Raising McCain on Finance Regulation Reform and Border Crime

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator, nice to see you, and thanks for letting us come to your office today.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - ARIZ.: Thank you, Greta. Thanks for having me back.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I want to talk about the important news in Arizona -- actually, it affects the United States -- which is the border between Arizona and Mexico. But first the news of the day, President Obama speaking on Wall Street on financial regulatory reform. Where do you stand on this bill?

MCCAIN: Well, I'm glad to see that serious negotiations are going on between both sides of the aisle, and I'm hoping that we can come up with a bill that will adhere to the fundamental principle that we want, and that is that no institution ever again be too big to fail. I'm not positive that this legislation will do that, but I think we are making progress.

I also want to say, fundamental, we should, I think, be doing is that banks that are traditional bankers and are in the loan business, they should have the backing of the FDIC and the American taxpayers. Anybody who does anything else, they should have no support whatsoever from the taxpayers of America. And I'm not sure that achieves that goal. That means restoration of the wall between traditional banking and investment and all the reckless stuff that we know that's been going on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you talking about Goldman Sachs in that category, or that type of institution?

MCCAIN: Those institutions that are engaged in traditional banking are community banks. Those portions of Goldman Sachs and Morgan and all those who are in traditional home loans, loan businesses, then it's fine with me if we back it with federal taxpayers' money in the form of the FDIC. But the people that engage in all these other activities, derivatives and all those things, no taxpayer dollars should ever be at risk.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about an outside agency, as the president has proposed, to at least monitor, to be a watchdog? Is that something fruitful, or do we -- one of the gripes I've actually had is that I think first we should look within the government to see whether or not we don't have government entities that can do that. But what's your view on creating an outside agency, one within the Federal Reserve, or even looking within our own government to see whether or not we have the ability and we just dropped the ball?

MCCAIN: I'm always nervous about creation of a new bureaucracy. What are the extents of their powers? Who are they accountable to? And who makes the decisions to enforce whatever their findings are? So I'm always nervous about that. But it seems to me if taxpayers' dollars are not at risk, then we should pretty much let them do what they want to with oversight. But to create a whole new bureaucracy, I would be very, very nervous about how -- what the powers of that bureaucracy are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it appear to you, or am I wrong, that a lot of these big corporations, though, when they do get into trouble, at worst, they get a civil penalty from the SEC, and some -- and the old-fashioned concept of fraud, when you trick someone, when you're slick, when you sell something and you don't fairly state the value or state the risk, it could be fraud. Are we using the criminal code in our Justice Department enough?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think some of the transgressions of the past have been clearly criminal. Certainly, Americans who have had to pick up the bill would believe that, but -- so I think that there should be more criminal enforcement of some of these things that we have seen take place.

VAN SUSTEREN: Transparency is one aspect of the president's financial regulatory reform. Transparency -- it's a word we've been hearing a lot about. Do you have any opposition to the transparency bill Senator Blanche Lincoln's committee has -- has just voted on one?

MCCAIN: I think there should be more transparency, including more transparency as to what the Fed did during this whole situation and what they're doing now. I think they are accountable to the American people. Therefore, there ought to be more transparency.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, don't go away because we have much more with Senator McCain. He wants 3,000 troops sent to the border in Arizona. He will tell you why.


VAN SUSTEREN: More with Senator John McCain about his call for 3,000 National Guard troops on the Arizona/Mexico border.


VAN SUSTEREN: Arizona -- there is -- I've talked to your colleague, Senator Kyl, yesterday about Arizona. You want 3,000 National Guard troops. When do you need them?

MCCAIN: We need them last year, when we called for them. We needed them for a period of time when they were on the border and they had a very beneficial effect. Look, Arizona has -- half of the illegal immigrants who come into this country come through the border between Arizona and Mexico. For the first time, over one million pounds of marijuana, 1.3 million pounds of marijuana, were intercepted going through the state of Arizona.

We have a situation which is literally out of control -- 241,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended last year in the Tucson sector alone. Now, estimates are that you catch about 1.1 out of every three or one out of every five. That means our border is completely out of control.

And then you add on to that the drug cartels and the violence -- 22,000 Mexican citizens have been killed in the drug cartel battles since President Calderon came into office.

So you have this incredible violence on the other side of the border which has spilled over to our side of the border, including the murder of three American citizens in Juarez, an American rancher and his dog just recently in the state of Arizona.

So, the border is not secure. This is organized crime at its worst. They are using ultra-lights to transport drugs across the border.

So we need the National Guard there. We need 3,000 additional Border Patrol. We have to use surveillance techniques. We have to build the physical wall. We have to use UAV's, because the fundamental obligation of every government to its citizens is to have a secure border.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is getting worse? These are horrible stories every time I pick up the newspaper I see three Americans get murdered, we should be scandalized.

MCCAIN: Greta, I rely on our county sheriffs, particularly those that are down there on the border next to the border, literally every day.

And our sheriffs are telling the violence is more severe, the people that are doing this, the drug cartels and the human smugglers, are better armed, equipped, and better trained, and they have better communications capabilities than our law enforcement people have on the border.

We have a huge interoperability problem between the federal agents and local police and sheriff's people. So it is get getting worse measurably. The sheriffs will tell you it used to be that if they surprised a smuggler they dropped and ran. Now they fight back.

VAN SUSTEREN: We were down there with Secretary of State Clinton a year ago. And there were four ATF people who were also there as part some joint relationship with the United States. We were driving around in armored vehicles with the ATF, and they were telling us the weapons that are coming into this country, the automatic weapons are coming from China and Belgium into the United States.

We got that from the ATF, and the NRA went wild on us because they say, no, this didn't happen, the weapons aren't getting washed through the United States. I don't know if it truly matters. The fact is that there are weapons used against our Americans, and what can we do about that?

MCCAIN: Obviously, the ATF supported by the NRA is trying to do everything they can to make sure that these gun sales do not fall into the hands of the wrong element. By the way, some of these other weapons are coming from other places in Central America and South America as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: They did tell us that too as well.

MCCAIN: They are coming from other places. So it is not just that. But the NRA is cooperating in trying to help out with make sure that people who purchase guns do so legitimately

VAN SUSTEREN: You suggested a wall. Can we build a wall?

MCCAIN: We need three tiered fences in urban areas. We also need surveillance capability of the kind we've used in Iraq in the form of UAVs and also surveillance capabilities we have proven is workable.

A really great scandal is that there was a very large contract let that was supposed to provide surveillance across our border it has been a total failure. Cost estimates as much as $770 million have been wasted.

And our marines and border patrol down in Marine Corp air station Yuma brought equipment off the shelf and they've been able to cut way back on illegal crossings, illegal immigrants crossing the Goldwater ranges.

VAN SUSTEREN: We've been hearing this for the last several years, at least. Why aren't we doing something? What is the whole up? Who doesn't get it and why do we have this scandal?

MCCAIN: First of all it has been getting worse and worse over time. The killings in Mexico have gone up. Violence has gone up. The fight between the Mexican government and the drug cartels has ratcheted up.

They are literally an existential threat to the government of Mexico today. We've been working with the Mexican government, we really have, significantly, trying to help with training technology, et cetera. But the fact is the cartels have now, I think, gained more control and are more active and more brutal than they ever have been in the past.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last question. People hear it and think of it as Arizona and this is an Arizona problem. It is not an Arizona problem. What do you say to the people who live in the northern part of the country who say this is not my problem? Why is this a problem for the rest of us?

MCCAIN: First of all, people who live in other parts of the country, these drugs coming across our border are coming to your hometown, number one.

Number two, illegal immigrants are up to in our state but are being distributed all over the country as well.

Third of all, if the drug cartels defeat the government of Mexico, then their ability to transport these drugs into the United States of America will be dramatically enhanced. So the Mexican government's fight is our fight.

And corruption is a huge problem in Mexico. But that should not deter us from trying to assist the government of Mexico in succeeding in this existential struggle they are in.

And it will affect the lives of every American if we have lost control of our border, because the impact is not just on the border, it is throughout our country. And we have to take significant measures. Unfortunately, the president's budget calls for a reduction in border patrol rather than increase.


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