OTR Interviews

McCain to Obama: 'We're not picking on anybody ... we want answers, and the buck stops at your desk, Mr. President'

Senator blasts president's lack of leadership and defense of UN Ambassador Rice in Benghazi controversy


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 14, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to Senator John McCain. He and Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelley Ayotte took to the Senate floor to demand the creation of a select committee for the sole purpose to investigate the murders of those four Americans in Benghazi.

Now, we spoke with Senator John McCain earlier tonight.


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


VAN SUSTEREN: Earlier today, you were on the Senate floor with Senator Ayotte and Senator Graham, asking for -- or making a resolution for a select committee to investigate Benghazi. Why?

MCCAIN: Well, this tragedy covers jurisdiction of at least four different committees. And there are certain committees like Foreign Relations that have to do with the State Department, intelligence the CIA, so it crosses a number of boundaries.

What we need is what we had after Watergate, Iran-contra, that we would then put together a select committee which would have jurisdiction over all the issues. That's the only way you're really going to address this terrible tragedy and debacle.

VAN SUSTEREN: Plus, it's actually profoundly more efficient because you don't have one government officials testifying before several committees. You have it in one place, one time.

MCCAIN: Exactly. And again, so many of these activities cross these different lines. CIA and DOD, Department of Defense, were involved in the protection issues. State Department and CIA were involved in the questions about the security of the embassy and who attacked and under what circumstances, and of course, the warnings that came from the State Department, which then were apparently ignored.

So the events also cross jurisdictions. It wasn't just a State Department incident and a Department of Defense incident. It was a -- one that crosses all boundaries. So if you're ever going to get the complete picture, you're going to have to have one committee.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Anything reaction from majority leader Senator Harry Reid on this?

MCCAIN: Well, listen, I am sure he will not want it. I am sure their senior committee members here in the Senate who won't want it because...


MCCAIN: Because it's in their -- well, first of all, the Democrats don't want an investigation of this nature. Look, they've got so much to hide that it's -- I mean, there are so many things that went wrong in this thing. This centipede has a lot of shoes that are still going to drop.

But obviously, they're not going to want it. They didn't want a 9/11 commission, the Bush people didn't, that Joe Lieberman and I proposed. They didn't want the Watergate committee. They didn't want the Iran-contra committee. It's going to require the American public demanding it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they're going to get one in the House because that is led by the Republicans. So even if the Democrats don't want it in the Senate -- and you have Senator Feinstein, a Democrat, on intel -- she wants something done.

MCCAIN: I hope that she will stick to that. And if she demands a select committee, I think it's much more likely.

VAN SUSTEREN: When is it likely to play out whether you know you have a resolution accepted or that there'll be a select committee or not? What's the timetable?

MCCAIN: I don't know. It depends on the American public. If there's enough of an outcry, if there's enough over this needless murder...


MCCAIN: ... of four brave Americans -- I mean, Watergate was about a break-in. Iran-contra was about shipment of arms, obviously. This is about the needless, tragic deaths of four brave Americans. It seems to me there's a -- that the American people will demand it. And I hope those demands are heard by their representatives.

VAN SUSTEREN: Today, the president gave a press conference, and he spoke about a number of issues, including Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who the rumor is that she might be nominated by the president for secretary of state. He said that you were picking on her. Are you?

MCCAIN: You know, it's interesting for the president to say something that juvenile. I'm not picking on anyone. Again, as we just said, four Americans died! Is that picking on anybody when you want to place responsibility and find out what happened so that we can make sure it doesn't happen again?

And you know, it's not a bad life being ambassador to the U.N. You have a nice suite in the Waldorf-Astoria and look pretty good. An so this -- why they used her as their spokesperson on all the major networks that Sunday is still beyond me, but they did. And she...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the president said today that...

MCCAIN: And she used talking points from the White House. So we're not picking on her. But we are holding her to some degree responsible. But have no doubt, we are holding the President of the United States responsible. And he is responsible and he has not -- he has given contrasting versions of events to the American people.

Could I just remind you real quick -- September 21, in the Rose Garden, he said it was, quote, "acts of terror." That same night, he said to Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes," it's too early to know exactly how this came about. On September 20th, we're still doing an investigation. September 24th, on "The View," we're still doing an investigation. And then before the United Nations on September 25th, "a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world."

Now, he said that on September 25th. In the second debate, with Mitt Romney, he said, I called it an act of terror in the Rose Garden. He didn't. He condemned acts of terror in the Rose Garden. And if he did, how come he told the United Nations a couple of weeks later that it was a senseless video that sparked a demonstration, when he knew full well there was no spontaneous demonstration?

So my response to the President of the United States is we're not picking on anybody. We want answers, and the buck does stop at your desk, Mr. President.

VAN SUSTEREN: The station chief in Benghazi said it was terrorism or a terrorist group within 24 hour. But then...

MCCAIN: Within 24 hours, yes!

VAN SUSTEREN: Then on the 14th of September, three days later, General Petraeus apparently came up here and -- as CIA director, and said that it was the video protest. Do you -- number one, do you expect that General Petraeus will testify this week, at least...

MCCAIN: Yes, before the Intelligence Committee, and that'll be closed.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your explanation for him doing that? Do you have any thought why he -- why he went from what his station chief told him to what he said on the 14th? What's going on there?

MCCAIN: I do not know, and that's why he has to testify. But I think it's patently obvious that the talking points that Ambassador Rice had didn't come from the CIA. It came from the White House. So who in the White House gave Ambassador Rice those, quote, "talking points" that she used, when clearly, the facts had contradicted that kind of assertion to the American people?

And by the way, I was on "Face the Nation" that Sunday, and immediately after she made her statement about the hateful video, the president of the legislative assembly of Libya was on, saying, This is an al Qaeda operation. He immediately contradicted it that Sunday, and they went on for days and days afterwards alleging this was a spontaneous demonstration.

Now, why would they do such a thing? One can speculate that the president's delivery to the American people all during the campaign is, We got bin Laden and al Qaeda's on the run. If you believe that this was just a spontaneous demonstration, that fits with that narrative.

If you believe, as is the facts, that al Qaeda is coming back everywhere -- in Iraq, they've taken over Mali, they infiltrated through into Libya, al Qaeda from everywhere, which we warned about, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte and I in a piece in The Wall Street Journal -- that they are coming back everywhere, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria. They're all over the place.

So it interferes with the president's narrative, We got bin Laden, al Qaeda's on the run, therefore, I'm a great commander-in-chief. Fact is, everything is unraveling in the Middle East.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.