This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Aug. 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN R-ARIZ.: It was between war and a graver threat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not our political opponents, and certainly not a disingenuous filmmaker...




GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Joining us live from the Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden is Senator John McCain.

All right. Senator, since we let in with that sound, was that an ad-lib line about Mike Moore? Or you planned it?

MCCAIN: We had written this speech about three weeks ago. I just had no idea that he would be here. And I'm kind of sorry, Greta, that it got as much interest as it did. It probably wouldn't have if he hadn't been in the hall. But part of my message was a need for us to treat our political adversaries as friends, not enemies. And so, I kind of contradicted that.

But you know, it was an interesting moment. I didn't know he was there. And I didn't know for a long time. I kept seeing people pointing and pointing. Finally, I looked. And then I saw that he was there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in the wires it says that he tipped his hat and said, "Two more months. Two more months."


VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know anything about that.

MCCAIN: Well, it was kind of fun. And I don't have a personal animosity towards Mr. Moore. But I do believe that it was wrong to depict Iraq as some place, as I said oasis of peace, when really terrible things were happening under Saddam Hussein.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting. Pat Buchanan has a new book. And he was certainly never considered a liberal, in which he says it was wrong to go into Iraq because Saddam was not threatening us directly, that we went in there and there were no weapons of mass destruction. I mean he's a conservative. And you've very strongly support the war. He has a very strong statement against him.

MCCAIN: I have great respect for Pat Buchanan, I think he's a true intellect and he's been a soldier for conservatism. But you've got to remember, he has always been of the isolationist wing of the Republican Party. And it's there, and he's a part of it, and I respect those views. But he felt the same way about Bosnia, Kosovo, other places where we have intervened. And I respect that. I just disagree with it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I read in The New York Times this morning, your mother is in town.

MCCAIN: Yes, indeed. 92 years old, she and her identical twin sister.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does she know you told her age on the air?

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. I don't know. But she and her identical twin sister are in town and they're having a great time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did they come here tonight.

MCCAIN: Yes, they were here tonight. Yes. They're very active. They're very active. Two Christmases ago, I got a call from my mother. And I said where are you? She said Flagstaff. I said what are you doing in Flagstaff? She said I'm driving across the country. Drove across the country by herself — she was only 90 then.


VAN SUSTEREN: Did she critique your speeches?

MCCAIN: Does what?

VAN SUSTEREN: Does she critique your speeches?

MCCAIN: Well, one time I wrote a book and depicting my experiences in prison. That book was excerpted in a Washington magazine, The Washingtonian. Part one of those excerpts was the language, foul language that I used yelling at the guards in order to help the moral of my fellow POWs. Phone call, Johnny. I said yes. She said I just read that excerpt from your book in The Washingtonian magazine. I said what do you think? She said I'm going to come over there and wash your mouth out with soap.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let me talk about, in your speech tonight, how much did you practice?

MCCAIN: A lot.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what's a lot? Did you do it in front of a mirror in the Senate?

MCCAIN: We had set up a teleprompter that's exactly like this. If you're going to use a teleprompter correctly, you have to practically memorize the speech and I knew the speech. And I knew it and we practiced over and over again. That's really the only way you can give an effective speech. Because you come out and there's all these people and noise. And how you begin a speech is very important because you've got to get the audience's attention. If you loose that then you get worse or at least I get worse. So a lot of study.

And Mark Salter, who is my comrade for 15 years, wrote it and he is a marvelous talent.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting because I could see you're very passionate about your speech. And of course, we're all wondering because we've all heard about whether Senator John McCain hates President Bush and now they've mended their fences. And how did you mend your fence? Because as brutal as four years ago was, did you have a conversation and a handshake in the Oval Office? I mean how did that end?

MCCAIN: Two months after the 2000 primary when President Bush defeated me, we met in Pittsburgh and we reconciled. I campaigned very vigorously for him in 2000. In fact, I quoted from speech in Philadelphia tonight about my confidence in his leadership. And I've been campaigning for him since last January.

I think it's kind of a myth we had some dramatic reconciliation. We have a very friendly relationship. Did we disagree on some issues? Of course, and we did in our primary and I still do. But I believe that he's led the country with strength and clarity.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Do you also don't agree totally with Senator John Kerry on every issue? You're Republican. He's a Democrat.

MCCAIN: Of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would he make a good president?

MCCAIN: He'd make a good president. I believe that President Bush has earned, by his moral clarity and strength and leadership, the right to be re-elected by the people of this country, as I tried to articulate tonight. And I really wish we would treat our political adversaries not quite so personally in our attacks. I think we've got a very bitter and partisan environment here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You tried to fix that with campaign finance reform.

MCCAIN: Mm-hmm.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now we've got 527s, which are these separate groups, which were not part of campaign finance reforms. Is it possible to go back to the drawing board and sort of try to fashion something so that we do have a strong debate, instead of this awfully mean and nasty?

MCCAIN: First of all, we now have no longer have an elected congressman or senator calling a trial lawyer or corporate head or a union leader and saying I need a check for seven figures. And by the way, you're legislation is up before my committee next week. That was commonplace. We have literally hundreds of thousands more small donors, which is what we wanted.

What's the problem? The Federal Election Commission led by Ms. Ellen Weintraub, who is a Democrat apparatchik and Mr. Bradley Smith, who's a right-wing radical who doesn't believe in the constitutionality of campaign finance reform are gutting the campaign finance law. 527s shouldn't be abolished. They should have to observe the same contribution limits that candidates and others do. In other words, funded by hard money. They've refused to do it.

We've either got abolish the Federal Election Commission or we have to dramatically reform it. We'll go to court on these 527s. Unfortunately, it will take time but we'll win.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well we'll be watching Senator McCain. Always nice to see you.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And congratulations on getting through the night, giving a great speech, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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