OTR Interviews

McCain: Pres. Obama is 'not leading at all' now, perception around the world is that he's 'weak'

Sen. John McCain sounds off the the potential effect of the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law

 

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

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Just what you expected. Everyone, and I mean everyone, claiming victory, Republicans, Democrats, even President Obama and Governor Brewer. The Supreme Court wasn't unanimous, either, at least not to some things.

President Obama was quick to comment, saying in part, "What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system, it's part of the problem."

And on the other side of the political aisle, President Obama's 2008 opponent, Senator John McCain, saying, "Today's ruling appears to validate a key component of Arizona's immigration law."

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We spoke with Senator McCain a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, a big decision out of the United States Supreme Court today, and as you might imagine, Governor Jan Brewer wasn't too happy. And she said in part, "The Obama administration has fought the people of Arizona at every turn, downplaying the threat that a porous border poses to our citizens."

Do you agree with the governor?

MCCAIN: Well, I agree with it. And the point is, too, that the irony here is that the reason why Arizona enacted SB-1070 is because of our immense frustration over the federal government's either unable or unwilling to secure our borders. As everyone agrees, it was the most porous part of our U.S.-Mexico border is the Arizona-Mexico border, for reasons we won't go into.

But so we were frustrated, passed the law. Now the Supreme Court says that we can't enforce our borders, and at the same time, obviously, the federal government won't.

Now, there have been some improvements in border security, but I can tell you right now Arizona is still the place where coyotes bring people across. Arizona is still the main place where drugs come across our border.

There are guides on mountaintops in Arizona guiding these drug cartels up to Phoenix, where drugs then are distributed throughout the country. Our wildlife refugees -- or -- I'm sorry! Sorry. Our wildlife refuges are being destroyed. There are will -- we have concrete evidence that some of the fires have been started by illegal immigrants who were across our border.

The damage to our desert has been horrendous. And of course, a lot of people have died in the desert because they they've been deserted by the coyotes or they got lost or something. So none of those seem to be bothering this administration, and for them to not help us secure or borders, in my view, is worse than ironic.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in July of 2010, President Obama gave a speech, and in fact, he quoted -- he mentioned you, rather. He talked about how in 2007, there was a bipartisan effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform. And in his speech, he talks about basically wanting to do something about immigration.

What happened since then, and what happened to the 2007 deal?

MCCAIN: In 2007, it was opposed by people on the right and people on the left. And it was very tough. It was a tough a debate and a legislative effort I've ever been involved in. We had an agreement, Ted Kennedy and I did, that we would vote against amendments that would cripple the bill, even if it was something we didn't believe in but would have a crippling effect. Then Senator Obama attached himself to our group. And then...

VAN SUSTEREN: You mean he was on a team with you and Senator Kennedy for comprehensive.

MCCAIN: Well, sort of, although he didn't show up very much, but the fact is...

VAN SUSTEREN: Didn't show up where?

MCCAIN: Well, we would have meetings every morning right off the floor of the Senate, where we'd discuss what was happening during the day. Most the time, he didn't show up. But I'm not -- maybe he had other things to do.

But the fact is that he proposed an amendment on the agriculture jobs bill, which, as you know, was opposed by organized labor, that would have sunsetted it -- in other words, ended the enforcement or the implementation of that, while the rest of the legislation would have gone through. That was one of the goals of the farmer's union -- I mean of the labor unions.

So under the agreement, he shouldn't even -- not have proposed the amendment, but he should have opposed it. Ted Kennedy was very upset with Barack Obama, and so was I, and so by the way, was Senator Lindsey Graham, who went to the floor and spoke very strongly about this kind of action because if that amendment had passed, it would have destroyed...

VAN SUSTEREN: Naming then-Senator Obama specifically as the one who was, in essence, killing...

MCCAIN: One of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... it in the 2007...

MCCAIN: He was one of them. Several -- there were several. But he was the only one that I can recall that joined our group and then turned around and proposed an amendment that if it had passed, it would have destroyed, obviously, the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, the vote was ultimately 49-48, so it made a difference who was on board and who was not.

MCCAIN: Well, I think he may have been on board on the final vote, but the amendment that he supported and was proposing would have destroyed the whole agreement...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

MCCAIN: ... if it had passed.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And so now has there been any effort by anybody to do a comprehensive immigration reform, by Republicans, Democrats or the president since...

MCCAIN: When the president was running in 2008, then Senator Obama promised to bring up comprehensive immigration reform -- not the Dream Act, comprehensive immigration reform as his number one priority as president.

For two years -- for two years -- the president had 60 votes in the Senate and overwhelming majorities in the House. No legislative proposal came from the president of the United States on comprehensive immigration reform. So you can determine what the president's priorities were then.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's his -- I mean, why does he -- or do you think that? Do you think he has some particular dislike of Arizona, or is it he likes a good fight or he truly believes in this or he thinks he has a better plan or Arizona's just dead wrong? What's your thought?

MCCAIN: My thought is that in order for the president of the United States to be reelected, he has to have very solid support amongst the Hispanic community.

VAN SUSTEREN: So is it totally political?

MCCAIN: I cannot believe that political calculations are not a major part of this. Otherwise, he would have proposed comprehensive immigration reform back in 2009 when he was first president of the United States.

And I want to emphasize again, Arizona citizens were fed up and angry because in the southern part of my state, there was a rancher who was shot and killed. There were people who didn't feel safe in their own homes in the southern part of my state, in the Tucson area.

And so of course the people of Arizona were frustrated, and that's one of the reasons why this bill was passed, because the federal government had not done its job. And now the federal government, irony of ironies, is going to do less of its job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, more with Senator John McCain. And are you ready for the next big case? Well, everyone else is. The drama is building. We are in the final countdown to the landmark ruling on the national health care law, and it could go either way. We ask Senator John McCain about the potential fallout next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: More with Senator John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Today the Supreme Court issued its decision, leaving one provision standing. And Governor Brewer said that she thought it was a victory. Then while she was speaking, within a short time the 287G agreements, which was a partnership between ICE and Arizona, struck down.

Governor Brewer is not happy about that, but she was seeing as that as sort of a way to emasculate any effort by Arizona, I think. Those are my - - my description from what she said. And now the Department of Justice, we learn tonight, has set up a telephone hotline and intake e-mail for the public to report potential civil rights concerns related to the implementation of Arizona SB-1070. So now there's a hotline.

MCCAIN: Can't make it up. And the fact is that today, there are drugs coming across the Arizona Sonora border and guides are on mountaintops in Arizona, guiding these drug dealers all the way up to Phoenix, where drugs are distributed throughout the country.

There are people who are being brought up by coyotes, and some of them are kept in drop houses where they are mistreated in the most terrible fashion and held for ransom. There are some people who are being brought across our border who are being deserted by the coyotes and dying in the desert.

Now, all of this argues for -- in my view, for increased border security rather than decreased. And how do you best do that, obviously, is through agreements with local authorities.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

MCCAIN: They just negated those.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... is there anything all to prevent our representatives in the House, the Senate and the President of the United States, between now and November to actually sort of sit down and instead of going out and everybody campaign because everybody spreads out. We have five or six months, is there anything to prevent, because everyone agrees, the Supreme Court agrees it's a problem, Arizona agrees it's a problem, the president agrees it's a problem. He gave a speech about it. What's to stop anybody from doing to right now?

MCCAIN: Nothing that I know of. I am sure that Harry Reid will bring up the Dream Act, their Dream Act, which by the way, calls for two years of military service on the part of the dream act children, when we sign up people for four, not two, that's just one small item, and they will try to use it obviously for political advantage.

I think we should sit down and talk to him, and we would be glad to talk to him about this issue. But there has to be agriculture workers programs, there has to be high-tech workers. We need to keep a lot of the high-tech workers in and students who graduate. There needs to be e-verify. In other words, a documentation that shows, it verifies that you are a citizen or here legally. That, by the way, was a recommendation of the 9/11 commission. And also better border enforcement. We need that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we need some rolled up sleeves and actual rather than talk.

All right, let me go ahead to another topic. Thursday we expect the big day on health care. The three choices, it will be upheld, reversed in part, the mandate struck down, or reversed totally. Care to comment on that?

MCCAIN: I can't predict what they are going to do, but if it's one of the last two, ear the mandate or complete repeal, we Republicans will be ready with proposals ranging from small things like being able to go across state lines to get the insurance policy that you want to medical malpractice reform to things like that to preserving a couple of the provisions, which are minor, but they made a big deal out of. If you want to keep your child that's up to age 26 on your health care plan, it's fine with me. It has very little impact financially because most people 26 and younger are in good health. So we would be glad to keep some of those.

But overall it is a fundamental repudiation of this president, who has acted in an unconstitutional fashion, not the first time, in my view. But this will authenticate that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there is the impact of the health care, there is the cost of the health care. There is the implementation of the health care and there's also the sort of political part of it. How do you think for Governor Romney or for President Obama this health care decision, whichever way it goes, plays out in November?

MCCAIN: If the Supreme Court upholds it then I think it's a victory for the president. I mean, he believed it was constitutional and he acted in a constitutional fashion. But if parts of it are struck down, particularly the fundamentals of it, I think it has to be viewed by the American people as the president doesn't understand what his constitutional parameters are that he can operate under as president of the United States. And, by the way, most Americans, I think, according to polls, will heave a sigh of relief because most Americans oppose the legislation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he done what you thought he would do as president, just going back to 2008?

MCCAIN: I never thought he would do things like he did today. I never thought he would -- you know, a lot of my area of about is national security. For awhile he was leading from behind, and now he's not leading at all. The perception around the world is that he is weak and American is withdrawing. Look at the latest, the optics of the meeting between him and Putin. Remember the centerpiece of the Obama national security policy was the reset button with Russia. He has encouraged our enemies and discouraged our friends.

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

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)