This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Mar. 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Earlier today, Sean and I had the chance to sit down with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.
HANNITY: Senator, my good friend, good to see you.
U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you Sean, Alan, how are you?
COLMES: Good to see you, sir.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I don't know if I was more angry during the campaign when you would keep saying those nice things about Senator Kerry or — I was watching you on "Meet the Press (search)" the other Sunday and you said, "Oh, Hillary will be a great president." I'm like, what is he thinking?
MCCAIN: I'm sitting next to Senator Clinto, Tim Russert (search) says, "Will Hillary Clinton be a good president, a good president?" I said, "I'm confident she would be a good president. Of course, I'll be supporting the Republican nominee for president."
Now, Sean, I have to believe that the choice of the American people would be a good choice. You have to trust in our system of government. Now would it be my choice? Maybe not. But I believe that the choice of the American people is somebody that you have got to support and hope would be a good president. But I don't believe that Senator Clinton will be president of the United States.
HANNITY: Thank God.
MCCAIN: I believe that the next Republican — we have a luxury of a lot of very highly qualified senators, congressmen, governors and others who we can choose from for our Republican nominee.
HANNITY: Well, by the way, you did notice she wasn't as gracious back to you. And I said, "That serves my good friend Senator McCain just right. He ought to learn a lesson. Don't be nice to these people."
MCCAIN: Sean, let me just mention one other aspect of this...
HANNITY: You're far more gracious than me. I just want you to — everyone knows that already.
MCCAIN: But could I also mention that many times, since we don't have 60 votes, we Republicans in the Senate, we have to work with Democrats sometimes for the greater good? There are some issues that are not partisan in nature that we have to work together on. And I am very upset right now that the Democrats will not sit down and work with us on Social Security.
HANNITY: Let's talk a little bit about this democratization. We see these events unfolding in Lebanon. We see some changing and a shift going on in Syria. Hosni Mubarak (search) in Egypt is allowing elections for the first time in 50 years. You couple that with Qaddafi, Afghanistan and Iraq. Is this pretty much linked to, is this a direct result of, the Bush doctrine, which is to foster and assist in this effort? Is it playing a role here in the success?
MCCAIN: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. We are seeing a sea change in the Middle East as well as some parts of Europe. What happened in Ukraine (search) was incredible. What happened in Georgia was incredible. There's a lot of problems ahead of us. We have great obstacles to overcome.
But the winds of change are blowing through the Middle East and that means that freedom and democracy are on the march. And that was the entire theme of the president's, in my view, a very exceptional Inaugural Address.
COLMES: Senator McCain, good to have you back on the program.
MCCAIN: Yes, Alan. Thanks, Alan.
COLMES: I realize that Hillary Clinton (search) is not your first choice for 2008, but then, hey, George W. Bush wasn't your first choice in 2000. You were...
MCCAIN: I was my first choice. I might add I did campaign for him, as I did in the last election-- strongly.
COLMES: You said recently, [on "FOX News Sunday"] to Chris Wallace, that you thought Jeb Bush (search) might be a good candidate in 2008.
COLMES: Would the country go for another Bush in the White House right after two terms of the second President Bush in the White House?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek because Chris Wallace said there's a dynasty established in the United States. There's always, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, that there's always sort of the anointed successor. And I said, "Well, then that would have to be Jeb Bush," who, by the way, I'm a great admirer of --he has done a great job as governor in the state of Florida. And then I went on to say what I just said. "I think we have a large stable of very highly qualified Republicans that will be competing in 2008."
COLMES: And you might be one of them, right?
MCCAIN: I would not decide that for a couple of years, Alan. I want to be a good senator. I don't want to be running for president when I've got some very significant responsibilities in the Senate.
COLMES: But that door is not closed?
MCCAIN: No, it's not closed.
COLMES: All right.
In terms of Iraq, you now see — you just came from Iraq. We now hear about Zarqawi and Bin Laden, that they have for months now been talking about working together. We had a chance to get Zarqawi on three different occasions and did not, in the run up to the war with Iraq. In hindsight, was that a mistake?
MCCAIN: In hindsight, we made many mistakes, beginning with the bombing of the World Trade Center, (search) back by, you know, I believe it was — was it 1993, if my memory serves, that we shouldn't have been more alarmed then. And it took 9/11 for us to really become engaged and fully appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face.
And all of us are guilty: Congress, bureaucrats, newspapers, media. Everybody's guilty for not properly estimating the magnitude of this threat. My job, and frankly yours, is to keep reminding the American people that this threat has diminished, but it certainly hasn't disappeared.
COLMES: Isn't Zarqawi more of a threat now than Saddam Hussein (search) was at the time we removed him from office when he was in fact being contained?
MCCAIN: I think that Saddam Hussein, if he were still in power today, would be acquiring weapons of mass destruction and eventually use them because sanctions were breaking down. They were not going to hold. There was incredible corruption already. This oil-for-food (search) program is an example of that.
And I believe that Saddam Hussein would be attempting, and even acquiring, weapons of mass destruction if he were still in power today. And I think there's a strong historical record of Saddam Hussein's behavior to authenticate that.
We continue now, more with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.
HANNITY: Senator, do you see a connection — and we have seen these images of people wanting, desiring what we all take for granted, freedom, liberty, democracy. Do you see a connection to the events that happened in Iraq and the elections there and what we now are witnessing in Lebanon?
MCCAIN: Sure. Ask the leaders. They'll tell you. They'll tell you that the elections in Iraq had a significant impact on them. But not just there, but Egypt, Saudi Arabia, throughout the Middle East.
And can I mention to you one — life is full of anecdotes, Sean. And I have to relate this one to you. We went to Ukraine a few weeks ago, a delegation of congressmen and senators. We met Yushchenko (search). We met with the cabinet. It was all wonderful.
But then we met with the young people who carried out this revolution. They were all in their 20s. They communicated. They organized. They stood out in the bitter cold, freezing cold for days and nights, and they said the Internet was a key element. And you know what else they said? They said, "Watch Russia." You're going to see some things happening in Russia. That's very interesting from these young people.
HANNITY: Well, it is interesting. And we see Vladimir Putin's involvement in having his hand in a lot of the goings on there. And, frankly, he seemed to be moving away from democratization. But yet you have been very outspoken, especially as it relates to this issue of Iran and nuclear capability that may be passed on to Iran. And you even suggested that Russia be out of the G-8.
MCCAIN: Well, Putin's behavior pattern is very unfortunate. It's a bit like a spoiled child. He lost in Ukraine. To put it in a little perspective, if President Bush had gone to Mexico to campaign for a candidate for president of Mexico for the last three days, that's similar to what Putin did by going to the Ukraine, neighboring Ukraine.
And then, of course, in reverting to the old KGB custom, announcing the results of the election before the votes counted. Putin has, in many ways, departed from the path of democracy and to that of autocracy, whether it be appointment of governors, repression of the media, interference in other nations' affairs, a long list.
And the unfortunate aspect of it is, not only the Russian people being deprived of the freedoms that they deserve, but also you're going to see some effects on their economy. And that's bad.
HANNITY: Is the president being strong enough with Putin?
MCCAIN: The president, I believe, spoke very strongly to Putin. And I have no first-hand information. But I know he spoke to the president very forcefully in their private meeting.
We do have mutual interests with Russia, including this vast stockpile of nuclear weapons and material that has to be disposed of. So I don't want to second guess the president of the United States. But I believe that the president spoke very firmly to President Putin in recognition that we have some mutual security interests, as well.
COLMES: Senator McCain, I want to get to some domestic issues.
COLMES: Why has the president not done a better job selling his Social Security (search) plan? A Gallup poll out shows 35 percent are with him. That was about 20 percent below what it was when he initially talked about it. What's going on here?
MCCAIN: Well, we have got a lot of work to do. I believe that the debate is still in its beginnings, to be honest with you. And I think that you have got to give some credit to the Democrats.
But I also would point out that to have no alternative, no plan of their own, smacks of demagoguery. Look, we all know that Social Security's in trouble. It's not a question of whether, it's a question of when. And I believe that it would be in everybody's interest for us to sit down at the table, the way Tip O'Neill (search) and Ronald Reagan (search) did in 1983, and work this thing out.
COLMES: The president's own advisers say his plan doesn't deal with the solvency issue. The Social Security trustees say you have got 37 years until 2042. You've got the Congressional Budget Office says you have got 47 years, until 2052, before it is a problem. So what's the truth here?
MCCAIN: Well, if you call stopping payments to retirees out of the Social Security system as when we're in a crisis situation, I think that's the — I mean, that's not accurate in my view.
Most people view 2018 when we stop taking in more money than we are paying out as a crisis point. The longer we wait, Alan, to address this issue, the more difficult the remedies are going to be and the more draconian measures that are going to have to be taken.
And I would remind you that countries like Sweden, Chile, England, others, all have personal savings accounts. And they have all been very successful.
And to somehow scare people into believing that we're going to invest their money — their retirement funds in Enron stocks, I don't think is fair. Because there is a system now where members of Congress and federal employees can invest their money. And the investments that they have made in one of five different groups have turned out to be pretty profitable, between 6 and 9 percent return.
HANNITY: Senator, one last question before we let you go here...
There are seven specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a super-majority. I believe it's unconstitutional to filibuster (search). It is not about advice and consent now to ask for a super-majority on judicial nominations. I believe that is not constitutional.
There's been a lot of talk about what we describe as the "constitutional option," which is that the Republicans would unite and vote, and there would be an up-or-down vote on all of the judicial nominations. Do you think that's the right thing to do? Will you support Senator Frist if he does it?
MCCAIN: I'm worried about shutting down the Senate. The Republicans did hold Clinton nominees in committee. They didn't vote on the floor. They just didn't let them out of committee.
I wish that we could sit down with the Democrats and work this out without shutting down the United States Senate, which the Democrats can do, which I think would be harmful to our efforts.
COLMES: Senator, thank you very much.
HANNITY: All right. Good to see you. Don't you think Alan would be a good president, too?
COLMES: Can I join the McCain ticket?
MCCAIN: Thanks, guys. Great to be with you as always.
HANNITY: Good to see you senator. Thank you.
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