OTR Interviews

Sen. John McCain on Trump, Fiorina, U.S.-Syria 'ineptitude'

Sen. John McCain goes 'On the Record' on Donald Trump's 2nd debate performance, why he's not surprised by Carly Fiorina's rise, and the outrage over only 4 or 5 Syrian rebel fighters being on battlefield, despite a $500M US training program


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 17, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Just a short time ago, Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain went ON THE RECORD from Capitol Hill.


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


VAN SUSTEREN: Did you watch the debate last night?

MCCAIN: Yes, of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: First and second.

MCCAIN: Twenty some million other Americans, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did Donald Trump do?

MCCAIN: I thought he did well in many respects, but I think there were other areas, particularly on foreign policy that there is not a lot of depth. But I think that people are entertained. You know, he had a good repartee with others, but I think he was out-shown by particularly Carly Fiorina.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, Carly Fiorina was one of your advisors in 2008, economic advisor. Surprised by the way she is surging upwards?

MCCAIN: You know I'm not, because I was incredibly impressed with her when she was a part of our campaign and I spent a lot of time with her. I think she is brilliant. And I think she has a grasp of the issues, particularly the economy that is quite evident in her performance. I -- overall, like most other commentators and those who judged it, I think she did extremely well.

VAN SUSTEREN: And in the earlier debate -- Senator Lindsey Graham was very close to you, he had a good night.

MCCAIN: He had a wonderful night. When Lindsey is Lindsey, there is nobody who can inform in a more articulate fashion and also amuse at the same time. I have never known anybody that's as good as Lindsey Graham, and a lot of it has to do -- a lot of if was about national security which it should be. Lindsey knows those issues better than anybody, in fact, better than all of the others put together.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ok, now that we have done the play by play. Let me ask you about your committee armed services, and General Lloyd Austin testified this week and he said that 4 to $500 million has been authorized by Congress and how many fighters have we trained?

MCCAIN: Four or five he said. They have spent $43 million training these Syrians. And they have now four or five that are in Syria actively working. And the fact is that's $9 million a recruit, $9 million.

VAN SUSTEREN: How does this happen? How does anyone in good conscious? How does the President allow this or anybody allow this?

MCCAIN: Among other reasons is they are telling them they can only fight against ISIS and not against Bashar Assad. Bashar Assad is the one that has killed 230,000 of their country men and driven millions of them into exile. It's this whole thing about some kind of relationship with Iran and it's crazy. And now we have news that somehow the Russians are moving in to Syria big time with planes and tanks and ammunition. And they are trying to have some kind of relationship with the United States. The country that's dismembered Ukraine and the country that has helped Bashar Assad stay in power with 230,000 dead? I mean, this is the most bizarre period I have seen in my lifetime.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, spending all that money. I have to tell you people in my hometown in Appleton, Wisconsin they are listening. They want to get ISIS, but if you only four or five fighters, they would really like that $500 million to go someplace else.

MCCAIN: Because it's all a result of the president's failed foreign policy, it's his desire to get America out of everything. These refugees - - that's a direct result of Barack Obama failing to stop Bashar Assad when we could have, when we could arm the free Syrian army. Do you remember what the President said? It's not a matter of whether Bashar Assad will go, it's a matter of when. ISIS is the J.V.? ISIS is a J.V.?

VAN SUSTEREN: Where this money? How can you spend that much money on four or five fighters? Who got the money?

MCCAIN: Because they brought in a whole bunch of recruits. A bunch of them they wouldn't take. A bunch of them said, look, it's Bashar Assad that's killed my family. I want to fight against him. They say no, no, you can only fight against ISIS and then there is others who just go enter in the training and say, hey, I don't want to do this, and it's really an embarrassment, total embarrassment.

VAN SUSTEREN: It feels crooked.

MCCAIN: It's embarrassment.

VAN SUSTEREN: Taking from the American people.

MCCAIN: It's a failed policy. It's failed strategy, it is no policy, no strategy. Can anyone in America tell you what Barack Obama's strategy is to defeat ISIS? Of course not, because there is none.