This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The front page of "The New York Times," above the fold, right here, reads "A Terrorist Horror," and then golf. The president hitting the links during a time of crisis.
Joining us Senator John McCain. Good evening, senator.
And I know that this is not about optics. It's far more serious. The president, during the White House Correspondents Dinner, was ordering the takedown of Usama bin Laden. However, the American people are scared. They have seen the beheading. They know about the terrorism. Is the president showing the concern he should for the American people?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I hope that he is and I hope it's just an optics problem. But I hope what the president would do is review the series of grave errors that he has made, which has led up to the situation that we were in, not leaving residual force behind in Iraq, which he could have done and bragged about the fact that we didn't during the 2012 campaign, overruling his security team as reported by Hillary Clinton when they recommended stepping up and giving aid and assistance to the Free Syrian Army in Syria, a number. The fact that he said Bashar Assad had crossed a red line and he was going to attack and we all know he reneged on that, which destroyed American credibility in the region. There is a series of mistakes that I hope that the president realize which has led us to his secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs, finally, finally recognizing this is a direct threat to the United States of America.
VAN SUSTEREN: I know this is not a game. This is not a big "I told you so," but in 2008, when you said that we would need to leave troops in Iraq for a very long time, you got mocked by President Obama, Candidate Obama, and by Hillary Clinton. You are the one that wanted to take care of the Free Syrian Army and to arm them and, again, that was dismissed. Tell me what is your strategy today in light of where we are?
MCCAIN: First of all, if the president will develop a strategy, we will support it. So far, there is no strategy. There's four things we need to do immediately. One is to have a reconciliation between Sunni and Shia in Baghdad with the new government. Give military aid to the Kurds using old Russian equipment. They will fight and fight well, but they need the equipment to do it. Massively increase our assistance to the Free Syrian Army and airstrikes that go to Syria, because there is no boundary between Syria and Iraq today. And we have to do it hard and often, and incrementally is not the way to do it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, ISIS has threatened the United States. They have carried out a threat against James Foley, which many of us have seen on a video or seen the pictures of, and it is beyond words. Do you think that they're here in the United States? And I don't want to be an alarmist but I have seen what they have done.
MCCAIN: Well, could I mention that I have now been named by ISIS as number-one enemy and crusader, and I'm extremely proud of that, in their online propaganda. There is no doubt in my mind, with the number of Europeans and about 100 Americans, are the estimates, and people from all over the world who have been radicalized, who are now fighting in Syria, are going to come back to the countries that they came from. In the case of Europe, they don't need a visa to come to the United States. As you know, there was a young American that fought in Syria, radicalized, came back to the United States and came back to Syria and blew himself up as a suicide bomber. That should ring alarm bells throughout our intelligence community. And I think it's probably one of the factors that has cause for this dramatic turnaround by ourselves and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For years, I have been arguing with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that we ought to take the strategy or at least the position -- they have no strategy -- the policy that they are now dealing as the appreciation of this threat to the United States of America.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you think that the military statement, Secretary Hagel's statement yesterday was stronger than the president's about this? Did you get that sense?
MCCAIN: I think it was much stronger. But what -- the president's statement on the tragedy of Mr. Foley, that they are very strong statements. But where is the strategy? In other words, this is -- it's incredible because they are now warning us about how horrible the enemy is and how dangerous it is. They have articulated no strategy that I know of. And obviously, part of that is going to have to be a number of additional American forces in Iraq, not for combat purposes, but to help the Iraqis in this conflict. If they are going to take back this territory, they are going to have to have a lot of American help.
Second of all, Greta, it's not a matter of stopping ISIS. We have to defeat ISIS and we have it to take them out with whatever means possible.
The fact that the administration made public that there had been a rescue attempt will harm further rescue attempts because good journalists will be finding out additional details, which then gives methods and capabilities over to the enemy and ISIS in particular, so further rescue attempts will be complicated and more difficult because this administration, for whatever reason, whatever motive, made it known that they had made an attempt to rescue these people. And it is not a valid excuse to say that news organizations were on the story. We could have denied it.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's funny, I had a different reaction to that. And it's no secret I don't have a military background. I have never been in any leadership in the military. But I actually thought that it sends a message to ISIS, you know what, we are going to get you where you are, we're coming for you. And if anything, it's -- I had a different thought. I actually was happy to hear about that. And I think that I would hope that maybe it would scare some of them because we are coming for them.
MCCAIN: The best way to send a message to ISIS is through ordinance dropped on their heads and blowing them to smithereens, blowing them straight to hell where they belong.
VAN SUSTEREN: Of course, there is also the fact that our intelligence was so bad, is that we showed up when nobody was there, which is beyond me. That the intelligence gathering that that could happen.
But anyway, I'm taking the last word on that.
Senator, nice to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Greta.