Transcript: Sen. John McCain on 'FOX News Sunday'

Published December 06, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The following is a transcribed excerpt of the December 5, 2004 edition of "FOX News Sunday."

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: The Major League baseball players' union, bowing to pressure from our next guest, among others, will hold a meeting this week about steroid testing. Many outside the game have called for more testing and stricter punishment.

In Iraq, terrorists continue to target Iraqi citizens. Today, 17 were killed while going to work at a U.S. military facility near the town of Tikrit.

And when the next Congress convenes in January, Republicans will hold 232 seats, Democrats 202, with one independent. Final results came on Saturday in Louisiana when, in two runoffs, a Democrat beat the son of former Congressman Billy Tauzin and a Republican won in a Democratic district.

With new efforts to ensure safe elections in Iraq, a growing scandal at the U.N. and a drug controversy sweeping the national pastime, we turn to a man who's involved in all three areas. Joining us now in a Sunday exclusive is Senator John McCain.

And, Senator, welcome. Always good to have you with us.

U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-AZ: Thanks, Chris. Thanks.

WALLACE: Let's begin...

MCCAIN: Can I say, first of all, congratulations on your completion of one year of hosting this program. Congratulations on your success.

WALLACE: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.

Let's begin with the growing scandal over steroids in baseball. As head of the Senate Commerce Committee, how tough are you prepared to get?

MCCAIN: It's time for us to introduce legislation if necessary. I'm encouraged by Don Fehr's statement at the players' meeting out in Arizona this week that they will bring the issue up to a prominent position, which it deserves.

Let me just make a couple comments about it real quick. One, it's not just the players' fault. When they negotiated, the owners said, well, it's the last item, so we'll approve of this incredibly weak, disgraceful, once-a-year test at the person's choosing. I mean, it's a joke.

So it's both sides' fault. Both sides need to sit down and get together on this issue.

And we need to have at least a regimen for testing that they impose in minor leagues in baseball. I'd like to see all professional sports have the same standards as the Olympics have for Olympic athletes. But it's time to change.

WALLACE: You've had promises in the past. You had hearings in March. You said that baseball's in danger of being a disgrace. Don Fehr, who I know is a friend of yours, the head of the baseball players union, said, "I get it." Nothing's happened.

So if they have this meeting and nothing happens, what will you do?

MCCAIN: I will introduce legislation in January that requires some kind of regimen for testing of Major League baseball players. And I believe that we can pass it through the Congress of the United States.

I don't think they're going to do that. I hope and pray they will not do that. I hate for us to interfere with it.

Now, somebody watching right now is going to say, "How is it any of your business?" Anti-trust exemption was granted by Congress to organize baseball, and also it's got to do with interstate commerce. So we do have a role to play.

WALLACE: I know that you were with President Bush yesterday at the Army-Navy game.

And by the way, congratulations to you. Go Navy.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

WALLACE: Did you talk about it with the president?

MCCAIN: Yes, I did. The president is very concerned. The president, as you know, mentioned in it his State of the Union message.

But the president has to be a little careful here. As the Justice Department obviously is under his command, he has to be a little bit careful.

But there is no doubt that the president is deeply concerned about this. I mean, he loves baseball. He's a former owner. And he loves all sports.

But he is very concerned about it. But he has to be a little bit careful about how much he gets involved in it, since the Justice Department is going to be heavily involved in this.

WALLACE: Do you have the sense, though, that if Congress passed a bill — and the failure of collective bargaining negotiations — if Congress passes a bill imposing drug testing that he would sign it?

MCCAIN: There's not a doubt in my mind. He'd love to.

WALLACE: Really?

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sure he would. Because if — again, if that's the last resort. I know that the president would like to see it done through collective bargaining and decision made by owners and labor.

WALLACE: Now, the biggest star in this scandal, Barry Bonds, has admitted that he used a cream and a clear substance but says that he didn't know what they were.

I guess I'm asking you this more as a sports fan, which I know you are, than as a senator. Do you believe him, or do you think he's a cheater?

MCCAIN: As a sports fan, and knowing Mr. Bonds the way I do, who knows every calorie and everything that he takes into his body, it's difficult for me to believe. But I don't think it's appropriate for me to make that judgment.

The important aspect of this issue is not Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Gary Sheffield. The important aspect of this issue is that high school kids all over America believe that this is the only way they can make it. Ask any high school coach.

This is the tragedy of steroids. And we all know that it will destroy a young person's body. And that's why we've got to bring this to a halt.

WALLACE: Let me ask you one more question on this. What do you think should happen to Bonds and Jason Giambi and all of the others alleged to have cheated? And again, I ask you this as a sports fan. Do you think that they should be allowed to keep playing? And especially with Bonds, what do you think should happen to his records?

MCCAIN: Almost anything I say, Chris — I can't separate sports fan from senator, so I think it's really kind of inappropriate.

My major concern about it is the high school athletes. But if Mr. Bonds and all of these other players are willing to subject themselves to the regimen that we need, then continue playing baseball, and I think this will continue to be a controversy the same way the Pete Rose controversy will be with us forever as well.

WALLACE: Well, it's too bad.

Let's switch, if we can, to Iraq.

The Pentagon announced this week that it's going to increase the American military presence by 12,000 to 150,000 in time for the elections in January.

Given the fact that these troops, the American troops, are going to have to protect thousands of polling places, continue the fight against the insurgents and help rebuild cities like Fallujah, is 150,000 enough?

MCCAIN: It probably isn't. But the problem that we have here is that the Pentagon has been reacting to initiatives of the enemy rather than taking initiatives from which the enemy has to react to.

Many of us, as long as a year and a half ago, said, "You have to have more people there. You have to have more linguists. You have to have more special forces. You have to have" — and the Pentagon has reluctantly, obviously, gradually made some increases.

And the problem, when you react, you have to extend people on duty there, which is terrible for morale. There's a terrific strain on Guard and reservists. If you plan ahead, then you don't have to do some of these things. The military is too small.

The good news is we went into Fallujah and we dug then out of there. And I'm proud of the work. These men and women are magnificent. Their leadership is magnificent. The bad news is we allowed Fallujah to become a sanctuary to start with.

So, yes, we need more troops. Yes, we have to win. Yes, the elections have to be held at the end of January.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on this because you're saying that we've been reactive, that we allowed this sanctuary to be in Fallujah in the first place for far too long.

You, at one point, said about Donald Rumsfeld that you felt that he had been, quote, "irresponsible" in not putting troops into Iraq — more troops, sooner. You've also been critical of his roll in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

What are your feelings about the decision to allow him to stay on at the Pentagon?

MCCAIN: I respect the president's decision. The president was re-elected. And I respect his right to do so.

WALLACE: And your feelings about Don Rumsfeld?

MCCAIN: Well, I have to say that I want to work with Secretary Rumsfeld because he will be the secretary of defense for an undetermined length of time. And I want to work with him. And I want to do the best that I can for the country.

WALLACE: That's not a vote of confidence.

MCCAIN: No, it's not.

WALLACE: You'd like to see somebody else now, don't you?

MCCAIN: I respect the president. The president of the United States was re-elected by a majority of the American people, and I respect his right. And I will work with the president, obviously, and with the secretary of defense.

WALLACE: OK. There have been a series of stories this week, more stories about alleged mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. forces around the world.

There are new pictures that appear to show — and they're up on the screen here — Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hand-cuffed detainees, of one prisoner with a gun to his head.

The most serious charge was a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that alleged treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was, quote, "tantamount to torture." The Pentagon flatly denies this.

Senator, from what you see as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and, of course, as a former POW yourself, are you satisfied that the U.S. is treating its prisoners properly around the world?

MCCAIN: I believe that we probably are now. I think there was a period of time where we were not.

By the way, we still haven't gotten an accounting on these so- called ghost prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The reason why I think that's important is because no guards could have orchestrated the movement of prisoners around a prison.

I do believe that there was a period of time where there was great ambiguity about the treatment of prisoners of war for — or prisoners for a period of time.

And I've got to say on behalf of the administration, though, this is the first time we've dealt with people who are outright terrorists. It's the first time in our history. And they are not eligible for Geneva Conventions, per se. But at the same time, they are eligible for treatment of basic human rights, which we have signed several treaties concerning.

So it was a very difficult problem. We've got to get to the bottom of it. But the most important thing is we have to have a uniform, steadfast, understandable policy, and it's got to be enforced.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about this, because it's something that I get in e-mail messages a lot. People say to me, look, we're talking about bad people here. We're talking about people that may have been responsible for attacks that killed millions of Americans — or thousands of Americans or attacks that could kill thousands of Americans in the future.

Is it so terrible, is it so unreasonable to make them kneel for hours or have to strip their clothes or listen to loud music if you can get information that will save American lives?

MCCAIN: First of all, you don't get good information. We've proven time after time that torture doesn't work. When someone has reached a disagree of discomfort, they'll say anything that you want them to say.

But more importantly, we are trying to eradicate the earth of people — from the earth, people who do these kinds of things. We are — that's what makes us different.

I can't tell you, Chris, the impact, the negative impact that those pictures of Abu Ghraib had throughout — thanks to Al-Jazeera — had throughout the Arab world. That's a cheap shot at Al-Jazeera, but the point is that the impact of this has been very harmful. And we are better.

And second of all, we have signed certain international treaties such as prohibitions against torture, et cetera, that we have to adhere to as well.

It's a fine line, but we've got to have clear, concise instructions for both our military as well as our intelligence agencies.

WALLACE: This is a new subject. Should Kofi Annan step down as secretary-general of the U.N.?

MCCAIN: I think that Kofi Annan has a great deal to answer for, including his staff and obviously this latest thing about his son.

We need to have a full and complete cooperation on the part of the U.N. about this whole oil-for-food program, which stinks to high heaven. We're talking about billions and billions of dollars here that were diverted for many wrong purposes. And this is an example of corruption.

And by the way, it's an argument, maybe a small one, but maybe an argument that justifies our action in Iraq. Because clearly the sanctions and the framework of those sanctions was completely eroded.

WALLACE: Do you feel at this point that the U.N. is cooperating? Because at this point Volcker, his group, say, no, we're not going to give that information to the Senate committees, for instance, Norm Coleman's committee, until we have completed our investigation.

MCCAIN: I'd like to see closer cooperation — and I'm a great admirer of Mr. Volcker's. I'd like to see closer cooperation between the U.N. and Mr. Volcker and the Congress of the United States.

The American people deserve to know. It's American troops whose lives are on the line as we speak in Iraq.

WALLACE: But at this point, you're not prepared to call for Kofi Annan...

MCCAIN: No, but I don't think there's any doubt that his reputation has been harmed by this. And let's see what happens in this investigation.

WALLACE: Finally, let's talk about age. Just to pick a year at random, in the year 2008...

(LAUGHTER)

... you will be 72 years old.

Now, I was fortunate enough to get to visit with your remarkable mother at the Republican Convention, who — and I hope she won't be mad at me for saying this; I don't know if she's watching today...

MCCAIN: I'm sure she is.

WALLACE: ... is 92 years old.

MCCAIN: Yes, she is.

WALLACE: So you've got great genes.

MCCAIN: Yes, indeed.

WALLACE: But is 72 too old to run for president?

MCCAIN: You know, I don't know that. I think the best thing for me to do is to work as hard as I can as a senator in the next two years. We've got immigration reform. We've got Social Security reform. We've got budgetary reform, I hope. And we've got a lot of work to do.

And then I'd like to consider it. But, frankly, I'm very happy in the Senate. I'm very grateful to be returned to the Senate. And I don't think it's something I would look at for at least a couple of years.

WALLACE: You say, not for a couple of years. I just want to say — and I want straight talk from you here, the Straight Talk Express...

MCCAIN: Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: You were back in New Hampshire within two weeks after the election. You absolutely have not ruled out, have not given up the idea of being president?

MCCAIN: No, but I would like to point out that Joe McQuaid (ph), the publisher of the Union-Leader, had asked me six months ago to speak at the Knacke-Loeb (ph) lecture, and I was glad to do it.

And also, look, I have so many close friends in New Hampshire. I was glad to be there. It's a wonderful place to be. It really is.

WALLACE: Well, I know it is. Just visiting?

MCCAIN: Indeed.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Senator, thank you so much.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Chris.

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