'H&C' Exclusive: Former Hanoi Hilton POW Defends McCain

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story.

General Wesley Clark refusing to back away from comments he made on Sunday questioning whether John McCain's military record qualifies him to be the chief executive of the land.

This as the Obama campaign continues to distance themselves from Clark calling Clark's comments, quote, "inartful" today.

Joining us now with more reaction in a "Hannity & Colmes" exclusive, retired army — or I should say Navy commander, Paul Galanti who spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam's notorious Hanoi Hilton, is now the chairman of Virginia Veterans for McCain.

Thank you for being with us, sir. Appreciate your service to the country and being here tonight. Thank you very much.


Video: Watch the interview with former POW Paul Galanti

COLMES: You know, as I read it, I thought that Wesley Clark maybe didn't say it in the most artful terms, but he was not dishonoring McCain's service, but he was simply saying that, because of what he experienced, that alone does not necessarily qualify him by itself to be president of the United States.

Is that a fair argument?

GALANTI: I don't think John McCain said that either. He's got a lot of experiences to qualify him for it. His military experience is one of them. It certainly makes him a lot more qualified to be commander in chief than somebody who has no military experience.

COLMES: Well — you know it's interesting that John McCain himself said just a few years ago that military service, and I quote, "absolutely does not make somebody better equipped to be president of the United States." That's John McCain's own words.

It certainly is a great part of a resume, but I think all Wesley Clark was saying, that in and of itself does not show that you always make good decisions. McCain has been wrong, in Clark's view, about the war in Iraq, and with all due respect — and he honored his service — but that doesn't mean that he is automatically the best candidate for president.

GALANTI: Well I just — I can never tell what Wes Clark is saying. You know, he endorsed John Kerry in 2004, and that was three years of military service, and that was just — three months, and that was just fine, and then the — with Hillary, now he's with Obama. And obviously...

COLMES: Well, he's a Democrat.

GALANTI: He's going to say anything against McCain. Well, whatever. I don't care. He's.


COLMES: Aren't there Democrats who honorably serve their country? Aren't there Democrats who honorably can be for somebody than — other than the candidate you may support? Haven't Democrats died in service to their country?

GALANTI: Listen, Alan, Alan, Alan, I have supported Democrats, I've supported Republicans, independents. I have my own resume that I'm a political gad fly. There's some Democrats I really like. I don't necessarily — I don't know Senator Obama.

I just know my good friend John McCain's running, and I would trust that guy with the keys to my house when I was going away for six months.

COLMES: All right, but that's wonderful. And look, I honor John McCain, I personally like him, but does that mean he's automatically the best choice for president?


COLMES: Well, in your view, OK.

GALANTI: Not the military service, especially, everything, the whole package. He's had — he's 70 years old, he's got — his entire life has been devoted to service.

COLMES: All right.

GALANTI: And you know, it's just — he knows more about everything.

COLMES: But does that necessarily mean that you're good or the best choice for an executive capacity? He's been wrong about the Iraq war. He talked about walking in an open market in Baghdad that was safe. And he had all this protection, he's been wrong about prosecuting this war.

The American public is against the war. The Bush's approval ratings are 28 percent. McCain seems to want to follow in his footsteps. I don't think, with all due respect to his military service...

GALANTI: Oh Alan, come one.

COLMES: ...he's already made the choices...

GALANTI: Come on.

COLMES: ...about the Iraq war.

GALANTI: Come one. You know, he was — he was the only one that was for the surge, which is working, even though you and the Washington compost and the "New York Times" won't admit it. He was dead right on that.

COLMES: Most Americans wouldn't agree that he's right.

GALANTI: He is the only one in Washington, D.C.

OLIVER NORTH, GUEST CO-HOST: Paul, I want to thank you very for taking.


NORTH: . the time to joins us here tonight.


NORTH: Let me just — for the benefit of our audience, let me just put up a few of the photographs of a much younger Paul Galanti back in a very difficult set of circumstances. This is right after you came home with your lovely wife, the front cover of Newsweek.

There's also the shot of you in LIFE magazine, what's commonly known in the business as the clean and neat photograph where a certain symbol has been air brushed out because you were showing defiance.

Tell me about the John McCain you knew at the Hanoi Hilton.

GALANTI: He was — he was a tough resister, he's been a tough guy his entire life. He's a fun guy to be around. I never lived in the same cell with him but the guys who did said, no matter how bad it got for him, you know, he always had a spark and a sense of humor.

He knows how to put things into perspective and he just motor on, and he got the job done. You went to the same school, Ollie, and we — as did I, and that's one of the things you learn there, is you just — you're given an assignment, you carry it out, and you just keep smiling — come out smiling.

NORTH: Paul, when you.

GALANTI: John McCain is — excuse me.

NORTH: When you hear somebody like Wes Clark saying, quote, "riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down doesn't qualify you to be president."

COLMES: Those are Bob Schieffer's words by the way.

NORTH: Riding in a fighter plane.

GALANTI: I never rode in a fighter plane. I was always flying it, turning it upside down.

COLMES: Those are Bob Schieffer's words.

GALANTI: Probably the most fun experience of my life which is why I wear my wings all the time. And those who haven't done it can just eat their hearts then go watch the Blue Angels die and wish they were doing it. And I know when I go to sleep at night, that's what I dream about, it's flying through the clouds, and I'm flying with back — with some of those guys or just sort of riding along, diving through flack because they were sent to do it.

You know you don't see that in any other community, and there we were, and it's not — I don't think he meant it that way, but it came out like General Clark was making fun of him.

General Clark was a classmate of my brother-in-law's, a classmate of a good friend here. They're not sure where he's coming from with these statements because it's totally out of tune, and I don't care if he's a Democrat or whatever.


GALANTI: Take a part John. If you don't agree with him politically, fine, but don't pick or part that because the guys that served with him love him.

NORTH: Yes, my sense is that Wesley Clark is talking alot about Wesley Clark, and he's talking a lot about trying to get himself a job in the Barack Obama administration because that's — that to me is seems to be the only thing on his mind.

Let me just ask you, you're chairman of the Veterans of Virginia for McCain. How do they feel about what just happened?

GALANTI: Yes. Well, most of them think it's a joke. And I just — you know, I — that's one of the things that bothers me is, I went to the same high school that Norman Schwartzkopf went to. Nobody ever called me Norman to his face.

It's General Schwartzkopf. That's what he was. And when you start playing this political game as a general, all of the respect goes away. Nobody ever called Doug MacArthur, hey, Doug, come on over here. They don't call them by their first name. There's a respect there.

And I'm afraid that — I really hate to see it because it's really, really tough to make four stars in any of the services, and General Clark has just really let himself down by having all these derelicts right around call him Ken because they think he's one of them.

NORTH: Paul Galanti, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to join us tonight, my friend.

GALANTI: You're a good man, sir.

NORTH: Thank you.

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

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2008 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.