This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: And welcome to this special program. We have Senator John McCain for the full hour tonight.

Senator, how are you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good.

HANNITY: Good to see you.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

HANNITY: Well, we really appreciate it, especially all the time you're going to be giving us here.

Video: Watch Part 1 of the interview | Part 2 | Part 3

Let me start — tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of your return from Vietnam. And I went back and I looked. You were held for five and a half years of your life, tortured, beaten.

Take us back to that night when you ended up.

MCCAIN: Well, it was a little bit anticlimactic because we knew that we were going home, but it was still an exciting moment. You know, one of the bad things about that war is that you never knew when it was going to end, although when the B-52s came over at Christmas-time — it's all long-ago history now, but we knew that we were going home now, when the full power of America was unleashed.

I was very excited, very happy. And it was — it was a moment obviously that I'll never forget.

HANNITY: When you were captured, you had broken your two arms. You had shattered your knee, you broke your shoulder. And then when they captured you, they had beaten you, I read, and stabbed you with a bayonet.

MCCAIN: You know, I had the misfortune of landing in a lake in the center of the city of Hanoi, or practically. So the natives were a little restless, as we say. And so it got a big crowd around.

I land in this lake. To make a long story short, the army people came up. Otherwise, it might have been a lot worse than that.

And took me a very short ride to the prison. So my escape and evasion part of this story is very brief.

HANNITY: Well, but with all those broken bones in your body—

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: — and then I understand you didn't get any medical help for nine days. You spent two years of this five-and-a-half-year period in solitary confinement. What does that do to a person, to spend that much time in solitary confinement?

MCCAIN: I think it makes you a better person. Obviously, it makes you love America. I really didn't love America until I was deprived of her company, but probably the most important thing about it, Sean, is that I was privileged to have the opportunity to serve in the company of heroes.

I observed a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love. My senior ranking officer was Colonel Bud Day, who now lives down in Florida. He's from Iowa.

By the way, he didn't carry Iowa for me. But he was a very tough old bird, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. And I still stand in great awe of him, and he inspired me. He inspired me to do things I otherwise wouldn't have been capable of.

HANNITY: Well, now one story that maybe people don't know is, because of the rank of your father, who was an admiral, as was your grandfather—

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: — they offered to give you personal release, and you declined the offer. And then you were beaten for one straight week afterwards.

MCCAIN: Because our Code of Conduct says that everybody goes home in order of their capture. Also, and far more importantly than that, I knew that it would be used as a propaganda tool.

The Vietnamese made it very clear. Ho Chi Minh made it very clear that they would win the war not on the battlefields of South Vietnam. They never won a battle in South Vietnam, but in the streets of Washington, San Francisco, et cetera. So, I knew that it would be not only propaganda, but also they would call in my fellow prisoners and say, see, the admiral's son goes home and you stay.

HANNITY: And it would be used against you.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: You know —

MCCAIN: Could I also finally say, I'm glad I didn't know the war was going to last a few years longer.

HANNITY: You might have had a different opinion. Well, maybe that's honest.

You know, I was surprised in one of our earliest interviews — and I know there's been a lot of highlighting the differences that conservatives have with you, but I know that it is universal that people respect and honor your heroism and your service to your country. You know that, and we've had a relationship over the years where we've agreed on times and we've disagreed at times.

MCCAIN: But could I also mention I think people are grateful for your past service, but I think you know very well, and so do our viewers, that they want to know what you're going to do for them, not what you have done for them.

HANNITY: I agree. I think in light of the anniversary, though, this is a day for you, and also for the country. And I think it gives you an opportunity to tell a story that maybe some people don't know about you.

I'll never forget one of the first times I interviewed, and I was talking — maybe it was when your book first came out — and you had actually said — because you signed statements that you confessed to be a war criminal. And you said to me — and we had gone through all the torture you had been through, all the beatings, all the broken bones, the five and a half years. You didn't take the opportunity to get out when they gave you the opportunity. And you said, "I failed myself, my fellow prisoners, and my family, and my country."

How could you possibly be that hard on yourself?

MCCAIN: I think that I thought that I was unbreakable. You know? I was — I was a pilot, a Navy pilot, carrier pilot. And I thought that I would never show those traits.

But I also want to point out, leaders like Colonel Bud Day and Jim Stockdale and Robbie Reisner and Bill Lawrence and so many others, they said, look, you failed, go back at it again. All of us are human. Go back and do better the next time.

And that's the way their leadership inspired us. They knew that we might fail, but they wanted us to go back into the fight.

HANNITY: But you'd have broken arms, and they'd hang you from your arms for hours.

I mean, look, I know Sean Hannity, I'd tell them whatever they wanted to hear. And I think most Americans would.

MCCAIN: Sean, you say that. You say that, but it's not true. It's not true.

You love your country. You know what's right. They are the enemy.

HANNITY: Even when you're tortured, huh?

MCCAIN: I can't tell you — but I can't tell you — I could never do it. Look, I'm just a human being.

HANNITY: Yes.

MCCAIN: But we're inspired by our leaders. We're inspired by our love of our country. And people who love their country would do the same or better than I did.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this. This was an unknown story to me, and I think I'm pretty up on the news. This is my business every day, I'm on the air probably much more than liberals would like, four hours a day every day.

But I didn't know until recently that your son got back from Iraq after he had served seven months there.

MCCAIN: Yes. But we really never talk about our sons. We have two sons in the military, but we never talk about them, if that's all right.

HANNITY: Yes. But you're proud of them.

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm so proud of them — of both of them. I'm proud of all my children. We're proud of every single one of them, and equally so. But we really just — you know, we really don't want to talk about our sons in the military.

HANNITY: Only in this context, without discussing it. I'll honor your wishes obviously here. But considering your position on the war and how strongly you believe in it, that does bring a personal side to this story, doesn't it?

MCCAIN: Yes, but, you know, there's family all over America, and some of them weren't as fortunate as Cindy and I were. And so I look at my hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt had four sons who served in World War I. His youngest and his favorite was killed on the western front. He was a pilot, as you know.

HANNITY: Right.

MCCAIN: So, you know, it's — there's so many Americans who have done so much more.
HANNITY: All right. We're going to come back. We have a special edition. Senator McCain with us for the full hour tonight.

And we'll talk about the things we agree with and maybe some of the things we might have some disagreement with as we continue this special program with Senator McCain for the full hour — straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue our special program tonight. Senator John McCain for the full hour with us.

All right. George Bush, the president, said that you must win over conservatives. At CPAC you said you have a responsibility to unite the party.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: You acknowledged you can't win this election, or you don't think you can win this election without conservative support. How do you plan — because you have heard the criticism, how do you plan on bringing conservatives over to your camp enthusiastically?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we have done very well on it. We obviously have more to go. But according to recent polls we have more Republicans supporting me than Democrats supporting Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.

One of the first steps, of course, was Governor Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Governor Huckabee, Fred Thompson, all of the nominees coming forward and supporting my candidacy. That was very important, you know, a signal that we are all together.

And I have got to say they were very gracious, all of them were very gracious in — so you have got to do that. The second thing, very briefly, is we have got to re-energize our base because we want to regain their trust and confidence that we are going to control spending.

So I don't have to tell you, you take calls from listeners, you travel around the country and speak, you know our Republican base wants us to get spending under control. They — our base, I believe, is with us on this struggle against radical Islamic extremists whole-heartedly.

But we have got to get spending under control. And we have got to secure our borders. And we have got to get them re-energized. You were around in the 2004 and 2000 races, I saw President Bush energize our base. We have got to energize our base again. And I think I can do it with a strong conservative message.

But we also have to get independents and we also have to get old and new Reagan Democrats.

HANNITY: Let's look at the things that — the areas where I know conservatives agree with you, that we have got to win the war.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: That is a good beginning.

HANNITY: We have got to win the war in Iraq. We can't create a safe haven for al Qaeda or Ahmadinejad. I think all conservatives agree on that. And win the war. You have promised that you are going to eliminate all earmarks.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: You have said three times in the last week or week-and-a-half that you promised no new taxes. You mean none.

MCCAIN: None.

HANNITY: Throughout your presidency.

MCCAIN: No. And look, here we are, Americans are hurting, you know that, I know that. These are tough economic times. Do we want to raise their taxes and have the government take more of their money right now when they are facing these challenges?

I look forward to this debate between myself and Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I will be respectful, but it will be vigorous. And one of them is taxes. We can't raise people's taxes, particularly at this particular time.

And if you don't make the present tax cuts permanent, then you are going to — every family and business in America is going to experience a tax increase. That is what this permanency of the tax cuts is all about.

HANNITY: You have also promised that you will pick originalist justices.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: Who is your favorite Supreme Court justice?

MCCAIN: I would have to say Roberts, probably. I think — and I think particularly in his position as chief justice. I think he is really a remarkable leader. I respect and admire Alito. Scalia I have disagreed with on a couple of things, but the fact is he is a staunch conservative.

But I would have to say Roberts. But the important thing — the important thing is nominate judges who have a strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. And that is going to be a big job for the next president because everybody says there could be at least two vacancies on the United States Supreme Court.

HANNITY: And those would be the type of justices you would look for.

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: No more David Souters.

MCCAIN: Oh, no. It has to be a proven record in my view. A proven record and there's plenty of, frankly, justices out there that we were able to get through that have that background and record, judicial record on lower courts.

HANNITY: Staying on the areas where conservatives agree with you, you will not have —

MCCAIN: Let's keep it up.

HANNITY: We won't have Hillary-care. You're not going to nationalize health care. You'd look for free market solutions.

MCCAIN: We tried this. We've seen this movie before back in 1993, OK. And it is a government takeover and there is nothing — it's one of my — it's not an original line but it's a great one. Nothing is going to be more expensive for America than free health care. OK? And we can make America the highest quality health care in the world, affordable and available and it's not the quality, it's the cost. And we can put in a lot of incentives that bring costs down and make it affordable and available and let families make the choices of health care of their families rather than the government.

HANNITY: I got a call from a lot of people and they knew I was going to interview you today.

MCCAIN: Sure.

HANNITY: And I think one of the areas that came up the most is would you leave the pro-life language in the platform and the marriage amendment in the platform.

MCCAIN: Yes. But as you know, I believe that the states should make these decisions on the marriage amendment. I am a Federalist and I believe that states like mine and other states that we should amend our state constitutions, and I will stick to that position until such time, if ever, a higher court says that my state or another state has to recognize the other status of marriage.

I am committed to maintaining the unique status of marriage between man and woman. I think it can best be accomplished, and in keeping with my federalist philosophy that states should do as much as possible to have that done at the state level. But if it is overturned by a superior court, I will then obviously support the other path.

HANNITY: Last question. Back to Iraq in one second, in the areas of agreement. As long as it takes to finish it? Because Hillary and Barack Obama both attacked you on that.

MCCAIN: Yeah. And could I just mention this 100 year thing.

HANNITY: Yes.

MCCAIN: I love town hall meetings and I'm going to continue them. That's the important way you learn from people as well as they learn from you. I was in an exchange with a guy. Look, that is American presence. This war will be won if we stay with it and then it's a question of American presence.

We have troops in South Korea as a result of the Korean War. We have troops in Germany and Japan.

HANNITY: Right.

MCCAIN: Et cetera, et cetera.

So that's an agreement. We have troops in Kuwait as a result of the First Gulf War. But we will win this war. We will win it. We will succeed.

And by the way, let me remind you again, Sean, the last few days have proven again, al Qaeda is on the run but they are not defeated. They are not defeated. We made an enormous sacrifice in the last few days. So we've got to trust General Petraeus and these brave Americans that are over there to tell us when it's appropriate to withdraw but the important thing to Americans is not American presence. I haven't seen anyone demonstrate against troops in Kuwait. It's American success. And I'm sorry it took so long to answer —

HANNITY: No, it's important.

MCCAIN: — but it's a key issue of this campaign.

HANNITY: We'll take a break, we'll come back. A special hour with John McCain. We've got a lot of issues to cover tonight as we continue. We're glad you're with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue our special program tonight. Senator John McCain for the full hour.

All right, Senator. At CPAC you said, "I have held positions that have not met with widespread agreement with conservatives. I won't pretend otherwise, nor will you permit me to forget it."

Where do you think—

MCCAIN: I thought that was a pretty good line.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, you got a lot of applause. I think the only time you got real opposition — and we'll get to it in a minute — is on the issue of immigration.

Where do you see the opposition with conservatives? Where do you see the differences?

MCCAIN: The Gang of 14, I think. This group of Republican senators and Democratic senators had gotten together, and we got the nominations through, all except for two.

I think we covered one of them, the marriage amendment. I think my vote against the tax cuts. Let's see—

HANNITY: Immigration.

MCCAIN: Immigration, yes. Maybe we ought to talk about immigration.

HANNITY: Why don't we start with the tax cuts where you are. You are now for extending the Bush tax cuts.

MCCAIN: We have to, otherwise a tax increase.

HANNITY: All right. But you initially voted against them, and there were two of them in particular. One in, what, 2001, one in 2003? There were two phases of it.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: And things that I know, because I talk to conservatives every day, I think the thing that bothered them the most is when you said these tax cuts go to the wealthiest Americans. Because that sounds to them like, that's what we'd expect from Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: I understand that. And by the way, I voted several times to keep them permanent since then.

I wanted us to restrain spending. I wanted — I had a package of tax cuts. I believe if we restrain spending and it was more steered toward middle-income Americans, then I think we'd bet talking about further tax cuts today.

HANNITY: Do you wish now that you voted for those tax cuts?

MCCAIN: No, because I really believe that spending restraint was an important part of the package. Just when Reagan — just as when Reagan came — President Reagan came to office, and we had Gramm-Latta, which was restraint of spending. Because you can't increase the size of government and then expect us not to have to spend more. And we presided, to our shame, over one of the greatest increases in the size of government in history, since The Great Society.

HANNITY: But you don't believe in the philosophy — the quote was, you know, "The GOP tax cuts go to the wealthiest Americans." Do you believe — because that sounds like—

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: I want all Americans — but I want all Americans to have a reduction in taxes, and mine were more skewed towards the middle-income Americans.

HANNITY: In other words, your proposal versus the president's.

MCCAIN: Yes. But it had spending restraints in it.

HANNITY: Which is why you're going to eliminate all earmarks, won't sign a bill with them.

MCCAIN: Absolutely. There's $35 billion in earmark projects in the last two big appropriations bills. That could have been a $1,000 tax credit for every child in America.

HANNITY: Yes.

MCCAIN: Instead of the "Bridge to Nowhere."

HANNITY: I could tell you, Senator, if there was one issue that I know I, as a conservative, and others as a conservative — and I've been on the radio 20 years—

MCCAIN: Right.

HANNITY: — and I've been expressing my opinions—

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: — as independently as I think you have yours. And there's a lot of pride. A lot of people say, well, that's what they like about Senator John McCain. Hopefully that's what they like about me as a radio host.

But immigration—

MCCAIN: Yes?

HANNITY: — after McCain/Kennedy was defeated, you said, I hear you. I understand. People don't trust us, and they want the borders secured first.

MCCAIN: That's exactly right.

HANNITY: What does that mean in terms of practicality?

MCCAIN: It means that I, as president, I would have the border state governors certify that their borders are secure. Americans will trust the border state governors. They won't trust us in Washington. That's the message — they want it secure.

And I'm sorry for a long answer, but in '86, as you may recall—

HANNITY: President Reagan.

MCCAIN: Yes. We said we'd give amnesty and secure the borders. We didn't secure the borders. We ended up with 12 million or more people here illegally. So there's no trust there.

So you've got to prove to the American people that your borders are secure. Then you move to temper-proof biometric documents for temporary workers.

HANNITY: Right.

MCCAIN: And any employer who hires someone without that, and an employer electronic verification system, then is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I mean, and then we address the issue in a humane and compassionate fashion. They are God's children, and we can be humane and compassionate about this.

HANNITY: Yes. For conservatives, I would argue that the issue is law-breaking, respecting our sovereignty, the laws of the United States —

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: And if you didn't, that there is a penalty to pay. Let me ask you —

MCCAIN: Yes. There should be. There should be.

HANNITY: — you had said that—

MCCAIN: And no one will take priority — if someone who either came here legally or waited to come here legally—

HANNITY: All right, we've got less than a minute. Would you sign McCain-Kennedy today or —

MCCAIN: It's not going to be there. The lesson is, they want the border secured first.

HANNITY: And that's — that's your mission now. You are focused on securing the borders?

MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: Not — you look at McCain-Kennedy, the country doesn't want it?

MCCAIN: We failed. My friend, we failed. I think you noticed, because you were one of the reasons.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: All your fault.

HANNITY: No, I understand. We've got to take a break and we're going to come back and we're going to continue. Senator McCain, special program that we have tonight for the entire full hour. And among some of the other issues we're going to talk about is his potential opponents, and that would be Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, emerging controversies in both of those campaigns today; one with Geraldine Ferraro, and another with Senator Barack Obama and his preacher and the ties to the Weather Underground group, which is an issue we have been talking about a lot on "HANNITY & COLMES" and "HANNITY'S AMERICA." But we'll continue with Senator McCain after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue our special program tonight. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, for the full hour tonight.

All right, let's stay on some of the areas we disagree, and then I know you're probably looking for an opportunity to talk about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

McCain-Feingold. And I don't know if you remember this, but you came on my radio program — we had a pretty heated exchange at the time...

MCCAIN: I remember.

HANNITY: And I think you — no, you were thinking of hanging up on me. You didn't.

MCCAIN: No, I could never do that.

HANNITY: Newt Gingrich said it's an assault on the First Amendment. Could be called a, in his — stifles free speech, incumbency protection act. James Dobson said, "McCain-Feingold kept us from telling the truth right before elections," before 30 days before a primary, 60 days before a general election, groups that would want to have ads mentioning candidates.

Why have any limits on free speech?

MCCAIN: Because I saw in Washington million-dollar checks and hundreds-of-thousands-dollar checks in the form of, quote, "soft money," that were contributed at the time legislation was being framed or passed. And I saw the influence of special interests. I led the investigation against Abramoff. We ended up with members of Congress in federal prison.

I saw legislation affected by special interests in the form of soft money, hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars from trial lawyers, from union leaders, and from very wealthy corporations.

So I saw what it was doing to the process. I thought we ought to fix it. I thought that it — I know, because I saw it — I saw legislation passed which represented everybody but the American people. And I still think that it is necessary to curb unlimited campaign contributions if they are done in the way that soft money was in Washington.

HANNITY: Would you support the right of any citizen to unite with other citizens?

MCCAIN: Sure.

HANNITY: Before a primary, make ads, mention candidates and go after them?

MCCAIN: As long as those moneys are subject to campaign contribution limits. As long as it's not unlimited money, and under our legislation they can do that.

HANNITY: Do you support the Fairness Doctrine?

MCCAIN: No. I do not. I think the Fairness Doctrine might shut down Hannity's program.

HANNITY: It would. I think it would.

MCCAIN: If you're required to do that, then it is — it would shut down, I think, voices in America.

HANNITY: It would ruin the format because stations...

MCCAIN: Oh sure. Yes.

HANNITY: ... would be forced to take on shows that are not financially viable.

MCCAIN: It's one of the most misnamed...

HANNITY: The Fairness Doctrine. So we're on the same page.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: All right. Let me ask you in more general terms, because we talked about immigration. We talked about the taxes. We talked about McCain-Feingold and some of the differences you have with conservatives here. What about conservatives that are worried when you reach across the aisle with Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy?

MCCAIN: Joe Lieberman.

HANNITY: Joe Lieberman.

MCCAIN: Carl Levin. I've got a list this long.

HANNITY: Can you reach across the aisle to the conservative base? Can you reach across to people that have been critical of you? Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson and people that have been critical?

MCCAIN: Listen, I'm willing to talk with anybody who wants to talk with me. But the people of Arizona sent me to the Senate to get things done, and I believe that I was able to get a lot of things done.

Joe Lieberman and I joined together with legislation that created the 9/11 Commission. I'm not saying it would have never been created. But we did and we worked together. And I think the 9/11 Commission was important to America.

Every year I worked with the Democrats to come up with a bill that authorizes the training and equipping and the readiness of the men and women in the military. We worked together on those issues.

And do I — am I a strong conservative Republican voice? Yes. But I know that people want us to get things done. And one of the reasons why they think so little of us is they think that all we do is fight in Washington and not address issues.

HANNITY: How do you get along with Democrats, going back to the Iraq War, that say the surge has failed, the war is lost? Senator Kerry said that our troops are terrorizing women and children in the dark of night. John Murtha accused our marines of killing civilians in cold blood.

How do you get along with people with that...

MCCAIN: I fight them every step of the way. But I am respectful in that debate. And sometimes, of course, I'm angry at some of the language that we — that you were referring to. But I am respectful. But I will take them on every step of the way.

And I am so proud of the effort that some of us were involved in that stopped this effort to set a date for withdrawal. We came very close. Came very close. And a lot of us put everything on the line, because we knew that, if there's a date for withdrawal, that's surrender, al Qaeda wins, and there's chaos and genocide. And we're back, and they follow us home.

I think one of the seminal events historians will look at in this whole struggle against radical Islamist extremism is our ability to beat back the Democrats' effort to set a date for a withdrawal, which I believe would have been chaos.

HANNITY: Do you regret — you look back over the years you've been in the Senate, and do you regret any votes? Do you think you've changed? Do you think you've moderated? Do you think you...

MCCAIN: Sean, I'm sure over these number of years that my fundamental principles haven't changed. But I look back, and maybe I voted for some legislation that wasn't effective or had unintended consequences.

One of the reasons I am a small-government, less-government federalist is because every time we act as a federal government, there's intended consequences and unintended consequences. That's why I'm a conservative that fundamentally believes that less government is best government.

Leave it to the individuals to make decisions about their lives.

HANNITY: And that is your governing philosophy? That is your...

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: And you say you're a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution?

MCCAIN: I was, and I was proud to do that. And I was proud to support the tax cuts, which were amongst the highest in the country.

A lot of Americans forget that when Ronald Reagan came to office inflation was 10 percent, interest rates were 20 percent, unemployment — I mean, the numbers were phenomenal.

And what did we do? He stopped the growth of government. He restrained spending. He cut taxes. And he gave — and he restored faith and hope and confidence in America.

I believe I can inspire Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest.

HANNITY: All right. We're going to continue. More with Senator McCain, who's with us for the full hour tonight.

We might be getting to one of his favorite topics when we come back, and that is his potential opponents in the general election, come November, and that would be, of course — it's either going to be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And potentially who he may pick for a vice president and what he's looking for in a vice president, as we continue. Glad you're with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue our special program with Senator John McCain.

All right. Washington Post had reported that in 2001 that you once met with Daschle and Kennedy and Edwards, talked about leaving the Republican Party. Not true?

MCCAIN: No — well, they asked to meet with me, and I met with them. And I said categorically, absolutely not.

HANNITY: And John Weaver didn't arrange that or...

MCCAIN: No one, no one arranged it that I know of. But the fact is that I thought it was incredible. I am a proud Republican conservative, and I made that very clear.

HANNITY: Let's talk a little bit about...

MCCAIN: By the way, I was very proud to campaign hard for the president in 2000 and campaign hard for his re-election in 2004. I think actions speak a lot louder than words. I think the president would tell you nobody campaigned harder for him than I did.

HANNITY: I think that's true, and he gave you a strong endorsement the other day.

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: You've got to pick a vice president in the days to come. I interviewed Mitt Romney Tuesday. He would certainly be somebody that would be willing, he said. I just saw Rudy Giuliani, who was with you tonight campaigning. Condi Rice, Governor Pawlenty, Lindsey Graham, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, all of these candidates?

MCCAIN: Yes. And since Governor Romney was on your program, I'll tell you, he's been — he was very gracious to me. He endorsed me, he had encouraged his supporters.

HANNITY: He says he has campaigned all around the country for you.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. Listen, he's — he has earned a place in the Republican Party that's very important.

Rudy, I've loved for years, and I mean that. I'll never forget, as long as I live, when he came to Arizona, and we were at the World Series. And everybody in the stadium...

HANNITY: Did the Yankees win?

MCCAIN: No, they lost, I'm happy to say. But the point is — and Governor Huckabee is — really earned himself — so we were just starting a process, but obviously there are people that are highly qualified. But I'd like to move forward with the process before we discuss it.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Do you have three or four people in your mind that you are leaning towards?

MCCAIN: Not really, no.

HANNITY: Five or six?

MCCAIN: No. What I would like to do is put together a list and then have the kind of process that you need to go through. But there are so many wonderful, great Republicans out there. But it's — really the criteria has got to be who can best immediately take your place, if necessary.

HANNITY: I thought I had found the quote that you probably will most regret in your career.

MCCAIN: Whoops.

HANNITY: Are you getting nervous?

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: February 20th, 2005, "Meet the Press," "I'm sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president."

MCCAIN: But what I mean by that, from the standpoint of the philosophy and beliefs that they — in other words, I think she's a person of integrity. I think Senator Obama is a person of integrity. It's not that they're not good people. It's that they are liberal Democrats, and this is a fundamental clash between a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican.

I respect their views; I just strongly disagree with them. So when it — so when that's taken out of context, quote, "good," good for the policies and programs and ideology that she and Senator Obama hold. I mean, they're good — they're decent people.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask...

MCCAIN: But it is a strong difference of views. And I think there's going to be more stark differences in this campaign than there's been in a long time.

HANNITY: Probably it's Reagan and Carter...

MCCAIN: Exactly.

HANNITY: ... and Reagan and Mondale.

The Democrats have been telegraphing, though, how they're planning to run against you.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: Howard Dean, for example, basically said you're running nothing more than a third Bush term. Barack Obama said you're a genuine hero that represents the politics of yesterday. Hillary Clinton said, "Senator McCain really doesn't know much about the economy. That's not been an issue of concern for him."

So they're giving a little bit of — it looks like they're going to try and say that you're Bush's third term.

MCCAIN: And I think, according to the newspaper, the AFL-CIO said they're going to spend $53 million...

HANNITY: A lot of money.

MCCAIN: ... attacking me on those themes.

Look, I relish — I relish the combat. I relish it. I look forward to traveling all over this country, everywhere, taking my case to the American people, having the town-hall meetings, going on the talk shows, having the debates and discussions.

I am confident that our philosophy and my vision and my ability to inspire Americans will prevail.

I do not underestimate the challenge. I do not underestimate what's required here. And I'm incredibly humbled that a guy who stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy...

HANNITY: I've read that, but you know what? You did pretty good for a guy that was fifth from the bottom.

Let me ask you this: one of the issues I care most about is energy independence. We haven't built a refinery in 30 years.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: We're not — the second largest oil find in American history is at ANWR. We're not using that resource. We're more dependent than ever before. The French get 70 percent of their energy, 70 to 80 percent, from nuclear power. We can't drill offshore; we can't drill in the 48 states; and we're becoming more energy-dependent every day.

Would you — let me run down the list. Would you support nuclear power?

MCCAIN: I think nuclear power is a vital element in any...

HANNITY: We only have a minute. Would you support more refineries?

MCCAIN: The Navy — of course. The Navy has sailed ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them; there's never been an accident.

You mentioned the French — 80 percent of their electricity. You store it and you reprocess it.

HANNITY: ANWR?

MCCAIN: We've got to make those decisions.

ANWR is a pristine place. I don't support drilling there. I just feel that it's an area that, one, it would take years, I think, before you could actually exploit it. I think we've had enough — a lot of problems in Alaska, although that...

HANNITY: Prudhoe Bay was very successful.

MCCAIN: It's been successful, but there's also been Exxon Valdez, and there's been a number of other things. But that's just an environmental position that I have.

And by the way, another area that we may not agree on — I believe climate change is real, but I believe that the innovation, the technology and the ability of Americans is that we can develop green technologies, which will be good for our economy, not harmful.

HANNITY: I was just with the GM guys, and they've got even a hybrid Escalade coming out.

We'll come back — we'll take a break, we'll come back. More about Senator McCain's opinions of his potential opponents, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as we continue the hour with Senator McCain, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue our special program with Senator John McCain, who is with us...

MCCAIN: Can I just...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ... go ahead.

MCCAIN: Could I just, before the break...

HANNITY: Sure.

MCCAIN: I met with the big three automakers, you're right. Hybrids, flexsteels, battery that will take a car 100 miles before you have to plug it in.

I believe the innovation and the technology and the greatest worker in the world resides in the United States of America. We can become energy-independent if we need to. We're sending $400 billion a year of American — half our trade deficit — to countries that don't like us very much, and some of that money is ending up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

This is a national security issue.

HANNITY: Senator Clinton claims that Barack Obama has not had the scrutiny that other candidates have had in this campaign.

There is a big emerging controversy about his pastor of 20 years, a man who went on a trip with Louis Farrakhan to Tripoli, a guy that has — his church has given a lifetime achievement award to Louis Farrakhan. We now have some of his sermons. He used "g-d America," "the U.S. of KKK of A." "The chickens have come home to roost," he said the Sunday after the attack on this country on 9/11.

He has called him — Barack has said of his pastor, his trusted adviser, he's proud of his pastor. He married him and his wife. He's baptized his kids.

Does that sound like a problem for you?

MCCAIN: I think that when people support you, it doesn't mean that you support everything they say. Obviously, those words and those statements are statements that none of us would associate ourselves with, and I don't believe that Senator Obama would support any of those, as well.

HANNITY: He's been — but he's been going to the church for 20 years. His pastor — the church gave a lifetime achievement award to one of the biggest racists and anti-Semites in the country, Louis Farrakhan. Would you go to a church that — where your pastor supported Louis Farrakhan?

MCCAIN: Obviously, that would not be my choice. But I do know Senator Obama. He does not share those views.

And we get sometimes — I don't — a lot of those statements I've just heard for the first time that you mentioned. But I know that, for example, I've had endorsements of some people that I didn't share their views...

HANNITY: Pastor Hagee recently, yes.

MCCAIN: ... but they endorsed mine. And so I think we've got to be very careful about that part.

HANNITY: Yes, but he wasn't your pastor for 20 years.

Let me give you one other emerging controversy we've dealt with a lot on "Hannity & Colmes" and my Sunday show, "Hannity's America," and on the radio show.

And the Barack Obama campaign in the last week and a half said that he has a friendly relationship — he's been on a board — with a guy by the name of William Ayers. William Ayers was with the Weather Underground, a group that declared war against the United States.

On 9/11/2001, of all days, he had an article where he bragged about bombing our Pentagon, bombing the Capitol and bombing New York City police headquarters. His campaign said last week they have a friendly relationship.

Does that, when you hear about that — and I know you're on the road a lot — does that concern you? And should that be an issue in the campaign?

MCCAIN: My life has been one of reconciliation. If people want to put their past behind them, to apologize, to say, "Look, we made mistakes in the past, but we want to move forward," I respect that and embrace it, because all of us have made serious mistakes in our lives, and I certainly am one of them.

But if this person is still proud of that kind of activity...

HANNITY: In 2001, he said, "I regret not doing more."

MCCAIN: Then obviously, a person like that has to be repudiated, or apologize for doing things that could have done damage to America...

HANNITY: It's a terrorist we're describing.

MCCAIN: I would hope that that individual would come forward and say that they regret — that he regrets deeply what he did. And frankly, to — for anyone to be proud of that kind of activity, of breaking laws, is just not something that we can — in America we think is right.

HANNITY: What do you say to conservatives like — and we have a minute — Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, that have been pretty strong in their opposition against you?

MCCAIN: Well, I respect their views. I will continue to reach out to all parts of our party. And if anyone would like to talk with me, I'd love to have the opportunity to talk with them.

HANNITY: Would you go on Rush's show?

MCCAIN: Well, if he — if he wanted to talk with me, I would be glad to talk to him. Honestly, I will not ask to speak to him. His views and others have been made very clear.

But my job is to unite the party and to energize it and try and get as many people engaged and involved. And remember, we've got a big job ahead of us, including the independents, including the old Reagan Democrats. But I am — I am proud of my conservative Republican credentials and record.

HANNITY: All right. We're going to take a break. Our final moments with Senator John McCain, coming up straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And our final moments tonight with Senator John McCain.

Thank you, by the way, for being with us for the hour. We really appreciate it.

What do you think happened to Hillary Clinton's campaign?

MCCAIN: I don't know, but I was not surprised that she was able to come back in Ohio and Texas. I think she is a very resilient campaigner, and I think she is — of the little I've observed, she's become a better campaigner as this campaign has worn on. I would never underestimate her. I would never underestimate Senator Obama, either. They're both very formidable opponents.

But as I said before, clear philosophical differences. Respectful but vigorous.

HANNITY: And so you're going to — this is going to be about the war in Iraq. This is going to be about health care. This is going to be about taxes. Judges.

MCCAIN: Higher taxes, lower taxes, bigger government. Judges. Going to be a conservative Republican against a liberal Democrat, and I hope the American people will be proud of this debate. It will be respectful but very vigorous.

HANNITY: But you keep going back to the respectful. You really — this is a top priority for you, in the 20 seconds we have.

MCCAIN: I think people want that, you know? They don't want...

HANNITY: They just want me and Alan to fight each other.

MCCAIN: There you go. But you guys have gotten along pretty well.

HANNITY: Now, we've — it's been 12 years.

Senator, you've been very gracious with your time.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

HANNITY: Thank you for being with us for the full hour.

And that ends this special program, this special edition. And we appreciate Senator McCain's time. And of course, we'll be back tomorrow night with more lively debate.

We're also following the story tonight night of Senator Barack Obama and the new tape that has been revealed about this pastor.

As always, thank you for being with us and have a great night.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

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