OTR Interviews

McCain: I had to hold back my anger during Obama's 'State of the Campaign' address

Sen. John McCain slams Obama's State of Union speech


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 25, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A scathing critique! Senator John McCain is blasting President Obama for last night's State of the Union address. Senator McCain says the president is wrong, and not just about one thing. Earlier tonight, we spoke with Senator McCain about the president's speech and his trip to McCain's home state of Arizona.


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


VAN SUSTEREN: The president is visiting your state, and you have been quoted as saying that he should stop at the Arizona-Mexico border while he's on his taxpayer-funded campaign stop. You care to explain?

MCCAIN: President has never been to the Arizona-Mexico border. I think he has been once to El Paso, Texas. There is still a huge influx of drugs into our country through or from Mexico. There is incredible violence. Some 40,000 Mexicans have been killed in the last six years.

And I think it would be nice if he could take a very short trip from Phoenix, where he is, and go down and see the border, find out, talk to the border patrol, find out why it is that one of our border patrolman was killed by a gun that was in this "Fast and Furious" purchase of guns that ended up in the hands of cartel members in Mexico. Might be nice for him to see the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor Brewer, your state's governor, has asked for that. Even Gabrielle Giffords, congresswoman, has been very eager to have things done along the border. Why do you think he won't go to the border?

MCCAIN: I don't know why. But it's one of the situations we have cartel members on mountaintops in Arizona as the drug cartels go up north into Phoenix. And they are mountaintops and they guide them and warn them where the border patrol is. The drugs get to Phoenix and they are distributed all over America.

So when we talk about the issue of immigration, I think it's important we do. But I think it's also, you can't really have a rationale conversation about it unless you talk about the billions of dollars of drugs that are coming into our country, the corruption that it breeds, and the problems in Mexico that is direct result of the drug trafficking.

VAN SUSTEREN: If some young person listened to last night's State of the Union and said to you, how was it? What happened? What would you say?

MCCAIN: I'd say it should have been called "State of the Campaign." Clearly it was very partisan campaign speech.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they ever other than that?

MCCAIN: I think there are degrees of it. I think this probably most partisan I've seen. Some of it I just had to kind of smile, otherwise I would have gotten a little angry. For example, he immediately talked about Iraq. Iraq is spiraling out of control because we didn't leave a residual force there that we needed of some 20,000 American troops.

VAN SUSTEREN: He is saying it's a great thing. The troops are out. He seems to suggest things are going well. Are you talking about a different country?

MCCAIN: We must be talking about different countries. Things are very serious in Iraq. Violence has escalated dramatically there. The vice president is hiding out in Kurdistan on an arrest warrant from the prime minister, Malaki. Things are very serious there, as we predicted they would be. But President Obama made a campaign promise he would get everybody out of Iraq. I'm very worried.

In the case of Afghanistan, again he is pulling the troops out early against the recommendations of the military that be provided and poses much greater risk whether we can succeed or not. Last night he said anybody who says that it's not perceived that the United States is weakening throughout the world doesn't know what they are talking about. Well, I can assure you I have talked to many leaders around the world, especially in the Middle East, that believe that the United States is withdrawing and is weakening.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying he doesn't know what he is talking about then?

MCCAIN: I am saying he must be talking to very people than I do. I talk to the leaders of these Middle Eastern countries and I talk to them around the world. Leading from behind is not what they admire.

VAN SUSTEREN: Something is very wrong, because there are two very different views of the world. He said last night, to the effect that -- you smile?

MCCAIN: He also said he would stand up for human rights and freedom in the world. In 2009 there was a flawed election in Iran. People rose up and were chanting in the streets, "Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?" He refused to give them a single word of encouragement.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was that ideology or inexperience?

MCCAIN: It was the naive assumption that he could negotiate with the Iranians. And by the way, he was talking about also the effect of sanctions. And they have been harmful to the Iranians and made life more difficult for them. But it has not swayed them from the path they are on of developing nuclear weapons.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, watching the State of the Union you see the Democrats applauding and Republicans be sitting there, and so does it really have any real function in terms for Americans? Is it real theater in the end?

MCCAIN: I think the first thing we should do, why don't we agree with Republicans and Democrats to remain seated. Applaud politely if you want to. What is the point of jack-in-the-box jumping up and down? There is no point in it. It lengthens the speech. It went over an hour last night. You know what the attention span of average American viewer is. It would be much more effective if any president were able to deliver his speech rather than have all these interruptions that go on.

But I sat with Senator Hayden from North Carolina. She would jump up. I would have to get up.


MCCAIN: It is what it is.

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

MCCAIN: Thanks.