This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 5, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Joining us now is Arizona senator and presidential candidate — Senator John McCain is back on the program. Senator, good to see you.


HANNITY: You'll be very happy to know that we have our focus group going on right now showing that you had a lot of support tonight in this debate. One of the things I noticed is that you went after some of the other candidates tonight on their national security experience here. A small distinction, but one that you brought up, that the surge is working, not apparently working with Governor Mitt Romney.

MCCAIN: Well, the surge is working. Those who keep track and are in constant communication with the men and women serving and fighting over there, know it is working. There is not anything apparent about it. It is working. We are succeeding. We have to stick with it. Again, we lost a little bit of focus, Sean. The great debate is going to start on the Senate.

The Democrats are going to want to withdraw. That would be catastrophe. That will be chaos in the entire region. We saw the president of Iran said four days ago, when the Americans leave Iraq, Iran will fill the void. This is a serious issue. This is the serious issue of our time. There's no apparent about it. We have to win.

HANNITY: You even said it is the McCain strategy.

MCCAIN: I didn't say that. I said some Democrats said it.

HANNITY: One of the things that interested me tonight is you had a chance to explain why you were against the Bush tax cuts because you wanted spending reduction. One of the things you have even acknowledged, on some conservative issues, McCain-Feingold, on the issue of that tax vote, and this latest amnesty bill, you might have lost some support with conservatives. Do you disagree with that premise?

MCCAIN: Of course, and you calling it an amnesty bill is, of course, intending — look, the fact is that I and the president tried to come up with a resolution. We failed. We know. Now, we have got to secure the borders. I have said and I will say again, we have to secure the borders. We have the border state governors; as president, I will demand that the border state governors say their border is secure. And we will secure the borders.

Then we have to move on to the other aspects. We failed. Now we know what we have to do.

HANNITY: Now you're supporting the Lindsay Graham bill, which is the 2007 Secure the Borders First Act, without dealing with these other issues of guest worker —

MCCAIN: We will move on to other issues, but first we have to secure the borders. That is the lesson of this great debate. Americans did not have trust and confidence that we will actually act to secure the borders. In 1986, as you know…

HANNITY: Were you surprised? You have even acknowledged that may have hurt your campaign, the position that you took on that bill.

MCCAIN: Lots of positions that I have taken on issues that have…

HANNITY: You have attacked me and Alan.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That does not happen.

MCCAIN: Lots of times I have taken positions because I believe in what is right, and that is far more important than any political ambitions.

COLMES: Good to have you back on our show, senator. Thank you very much for being here. Talk about the surge working; and, you know, they talked about benchmarks that had to be met. We just had a report from the General Accounting Office that said 11 benchmarks were not being met, and only four were partially met, the other three being met. That is not a very good report card, based on what the administration itself said would be the literal benchmarks they would use to determine if the surge has worked.

MCCAIN: Actually, a number of those benchmarks I thought were unrealistic from the beginning. The fact is, the facts on the ground are that we are succeeding. And we have to succeed and we have to give it a chance to succeed. I believe that in the coming months we will see more and more signs of success. I understand, as I said, the frustration and the sorrow of people, because this war was so badly mismanaged.

You're talking about unpopular positions. I took an unpopular position when I opposed Rumsfeld's mismanagement of the war, because I knew what the right strategy was, my friend.

COLMES: We are finding out, according to the GAO report, that there has been a failure to eliminate militia control of security forces, failure to increase the number of army units operating independently, failure to legislate political reconciliation, which was one of the key benchmarks. How can one say the surge is working if the main clause of the surge was to make sure conciliation took place and that's just not happening, according to this report.

MCCAIN: Because we are seeing on the ground, locally, significant political progress. I believe over time we will see that as the military situation continues to improve. Anbar Province, to a large degree, is far more secure than it was. Areas of Baghdad are for more secure. We are seeing other parts of Iraq that we're seeing progress. We have a long way to go.

The Maliki government is not doing what we wanted it to do. I agree. There are other problems with the police.

COLMES: Should Maliki not be in charge there and should there be another leader of Iraq?

MCCAIN: They have a parliamentary procedure and a no-confidence vote. But I think you would recall that when we replace leaders ourselves, like we did in Vietnam, I think that is dangerous. But they have a parliamentary system. But I am deeply dissatisfied with their performance so far.

COLMES: President Bush just met with the deputy prime minister of Australia and he used the phrase, “We are kicking ass.” Should he have said that?

MCCAIN: I can't account for everything the president says. But we are succeeding. I hear from these young people all the time, as well as the leader, there is a very different attitude over there now, Alan. They are enthusiastic because they are succeeding. I want to say again, we are going to go on tour with some Congressional Medal of Honor winners, with some Iraqi war veterans. We are going around this country and we're going to make the case that we have to win this debate in Washington and let this strategy succeed.

HANNITY: Senator, good to see you. We appreciate it. I agree with you on the surge. It's got to work. I think you'll see when we show the dial positions, that was one of the big lines of the night, by the way, with our focus group.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you, Alan. It's always a pleasure to be with you all.

HANNITY: Senator, thank you very much.

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