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Sen. John McCain Talks with Hannity & Colmes

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 31, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The battle over the Supreme Court that both parties have been waiting for may have finally arrived. Earlier today, President Bush nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court.

Alito brings solidly conservative credentials to the table, and his nomination has already drawn high praise from Republican members of the United States Senate and conservative leaders from around the country, but confirmation may not be that simple.

Joining us now in our New York studio, a rare New York appearance, Arizona Republican Senator, author of the brand new book, "Character is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember," John McCain.

Senator, thank you so much for being here.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thanks, Alan. Good to see you.

COLMES: What's your stance on Alito? Do you have a feeling about him one way or the other at this point?

MCCAIN: I'm favorably disposed. I want to go through the hearing process. That's why we have hearings.

But I would point out the obvious. And that is that the president said that he was going to appoint conservatives who strictly interpreted the Constitution of the United States. And elections have consequences.

And let me just quickly add, I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg, knowing that I may have different philosophical views. But President Clinton won the election and part of the deal was that he appoints Supreme Court justices.

COLMES: But prior to nominating Breyer and Ginsburg, weren't they discussed as possibilities with Orrin Hatch and Bill Clinton, and put up as consensus candidates that, ahead of time, they knew would get general acceptance in the Senate, unlike what happened with today's nominee?

MCCAIN: I'm not sure about that, because I wasn't in on the process. I wasn't called by President Clinton on the nomination, but I'm not on the committee.

COLMES: But Orrin Hatch was?

MCCAIN: Yes, but I'm not on the committee. I want to see consultation. All of us do, as was done with Judge Roberts.

But there will be, I think, ample time to examine Judge Alito's credentials and have a hearing. And I'm one of the only living Americans, perhaps, that says Harriet Miers deserved a hearing.

COLMES: Right. Well, but, you know, the same Republicans who are saying, "At least he deserves a hearing" — Bill Frist said it this morning on "FOX & Friends," didn't seem to be singing that tune with Harriet Miers, who never got a hearing. It's like I never had a dinner, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Right. Well, I think that a lot of Republican senators wanted a hearing for Harriet Miers. She made the decision. Obviously, I don't know what pressures were brought to bear on her, but she made the decision to withdraw her nomination.

COLMES: But isn't the president asking for a political fight? Harry Reid was saying there wasn't consultation, this was not a nominee he would have supported. Not having that kind of consultation, doesn't that set up the stage for a political fight that may not be in the best interests of the president politically at this time?

MCCAIN: I don't know if it necessarily is going to cause a fight. This guy is highly qualified. He has a strong record. He is clearly a judge who believes in strict interpretation of the Constitution. That's what President Bush said that he was going — the qualities he would look for in a nominee.

I hope we don't have a fight. I hope we have a debate and a vote on the nominee.

COLMES: I understand that John Warner is saying that the Gang of 14, following the Judiciary Committee hearings, there is a potential for the Gang of 14 to have a pivotal, if not decisive, role, and that they're meeting in your office this Thursday. What do you expect to happen?

MCCAIN: Yes, we're going to be — well, we need to discuss — this is an equal group. And we need to discuss amongst the 14 how they feel, what the criteria is.

I would imagine that it will just be a meeting and decisions will not be reached, because I think we've got a long way to go in the process.

COLMES: Is it...

MCCAIN: I'm hopeful that many of my colleagues will view Judge Alito as not qualified as, quote, "extra circumstances," but I will respect their views and we'll wait and see what happens.

COLMES: Is it conceivable that there could be a filibuster in a situation like this?

MCCAIN: Anything is conceivable. But it's just way too early in the process to tell. I hope that we don't have a filibuster, because then we would have the meltdown and then we would have the Senate shut down. I'd like to avoid it as much as possible.

But I have to respect the opinions of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I may not agree — and I hope that they don't filibuster — but I think we'll find out. If I had to guess, I hope not.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Senator, welcome to the program. By the way, the book is terrific. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

HANNITY: I have here the so-called memorandum of understanding on judicial nominations, of which you were a part of. You know I was opposed to it, for a lot of different reasons, because I felt it was unconstitutional what the Democrats were doing from the beginning. And they were setting a new precedent. And I thought it was never designed that we needed 60 votes, not 50 votes, for a nomination to go through.

MCCAIN: And we have an honest disagreement on that. I think that, if you take down a filibuster, the ability of a minority on a judicial appointment, there's no difference between that and a legislative measure. But we can debate that with constitutional scholars, but that's my view.

HANNITY: No, but you were being very consistent and fair here. You voted for Breyer. You knew very extreme positions of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but you gave the benefit of the doubt to the President Clinton.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: If that's the case, what we already know about Samuel Alito, this man has impeccable credentials, an unbelievable background, soft-spoken, incredible judicial temperament. And the only attacks that we're hearing are political attacks. Isn't that true?

MCCAIN: I don't know.

I respect the views of my colleagues. I try not to question their motives. I haven't made up my mind. I agree with everything you say about his credentials and everything else, but that's why we have hearings, so that members of the Senate and the American people can view this individual as they go through the hearing process.

So I cannot question the motives of my colleagues until I have proof to the contrary.

HANNITY: But this says specifically, "Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." The fact that he may be an originalist like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas is not, by your definition, an extraordinary circumstance, is it?

MCCAIN: In my view, at this stage of the game, yes, but I think we...

HANNITY: It is?

MCCAIN: No, no.

HANNITY: No, it's not. All right.

MCCAIN: At this stage of the game.

HANNITY: It's not an extraordinary circumstance?

MCCAIN: It's not, but I do think that my colleagues on both sides have the right to watch the process go through. We don't nominate a person and vote. We go through the legislative process.

Right now, I see no reason why I would oppose this judge. And I agree with you about his credentials. But I also want to give my other colleagues the benefit of being able to watch this process unfold, have meetings with him, question him, the normal process.

HANNITY: I guess where I am on this, if you look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I mean, she — the Ginsburg rule, she doesn't have to answer specific questions, clearly pro-choice going in, thinks there may even be a constitutional right to polygamy, has a controversial view we should lower the age of consent to 12, supports legalized prostitution, very left-wing.

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: And somebody — a moderate conservative like yourself said, "I give the benefit of the doubt to George Bush."

MCCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: You hear people like Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid today, the standard does not exist. It is not being applied to Samuel Alito the way it was applied to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

MCCAIN: During the Roberts nominating process, we read back, you know, to Justice Ginsburg's remarks, as well as Judge Breyer. And clearly they said that they didn't have to comment. That doesn't hold water.

Look, in all due request to all of my colleagues, you knew that there would be a certain number who came down opposed to this nomination no matter what. If it was Roberts all over again, they would have, because it was 22 senators that voted against what I think is a spectacular, inspired choice in Judge Roberts.

So you had to expect that amongst some of them. It's symptomatic of the partisanship and bitterness that exists in Washington, but that does not mean that there's going to be a filibuster. It does not mean that this judge would be rejected.

HANNITY: Can you define extraordinary circumstance? What is it for you, because...

MCCAIN: The same way I define child pornography. I know it when I see it.

HANNITY: And you see nothing that even comes close now?

MCCAIN: Not yet, but remember, he was nominated this morning.

HANNITY: But he's been on the bench for 15 years, this guy.

MCCAIN: I am favorably disposed. I cannot dictate to my colleagues...

COLMES: He wants you to vote now!

HANNITY: I want you to vote right this second.

(LAUGHTER)

COLMES: OK, we're going to take a break.

MCCAIN: I cannot dictate to my colleagues their position. There's a process.

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: We'll continue with Senator McCain right after the break.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: As we continue on "Hannity & Colmes," I'm Sean Hannity.

We continue with Arizona Republican, author of the brand-new ook, "Character is Destiny," Senator John McCain.

By the way, this is a great-looking book, number one, but more importantly, this is a great book. This is about heroes. This is about — you know, you go back to the issues that matter the most in life, about character, and you have some great stories from everybody, from Winston Churchill.

You tell the story about one guy that, when you were in prison, for all of those years, that did a good deed to you.

MCCAIN: Yes. I was in a — it's the only thing in the book that references me. And that is because of faith of this person who — I was tied very tightly in ropes. And he came in, in the middle of the night, and loosened the ropes. And then came back a little while later, before he went off-duty, and tightened them up again. He's what we call a gun guarder, a guy that just wanders around security.

A couple of months later, Christmas day, I was taken out of my cell just to be able to stand outside. And I was admiring this guy. And he walked up and, with his sandal, drew a cross in the dirt where we were standing and stood there...

HANNITY: There was a little message there.

MCCAIN: ... and then erased it, and went away. For a moment, the war was forgotten, everything was forgotten. Our faith was joined.

HANNITY: Honor, purpose, strength, understanding, judgment, love, I mean, all of the character issues you write about. It's a great book. I really enjoyed reading it.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Can I go back one more time?

On Judge Alito, I think he's highly qualified. I think he will make a ood nominee. I do believe that we ought to go through the process.

I'm sure that I would support him if the vote were tomorrow. But this process has to be pursued.

HANNITY: I'm glad to hear you say that.

MCCAIN: And the 14 has to meet and discuss this. And I respect the views of my colleagues. I think he's a great choice. But I want to make sure that I consider all the views of my other colleagues.

HANNITY: I just can't imagine — I looked at this guy's — I've studied this man's record. And you can hear the criticism. I understand that Chuck Schumer doesn't like anybody that's not, you know, pro-Roe v. Wade. I get that. Ted Kennedy is the same way. We're never going to get them on-board.

But, you know something, in the Casey decision, it was a thoughtful decision. It was a well-thought-out decision, albeit maybe controversial, that a husband would be notified, or a male would be notified before a wife gets an abortion, not that he could stop her, but just a notification issue.

I understand a lot of people agree with that. I guess my question to you is, you know, if we — if any of these people of the 14 can define him as extraordinary, or extra circumstance, then we must have a showdown at that point. And I think that will be healthy because...

MCCAIN: Well, maybe so. But, you know, we ought to be real careful, because you may not win the showdown. There's one thing worse than having a showdown, and that's having a shoot-out...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: And you don't think we would?

MCCAIN: We may not. It was a real question as to whether the votes were there the last time. So we'll have to see. But let's hope that he gets a fair, open hearing and the process we go through in an up-or-down vote. That's what I want.

COLMES: There's also a comparison to Ruth Bader Ginsburg now. Orrin Hatch said to her when she was up, 27 different issued, she answered specifically. He said, and I quote, "You're specific on ERA, Equal Rights Amendment, abortion, and a number of other issues." So she did specifically answer those questions.

Should there be that level of specificity?

MCCAIN: There was a whole lot she didn't answer, as well, too, Alan, as you know. And I understand that they shouldn't answer pending cases before the United States Supreme Court. We all honor that belief.

But it's been stretched by — certainly it was to me by Breyer and Ginsburg, but, you know, I bet you that this judge performs extremely well. Everybody that I have heard of talk about him is that he's very, very good.

COLMES: I want to talk about your book (INAUDIBLE) you mentioned 35 traits, honesty, humility, cooperation. Are we seeing those traits and character out of this administration?

MCCAIN: I think we are not seeing it in Washington, D.C. I think there are attempts that are being made. I think we have a very partisan atmosphere. And I think, when you look at the approval ratings of Congress, I think Americans want us to work together a lot more on issues that we should agree on, Social Security, reduced spending, Medicare, a number of issues...

HANNITY: Immigration.

MCCAIN: ... immigration, a key issues.

COLMES: Has the president lost his ability, though, to get forth his agenda because of the indictments? And are the indictments something you can't — they're not partisan. Certainly this prosecutor is not partisan.

MCCAIN: This president had a very successful first term. Both Ronald Reagan and President Clinton had problems in their second term. He can recover. I am confident that he will recover by getting on the agenda of what the American people are most concerned about.

COLMES: Do you question whether he went after Joe Wilson and Joe Wilson's family? And you've been — they've said that they went after you in 2000 during that race. Do you have any questions about whether this president and this administration would do something like that?

MCCAIN: I believe in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but I also believe there will be a time when the White House will describe whatever involvement or noninvolvement. I don't think the president was involved in it, to be honest with you, but I don't know that...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Nobody has been charged. Nobody has even been charged with this, after a two-year investigation, not even close to being charged.

Senator, the book is terrific. Good to see you in studio. Welcome to New York. And...

MCCAIN: It's great to be with you guys, and congratulations on your success. Thanks for...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Come on, you usually take a shot at this point. What happened?

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: Two homeless guys. How'd they get a TV show?

HANNITY: Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: You can make it anywhere else. I was trying to be nice to you. I won't do that again.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: All right, Senator. The book is terrific. Appreciate you being with us.

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