This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome to a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes.
A lot of ground to cover tonight, lots of reaction to the president's speech from Congressman Charlie Rangel and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
And we'll have all the latest from Aruba and the search for Natalee Holloway. We'll talk to members of Natalee's family who will break down the status of the investigation, along with Mark Fuhrman and Geraldo Rivera who will join us with another big exclusive interview tonight.
But first, with immediate reaction to President Bush's speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, we're joined by Arizona Senator John McCain. Senator, good to have you back on "Hannity & Colmes."
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you. Nice to be back.
COLMES: Did the president accomplish what he needed to tonight to overcome what are some sinking poll numbers in the support for this war and for his presidency?
MCCAIN: I believe he did. I think he laid out the situation and the challenge in stark terms and straight talk. And I think that by saying that this is going to be a long, hard struggle, but also pointing out the benefits of success in cataclysmic events that would follow a failure if we had to leave, I think he did a very excellent job.
COLMES: Senator, I may disagree with you on that. For one thing, at the beginning of the speech, when he says, "Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad were followers of the same murderous ideology that took our lives in New York on September 11th and Washington," isn't he once again tying Saddam Hussein (search) to September 11th, something that has been pretty much disproven and discredited?
MCCAIN: I think he's tying terrorists to the people that are coming into Iraq (search) and mainly the suicide bombers that are wreaking such havoc and killing so many innocent people. I think there were terrorists that hit at 9/11 (search), and I think there are terrorists inside Baghdad.
And I think that there's still a great threat. And there is a home- grown terrorist organization, as well, inside Iraq, but also those who are coming from outside Iraq through Syria (search) in greater and greater numbers. And that's a very disturbing element.
COLMES: The president has been resistant to give specific exit strategy or talk about any troop withdrawals, any permanent troop withdrawals.
Here's what he said in 1999 when President Clinton (search) went into Bosnia (search). President Bush, then, of course, Governor Bush says, "Victory means exit strategy. And it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." Does he have a different standard for a war that he's conducting than one that President Clinton conducted, of which he was a critic?
MCCAIN: I think that the president laid out a clear exit strategy and that is, when the Iraqis are able to take on their security responsibilities without the United States, which we're making progress on.
Agonizingly slow? Yes. Did we make mistakes? Yes. But we've got our best general in the Army, General Petraeus (search), with his training program. We are gradually succeeding in obtaining that goal.
The key to it is not the time and date of withdrawal. It's American casualties. When the Iraqi forces can assume their own responsibilities, security responsibilities, then I think you will see a successful strategy implemented. And that's really what it's all about.
And we cannot cut-and-run. And I'm glad that 58 percent of the American people believe that we should stay the course, as well.
COLMES: If you go back to some of the statements that were made in the run of up to war, and even to the statements made in tonight's speech, they don't comport. For example, he talked about other nations giving how many millions of dollars to help support this war.
We were told before this started that the oil would pay for a large part of the reconstruction and that's not been the case. The American people may still feel they are not getting the full story or consistent story now from what they got prior to the beginning of this war.
MCCAIN: Alan, I think — I've pointed them out quite often. And mistakes have been made in this war. Mistakes are made in every war.
I would also argue that if Saddam Hussein were left in power, weapons of mass destruction (search) or no, he would be now, if he were in power, trying to acquire those weapons and use them. Eventually the sanctions were eroding.
But yes, mistakes have been made. Yes, we haven't achieved the degree of success that we wanted to. But we are making progress. We must win. And we can't fail. And democracy in Iraq does have an enormously beneficial effect throughout the region.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Senator McCain, Sean Hannity. Welcome back to the program. Good to see you.
You know as well as anybody, Senator, the danger of politicizing a war. From the very beginning, Ted Kennedy said that our president concocted a war for political gain. He and his colleagues in the Senate, your colleagues, have repeatedly called the president a liar. The rhetoric has even become more shrill now with calls for an artificial deadline, quagmire. Do you ever call on your Democratic colleagues to stop the mean- spirited rhetoric?
MCCAIN: It's a free country, Sean. But I think most Americans, although they are worried and they're concerned, and that's why we needed this speech tonight. It was a very much-needed speech, and I think the president did a very good job.
We've got to now show some progress.
HANNITY: Are we now...
MCCAIN: The president, I think — we're not showing enough progress. But we will show progress because we're doing the right thing by training and equipping the Iraqi military, which is the key to success, and recognizing that this is a tough enemy. That's what the president said tonight. But he also outlined clearly how important this mission is.
HANNITY: Do statements like by Senator Durbin (search), making the comparisons to Nazi Germany, and the gulags, and the killing fields, et cetera, do they embolden the enemy? Do they offer propaganda for those predisposed to hating America already?
MCCAIN: Actually, I think he hurts his own party. He did apologize. I think everyone has the right to apologize. He did. He went to the — I understand to the veterans back in Illinois and apologized.
The rhetoric around here is way too overheated. You know that, Sean. And what the president did tonight is the most important thing. He laid out an articulate vision for victory in Iraq and why we need to stay the course.
And he also — I loved his praise of the men and women who are serving in the military. I can't tell you how good that is for those people to hear from the president directly.
HANNITY: I don't know if Senator Durbin apologized. You're letting him off the hook more than I would, Senator. But you're probably a better man than I am. I don't think there's any — he said, "I apologize if I offended anybody." I don't consider that an apology.
Let me ask you what's going on...
MCCAIN: Sean, I'm a great believer in redemption.
HANNITY: I am. Look, I need more forgiveness than you do, Senator.
MCCAIN: No, sir.
HANNITY: You made this deal, for example, after the judicial nominations were being filibustered, seven Republicans, seven Democrats. The next day, they're filibustering John Bolton. Do you feel betrayed in any way?
MCCAIN: That had nothing to do with the deal we made on judicial nominees.
HANNITY: No, I understand that. But...
MCCAIN: I fought hard for John Bolton's (search) nomination.
HANNITY: I know that.
MCCAIN: But that had nothing to do with judicial nominees.
HANNITY: I'm talking about the spirit, though. Remember "extraordinary circumstances"?
HANNITY: Didn't it seem to break the spirit of the deal?
MCCAIN: And six judges were confirmed who have been held up for as long as four years. I view it as a great success. And I don't think you're going to see a filibuster of a president's nominee for the Supreme Court when that comes.
HANNITY: You don't think so?
MCCAIN: Because I think he's going to consult. I'm sure — well, I'm very confident, because the president — and this will be all on tape — because the president will send over a conservative, a strong conservative nominee, but one that won't meet the extraordinary circumstances criteria.
HANNITY: Was the spirit of the deal broken?
MCCAIN: And I think...
HANNITY: Was the spirit of the deal...
MCCAIN: Of course not.
HANNITY: ... the seven guys basically...
MCCAIN: Of course — of course not.
HANNITY: No, it wasn't. Not in your view?
MCCAIN: Of course not. Not in the slightest. We were talking about the breakdown of the majority — of the protection of the rights of the minority in the Senate of the United States. They were protected. Believe it or not, someday, we'll have a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Senate...
HANNITY: I hope not. Bite your tongue.
MCCAIN: ... and if a majority rules...
HANNITY: God forbid.
MCCAIN: If majority rules, my friends, god forbid what would happen in the appointment of judges.
HANNITY: The only thing I would say is, it seems to me that, you know, only under extraordinary circumstances — if they're viewing John Bolton as an extraordinary circumstance and the seven Democrats...
MCCAIN: It has nothing to do...
HANNITY: I know. I understand that. I understand that.
MCCAIN: It has nothing to do with that agreement.
HANNITY: It's not a judicial — I understand that. But in the spirit of that, it seems to me that if they would judge Bolton that way for the U.N., that similarly they would judge judges that way, i.e. a Supreme Court justice appointment.
MCCAIN: This fight is between Biden and Dodd and the White House, which I've tried to mediate — I can't tell you the number of conversations I've had on this — is access to information, not whether he is qualified to be the United Nations ambassador.
I think Biden and Dodd asked for way too much. I side with the president. But I also hope that we can work out in some way something to their satisfaction. Obviously, they haven't. I think the nation and the world suffers without John Bolton being there. We need an ambassador, and we need a tough one.
HANNITY: Is the president being undermined in many ways by the Democratic Party with the rhetoric that they use? And I want to go back to this question, because specifically, when you call the president of the United States a liar, saying he concocted it for political gain, does that undermine his ability to run a war? Does that upset you?
MCCAIN: It's almost a gift that keeps on giving, because the American people steadfastly reject that kind of rhetoric. And I think it gains support for the president. It certainly fires up supporters of him like me.
COLMES: All right, Senator. When you're ready to announce your future plans, we're happy to have you back on "Hannity & Colmes" to do it.
MCCAIN: I'm glad to be with you two guys again. Great speech by the president.
COLMES: Thank you very much.
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