has changed from 2008, and even from 2000, when you won the New Hampshire primary.

JM: I think in 2008, there was a very strong wave for President Obama. As you know, he carried the state. It’s traditionally a Republican state. That’s my failure. And so that’s what it was. But I also think that what we’re seeing in New Hampshire as well is an increase in the independent voter, and an increase in the impact of the independent voter. And as you know, that helps, I think, the Romney campaign somewhat. [# More #]

HH: Now Senator, you will not recall this, or maybe you will, but for most of 2007, and the early months of 2008, I’d get up in the morning, and I’d look for new rhetorical hammers to throw at John McCain.

JM: (laughing) I remember.

HH: Once you got the nomination, it was do whatever you can to elect McCain/Palin. And it was easy to do, because I’d always gone after your votes, not your character. Are Mitt Romney’s opponents making a mistake there?

JM: Well, I think they are, Hugh, and I’m convinced that they are, because you know, the things we stand for, and I know because I listened to you and read you all the time, we are for the free enterprise system. We understand that in the free enterprise system, some enterprises fail, some succeed. Would you rather have a kind of a deal like Solyndra, where we pump a half a billion dollars of U.S. tax dollars into a place that looks like a Taj Mahal instead of putting $5 million dollars into a small company called Staples? And unfortunately, with the business, the free enterprise system, some fail. And what Mitt Romney was trying to do was save these companies. Some of them, they couldn’t save. But literally all of them were going to fail under their present condition when they were taken over. And so for us to attack Mitt Romney, and I would talk about “Republicans” attacking Mitt Romney for engaging in what is basically the fundamentals of capitalism, I think is a mistake, and I’m afraid that it gives ammunition to obviously the Obama campaign. So I think we are making a mistake, but look, I also understand that some of these candidates are starting, really, at the abyss. And you know, when you get a little desperate, maybe sometimes you do some things and say some things that when you look back with a perspective of time, you regret it.

HH: The critiques on Bain, it’s like blaming the lifeboats for the people who drowned on the Titanic. But when Newt says…

JM: Exactly.

HH: …it’s looting, looting is what happens in New York City when the power goes off, or when Saddam falls and the Iraq army dissolves. Is looting a bridge too far for rhetoric, John McCain?

JM: I think so, and calling your opponent a liar is as well. And again, would you prefer having the government pick winners and losers? Would you rather have billions of dollars pumped into projects that the President later says well, we found out that some of these shovel-ready projects were not exactly shovel-ready? Would you rather spend two hundred and some thousand dollars per job created in this over trillion dollar stimulus package? That’s what we’re up against, and that’s frankly who the competition is. And I know that it’s the economy and jobs that are dominant issues in this campaign, and that’s fully understandable. But Hugh, with my background and knowledge, and involvement in national security, I am very worried. I am very worried about a perception in the world which is accurate that we are weakening, we are withdrawing, and we are “leading from behind.” And that is full of real serious consequences in the long run.

HH: Let’s turn to that. The President proposed massive DOD cuts last week under the cover of a strategic reassessment. How important is it to stop those cuts, John McCain? And should whoever our nominee is, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, or whoever, should they be campaigning to stop those cuts?

JM: I think they should be campaigning to stop those cuts. I think they should also be committed, as Mitt Romney is, to bringing some order out of the chaos of our acquisition process, which is completely broken. You know, these cost overruns, which are in the hundreds of billions of dollars, cumulatively, that we have to get the, yeah, the real business approach, which Romney brings, to the way we acquire weapons and ships and airplanes. You know, this F-35 has just gone, is now a trillion dollar weapon system. And that’s, you know, it just reaches an unaffordable point. But for us to cut the size of the Army and the Marines the way we are, we’ve seen that history before, Hugh. After World War II, there was never going to be a land war, and along came Korea. We were going to always do it with air power after Korea, and then Vietnam. After Vietnam, the chief of staff of the Army came over and told the American people we had a hollow Army. Thank God Ronald Reagan came along. We are about to repeat the lessons of history, and we live in a very dangerous world.

HH: Senator McCain, there’s a movie coming out next month called Act of Valor, which stars real Navy SEALs. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to screen it, yet. But what becomes obvious from this amazing movie is the amount of preparation it requires to deploy a Special Force unit, the submarines, the carriers, the logistical supply, the personnel clerks. It’s extraordinary, but I, the President talks about upping drones and Special Forces like it can replace the massive amount of basing and supply needs that we have in the military.

JM: Yeah, and there’s always people like the President, to be very frank, that don’t know much about warfare, that always think there’s a gimmick. There’s a gimmick that will replace the soldier or Marine or airman or sailor with boots on the ground that will have to be there to secure whatever area that we think needs to be secured. The Iranians are basically thumbing their nose at us, as you know. They’re on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability. Iraq is unraveling because of the President overriding the recommendations of his military leaders. We place great risk on any chance of real long term success in Afghanistan. And so the President says well, we’ll turn our attention to the Pacific. We should pay attention to the Pacific or Asia area of the world. But to just wave the white flag? Look, the President campaigned, saying he’d get out of Iraq. He said the surge would never work. We’re out of Iraq, and it’s beginning to unravel. And in the words of General Keane, the architect of the surge, we won the war, and we’re losing the peace.

HH: Now Senator McCain, a couple of political questions.

JM: Sure.

HH: You’re uniquely situated to comment on vice presidential selections. Marco Rubio, you’ve served alongside of for a year. Would he make a good vice presidential selection for whomever our nominee is?

JM: You know, he stoutly denies any interest, which is very appropriate for Marco to do. But I view him as a real rising star. I’ve traveled with him. We went to Libya together and some other places. The guy is a superstar. And we have others, too. We have a number of others like Chris Christie, who I’ve admired his act (laughing).

HH: I don’t know, I haven’t seen you two on the same stage up in New Hampshire. I don’t know if you’ve been out of the trail with him.

JM: I have had numerous, spent numerous times with him, but our times on the trail did not coincide. That may be a design by the campaign, by the Romney campaign. But I think we have a number of very good people. The governor of New Mexico is a very impressive person.

HH: Governor Martinez, yeah.

JM: Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman is really a very outstanding intellect. Paul Ryan is good. We have a good stable there, but I agree with you that Marco Rubio has to be put in the front rank.

HH: Now Senator, if Governor Romney gets a double digit win as is projected, and we’ll know in a little bit later tonight, what do you see happening in South Carolina, which you know very well, and Florida, of course, which you won with the endorsement of Governor Crist four years ago? What do you see happening in those two states?

JM: I think that we’re going to fight the expectations level. Let’s be sure. When I was flipping through the channels last night, and I saw Lawrence O’Donnell, a guy I admire his intellect, he said we’ve got to keep this going. We’ve got to keep this primary going. We’ve got to do whatever we can to keep it going. At least he was honest. And they have no doubt, the liberal…look at the coverage of the statement of Mitt Romney’s. I mean, when you look at the context of his statement, I like to fire people, too, if they are not doing the job. And of course it was a poor choice of words that he made, but he was talking about health insurance.

HH: Right.

JM: You see, and so…and he shouldn’t have said it that way. I’ll admit that. But look, when you say millions of words in a campaign, are you going to grab five or six of them and make that the cause celeb? So all I can say is I think that there’s going to be a strong desire on the part of the mainstream media to try to set up somebody who will be, who will keep this primary season going. And it is, as you know, Hugh, a game of expectations. If somebody comes in third tonight in New Hampshire, they’ll say see, I’ve got the big mo behind me. The best at that you and I have ever observed was the Comeback Kid. Remember the Comeback Kid?

HH: Oh, you bet. Bill Clinton. Senator, we are out of time. John McCain, always an honor. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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