OTR Interviews

McCain: ISIS is winning, conflict is 'unfolding testimony' to Obama's 'indecision and fecklessness'

Veteran senator says, 'ISIS is winning,' conflict is a 'testament to Obama's 'indecisiveness' and fecklessness. Plus, why John Kerry's negotiations with Iran send a 'chill' down his spine


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 20, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The threat from ISIS growing. And now, Senator John McCain says the gradual escalation in the threat against ISIS reminds him of the failed strategy that caused the U.S. to lose the Vietnam War.

Senator John McCain joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Good evening.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a grim quote to read.

MCCAIN: Well, you look at the things that they are doing with gradual with first 500 troops on the ground -- first no troops on the ground and then 500, then an additional 1500, gradually escalating the air activities, not having sufficient boots on the ground to make it effective. It's not exact parallels. But one of the parallels that's most interesting, Greta, is I was in a panel last weekend with Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta. Both of them complained bitterly about the micromanagement from a small group of people in the White House making these decisions, disregarding the advice and counsel of our military leaders. That's what really alarming.

VAN SUSTEREN: That is, indeed, alarming if you're not taking attention to the military. And then you didn't even say President Obama, but somebody that works for him. But, yes, last night here on this program, Catherine Herridge, my colleague, reported about a Gitmo detainee who was al Qaeda. He was released and he has joined ISIS. And is he the chief recruiter, but he is doing it from Pakistan. Does this mean ISIS may have moved on to Pakistan? Because I think that's alarming if that's happened? Not even contained in Syria and Iraq.

MCCAIN: Well, as you know, remnants of al Qaeda, parts of al Qaeda were always in Pakistan. They moved over from Afghanistan. They are there associated with the Haqqani Network. I think it's obvious. I think -- look, it's spreading everywhere. As you know, the leader of the radical Islamic group in Egypt announced their allegiance to ISIS. ISIS is winning. I have been told that 18,000 Europeans and outsiders and foreign allies are fighting on the side of ISIS, and while we are talking about possibly a year or more before we could even retake Mosul. This is unfolding testimony to this president's indecision and fecklessness, and we are going to pay a very heavy price for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me turn your attention to Iran. We're approaching the November 24th deadline. Secretary Kerry going to Vienna, trying to do something. Can any deal reached with Iran on its nuclear enrichment that doesn't have the stamp of approval from Capitol Hill? Can the president do it alone?

MCCAIN: The president is going to try to do it alone if they can get it. By the way, when I hear that Secretary of State Kerry is flying some place to try to negotiate, it sends a chill up my spine. I'm telling you, it is desperation. It is not the way to conduct diplomacy. And it's very obvious that they are desperate for a deal in the misguided belief that somehow they do that and things are going to be fine with Iran in the world. It's delusional. But, no, I don't think they can make a good deal. And already they have --


VAN SUSTEREN: But can they make a deal without you? Can they make a deal without Capitol Hill? Can the president do that?

MCCAIN: I do not believe so. But right now, they are calling it that. And that's why we are going to have to have the legislation, which Senator Lindsey Graham and others -- and it was broad bipartisan support by Democrats as well. This walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck. It's a treaty. It's not an agreement. It's a treaty. And must be, in my view, ratified by the Senate of the United States. We have to pass legislation to make that happen. But right now, I'm really worried about one of these last-minute, 11th-hour deals that will be very, very bad.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I look at it from afar, it seems that the United States, the Obama administration is trying to negotiate something so that they have minimal uranium enrichment so they can do it for peaceful purposes. But then I heard Prime Minister Netanyahu before the General Assembly say, at least last year, and probably this year, is that zero enrichment is what -- is the only thing Israel can live with. So now what?

MCCAIN: It's the only thing that we should live with. If you are going to let them have centrifuges, which can make this fissure material, then it's a matter of not weather, it's a matter of when. And it will, by the way, destabilize even further the Middle East. These other countries will be acquiring a nuclear weapon. In fact, I think the Saudis could purchase one from a country we just talked about in very short order.

Look, this is a very, very bad deal in the making. And whenever you do these things at the absolute last minute, they always turn out badly.

Could I mention something about immigration real quick before we -- I know I'm running out of time here with you.


MCCAIN: The president, time after time, said that he did not have the authority to make the changes that he is making now. Nothing changed except an election. And the president is now going to, in my view -- the only explanation I have for this action is that he is trying to regain the political support of the Hispanic voter because his eye is on 2016. This is terribly regrettable. And I'm happy to note that most Americans think this is an unconstitutional act. And we Republicans have to be careful how we react, but we have to react.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Senator, we are going to hear from the president shortly. We will find out what he has to say.

Thank you, sir, for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Greta.