Exclusive: McCain's 'Straight Talk Express' 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," July 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: On Friday morning, the "Straight Talk Express" drove through Wisconsin -- yes, I confess, my favorite state -- and we hitched a ride, and Senator John McCain went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: It's clear where some voters are going, clear where the far left will go, it's clear where the far right. And so I'm trying to think what questions about (ph) the people who are undecided? You know, those are the ones that are sort of interesting. So I try to put myself in those shoes. And so I want to ask a couple questions. And one of them is the concept of town hall meetings with Senator Obama because I think that the ad -- you both have nice stories, great stories to tell. But we don't get to see you interact. I know you put the challenge on the table. But where does that stand?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's pretty obvious that Senator Obama isn't going to do it. We offered time after time. We've both appeared on the same day within an hour of each other before the same organization, and he refuses. And each time I say, Why don't we (INAUDIBLE) time to listen to us separately. Let's stand there, have them stand up and ask us questions. I think it's -- we'll keep asking. We'll keep requesting up until Election Day. But I think Americans are being deprived of an opportunity to see us side by side without the sound bites, without the gotcha questions, and just talk to the American people.

Watch: Greta's Full Interview With McCain, Part 1 | Part 2

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I agree because, see, I want the hard questions put to both of you. I want to see how you answer it, and I want to see how Senator Obama. But without that, I just get sort of -- I get the pretty ads, you know, one showing you looking spectacular, another one looking -- Senator Obama spectacular. But I don't really get the difference.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You get the attack ads, and then you get (INAUDIBLE) to the media. Who makes a mistake in what he says? Did he say -- you know, the parsing of every word and every sentence, when really, the important thing is to get -- let the American people know where you stand on the issues. How are we going to fix this economy? How are we going to keep people in their homes? How are we going to educate the kids? How are we going (INAUDIBLE) independent of foreign oil, which is crippling our economy and a national security issue.

That's what I think you might get in a town hall meeting. Instead, we get the sound bite, the back and forth, the spokesperson who attacked and the spokesperson who responded. And I'm not sure the American people are more educated or more informed with that kind of (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I agree. I mean, I want to see the exchange. Now, in light of the fact that we talk about spokespersons, it seems like every campaign every day has had to throw somebody under the bus. And Senator Gramm yesterday got thrown -- it was his turn to go under the bus. What happened? And what's the story?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I don't know the story. I spoke to Phil yesterday. And the point is that he just -- he's wrong. I've been to too many town hall meetings and talked to the person who just lost their job to think that it's -- it's just a mental recession. I've talked to too many people who can't educate their children and can't stay in their homes and can't pay their medical bills to believer that they're whiners.

Americans aren't whiners. Americans are fighters. And Americans come back. And we will come back, but they need to be led and they need to have a plan of action. I've got it. Phil Gramm was wrong. I wish him luck in Belarus as our ambassador.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And I'm sure he'll enjoy it. I'm holding out for Bermuda, either (ph) Canada. I'll take it. You know, the economy, free trade -- you're a free trade guy. And I know that you talk about retraining and retooling, which is, you know, something we should have thought about 10 years ago and had the foresight. We should have looked forward. What about immediately? I mean, you get these people who are out of jobs right now. They can't afford to sort of go to the community college for two years.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Immediately, if they say high-paying worker who is older, who left a high-paying job and they have to take a lower-paying job, let's compensate them for the difference while they're going through that so that they're not deprived of the dignity that they had before for a great deal of their lives by holding a job. That's one of the things.

Second thing is, let's give them a little break on gas taxes. They still have to drive automobiles. Let's cut (INAUDIBLE) Let's give them a gas tax holiday.

Third of all, let's make sure that they have the confidence to know their taxes aren't going to be raised, that we're going to let them keep whatever little that they have left and that we will keep their taxes low and let them spend that money. So we've got to give them new job opportunities. We've got to become independent of foreign oil. We've got to give them education and training. And in the short term, we have to make sure they know that they're going to be able to keep more of what -- of their money and they're going to be able to have a new job in this new kind of information technology economy that we are in.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you tactically or strategically handle the fact that the -- Senator Obama's theme of his campaign is change? And you're a Republican and we've had a Republican eight years. How do you tell the American people that you're different and that the economy is going to be different under a President McCain as opposed to a President Bush, and then do you have to throw him under the bus?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: The American people didn't get to know me yesterday. They've known me for many years. They know that I've fought against the spending, out of control spending, and the corruption that goes along with it. They know that I've fought for meaningful efforts to address the issue of climate change, which is harming our planet. They know that I said we'd never torture another prisoner who is held captive, who is in the custody of the United States of America. They know that I have fought against special interests. They know that I was not elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate because I've always put my country ahead of my party.

And that's the message that we will get through to the American people, and that's what campaigns are about. I'm the underdog. We've got a headwind. I understand all that, but I'm glad we're where we are. That's exactly where I want to be.


VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up: Would Senator McCain ever pick a Democrat to be his running mate? His answer may surprise you. Plus, Cindy McCain -- she goes "On the Record" next.

And later, there is huge news pouring out of North Carolina tonight. A charred body has been found. Is it the missing Army nurse? Fire plays a horrifying role in this whole story. And where is the nurse's husband tonight?


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with part two of your ride on "The Straight Talk Express" with Senator John McCain.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'd remiss if I didn't ask the question that I know I'm not going to get an answer to, but I'm still going to pound you on it. You got to pick a vice president. I don't care how much of a maverick you got to be, you got to get one.

Would you do anything so bold as to consider a Democrat?

MCCAIN: If I say that I know the name that pops up immediately.

VAN SUSTEREN: I didn't suggest any names.

MCCAIN: Look, we have a process we're going through, Greta, and you'll be the first to know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Phone call?


VAN SUSTEREN: OK. We got that. Maybe if you have a black berry, I'll give you my address.

Is it a tough process to pick a vice president?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes. It has to be someone who, obviously, shares your principles, your values, and your priorities. But you also have to remember, as we learned from history, first do no harm.

And so--and my party is blessed and my people that we will consider, I think we're blessed with a large number of very talented and dedicated and outstanding people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. McCain, I understand you are peeling off from the campaign for a couple of days and hitting the road. Where are you going?

CINDY MCCAIN: I'm going to Nashville to the Indy car race.

VAN SUSTEREN: And then I heard you're going to-

CINDY MCCAIN: I'm going to Rwanda Tuesday with "The One Campaign."

VAN SUSTEREN: for the benefit of the viewers, what is "The One Campaign?"

CINDY MCCAIN: "The One Campaign" fights global poverty and deals with health care issues around the world. So I'm going with a group of people- it's not just me, it's a whole group of people, and we're going to take a look at what One is doing, but what we need to do more globally to help stop global poverty.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it this is not a Republican or Democratic trip?


VAN SUSTEREN: By the way, where are all the animals?

CINDY MCCAIN: I've got some of them farmed out, actually, right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator McCain, gas prices--everyone is thinking about gas prices. What immediately, what would you do?

MCCAIN: Give people a gas tax holiday.

VAN SUSTEREN: For how long?

MCCAIN: As long as necessary. But, at least in the short term, we have to start exploring off our coast. There's gas and oil reserves out there. If we announce the discovery of large deposits of oil, it will bring the futures of oil down.

Get going on nuclear, wind, tide, solar, a battery that will take a car a couple hundred miles before you have to plug it in. Understand that there's a thousand flowers out there that got a bloom, and we have to go after every one of them.

Senator Obama opposes off-shore drilling, he opposes storage or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. He opposes an award for someone who comes up with an automobile who will do the job.

So "Dr. No" is against all of the things we need to do to become energy independent.

I call it the "Lexington project." We can and we will become energy independent. We are transferring $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don't like us, and some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations. We cannot afford this.

Americans will respond, and we will become energy independent. And it's wind tide, solar, nuclear, all of those things.

And clean coal is one of them. We sit on the world's largest resources of coal. Clean coal technology will be a vital element in eliminating our dependence on foreign oil and bringing the cost of a gallon of gas down.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why didn't your party do that sooner? I mean, we've known this since--I remember the lines in the 1970's on gas.

MCCAIN: We have failed the American people in so many ways, particularly in out-of-control spending. That's why I saw a poll in the last few days-nine percent approval rating of congress, all-time low, but I haven't had anybody in the nine percent.

So we Republicans wasted incredible opportunities. Democrats and Republicans didn't work together. I've always worked together. I've reached across the aisle and I will continue to do that as president.

To know that the American people come first and our country comes first, and that's what the message is of this campaign.


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