OTR Interviews

McCain: By Any Measurement, Things Have Gotten Worse in the U.S. Under President Obama

Senator sounds off on Pakistan's boycott of international conference after deadly NATO airstrike and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 30, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell blasting President Obama, saying President Obama economy policies have failed working Americans. Tonight, as you might expect, Senator John McCain said he totally agrees. From the stubbornly high unemployment rate to the housing crisis, Senator McCain says all indicators have gotten worse since President Obama took office. That's one of the issues we discuss with Senator McCain earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there was a little bit of a dust up between the White House and some members of the United States Senate about what to do about detainees who may have some contact with al Qaeda. What do you want to do?

MCCAIN: Well, we want to make sure that detainees -- anyone who is apprehended, no matter where, that is after a thorough investigation is viewed as an enemy combatant, and that means they are attempting or conspiring to inflict damage or committee acts of espionage in the United States, that the clear parameters that they are indeed members of Al Qaeda or affiliated organizations, that they are not entitled to Miranda rights or a civil trial.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who makes that decision? Take the guy on the plane, the underwear bomber. At least it took several days to sort of track down what was to be done with him. He was already in U.S. custody and had already been Mirandized. So how practical is it?

MCCAIN: There's a thorough investigation conducted by the FBI, CIA and the military. And a termination is made after a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the apprehension. And also that individual has a rate to habeas if he or she is an American citizen, to go before court if he or she is an American before being released.

But the United States Supreme Court in Hamden said there is no bar for the United States government from holding any of its citizens as an enemy combatant. And that was the case in World War II with people like Tokyo Rose, it's been true throughout our history of American citizens who engaged in activities that would inflict harm or damage to the United States of America.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess there's a little bit of a difference. You had the one situation where the FBI and CIA is doing an investigation, following people, listening to wiretaps and they make the plan and they move in and make the bust and they arrest someone. The other instance, and I guess is the one where you have the Underwear Bomber, he attempts to blow up a plane and he is arrested there and the investigation takes several days and you can't just take and hold him while that is being done, the anywhere an dies him.

MCCAIN: You can hold him without Mirandizing as long as there is suspicion there he's a member of Al Qaeda or affiliated organization. It would take about five or ten seconds in the case of the Underwear Bomber. It was a person who wanted to inflict damage and actually blow up an airplane and kill 100 or so people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm all in favor of making sure the nation is really safe, but the question of the Miranda rights and doing that investigation, you and I may disagree a little bit on that one.

MCCAIN: OK. But I think that that person should be held and ascertain as to whether they are a member of Al Qaeda or an affiliated organization. And if they are not, then obviously they are given their Miranda rights and rights of every citizen. But in our history, for example, Tokyo Rose in World War II and others, there have been numerous cases of American citizens who have aided and abetted the enemy, and they have been treated as enemy combatants.

VAN SUSTEREN: But here's the practical problem. The Supreme Court says the minute someone is in custody, and custody means the person no longer beliefs he's free to go, you must Mirandize a person. You can't all of a sudden say we are going to set this person aside. We are going to go and investigate this and see whether it's Al Qaeda. It has to be done concurrent with the arrest.

MCCAIN: No. A person can, before they are formally charged, there can be an investigation, a period of investigation of what the circumstances surrounding the alleged criminal act.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, we will move along. Move to another topic. Senator McConnell has said President Obama's policies have failed working Americans. I take it you agree with the senator?


MCCAIN: I totally agree, and the fact is that when you look at any indicator, things have gotten worse. No matter whether it be homes underwater -- since President Obama took office, whether it be unemployment, whether it be any measurement that things have gotten worse since the President of the United States took office, not to mention the burgeoning debt and deficit.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the Pakistan senior army official has made a statement. He said the strike last weekend by NATO in which 26 Pakistani soldiers was killed was a deliberate act of aggression.

MCCAIN: Of course that's totally incorrect. But our sympathy and our sorrow goes out to the families of those 24 Pakistani soldiers who were killed in this air -- we want to call it attack, this air situation. And there have been many other Pakistanis who have lost their lives in areas near the Afghan borders in fights with the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

But the fact is also, and this must be a basis of our relationship with Pakistan, that there are members of the ISI, their intelligence services, that are actively supporting the Taliban and Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan that are killing Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what do we do?

MCCAIN: Can I just finish with one other point? Among other things there are two major fertilizer factories that the result of their product is resulting in the production of IEDs that are in Afghanistan that are killing and wounding American soldiers. That is an unacceptable situation.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is horrible and it is getting worse and having a relationship deteriorate, the already bad relationship we had with Pakistan get worse is even a bigger problem. So what do we do?

MCCAIN: I think we have to gauge our support, and we have sent billions to Pakistan, directly related to their degree of cooperation as far as the problems that I just outlined to you. We owe nothing less to the American taxpayer, but certainly nothing less than to the families of the men and women who are serving over there in harm's way.

But for 10 years we had no relations with Pakistan. That didn't work out. Pakistan is a nuclear -- is a country with a nuclear inventory. That's dangerous. And also we are dependent, to a large degree, on the supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan for the supplies that are necessary to keep our fighting force functioning efficiently.

Now all these things are very important, and they also have to play in our determination. So we have to take a measured approach, make sure the Pakistanis know what we expect of them, set up guide posts and goals that we would expect them to meet and make judgments accordingly. And it has to be done soon.