McCain: VA scandal is 'not going to go away'

Lawmaker reacts to president's handling of issue


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: The president is in Cooperstown, New York, at this hour. He's celebrating the Baseball Hall of Fame, as this VA hospital controversy gets uglier and more infamous.

To Republican Senator John McCain, who says that the president is dropping the optics ball and much more on this.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And before we get to the Republican senator, I want you to listen to what a member of the president's own party had to say.


REP. DAVID SCOTT, D-GA.: The was no urgency. Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals.


CAVUTO: All right, to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who agrees.

Senator, it's always good to have you.

What is making this scandal resonate, sir, as you know, is that it's getting bipartisan bashing, including that Democratic congressman, who says that this was inexcusable. Where is this going? How big do you think this is?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I think it's a centipede with lots of shoes that are yet to drop.

We're already now hearing of 26 different VA hospitals around the country where there are allegations to varying degree of failure to meet the needs of the veterans, and cover-ups. And it's a scandal that is not going to go away, my friend.

CAVUTO: Now, the argument for these delays -- and the president touched on it yesterday, Senator -- is that they have been going on for a long time, we have actually improved things, but it takes time, and this is a decades- long problem that takes time.

What did me mean by that and was he just trying to spread the blame around for this?

MCCAIN: Well, I love modern technology, where you can replay individuals and particularly officeholder's words.

When the president was running in 2008, he made these commitments about they were going to eliminate the delay and we would have a new VA, and I said that we had to give flexibility to the veterans to get the care at the places they felt that they could get it best.

That was, of course, downplayed. Then the president talked in 2009, '10, '11 about all the great things that they were doing, in 2012 said that they were -- everything was fine with the VA. And, remarkably, it was well over a month before he had anything to say about this latest scandal.

And, finally, Neil, he sent his deputy chief of staff to Phoenix, Arizona, to look at the situation at the VA hospital. He didn't send an expert on health care. He didn't send a veteran that really knows about health care. He sent one of his chief political operatives, showing what he views this crisis as and what it really is.

CAVUTO: Speaking of political operatives and maybe priorities, we locked at the president's schedule today, a day after he said he was furious and he wanted to get to the bottom of this, and besides what he is at Cooperstown, New York, at the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has a political fund-raiser tonight at a private home for some Senate Democrats in Chicago, a follow-up one after that, nothing in his schedule today veterans-related.

Now, maybe that might be too transparent, but do you think that a day after making such a big stink out of this, that he should be doing any of this stuff?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't -- honestly, I can't make that judgment on a schedule for one day.

But what I can say that, weeks ago, this scandal broke. I had with one of the local stations in Arizona, KFYI, a gathering of veterans where four women stood up and talked about how their husbands or fathers died for lack of care. That was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. Maybe the president should get in contact with these people who have literally lost their loved ones because of the alleged and apparent malpractice at the VA.

CAVUTO: Oh, no, no, you're right, Senator. We will be speaking to a sister of a deceased veteran who knew this firsthand. But I...


MCCAIN: Shouldn't the president be talking to them and getting their stories, so that he would have some background on how serious this situation is?

CAVUTO: The other reason why I mentioned the president's schedule today, not to -- as a cheap shot, Senator, but it came in prior incidents as well, after Benghazi.

We don't know what the president knew still, but we do know from his public schedule what he did next day after an ambassador was killed, that he went to a political fund-raiser in Las Vegas, that there are a lot of political strategists who say does that at the very least give you good optics? Does it hurt you just the way it looks?

Now, I know you're not big on appearances one way or the other, you don't care about that sort of thing, but do you think it resonates with veterans that he is not doing anything that follows up on his anger today that he expressed yesterday?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, on the Benghazi thing, one thing we do know is, the night before, he was never in the Situation Room. Bret Baier, I believe it was, found that out in an interview with one of the staff.

CAVUTO: Right.

MCCAIN: I believe that the president does not really yet understand the depth of anger that is out there. Otherwise, I think he would be acting far more proactively.


CAVUTO: Maybe he doesn't get angry. But, Senator, maybe there is something to the no-drama Obama line. You know him far better than I do. But is there a sense that is just not in his makeup, not in his DNA, to get excitable? He might be angry, but it's not in his nature to come bursting out and shouting. What do you say?

MCCAIN: Well, leadership is what we expect of our presidents.

And when you're faced -- faced with a breakdown of probably what is one of our most sacred obligations, going back to Abraham Lincoln's charge to us, take care of the widow and the child and the wounded, then if that is -- that deserves to be excited about. That deserves to be -- to call a meeting in the White House and say, especially with our veterans, especially with other organizations, especially with some our leaders who have dealt with these issues for a long time.

To my knowledge, so far, he has not reached out to those people who can come up with some of the solutions, because it's clearly a problem. Now, there may be some debate about how serious the problem is, whether 40 people actually died or not. But it's irrefutable that the veterans have been denied the care that we promised them, and that seems to me to escape the president of the United States' attention, and that's not acceptable to most Americans.

CAVUTO: Senator, your daughter Meghan McCain was speaking to Larry King, and the subject of what Karl Rove had said about Hillary Clinton, the brain damage comment you have so much heard about, she found his comments disgusting, says she still hates Karl Rove.

Do you?


MCCAIN: I don't hate Karl Rove at all. The campaign is over.


CAVUTO: Well, how about his comment, the brain damage comments about Hillary Clinton?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, first of all, I don't -- I don't think -- I think it was a mistake, because all those things will be subject of a lot of scrutiny from people who are a lot less partisan than Karl Rove is.

As far as my daughter's emotions are concerned, it's the family members that always take these things the hardest, and there was a campaign in South Carolina that still rankles -- I have moved past it, but still hurt my children.

CAVUTO: She has not. She has not. She blames -- no, no, she has not, Senator. And she clearly blames Karl Rove for that defeat in that primary that ultimately doomed your presidential prospects that year.

Do you ever talk to her or say, honey, I love you dearly, but I don't think you be saying this stuff, or is she adult woman, she can say and do whatever she wants?

MCCAIN: Well, she is an adult.


MCCAIN: And we have -- we have spirited discussions, but I don't try to tell her what to do.

I also know from my past experience that family members seeing their loved ones damaged always take it harder than the individual themselves.

CAVUTO: Right.

MCCAIN: I love my daughter immensely. I don't always agree with her.


MCCAIN: And I think it's -- I think it's very healthy that we don't agree sometimes. But I do appreciate her perspective on her generation. I have learned a lot from her.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator, it's always a pressure. Thank you very much.

And I agree with you on the kid is never with you 100 percent. I'm lucky if I get 10 percent, Senator.


CAVUTO: But thank you very much. It always good.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CAVUTO: And give me best to Meghan.

MCCAIN: Thank you, my friend.

CAVUTO: All right.

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