John McCain on Water-Boarding, Iraq, War on Terror

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: part two of my discussion with Senator John McCain on the heels of the Hillary Clinton interview. We talked about the campaign and domestic policy with Senator McCain last night. This evening we begin with what McCain thinks will get him elected president: national security.


O'REILLY: Let's take War on Terror first. You're opposed to water-boarding, and I disagree with you on that. I think the president of the United States should have — just the president — should have the legal authority to order water-boarding in extraordinary circumstances.

Now, according to Tenet and to President Bush, used three times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Nashiri, and Abu Zubaydah. All three times the men broke when they were water-boarded, and they gave out information, according to the Bush administration, that saved thousands of lives.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, the scenario you're talking about is a million to one. Second of all, well, you know when you're torturing anybody — we know that they'll give you things.


O'REILLY: These people gave up very good information.

MCCAIN: They gave up very bad information, too, according to some sources. But the point is: Do you want to abrogate the Geneva Conventions? In the next war that we're in, if you want an American tortured, a serviceman or -woman, by someone, a foreign country when we're in another war because we did it to the people in our captivity...

O'REILLY: These are terrorists, not soldiers though. They're not entitled to Geneva.

MCCAIN: Look, the Geneva Convention — yes, they are.

O'REILLY: No, they're not.


MCCAIN: The Geneva Conventions apply — in all due respect, I'll send you the information. Geneva applies to every person who is held in captivity by another country.

O'REILLY: Even criminals?

MCCAIN: Even criminals. And that — if they are in combat. And now there's a difference between uniformed combatants and non-uniformed combatants.

O'REILLY: You think 9/11 they were combatants, those people?

MCCAIN: I think that they were — I think we're in a war against radical Islamic extremism and I think that war is all over the globe. And I believe, as Colin Powell does, and these military officers who spent an entire career, that the Geneva Conventions call for…

O'REILLY: Apply to everybody.

MCCAIN: …a prohibition, a prohibition of inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment. And their concern is what happens to Americans in future wars if they are held captive.

O'REILLY: We're not fighting a nation now.

MCCAIN: We are fighting a conflict, and the Geneva Conventions have clear applications.

O'REILLY: We'll have a gentleman's disagreement on that one?

Dick Morris wants me to ask you this question. You know Morris?

MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

O'REILLY: He's a strange guy. Do you know him?

MCCAIN: I don't know him well. I really don't know him well.

O'REILLY: He thinks Netanyahu is going to be the next prime minister of Israel. And he thinks when that happens, Netanyahu is going to do a pre-emptive strike on Iran, boom, knock them out because of the nukes. Would you support that strike?

MCCAIN: I would have to know the circumstances. I would have to know the nature of the threat, etc. All I can say.


O'REILLY: I told Morris exactly you were going to say that.

MCCAIN: Any president would have to have the information. But let me also say, I would never allow a second Holocaust.

O'REILLY: If you believe, as president of the United States, Iran has the nuke or close, you're going to knock them out?

MCCAIN: You can't get into these hypotheticals. You really can't.

O'REILLY: I know, it's hard. I understand.

MCCAIN: But I would not allow a second Holocaust.

O'REILLY: All right. Now you're going to have a tough sell on Iraq, because 60 percent, 65 percent of Americans are against it, and they're tired: blood and treasure. And the GAO and even the Iraqi government says the corruption over there within the Iraqi government itself is off the chart. So how much more does America have to absorb for a government that is inefficient and corrupt?

MCCAIN: This government is functioning badly but better, OK? The Sunnis just agreed to come back into the government after leaving it. The Maliki government now has control of Basra. If you had told me six months ago that they have control of Basra, I would have been a little surprised. They are gaining ground in Mosul, where a big battle is going on.

Look, that government is going to have elections sometime late this fall. That government is now — has told Sadr that, basically, if you're going to keep fighting the government then we're not going to allow you in the next election.

The problem in Iraq today is not so much the government as it is rule of law. The progress is there. The progress is there on the ground, and it's been long and hard and frustrating…

O'REILLY: Brutal. Brutal.

MCCAIN: ...and great sacrifice. And it was mishandled terribly for nearly four years, as we know. But they are succeeding.

And just let me tell the consequences of setting a date for withdrawal. And that is you would have chaos, you would have genocide. America would have to come back, and there would be greater sacrifice of American blood and treasure.

Nobody hates war more than those of us who have been in them. But I also know the consequences when you don't exercise a fundamental principle that Ronald Reagan articulated with three words: "peace through strength."

I said a year ago, my friend, when you and I were…

O'REILLY: Yes, I remember.

MCCAIN: …off-camera, you and I, I'd much rather lose a campaign than lose a war. Because I think there's so much at stake. And that's our precious young Americans who are the bravest and the best, but have to be cared for better, just as you and I talked earlier.

O'REILLY: One of the questions that Hillary Clinton had difficulty with last week with me was Afghanistan and Pakistan.


O'REILLY: I asked her and I'm going to ask you: Do you know where command and control is for the Taliban right now?

MCCAIN: Oh yes. In a place called Waziristan.

O'REILLY: OK. But it's a little further south in Quetta. Quetta is not up in the northwest provinces.

MCCAIN: Could I just say that there are areas of Waziristan that you know that the Pakistani government, Musharraf, made a "bargain" with.

O'REILLY: But Quetta, you can get them, and the Pakistani government won't. How are you going to make them?

MCCAIN: I think that our relations with Pakistan are in a very dicey situation today with a new government. I know that our relations with Pakistan are vital.

O'REILLY: As long as the Taliban can hide and have those safe harbors, Afghanistan will never be stable.

MCCAIN: And I agree with you about Quetta, but I also will tell you that Waziristan is hard to govern.

O'REILLY: The Pakistani government has got to help us. That's the key to that.

MCCAIN: They have to help us.

O'REILLY: Right. Last question, and I promise I'll let you go after this. The Obama campaign let loose its theme — I don't know whether you picked it up — that voting for John McCain is voting for a President Bush third term, that there's no difference between you and President Bush. That puts you in a bit of a difficult position. You don't want to insult the president of the United States, do you?


O'REILLY: He's unpopular. He's at 20 percent approval. How are you going to handle that?

MCCAIN: Well, two ways: one, my record, obviously, on climate change, on spending, on the war in Iraq, etc. But also, I really believe that this election will be decided on vision and change.

O'REILLY: I'm looking forward to the debates, and you're welcome any time, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir.


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