This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 15, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And speaking of that very candidate, presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain is with us. Carl Cameron said — and by the way, thank you for being with us.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you.
HANNITY: He just mentioned the issue of this scenario that Brit Hume brought up about interrogation. And you took a different stand than some of your colleagues. Do you want to expand on that a little bit?
MCCAIN: Well, I have the same standard as Colin Powell, General Vessey, literally every retired military person. It's interesting, the divide between those who have served in the military and those who haven't. It's fascinating. I read a letter from Colin Powell when we had the debate on the floor of the Senate. That's probably why we got 95 votes.
In an extreme situation the president takes responsibility, and we do whatever is necessary to prevent an attack. Otherwise, we don't torture people. And if you think that you get accurate information out of torturing people, then I don't think you know enough about the technique in the situation.
HANNITY: Let me help you out. But how far can we go in a scenario like that? I guess this is a difficult question. In other words, we know what torture is. You can define it if you are cutting off their limbs, if you are beating them. But how aggressive can we get in ...
MCCAIN: Well, let's talk about waterboarding. That kept coming up. Do you know where that was invented? In the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition. Do we want to do things that were done in the Spanish Inquisition except in the most extreme case? I don't think so.
But the reason why all of these military officers who are leaders, and have a responsibility, were so worried about this is because if one of our military people falls into the hands of the enemy, then the enemy will say, “Well, the United States did it, and we would do it too.” That's the great concern that those who have the responsibility have.
HANNITY: And you spent five years as a prisoner of war.
MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.
HANNITY: We showed the exchange just as we were coming in on our post-debate coverage. You took a little shot at senator — at former Governor Romney. Tell us why.
MCCAIN: Well, I just thought it would be good to respond, because some of the issues that he disagreed with me on, he used to agree with me on.
MCCAIN: In fact, in the debate with Senator Kennedy, he once said that he didn't want to go back to the Bush-Reagan years, and that he had voted for Tsongas, a liberal Democrat. It was Ronald Reagan that inspired me to change my profession, to want to be a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.
HANNITY: It is interesting. I loved the pacing of the debate, and it went by really fast.
MCCAIN: I thought it was great.
HANNITY: One of the things they did do, they went through every candidate and where their differences were with Ronald Reagan. They brought up a couple of times — you would have been against the tax cuts, McCain-Feingold, some immigration reform that you'd supported early on.
Is the standard too high, that you almost have to have this perfect Reagan litmus test? Do you think that's unfair because everybody is sort of being compared to that bar?
MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan was opposed to spending more than any president in recent history. I voted against tax cuts because of the spending. On immigration reform, he supported — that was a big mistake, the '86 immigration.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, I have got a question. Welcome back to the show. Good to have you with us.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Alan. It's good to be back with you guys.
COLMES: It seemed interesting to me that both in this debate and the last Republican debate, the name Ronald Reagan gets mentioned a lot more than George W. Bush. Why is that?
MCCAIN: And I'm the only one that knew him. I'm not the only one that knew him, but when I came out of prison, I had the honor of knowing Nancy and Ronald Reagan. He asked me to speak at his last prayer day breakfast as governor of the state of California. I was honored by it. And I really did change professions, partially due to the fact that...
COLMES: But is Ronald Reagan the model for where the party needs to go more than George W. Bush?
MCCAIN: Well, I think obviously because President Bush has not restrained spending as I have criticized that I — yes, but I don't want to — I don't want to beat up on this president. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Not just Ronald Reagan.
COLMES: How does a Republican candidate who supports the war, supports being in Iraq — you've been very ardent and consistent in your position — and yet the president has a 28 percent approval rating, largely because of the war in Iraq. How can a Republican candidate who supports this war — it seems out of sync with how the American people voted this past November — expect to resonate on the national stage where this war is so unpopular with the United States, with the American people?
MCCAIN: Alan, your point is very well made. I don't worry about it. I don't think about it. As I've said before, I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war. I have to do what I believe is right.
I've got enough knowledge of evil. I know about war. I know how the world works. And I know that if we lose this conflict, we set a date for surrender, then they're going to follow us home.
COLMES: What was your reaction between the confrontation between Ron Paul and Mayor Giuliani about — don't our policies at all have anything to do with why we are disdained by people overseas?
MCCAIN: I thought Mayor Giuliani's intercession there was appropriate, and frankly, very, very excellent. I really appreciated it. Because we should never, never believe that we brought on this conflict. This is an evil force that is trying to destroy everything we stand for and believe in. And this is a transcendent struggle. That's why I want to be president of the United States.
COLMES: This argument that they're going to follow us home. We heard that in Vietnam. It turned out not to be true. We hear it here. What, are they going to hop planes? How do they follow us home? Iraq never even had long-range missiles to be able to hit us in the first place. I don't understand the argument that they're going to follow us home if somehow we get out of Iraq.
MCCAIN: Well, I think if you saw just what happened in Fort Dix, I think that if we fail for real in Iraq, they will inspire others. I think there is no doubt, if you read Zarqawi and bin Laden, that their ultimate objective is the overthrow of us and everything we stand for.
COLMES: How long would you be prepared to stay in Iraq as president? How long?
MCCAIN: As I told you before, I'll be the last man standing. However, I would like to point out, Alan, that we have not given this strategy much of a chance yet. We've got four of the five brigades over there. It's early on. And you and I know how badly it was mishandled before. But I think we ought to at least give it a chance to succeed. And by the way, does Al Qaeda have plan B? I don't think so.
HANNITY: So you had a good time up there?
MCCAIN: Yes, it's fun. It's fun. I just wish there was not quite such a length of time between questions, but that's what happens. I enjoy it.
HANNITY: Senator, we really appreciate you stopping by.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
HANNITY: All the best. Good to see you.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Alan. Great to be with you.
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