Sen. McCain on Combating Drug Trafficking at the Border, the CIA Memo Release and More

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We are live in Phoenix, Arizona, where moments ago, Senator John McCain went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Why are you and Senator Lieberman here?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, as you know, Senator Lieberman is the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. He and Senator Collins are chairman and ranking member, and I'm a member of that committee. And Phoenix has been recently, unfortunately, been designated the kidnapping capital of America. The violence on the border is spilling over. It's directly affecting our cities in Arizona. And the drugs and all the other problems warrant a congressional hearing here so we can hear from the governor, the attorney general, the mayors, the sheriffs, those that are on the front lines every single day.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the whole problem with the kidnappings here in Phoenix? Do you know that they're directly related to the drug trafficking and coming out of Mexico?

MCCAIN: Greta, they're all mixed in. The coyotes that bring people illegally, that kidnap them and hold them for ransom, they're are the same people that are involved in the drugs coming across the border. They are more and more like cartels. And one of the reason for the violence is because the cartels are fighting with each other for control.

And the Mexican government, to their credit, is trying to break these drug cartels. You've got to give President Calderon some credit for trying.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can we win this war?

MCCAIN: Sure, we can. I have no doubt that we can. We've made significant progress in Colombia with Plan Colombia, and we can here. And I believe that the Mexican government is making some progress. Their biggest problem, as we all know, is corruption. But I think they're making some headway.

But have no doubt the brutality and the size and significance of the violence -- there are towns on the border that can't keep mayors or police chiefs. They keep killing them. Bodies are hung from an overpass without a head. I mean, this is a serious, serious problem in America.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the whole issue on the assault rifles? I mean, that's been some -- that's been an issue recently in terms of -- Secretary Clinton was talking about it in Mexico, and President Obama last week in Venezuela said that -- or in Mexico, said that he wasn't going to push that issue right now.

MCCAIN: Well, what we need to do is beef up the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms people, enforce existing laws. In other words, there are laws against these kinds of sales that are in existence. And so we need to enforce those existing laws.

And by the way, since the -- the cartels are in an $11 billion to $13 billion a year business. They can go and do go anyplace in the world and buy guns.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're not in favor of an assault ban -- assault rifle ban.


VAN SUSTEREN: Your former governor, [Janet] Napolitano, took some heat last week because the Department of Homeland Security issued that report, and it said that -- about vets might be radicalized. I assume you have a thought on that.

Watch Greta's interview with Sen. McCain

MCCAIN: Yes. It's insulting. Never should have -- the last people on earth we need to worry about are our veterans. And by the way, after the Vietnam war, for years there was this portrayal of the Vietnam veteran as crazed and committing -- having committed war crimes. There were all of these problems they were going to have. Studies years later have proven that it's totally false.

Now, Timothy McVeigh was a veteran. Timothy McVeigh didn't learn to make that huge bomb while he was in the military. He learned it afterwards. So to point out one veteran who committed an act of atrocity I think is outrageous. And as a veteran and having thousands and thousands of friends of mine who are fellow veterans, I think a real apology is owed throughout the administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: In the news in the past few days, there's been the whole issue about the torture memos being released by the Obama administration. What is your view about the release of those memos?

MCCAIN: I wouldn't have released them. I passed the -- I'm proud to say that the Detainee Treatment Act prohibited cruel and inhumane treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners, and they violated that. There's no doubt about that. But I don't know what good it does to release these memos at this particular point. The fact is, what we should be doing is moving forward and making sure that we don't do it again. But it's just something that I would not have done.


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