Bill Bennett on McCain, warts and all

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," August 26, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Tributes are pouring in for John McCain from across the political and media spectrum, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, from liberal and conservative commentators after his death yesterday at 81. I knew this lion (ph) of the Senate quite well, but I'm not here to lionize him.

He never cast himself as a saint from the way he ended his first marriage to his ethical breach in the Keating Five influence peddling scandal that inspired his crusade for campaign finance reform to his apology for not having denounced the confederate flag in South Carolina to boost his chances in the state's primary, calling himself a coward.

And it is a fact many Republicans have been upset with McCain over his acrimonious relationship with President Trump and casting that dramatic late-night vote against repealing Obamacare.

John McCain was charismatic and wickedly funny, but he also had a wicked temper which I and many other journalists felt when we wrote something that displeased him. I remember one when he was saying to me, I shouldn't have expected anything better from you.

I really got to know him in 1999, 2000 spending days and days on his Strait Talk Express. He was a presidential candidate with no money and he spent eight, nine, 10 hours a day fielding questions from reporters on his bus drinking coffee from styrofoam cup and sometimes he would talk himself into trouble.

His longtime advisor Mike Murphy told me, it was like having sex with scorpion. You never knew when you might get stung. No one else had ever done that before. If you are lucky, you got a 10-minute availability with a presidential candidate and eventually reporters would run out of questions and he talk about sports or movies and we got to know the real man who then jokingly denounced town halls as communists and Bolsheviks in the back of the room.

McCain lost to George W. Bush but it turned out the press liked him better as a maverick taking on the GOP establishment. He got far more negative coverage running against Obama in 2008, many stories (ph) questioning his temperament and the endless media access quickly faded.

This navy pilot as everyone knows was tortured during his five and a half year captivity in Vietnam. He became an elephant (ph) voice as a lawmaker against American forces employing torture techniques. He was above all a fighter. John McCain will be buried in Annapolis near his beloved Naval Academy.

Joining me now from North Carolina is Bill Bennett, host of the Bill Bennett Podcast on iTunes and a top official under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. And Bill, we know where the press is because mornings New York Times front page, a symbol of courage, Washington Post front page, always a fighter.

But as everybody is talking about the late senator's achievements and so forth, let's talk a little bit what you know of John McCain. John McCain the man, John McCain the character for lack of a better word.

BILL BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yeah. Good for you, Howard. All we heard this morning is that John McCain was without fault. He had faults. As you said, he was no saint. As Oscar Wilde said, every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. Or Shakespeare, taints and honors waged equal with him. With McCain, the honors were far out waged to taints.

Just a couple of things. I was with him as you were and I saw not always the soft, fuzzy guy but a guy with a lot of spikes, porcupine quills. He was quick to anger. He had a short temper, partly I think from convictions. He just had very tough convictions.

Just two quick stories. My wife and I were in Los Angeles at an event for her best friend's program. He came in and went down the line. When he met Elaine, she said, I wore your bracelet when I was in high school. Remember people wore those POW bracelets.

KURTZ: Yes.

BENNETT: And he stopped and paused and almost teared up. The other thing with my son, he was at Princeton, and he was thinking about the military service, not many at Princeton do. But he said John McCain tapped his finger on Joe's (ph) knee and said, if you join the service, you will make friends in iron and steel and they will be your friends the rest of your life. Joe (ph) joined marine partly because of that conversation.

KURTZ: He was a man of great passion. But also as you said, he was also volatile.

BENNETT: Yes.

KURTZ: And he wasn't, you know, the typical carefully poll tested, carefully calibrated politician.

BENNETT: No, no, no, which was part of his charm. Remember when they asked him about Woodstock, 1967. He said -- what was his opinion on Woodstock. He said, I didn't know much about it, I was tied up at the time. And of course, he was literally tied up. He had that sharp wit.

And of course, we regard and respect his heroism. But he was not one to buy his own heroism. He talked about Orson Swindle, the man he said they couldn't break. He said, you know, the broke me a couple of times. They didn't really. But that was McCain.

KURTZ: Right. He did not view himself in the heroic term, having lived through the actual --

BENNETT: That's right.

KURTZ: -- five and a half years. We have a bit more than a minute left. Talk a little bit about the way he interacted with people, perhaps you, perhaps others. You never quite knew what you are going to get. Some days, he could be your best friend. The other days, he could be angry. But he didn't hold a grudge as one politician I was just talking to put it.

BENNETT: That's right. In fact, Howie, sometimes it was the same day and the same hour. He would slap you on the back and say, gosh, we have to talk about the drug issue. Gosh, you know, I like this that you are doing, I love your book of virtues. And then he would say, what the hell are you doing this for? What's your problem with this thing?

He was prickly, but he was great. You know, if I can say, Captain McCain, a grateful nation. Thank you for your service. Take a man in the totality of his actions and this is a great man, a man worth imitating.

KURTZ: And on that note, Bill Bennett, thank you very much for on quick notice for coming on today. I think that is a good way to remember John McCain, warts (ph) and all, as you say. Thanks very much, Bill.

BENNETT: Yes, sir. Thank you.

KURTZ: And joining me now by phone is Bret Baier, Fox News' chief political anchor and of course he anchors "Special Report." Bret, good morning. John McCain loved to talking to reporters but he could also get quite testy with reporters. I wonder if you perhaps experienced both of those.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS (via telephone): Yeah, I did. Howie, good morning. You know, listening to Bill Bennett, I think you really got a sense of the man. He had a great sense of humor. But he could be prickly and deviant. He was restless. He had like seven things going at once that he wanted to do.

But he was impish in dealing with reporters. He would always like joke with you or needle you. I was over on Capitol Hill one day and some reporter was doing a live shot in the hallway, and he went out of his way, McCain did, walked over and put devil horns over the guy doing the live shot.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER (via telephone): That was just John McCain. I think he will have made a mark more than many people in the United States Senate. And if you think about his longtime friend and adversary, Ted Kennedy, died the same day nine years ago of brain cancer. Pretty remarkable.

KURTZ: And so remarkable. And it just seems like some kind of message. You know, he had a great wit. He could blast people. As you said, he could get confrontational. That word, that much overused word, authenticity.

I think particularly in this age when politicians are very carefully calibrated, it doesn't apply to President Trump, now that I think of it, John McCain was very real and some people liked him and some people didn't like it. Some people got mad at him and the next day they would be allies.

BAIER (via telephone): That's right. You know, Mark Salter wrote a really beautiful op-ed in The Washington Post. And he said, McCain was a romantic about his causes and a cynic about the world. He had the capacity to be both things and to live with the contradiction.

He says, he thought he was a moral failure to accept injustice as the inescapable tragedy of our fallen nature. He always said and I talked to him in the elevator not too long ago when he was over at Fox, that he had just a wonderful life. He already accepted the diagnosis. And he said, I have just had the most amazing life, and I'm going to run it to the finish line.

KURTZ: Yeah.

BAIER (via telephone): And he did.

KURTZ: I couldn't help but admire the way he fought his final battle, you know, with dignity, still putting out statements in Arizona despite how ill he was. Do you agree with my thesis that John McCain got far better press when he was challenging Republicans whether it is President Trump or George W. Bush than when he was running against Barack Obama or challenging President Obama in office?

BAIER (via telephone): One hundred percent. I mean, 100 percent. You know, he is described as a maverick and somebody who stood up to his party. Remember, he also stood up for his party at times on principle and ideology and was fighting for conservative causes at times. Also, that gets a little bit blurred and rebuked. And that raised in 2008. What gets remembered is him standing up to the woman in the Q&A town hall saying, no, Barack Obama is not an Arab as she said. He also was fighting for a lot of conservative causes.

KURTZ: Yeah. And suddenly the press would rediscover -- fall in love with John McCain when he was fighting for campaign finance reform. We discovered, hey, this is a pretty conservative Republican from Arizona who believes in small government and tax cuts and is pro-life and all of those things.

Just briefly, Bret, you know, this sounds like a cliche but in this case I think true. John McCain's passing leaves a void both in the Senate, perhaps in the national political conservation.

BAIER (via telephone): It does. It does. And I do think that we will see the pendulum shift. I do think that our politics will hunger for more John McCains, people who can reach across the aisle to get things done even if they are oppose on each other on ideology.

And there is a void. And who knows, ,maybe it Russell Senate office building would be the John McCain Senate office building which would be the John McCain SOB, and he would really love that.

KURTZ: Yes. I'm sure his family, Meghan McCain and the other members of his family would love that as well. Bret Baier, thanks so much. Great to have you on this important day.

BAIER (via telephone): Yeah.

KURTZ: Much more on John McCain, the story, the legacy, the way he dealt with the press, the way he dealt with politicians. As we go to break, here is a kind of a famous moment with John McCain rather jokingly talking about those who covered him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Seriously though, it's always a pleasure to appear before the journalistic community or what one of my advisers affectionately calls my base.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: I remember talking with John McCain in spring of 2000. That was the last report on the "The Buzz." He just lost some major primaries. Clear that he had lost the overall primary to George W. Bush. I said to him, would you ever run again? Could you do this again? He looked at me and he said, no, you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice.

But of course he did run again and it showed about the mercurial (ph) relation with the press because in the summer of 2007, McCain was out of money, he was down in the polls, several top officials have quit the campaign, and the pundits were saying he's toast, there is no way he can ever come back from this.

Of course, he did. He did it by out campaigning everybody else especially of his endless town halls in New Hampshire which he won again. He also was pushing for victory in Iraq in a time when the war was very unpopular, and backing George W. Bush who had defeated him four years earlier or eight years earlier on the Iraq surge (ph).

He also got a lot of bad press for picking Sarah Palin. Many Republicans came to believe that she was not prepared to step into presidency sure anything happen if John McCain was elected, but he need to shake things up in this campaign and that is what he tried to do in 2008.

All right, joining us now from Connecticut is Charlie Gasparino, senior business correspondent for FBN. Charlie, some thoughts on John McCain, I know you dealt with over the years and who, you know, could be a great source and a great interview but also could be rather testy at times.

CHARLIE GASPARINO, FBN: Rather testy. You know, I covered him a lot in 2008, and here is why. I was covering the financial crisis mainly --

KURTZ: Yes.

GASPARINO: -- while I was at CNBC, breaking a lot of stories about that. But the other story was the financial campaign. And, you know, they were sort of tied together because John McCain, you could see this when you were doing the reporting about his campaign, John McCain was so frustrated because he thought he had a good chance of winning.

And then that financial crisis started happening. It was a slow burn to Lehman brothers. And you could see it in the frustration in John McCain that this thing was slipping away.

KURTZ: He briefly suspended his campaign and came back and people thought was a misstep, yeah.

GASPARINO: Huge misstep. He looked like he was somewhat unhinged. You know, here was his opponent, Barack Obama, who spent very little time in the Senate. You know, not a seasoned politician like him who kind of did the sort of rational thing. We are going to figure this out. And John McCain was suspending his campaign.

But I will tell you, you know, he really believed he was the right guy for that job. And I will tell you, he had some massive blowups with people in the Bush administration. Hank Paulson, the treasure secretary. He really believed those guys screwed him and cost him the election. And I would hate to be on the other side of that conversation with John McCain thinks you are screwing with him.

KURTZ: Right. The thing about McCain is that he was not polished, you know, if he was mad at you, he will let you know it sometimes on the people in the room. Same thing applied to journalists. And as I was saying earlier, you know, by and large as we are seeing the glowing tributes and the newspaper stories today, you know, he got good press.

But then if the press felt like he had done something wrong or if he was taking a very conservative point of view and he wasn't taking on the GOP establishment, the press could be pretty rough on him. There were a lot of stories in the 2008 campaign, was he a hot-headed psycho, had the wounds of war fully healed, some of which were unfair.

GASPARINO: Yeah, totally unfair, because on paper, he was the more qualified man. I mean, if you look at his record, what he has done over the years, the legislation that he has pushed compared to what Barack Obama did in his very short time as a senator and I guess even state Senate before he was U.S. senator, I mean, this guy, you know, had the resume. And he put in his time, not just in a prison camp, but putting his time in politics.

And I think that irked him as well. I mean, I think he felt that he got a really bad shake out of the press because he was really a man qualified for the job. Now, you could make the case that, you know, he made some massive blunders that maybe shows he wasn't qualified.

KURTZ: Yeah.

GASPARINO: You know, suspending his campaign, picking Sarah Palin, I think, at a time when the financial crisis was starting to explode.

KURTZ: Right.

GASPARINO: He could have picked a very seasoned person. Joe Lieberman, Mitt Romney. That would have been better for him going forward.

KURTZ: Yeah, although it was going to be a tough year for a Republican who went (ph) in any of that.

GASPARINO: Yeah.

KURTZ: Let's just touch on the problems that President Trump has been having this week. You know, in fact, you have done some writing for his company, David Pecker, CEO of American Media --

GASPARINO: Absolutely.

KURTZ: -- getting an immunity deal from prosecutors. He has talked to them about those hush money payments, Michael Cohen's involvement and so forth. How big a deal in your view is this immunity and what does it say about Pecker and The National Enquirer and the case?

GASPARINO: I think it sets an interesting precedent for journalism. I mean, listen, usually when the feds investigate reporting, remember, they take kind of a hands-off approach, right? They say, OK, this is a journalistic operation. You know, the First Amendment --

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARINO: They look at AMI, because they believe the AMI stepped over the line more as an addendum to the Trump campaign. And, you know, I wonder if that was a bridge too far. Just worried that that open regular journalists up, if they believe that you will go out of your way for a source.

Can they go further? Can they subpoena you? Can they force you to give up the sources based on this precedent? It's interesting because AMI, they have a good case that AMI was an addendum of the Trump campaign, right? If this guy is keeping --

KURTZ: Well, they were buying and burying stories that will be negative for candidate Donald Trump. So that's a really --

GASPARINO: I wonder if they open up some stuff here.

KURTZ: Well, it's an interesting precedent. If it had been some other media organization, I think you will hear a lot more human cry about the First Amendment. Charlie Gasparino, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts today.

GASPARINO: Anytime.

KURTZ: All right. As we go to break, much more ahead on the life and legacy of John McCain. We got Anthony Scaramucci coming up in a couple of moments to talk about both the politics of the week and Senator McCain's legacy.

And here is that famous moment that Bret mentioned in the 2008 campaign when John McCain, Republican nominee, had to grab the microphone from a woman who was disparaging his opponent, Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I read about him. And he's not -- he's an Arab. He is not -- no?

MCCAIN: No, ma'am. He's a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: John McCain didn't view himself as a military hero. As we touched on earlier, he felt he had been tarnished by his experiences as a prisoner of war. And he had to be pushed from the 2008 campaign by advisers and others who felt that it would be better for him to talk more about it.

He was always reluctant to talk about it. It was such a painful period. The other POWs talked about it on his behalf. But, I mean, not only he was tortured. Both of his arms were broken, the point where he can never again comb his hair, two things that so many of us take for granted.

And the remarkable thing is, anybody saw his campaign, he turned down early release. He was a son of an admiral. The North Vietnamese offered to send him home. He felt as a matter of honor, he should not go out of order and that other POWs who have been there longer should be released first. He bought himself more years at what was called the Hanoi Hilton.

And yet it was John McCain in the 90s who gave Bill Clinton the political cover to normalize relations with Vietnam, the country where he had been shot down and tortured and mistreated so badly.

Joining us now by phone is Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin. And Jen, I seem to recall that you went back to Vietnam many years later with Senator McCain.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS (via telephone): That's right, Howie. I first met John McCain in April of 2000. We were back for the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. I went to the Hanoi Hilton with him as he returned. It was only his second time back, I believe.

He walked us through the museum. What I remember was he clearly said when we asked him, would he forgive his captors, he would not forgive his captors but for how they treated his other friends.

But I also remember him pointing to a picture on the wall, that the Vietnamese had some propaganda underneath, saying how well treated the POWs had been. McCain pointed out to the visiting reporter, he said, look at that one standing there. It was him. He had his finger up to his face and he was giving the bird to the captors.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN (via telephone): And all those years, the Vietnamese did not realize how subversive he and the others had been. But he always felt very badly that after four days of intensive torture, that he had broken with the code that he had tried to stick to and just gave (ph) name, rank, serial number, and he did sign a confession.

He felt that way and he admitted all those years later that every man has a breaking point. But he did stick it out. He was there five and a half years in the prison. We also went back to the lake where his A4 Skyhawk had been shot down. I remember that day, he was showing us where, you know, he had been part of this mission --

KURTZ: Yeah.

GRIFFIN (via telephone): -- and when the surface-to-air missile hit his Skyhawk. He fell to the bottom of the lake. A dozen Vietnamese had grabbed him out, pulled him.

KURTZ: Right.

GRIFFIN (via telephone): And he was still very dumpy as we were at that lake. There was a statue there in honor of him but he clearly still had scars from all the incidents.

KURTZ: It must have been a very emotional moment and emotional trip not just for John McCain but for all the reporters there. Jennifer Griffin, thanks so much for sharing that with us, another chapter in John McCain's life.

Again, we have much more ahead as we remember the life and legacy of John McCain, the way he dealt with the press. Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, is coming up next.

As we go to break, we are going to play, since we are just talking about his military service, he remained very much of a hawk in terms of Iraq and trying to win that war. Here is what he had to say as he was getting ready to run for president the second time in 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We are in one heck of a mess in Iraq. The American people told us loud and clear last week that they are not happy. They are not happy with the course of this war. Neither am I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: John McCain had a style up on Capitol Hill that has kind of fallen out of fashion in these hyper partisan times. He was friends with and legislative partners with Ted Kennedy, who ironically as we mentioned died nine years ago yesterday also from brain cancer. He teamed up with liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold.

The McCain-Feingold Bill as the campaign finance reform had finally passed a little later, watching it struck down by the courts. He once did vodka shots with Hillary Clinton on a trip to Estonia, Senate trip. He loved to take these Senate trips as well. He would use his recesses to go visit Afghanistan and Iraq again and again.

And so it's no surprise that the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, is now pushing -- I imagine it'll get a lot of support, to rename the Russell Senate office building after John McCain. Fox Producer Chad Pergram deserving (Inaudible) McCain SOB. (Inaudible) might like. Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Mike Emanuel, Fox's Chief Congressional Correspondent.

Mike, what was it like to cover and deal with John McCain, the Senator John McCain the person.

MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS: Howie, good morning. Really a fascinating character, because he was very, very serious about the issues, you heard him talk about the Iraq War, about Afghanistan, about a lot of foreign policy matters. But then you see McCain when you are about to do a live shot here on Fox. He'd be coming in to the (Inaudible) interview with us or perhaps another network.

And we would wink at you with a twinkle in his eye. He would at -- what are you doing, boy? And I would look over and realize I was being heckled by Senator John McCain. And so he took some time to engage with reporters, because my understanding, my belief is that John McCain believed that if we were the ones who are going to be telling the stories of what's going on in Congress, writing the stories about what's going on in our nation's politics, that having a relationship would with us might help us tell exactly what he was thinking with some of these votes over the years.

And so he definitely enjoyed being the senior statesman here in the past few years.

KURTZ: Yeah. I think he really enjoyed the give and take with the press. I mean he was such a fixture on the Sunday shows. Chris Wallace (Inaudible) clips, a bunch of clips this morning. He was the most frequent visitor, guest on Meet the Press ever. And sometimes he'd get mad or testy or impatient with journalists. But I think fundamentally he viewed it as another form of combat.

EMANUEL: No question about it. And I think he enjoyed being senior statesman in his final years here on Capitol Hill. Putting his arm around a new member of the senate, showing him the way around here, explaining to them the way the way that this place should operate, that it shouldn't always be Harry Reid's way when the Democrats were in control or Mitch McConnell's way the Republicans were in control.

But they should debate the issues. This is the world's largest deliberative body. And so (Inaudible) your points and based on the strength of your arguments, perhaps you will win the argument and get big legislation done. And so it was not shocking last summer when he was the thumbs down vote on the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Certainly, upset a lot of his fellow Republicans, but McCain was of the opinion that on these big issues you really needed to have at least some bipartisan support to get these things done, and the support of the nation.

KURTZ: Right. And he gave a speech about the institution of the Senate not rushing these things through. He fiercely cared about the institution. Mike Emanuel, who at the Russell Senate office building, perhaps soon to be renamed after John McCain. Thanks very much.

EMANUEL: Yes, sir.

KURTZ: Great to see you. Joining us now from Long Island is Anthony Scaramucci. The Former White House Communications Chief and informal Trump advisor, and -- look President Trump and John McCain obviously had a very contentious relationship. But let's put that aside on this day. McCain's style was talking about a moment ago, working with Democrats, sometimes taking on Republicans like George W. Bush, having these shifting alliances.

Is that now a vestige of a bygone era, because things are so brutally partisan polarized?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I certainly hope not, Howie. I mean at the end of the day, we have to come back to that. And so it feels like the pendulum in our political society has (Inaudible) directions rather than swaying back into the middle. And so hopefully, as people giving tributes to the Senator, they all think about that.

And they'll think about ways to bridge the gaps now, because it really should be about what's the right policy is for the United States. It's a right or wrong decision as opposed to left or right. But one of the things that I mentioned, which I haven't seen is that last night I was looking at the detailed information of the Hanoi Hilton to really understand the struggle, 5 1/2 struggle that John McCain had.

I encourage people to look at that, because in addition to so many other things, he is a role model of perseverance at a time and trial where he didn't know if he was going to get out alive. And he came out of there with an unbelievable sense of optimism and love of country, never disavowed the war or the mission. And this is a guy that I have to tell you, when I had my rough moments in life.

I think about him and what he struggled with. And he's a force of optimism and his life, which will be remembered forever in America, because he's one of those types of Senators that had (Inaudible) figure. He will be somebody that we look to for years to come now.

KURTZ: Right. I think that that experience did set him apart in many ways. But he would give (Inaudible) to anybody reminded that five years ago in battle of a filibuster, he called Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, members of his party, whacko birds (Inaudible). And it's always the whacko birds on the right and left that get the media microphones, said John McCain, who by the way enjoyed the media microphone.

All right, let's talk a little bit about President Trump who you worked for and who you are in contact with. By any reasonable standard, this was what drudge called a hell week for the President. You had the reporting commentary on the Michael Cohen plea and, the Paul Manafort conviction, David Pecker, the National Enquirer getting immunity deal, all these investigations in pleas and deals.

Do you think the coverage, which has portrayed this as a very, very bad week has been largely fair or unfair to the President?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen. I mean looked at this. I would say most of the coverage unfortunately is always a little bit unfair to this President. But when I look at the coverage, and I think about the facts, I sort of think of a couple things, number one, the President has never been told by anybody that he's the target of any investigation.

KURTZ: Mmm-Hmm.

SCARAMUCCI: Number two, Alan Dershowitz, my former law school professor, would share this. There is nothing on the table right now if you are, you know, unpeeling that onion of facts that looks like anything, you know, legal for the President of the United States. And then the last point that I would make is the one I certainly feel very bad about. I think it has to be emotionally upsetting to the President to see guys that he was very, very close to either go through their trials or tribulations or seek immunity.

I think that's something that he's probably emotional about. I mean at least I know I would be.

KURTZ: Yeah, sure.

SCARAMUCCI: But I don't think that we are at the line here of illegality at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: I wasn't suggesting that. I was talking about the political impact.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: I'm just giving my objective observation of the situation.

KURTZ: Let me jump in with this, because some pundits like National Review Editor, Rich Lowry, not a fan of the President. Nevertheless wrote this week that Trump's best (Inaudible) would be come clean. And this is according to Lowry and some others. Admit he hasn't been entirely truthful about a couple of affairs that most people assume he probably had about the payments to (Inaudible) women.

Apologize and get out of the daily drip, drip, drip, of when did you find out about these payments and all that and get back to concentrating on issues. And now, needless to say, that is not the President's style. But you are known for giving him tough love. I mean could that work?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think that would work. And I would ask the President to go back to some of the passages in President Clinton's book. It is memoir after the Presidency, the President said that he made some mistakes with the Monica Lewinsky thing. He (Inaudible) had gotten out ahead that truth a lot earlier. I think what ends up happening in a situation like this, is your first inclination is to hold back.

And so what that does is it causes a bee swarm around you. So I think you are always better off letting everything loose. But you know, listen, the American people know that the President has had a very adventuresome life. The Access Hollywood tape divulged a lot of information to the American people. There was a surge in generals warning label on his candidacy related to this stuff.

And I know it's a Sunday morning, and I am not trying to sound, you know, without a church-going experience. But at the end of the day, the American people sort of knew where the President lived on these issues. And I don't really think it matters that much to them. So it would be good idea. But I think it's very hard for somebody like the President to do that, frankly.

KURTZ: Yeah. I think that's good fair assessment. I've got about half a minute. A lot of commentary about the President talking about flipping and how he didn't like the fact that Michael Cohen flipped, that he thought Paul Manafort was brave for not flipping, and maybe flipping shouldn't even be legal (Inaudible).

Some people are saying, you know, this is sort of like mob talk, unfair assessment or would you just assume he steer away from comments like that.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think he should steer away from that. I think it's unfair in the sense that of course, that would never happen. But that is President Trump. That's the person people really love, Howie, because he wears all that that on his sleeve. When I saw that interview, I saw the emotion in him and the hurt that people were sort of turning against him.

And he's fearful that people are going to tell lies about him to get a reduced sentence for themselves. So but I certainly don't think he wants to go in the direction of making quote, unquote, flipping illegal. And I would encourage the President. He controls the news cycle and the bully pulpit, so be more verbally disciplined in an interview like that.

KURTZ: All right. Anthony Scaramucci with your own candid assessment of both the President Trump (Inaudible) and John McCain's career thanks very much for joining us from the South Hampton Bureau.

SCARAMUCCI: Happy Sunday.

KURTZ: Have a great Sunday. You know we have much more here. I mean we are really getting a fuller picture here, I think, as we talk to people ranging from (Inaudible) to (Inaudible) journalists like (Inaudible), (Inaudible) of John McCain, and not just the guy you saw on the screen. So as we go to break, we have another McCain soundbite. And this one is from this year, when McCain knew that he was dying and had a new book out. And this is we had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe I will be gone before you hear this. My predicament is rather unpredictable. But I am prepared for either contingency or at least I'm getting prepared.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We're telling the story of John McCain who died at 81 yesterday in Arizona after a year-long battle with brain cancer, and trying to illuminate different parts of the man's life. Joining me now from Charlottesville is Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. And Larry, as we've been saying, McCain was a (Inaudible) kind of larger than a life figure.

But he could also be a calculating candidate. I mentioned the -- where he didn't stand up South Caroline on honoring the Confederate Flag from the Capital, and later he apologized for that, and said he hadn't been honest with voters.

LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Yes. That was a critical moment in his career. You know it's very rare, Howie, to see a politician at the highest levels level (Inaudible) and tell you eventually that he was wrong and apologized for it. And he called it a lie. He didn't call it a misrepresentation or the state. He called it a lie.

But what I most remember, Howie, and you do too, was the campaign in New Hampshire in 2000, when McCain really came out of nowhere, having not even played in Iowa, which George W. Bush won easily. And all at once, really toward the end, as he rode a straight talk express and had that great relationship with the press and talked about reform after the 2 Clinton terms, and he won by 18 percentage points.

For a brief moment, it looked like he was going to be the Presidential nominee. And I bet you anything he would have won that election. He would've been President.

KURTZ: Yeah. I often thought about that, how would that have turned out if he was the nominee in 2000, but when he was also younger as opposed in 2008. And you know, not only was, you know, as I mentioned spending 8, 9, 10, 11 hours a day talking to reporters. But he -- he did like 114 town halls in New Hampshire. And he would take on all comers.

People would criticize and it was real in a way that, you know that these scripted news conferences and screened audiences that many other candidates have used was not.

SABATO: There was no screening whatsoever. And often that was true even in his public performances or his appearances on Sunday shows. I heard for example, he had the all-time record on CBS' Face the Nation. He had 112 Sunday appearances.

KURTZ: Yeah.

SABATO: On Face the Nation. And I am sure it was probably a record on all the other networks too.

KURTZ: On Meet the Press, yeah.

SABATO: Yes. So this was an extraordinary person who was very public, and who didn't have the usual screens that public people do. He also didn't listen to his staff. He did exactly what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it, even when it got him into trouble.

KURTZ: Yeah. So what does it say that, you know, today, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, praising John McCain, all Democrats, Chuck Schumer, wanting to name a Senate building after him? But at the same time, you know, he did alienate many in his own party. He's been called a (Inaudible), because he sort of followed what he thought were his principles. Sometimes it ticked off the left and sometimes it definitely ticked off the right.

SABATO: Yeah. And go on Twitter. It's incredibly numbing. It used to be the old saying don't speak ill of the dead. That doesn't apply anymore, thanks to Twitter and these other devices. But it's the far left still angry with him about his support of the Iraq war. And he did so consistently. He (Inaudible) was very unpopular. And for the right who was (Inaudible) still upset about his behavior in the Hanoi Hilton.

Can you believe that, after all these years and all of these other things? But Howie, the point you just raised is critical. John McCain represented an age of bipartisanship. Not complete bipartisanship.

KURTZ: No.

SABATO: The parties have always and will always stand for different things. But he was willing to work with the other side. That's why everybody on both sides, who are in the middle, who is -- some people call it establishment. I call it mainstream.

(CROSSTALK)

SABATO: They are praising him. So a lot of us wonder if we'll ever see it again.

KURTZ: I think that is exactly a salient point and a good note to end on. Larry Sabato, thanks very much for joining us on short notice.

SABATO: Thank you, Howie.

KURTZ: Stay with us on MediaBuzz, as we look at the life and legacy, and dealing with the passing of John McCain. We've got a guy who helped him win the New Hampshire primary twice coming up in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As the tributes continue to pour in for John McCain who died yesterday at 81. Let's go now to Steve Duprey. He is a former New Hampshire GOP chairman, who watched very closely as John McCain's (Inaudible) primary. He's in California. And Steve, you watched him do it, and I think a large of how he won those primaries, especially the first time when he came out of nowhere was through those town halls. What do you remember of candidate McCain?

STEVE DUPREY, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER, MCCAIN: Well, he had a unique style campaigning. And I think helped him (Inaudible) people would meet in houses and do small gatherings. Jimmy Carter had done that. But John elevated it to an art form. And he just outworked the Bush campaign. And as he used to say, he welcomes Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, independents, vegetarians, and reforming socialists.

And he would take any question from any heckler. And people just respected that. They didn't always agree with him. That's why he called it straight talk, because he knew he said a lot of things that were unpopular. People just respected it. And so it's fun to watch in 2000. And then when he asked me to serve on his campaign team in 2007, 2008, I was honored to do so.

We didn't quite anticipate the campaign would collapse and run out of money. And 50 state strategy would be reduced to surviving in New Hampshire but it worked out fine.

KURTZ: Right. So (Inaudible) working him in that second campaign teach you about John McCain the man, because everybody knows he had a temper. He had rough edges. You know he wasn't your typical poll-tested politician.

DUPREY: He was authentic. And that authenticity came through and people appreciated it, you know. People talked about his temper. He had a temper, but he always felt badly afterwards. He could string a curse together like a good navy sailor. And I used to just say, you know, just that was John yes or no to something. But he had a remarkable sense of humor. He always liked to laugh every day.

He understood the absurdity and sometimes the ridiculousness of campaigns. So it was an incredible fun. I think you've heard from some folks on the press who loved being on the bus and the give and take with what he affectionately, sometimes affectionately called his base. It was just a lot of fun. And his humanity and his decency came through.

And people identified. He did so many of those town hall meetings and he met so many people.

KURTZ: Yeah.

DUPREY: That became what was known about him.

KURTZ: Right. It wasn't just that it was fun being a reporter on the bus, but it was you felt you were actually getting a glimpse of a real person, and you had so much time to talk to him. But, you know, when everybody in the press and politics was writing him off in 2007, when the campaign virtually collapsed and no money and all that. Was he down? Did (Inaudible) was telling you, guys, I can still do it?

DUPREY: He absolutely believed he was going to win. I remember we had an event in August in Concorde, New Hampshire, and the national press corps came up there thinking he was going to announce he was suspending his campaign. He instead he gave a rather speech on foreign policy. Afterwards, the press gaggled, kept asking him all these different questions about when are you giving up.

And finally, I think it was Susan Page who said well, Senator under what circumstances would you be prepared to suspend your campaign. And he turned and he had this smile. And I will always remember this. And he looked her straight in the eye, and he said only if I succumb to a fatal disease before the day of the New Hampshire primary.

And I just knew it at that point. We were going to win or have a good chance trying. And that message spread. People -- we've had more protesters against the (Inaudible) outside, some of the town hall tourists than we did people listening inside.

(CROSSTALK)

DUPREY: People respected that.

KURTZ: That's such a classic moment, because when the press thinks you are dead in the water, it's like when are you dropping off, when are you dropping out, and he was able to challenge that in a way that -- I'm glad you remembered that moment with Susan Page. Steve Duprey, thanks very much for joining us, again on such short notice.

DUPREY: Thanks for having me on.

KURTZ: Well, that's it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I am Howard Kurtz. This was a time, I think, to remember a guy who -- whether you liked him or you didn't like him, his politics, his personality, really as a larger than life figure. I said at the top that he was a lion of the Senate, but we were not going to lionize him here.

I think (Inaudible) John McCain, warts and all. And of course, the continuing coverage will unfold on Fox News about the life and legacy of John McCain who died at 81. Thanks very much for watching.

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