McCain: Response to Libya crisis was either 'abysmal ignorance' or 'willful deception'

Senator responds to crisis in Libya and Syria


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY: Now for the "Top Story" tonight, very troubling report from CBS News. It says the former head of a U.S. military security team in Libya objected to the State Department downgrading security in Libya. Apparently two security teams were removed by the State Department in August.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you found out the last two teams were being pulled from Libya, what was your feeling about that?

LT. COL. ANDREW WOOD, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: I felt like we were being asked to play the piano with two fingers. There was concern amongst the entire embassy staff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So all of the experts on the ground are telling headquarters at the State Department, we need this and the answer kept coming back as?

WOOD: You've got to do with less. For what reasons, I don't know.


O'REILLY: Hard to believe. We called the State Department. The spokesman Mike Toner told us the security teams were brought home on a planned rotation and that did not impact security in Benghazi where the assassination and the terror attack took place.

Joining us now from Raleigh, North Carolina Senator John McCain who is closely following this story. I mean, this is upsetting to me as an American, not just as a journalist. And I think Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State owe us a full explanation tomorrow. Am I wrong?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No. You're right, Bill. And it's not only the withdrawal of the security teams. There were previous attacks and there was even Chris Stevens' diary which as you know was uncovered out of the rubble, that he was concerned about security.

But let me add just one more element here that is really so frustrating to me and that is five days -- five days after this mortar rocket-propelled grenade synchronized al Qaeda affiliated attack took place on the consulate, the administration trotted out our ambassador to the United Nations, who, I was on one of the Sunday shows just after her, who said this was a spontaneous demonstration caused by a hateful video.

Now how in the world that anybody five days afterwards could draw that conclusion and tell that to the American people is either abysmal ignorance or willful deception of the American people both of which are totally unacceptable.

O'REILLY: All right and we need an explanation from Ambassador Rice. But right now tonight I'm --

MCCAIN: No, from the -- from the people at center outfit to say that she's --

O'REILLY: Well but she said it. She said it --

MCCAIN: Well, she got the information -- she got the information from the highest circles of government, our national security advisor and our director of national intelligence. She is just a messenger --

O'REILLY: Yes, but they're never going to cop to it. The only person that can really tell you who told her to do it is Rice.

MCCAIN: But they're responsible.

O'REILLY: But I'm -- I'm telling you, Hillary Clinton has got -- she owes the families of those four Americans who were killed, she herself, Hillary Clinton, she's the boss. You don't pull security teams out of Benghazi and Libya when your ambassador is saying, hey, we're in trouble here and the head that you just heard, the head of the security there said don't pull them. And then this happens and where are you, Mrs. Clinton? Where are you? You got to step up tomorrow.

MCCAIN: Well -- well there maybe somebody -- there may be somebody else, too, and he's called the President of the United States who's the Commander-in-Chief.

O'REILLY: Ok but let's stair-step it though, Senator. Absolutely the buck stops with him as Harry Truman said.

MCCAIN: Right.

O'REILLY: But let's stair-step it. Now I think the Senate and Congress should demand the Secretary of State appear before committees, whatever committee you want and explain what the hell is going on here?

MCCAIN: And the director of national intelligence, who issued a statement not long ago of what, in my view, is an attempt to cover up, said that they had information that it was a spontaneous demonstration. What information could you possibly have when you hear of an attack with mortars and with rocket-propelled grenades affiliated -- with an affiliated al Qaeda outfit that carries out a very sophisticated operation? That's not what you really look at as a spontaneous demonstration.

O'REILLY: No it's a disturbing, it's disturbing. But we have to start with the Secretary of State and she owes the country and the families an explanation and we're going to demand it.

MCCAIN: Ok, right. Right.

O'REILLY: Now and just real quick about Syria. Syria and Turkey are now shelling each other. If you were President, would you get involved with Syria?

MCCAIN: Of course. I would be helping them with weapons, weapons are being flown over Iraq by Iranians today. There is Iranians on the ground. Russians are supplying them with all kinds of equipment. Helicopters, jet aircraft, artillery tanks. They're being slaughtered and massacred, tortured, gang raped, while we sit by and watch.

And the President of the United States, until recently, wouldn't say anything on their behalf. I'll tell you what we need. We need a leadership first, American leadership. Second, we need to have a no-fly zone. But most importantly right now, at the moment we should be giving them arms with which to defend themselves over overwhelming odds --

O'REILLY: All right, so you would arm the rebels, no-fly zone like they did in Libya. And get involved on the side of the anti-Assad forces. That's what you would do there?

MCCAIN: Yes. Everything -- everything that we said would happen, if we got involved, is happening because we're not involved. Al Qaeda is pouring in to the place. The massacres have increased. Iranians and Russians have increased their supplies and support of Bashar al Assad and the tensions in the region are going up. Look at Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Syria --

O'REILLY: Yes sure. It's a cauldron over there.

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: All right, I wanted just to get your opinion on what you would have done had you been president.

Now finally, were you surprised that President Obama was so flat in the debate? He wasn't the guy that debated you four years ago.

MCCAIN: Well, I think that there is a fundamental change here, Bill and that was in 2008, he didn't have a record to defend. And he's been living in a four-year bubble surrounded by an adoring media. This is the first time that he has really had to respond and he couldn't because he's having to defend a record which is indefensible.

And I guess the second thing is that what is probably most impactful about this than anything else is that Obama has been -- in a campaign spent hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly in swing states portraying Mitt Romney as some kind of out of touch Richie-rich, you know, bank accounts in the Cayman Islands guy and he came across as a sensible, reasonable, centrist man who wants to unite America and the toughest question that Obama had to answer was when are we going to have some bipartisanship. The same kind of thing that Ronald Reagan and Tipp O'Neill and Bill Clinton used to do with Newt and Bob Dole. And he couldn't answer except to say sometimes you have to say no --

O'REILLY: Yes but you must -- you must have been a little bit surprised how flat the President was, because you know he's a pretty energetic guy and can -- he can do the two step as well as anybody. He just came out, he had nothing that night. He was knocked out in the first inning.

MCCAIN: Well, I think that -- well as I said, at the time, if it was a fight, they would have stopped it.


MCCAIN: But I think he'll do a lot better the next time around and don't underestimate him.

O'REILLY: No, no. But the next time around -- it's a town hall meet so it's different. I wish Stewart had come out as flat as the President did.

MCCAIN: Well you guys, you guys ought to go on the road. And by the way again, again -- hell of a job. I liked the sitting on the lap routine. That's the best ON.

O'REILLY: Well, we'll show that a little bit later on. Thank you, Senator. We appreciate it.

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