Transcript: Ridge, McCaskill on 'FOX News Sunday'

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The following is a partial transcript of the Aug. 17, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss the conflict in Georgia and the possibility of becoming a vice presidential running mate are two national co-chairs from the campaigns, former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, and from St. Louis, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

And both of you, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".

RIDGE: Chris, nice to join you.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

RIDGE: Good morning, Senator.

MCCASKILL: Good morning.

WALLACE: Governor Ridge, you just heard Secretary Rice. John McCain has been saying for years that the president is too soft on Vladimir Putin, and here's what John McCain had to say this week.


MCCAIN: I don't know if the president, quote, missed the boat, but I do believe that the president probably had a higher opinion of Vladimir Putin than I do.


WALLACE: McCain now says that Russia must, quote, "pay a price for its actions". Specifically, what would President McCain do?

RIDGE: Well, I think the real challenge for President McCain or any president in the 21st century is how we hold other countries accountable.

And since the United Nations is relatively ineffective, and military is always a last resort — so I suspect that John would seriously promote the notion of reducing the G-8 to G-7 to send a signal to Russia that the rules that you need to abide by if you're part of the G-8 — peace, stability and being — participating in the civilized world repudiates the kind of aggression that we saw in Georgia.

WALLACE: What about keeping them out of the World Trade Organization? What about going after government and individual...

RIDGE: Well, I think all these — all these options have to be on the table. I mean, this is a question of accountability. This is unprovoked aggression. The genocide was false and misleading and unsubstantiated.

The notion there were Russian peacekeepers — one of the most endangered species, apparently, is the emerging leadership of a democracies in the Russian neighborhood. And clearly, these — Putin has to be held accountable.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, one of Obama's top foreign policy advisers, Susan Rice, went after McCain this week, and let's take a look at what she had to say. "John McCain shot from the hip a very aggressive, very belligerent statement. He may or may not have complicated the situation."

Senator, how did McCain complicate the situation? Or was he just quicker than Obama to understand and recognize Russian aggression?

MCCASKILL: Oh, listen, there's no question that Barack Obama understood this as Russian aggression and took a strong and principled stand against the actions of Russia, but this is not a time to make political points. What Barack Obama has said...

WALLACE: But I mean, excuse me. But I mean, it was Susan Rice who was making political points, Obama's top foreign policy adviser.

MCCASKILL: I think John McCain's reaction to what happened in Russia did not reflect well on the position he should have taken, and that is one of understanding we have one president in this country, and that Secretary of State Rice and President Bush need the support of both presidential candidates in a very tricky time as it relates to Russia and the neighboring states that are trying to establish democracies.

What we need to be right now is supportive of accountability toward the aggression of Russia, supporting Georgia in their democracy and their neighbors, and being very supportive to our allies such as President Sarkozy in France, who is doing the heavy lifting here as it relates to the — making sure that there is no more aggression on the part of Russia.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, I just want to pick up on the first part of your statement. Are you suggesting that somehow John McCain undercut President Bush and Secretary of State Rice?

MCCASKILL: I think him doing press releases and sending some of his political allies to Georgia — I think some of it began to ring like a political campaign instead of principled and strong diplomacy, and very — and very strong and principled positions that we must have, but there is only one president.

And there does — there's a line you can cross in terms of being presumptuous. They accused Barack Obama of being presumptuous for going to Europe and meeting with our allies.

What is presumptuous is to try to undercut in any way the very difficult and tricky work that President Bush and Secretary Rice are trying to do right now.

And by the way, Chris...

WALLACE: Wait. Wait, Senator, let me let Tom Ridge in here.

RIDGE: Senator, I couldn't agree with you more with regard to your call for bipartisanship, but I disagree with you in every way to suggest that John McCain's response to the aggression in Russia was anything other than appropriate.

He called for an international peacekeeping force. He called for humanitarian aid. He called it exactly what it is — unprovoked aggression.

And until the kind of principled leadership that we need in this country will be provided by then President McCain, leadership based upon experience and informed judgment — and he was — his call was absolutely correct.

I agree with you that we need to be bipartisan, but I don't think you should undercut a very specific response to a very aggressive threat.

MCCASKILL: Well, let me — let me make two points here. One is that Barack Obama has been the candidate talking about, from day one of this campaign, that our diplomacy needs to be worldwide, that our threats are worldwide.

And it is, in fact, the foreign policy of George Bush that has had us focused in Iraq, and John McCain has been the same way in this campaign, focused on Iraq, while there are other dangers around the world.

Secondly, Barack Obama is the one who's been talking about supporting Georgia in their action plan toward membership in NATO.

And I do agree, and I know Barack Obama agrees, that WTO should be out of the question at this point until we determine whether or not Russia is going to stay good to its word in getting out of Georgia.

WALLACE: I'll give you...

RIDGE: Senator, I think — I think...

WALLACE: ... more seconds. Then I want to move to something else.

RIDGE: Well, I think it's important that Senator Obama supports the president of Georgia, but Senator McCain has been there three times, been to many of the cities that have been subjected to the aggressive Russian tactics.

And there is nobody in the — I think, in the Senate of the United States that has any greater experience dealing with foreign leaders based upon experienced and informed judgment and relationships...

WALLACE: All right.

RIDGE: ... than John McCain.

WALLACE: Let's move off this.

Governor Ridge, John McCain stirred the vice presidential pot this week when he said the following about you, and let's put it up on the screen. "Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders, and he has happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

Question: Given its long pro-life history, do you really think that the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

RIDGE: My friend of 25 years is passionately pro-life. He is also passionately a believer that the Republican Party must have a big tent. And I think, frankly, what he was just saying to the rest of the world is that we need to accept both points of view.

He's not judgmental about me or my belief. He just disagrees with me. And there's no doubt in my mind, no doubt whatsoever, that there would be — he would have a strong pro-life administration. No question about it.

WALLACE: And to answer my question specifically, do you think the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

RIDGE: Well, I think that would be up to — first of all, to John to decide whether he wants a pro-choice running mate, and then we would have to see how the Republican Party would rally around it.

At the end of the day, I think the Republican Party will be comfortable with whatever John makes.

WALLACE: Now, I just want to follow up one more time on this. The last time you were here, we talked about your pro-choice views.

RIDGE: Right.

WALLACE: And here's what you had to say.


RIDGE: Well, I believe what I believe, and I've had that point of view before I got into elected office. I've had it when I served and I have it now.


WALLACE: Governor, have you talked with McCain about your pro-choice views on abortion and whether you would follow his pro-life views if you were to become his running mate?

RIDGE: Well, we've had no discussions on this very important issue. As I said before, he understands the majority of the Republican Party disagrees with me on this issue. We've had no conversations.

And the last time I checked, the vice president is not an independent voice. He echoes the position of the president of the United States.

WALLACE: And that's what you would do if you were the running mate?

RIDGE: I think that's the responsibility of the vice president. If you're unwilling or unable to do that, then I think you should defer to someone else.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, the big news from Democrats this week is that after giving Hillary Clinton a speaking role on Tuesday night and Bill Clinton a speaking role on Wednesday night, now Hillary Clinton's going to get her name placed in nomination and to have a roll call.

Question: Is that the way President Obama would negotiate, to just keep caving in?

MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, there has not been any caving in. Hillary Clinton is not the enemy. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are working together on making this a great convention, where we can talk about changing this country.

You know, the policies of this administration, which are identical, the economic policies, to that of John McCain, have driven this country into a ditch. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are working together.

And what Barack Obama is doing is saying to Hillary Clinton, "What do you think would be best in terms of bringing us all together?" You cannot be afraid to work with anyone, certainly someone who agrees on the issues like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do.

WALLACE: Senator, do you really think that a roll call vote is going to satisfy those Clinton supporters who are still, a couple of months after the fact — still unhappy and bitter about her defeat? Do you really think they're going to settle for the pageant of a roll call?

MCCASKILL: I think that everyone needs to wait and see and tune in and watch. I think it will be an interesting convention.

I think America will get a chance to look at the priorities of our party, of what we're worried about in terms of the future of this country, the kitchen-table issues of whether or not we're going to continue to reward companies for taking jobs overseas, whether the tax code is going to be about the few and the wealthy or about the middle class.

That's what they need to tune in and watch, and I think you're going to be surprised how well we come together next week, Chris.

WALLACE: I want to pick up, Senator McCaskill, on exactly that issue of taxes, because this week Obama once again changed his tax plan.

He now says that the payroll tax he had proposed that would kick in for people making over $250,000 a year would not be imposed until at least a decade from now, which means if he serves two terms it would be two years after he left the presidency.

He also says that he won't raise the capital gains tax now to more than 20 percent. He had previously suggested he might raise it to 28 percent.

Has Obama scaled back his tax plans because McCain is attacking him as a big taxer?

MCCASKILL: No, not at all. In fact, he has said from the very beginning there will be absolutely no tax increase for anyone who makes $250,000 or less and, in fact, there will be a tax cut for the vast majority of America.

There will be a few who will go back to the tax rate they paid in the '90s. And this has been a consistent position he's had.

And by the way, the payroll tax issue is about fixing Social Security. It's about fairness in the way that we fund Social Security. And what he's advocating is something that Lindsey Graham has talked about, somebody that — you can't ever see John McCain without seeing Lindsey Graham at his side.

And if we're going to fix Social Security, we need some tough truth talk with the American people.

WALLACE: All right.

MCCASKILL: And that's what — that's what Barack Obama is talking about.

WALLACE: Governor Ridge, I'm going to give you a chance to respond to that. I also, though, want you to respond to the Obama camp which says that the McCain tax plan is Bush on steroids, that he would propose $3.4 trillion in more tax cuts than Bush has proposed, and that his plan would be even more geared to big companies, big corporations and the wealthy.

RIDGE: Well, at the time during this campaign where we're looking at each candidate to see how consistent they are on their — on very important positions, one consistent position that Senator Obama has is he likes taxes.

He's going to tax income, Social Security, dividends, capital gains, even raise the estate tax. So there is a certain level of consistency there. He's voted for tax increases 94 times. John McCain never voted for a tax increase.

Now, what John has said — in order to create an innovative 21st century job creation environment, you need to cut the corporate tax rate. You need to make the R&D tax credit permanent. You need to expand our markets overseas.

It's a job creation approach that he's taking, along with that all-in Lexington plan with energy. Let's deal with nuclear. Let's deal with clean coal technology. Let's deal with drilling offshore. And the energy arena itself, with innovation, will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, if we embrace his all-in approach.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there.

Governor Ridge, Senator McCaskill, I want to thank you both for talking with us today. And we'll see you both at your conventions.

RIDGE: Yes, you will.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

RIDGE: Thank you.

Thanks, Senator.

MCCASKILL: Thank you, Governor.