Interviews

Sen. McCain: More concerned now than before the meeting

Arizona senator on meeting with Amb. Rice

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 27, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice meeting face to face with her toughest GOP critics today on Benghazi and let's just say things didn't go too well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn't get.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: And if you don't know what happened, just say you don't know what happened. People can push you to give explanations, and you can say, I don't want to give bad information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: One of those critics, Senator John McCain, is here and only here.

Welcome, everybody. I am Neil Cavuto.

If Ambassador Susan Rice thought today's meeting would clear the air on Benghazi, she was sorely mistaken, because Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte now say they are more troubled than ever, and that is spelling some trouble for the woman who might just be our next secretary of state.

The same person who initially blamed an anti-Muslim film for fueling a spontaneous demonstration at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and not a planned terrorist attack, an attack that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. And today the senators are demanding answers.

In a first on Fox, Arizona Republican Senator, former presidential candidate John McCain, who was that meeting. Senator, you didn't seem to get a lot out of that.

MCCAIN: No, I didn't, not what I had hoped.

And, by the way, I thought you were the sexiest man alive, according to Time.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I was annoyed by that. I was encouraged, senator, that he is a bit chunky. This could be paving the way, but enough about me.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Well, maybe you were separated at birth.

CAVUTO: Well, that's fine.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: This is going to be a tough interview now, Senator. It would have been nice, but you have gone the other way.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: This frustration, she actually called for the meeting, right?

MCCAIN: Yes.

CAVUTO: I thought it would be a good idea to talk to the Republican leaders, yourself included. And it seemed to boomerang. What happened?

MCCAIN: Well, some of the answers were hard to understand and some of the information she had access to clearly contradicted the statement that she made.

And, by the way, today, after all this time, she issued a statement, and in that statement, she said she had given false information to the wrong -- to the American people about the spontaneous demonstration, which obviously never took place. For example, she also said on nationwide television that Al Qaeda was decimated.

That is just patently false. I asked why that that statement should be made to the American people, and she really had no good answer for it. There was lots of classified information that she gets briefed on daily that indicated that this wasn't a hateful video that sparked a spontaneous demonstration.

I still don't understand why anyone would believe when you come with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades how that could possibly be viewed as a spontaneous demonstration. There are a lot of layers to this onion.

CAVUTO: We tried for Ambassador Rice. We did get a statement from her office, Senator, quoting here -- "While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved."

What do you think?

MCCAIN: Well, that is another big question in this whole scenario. Why would it have evolved?

There were people who were survivors who were flown to Germany who were interviewed by the FBI. And they told -- they said, absolutely, there was no demonstration. Yet, for a couple of weeks, the intelligence community seemed to be wrestling with signal intelligence and other classified information that they had, which led them to wait two weeks before they could come out and say that there was no spontaneous demonstration, that this was a planned attack by Al Qaeda.

Again, who changed the talking points that was used by Ambassador Rice? And why? And on what circumstances? Why was reference to Al Qaeda left out? There are so many things that have happened. And the interesting thing is, finally, Neil, we knew within hours of all the details when we got bin Laden in the raid there, every bitty one of them. They are making a movie out of it.

And here we are 10 weeks later, and finally our ambassador to the United Nations who appeared on every national Sunday show has now said that she gave false information concerning how this tragedy happened as far as the spontaneity of a demonstration triggered by a hateful video.

CAVUTO: Well, the president got upset by yours and others going after her, saying that if you have a problem, you should go after him. And you pointed out in a prior visit here that she was the person they put out on all these weekend shows right after the attacks. Do you think she was the right person?

MCCAIN: Well, she admitted herself and the president said that she had nothing to do with Benghazi.

That is another question that needs to be asked. Why was she sent out if she really had nothing to do with Benghazi? But, also, there was clear classified information that indicated that this was a terrorist attack from the beginning.

Look, how could the FBI possibly not tell the CIA what the survivors said within two days after the tragedy? And that is that there was no demonstration? It's mind-boggling, some of it.

CAVUTO: Now, she might be the president's choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. If that were the case, would you support her?

MCCAIN: Well, I think everybody gets to, one, be nominated, and, two, go through the hearings and go through the debate and discussion, but right now I would be very hard-pressed.

CAVUTO: If it were John Kerry, would you support him?

MCCAIN: Again, let's go through the process. John Kerry came within a whisker of being president of the United States. I think works in his favor. But I would love to hear him make the case.

But I don't have anything in his background like this tragedy in Benghazi that would make me really want to carefully examine the whole situation.

CAVUTO: By the way, you know him pretty well. There was talk that he wanted you to be on his ticket in 2004.

But do you know if he is frustrated that he could be passed up for the secretary of state position twice?

MCCAIN: No, I think John has been very careful about his views on this situation, and appropriately so. I have not heard him express any view.

CAVUTO: If I could move on to Grover Norquist, a lot more of your colleagues are taking a different step on this pledge thing and that they can't agree to that anymore, a half-dozen by last count, you among them. What do you think of him?

MCCAIN: Oh, I admire Grover Norquist. I think he has stood for the things that he believes in. And he has a role to play in the scenario of the Republican Party. Look, I have always been against ethanol subsidies, sugar subsidies, all of those things that I thought were wasteful and unnecessary and frankly the result of special interests.

And I still am opposed to rate increases, as I told you. But all of my career, I have gone to the floor and fought against the unwarranted subsidies that were directly the result of lobbying rather than the national good.

CAVUTO: So, you disagree when he says getting rid of those credits, allowances, breaks, whatever you want to call it, Senator, without corresponding spending cuts breaks the pledge?

MCCAIN: I don't know if it breaks the pledge or not, but I have said that am opposed to the tax rate increase because I think it hurts the economy and I think most economists that I respect believe that

But throughout my career, I have gone to the floor time after time on these appropriations bills and these farm bills that have these pork -- earmarks, these terrible and egregious subsidies, which I have opposed all along, and I am sure Grover has been very well aware of that.

CAVUTO: He has, actually. In conversations mentioning you, he has said that.

The one thing that does concern him though is that Republicans seem to be running around with their tail between their legs after the election and acquiescing on revenues and letting the Democrats steamroll them. And he says they will pay for that two years from now. Do you feel threatened?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think Republicans have to be for some things. And we need to be for things and we need to be for spending cuts. We need to be for entitlement reform.

That has got to be done on -- if we are ever going to be serious about these debt issues. I don't think we should disrespect Grover Norquist any more than I believe that we should disrespect the Heritage Foundation or any other -- or the American -- AEI, or these others. I respect them. We just don't always agree.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What he is saying, I think, Senator -- I'm sorry, sir. I didn't make myself clear.

MCCAIN: Yes. Sure. Go ahead.

CAVUTO: But he says that there is much more propensity to come up with creative ways to raise revenue than to cut spending and that it is disproportionately so and that Republicans are going along with this like idiots. What do you say?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, first of all, the negotiations have not seriously begun and people have staked out various positions, so I think we would have to look at the product of any of these negotiations before we...

CAVUTO: Well, do you think we will avoid a calamity at the end of the year?

MCCAIN: I'm not sure. I don't think we will because I think the markets will start to tell us that we have got to do something because of the devastating impact of not achieving something.

But I can tell you one possible scenario, and I don't like it, and that is we just kick the can down the road, sort of suspend everything for X-number of weeks or months. Another area that concerns me, if we don't put entitlement reform on the table, then we are not very serious. We know that Medicare and Social Security are going broke.

CAVUTO: Senator, thank you very much.

Normally, Senator, as you know, with every prominent guest I have on my show, I write them a thank-you note because I really do admire that. And you just let me know prior -- I don't think I'm talking out of school here -- you don't like it.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: No, it is not that at all. It's just that I don't want you to take your time that you have to devote to studying the issues and talking to Grover Norquist and all those other things.

CAVUTO: OK.

MCCAIN: That is all. But I do appreciate the opportunity of being on your show. And I think you do a great job and you are a fun guy.

CAVUTO: All right. Well, the next one is going to be cut-out magazine letters, Senator.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: OK.

CAVUTO: So, always a pleasure, sir, John McCain, senator, former presidential candidate.

Thank you.

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