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[Highlights from CNN CROSSFIRE that aired 4/24/02]

Interview with John McCain; Elections are Closing in

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: James, how are you? How are you doing?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CO-HOST: You are looking good, Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Congratulations to both of you. Condolences to the viewers of CNN.


CARVILLE: You're a man that knows quite a bit, little bit, quite a bit about war and we're in a time of war right now. Other than you and President Clinton's passion for national service, what sacrifices has President Bush called on us Americans to make during this time of war?

MCCAIN: President Bush has spoken frequently and loudly about the need for what he calls Freedom Corps USA, and he has traveled around the country speaking loudly in favor of it. I think we are going to, thanks to his support, I think we're going to get a real good national service program to give all young Americans an opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, 18 months in the military and 18 months reserve. I think --

CARVILLE: And that has been a long time passion of your's, as it was former President Clinton. But other than that, we have not been called as a nation to sacrifice, have we?

MCCAIN: No, and I can readily understand when Americans said, what can I do after September 11, and they said, take a trip go shopping. That's not exactly what we had hoped for now, but now the president is fully supportive of this national service idea. And I think it's going to be a wonderful thing.

CARVILLE: Did the president calling for additional tax cuts in a time of war, do you think you'll be supporting these tax cuts?

MCCAIN: I would probably not, and it's not so much as the time of war, although that's a reason for drastically increased spending, including by the way a lot of war profiteering going on in Congress. But I also think that if we're going to take care of Social Security, we are going to have to have some money to put into Social Security to balance it out so that people will be able to receive their benefits.

Look, Medicare is spiraling out of control. Health care costs are spiraling out of control. Calpers, the health care HMO for the state of California, the largest HMO, just announced a 25 percent increase in premiums, the largest in history. Health care and Social Security costs, both demographics and costs are going to -- the longer we weight to address these, the worst this crisis is going to be.

CARLSON: Senator McCain, from the future of America to your future. Now if there's one group able to recognize a Democrat, it's the guys at the "New Republic."

MCCAIN: Great Americans.

CARLSON: Great Americans. One of them, Jonathan Chate, wrote a piece that described you as a Democrat. I just want to read one quote to from it -- quote -- "it's easy to forget that the Arizona senator," you, "is not in fact a Democrat. In the past year he has stood against his party on so many prominent and contentious issues that his concurrences with the GOP dogma have become more of an exception than a rule. It is no exaggeration to say he has co-sponsored virtually the entire domestic agenda of the Democratic party." That's true. Why don't you switch?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, in all due respect, if you look at my rankings by the differentiating organizations, I still have very high rankings from the Chamber of Commerce, those that grade Republican and Democrats and very low from a lot of the Democratic organizations.

Look, I cause a lot of problem from my dear friends in the Republican leadership. I admit that. I would also cause a whole lot of problems for my friends in the Democratic leadership, probably more, if I were... Look, I'm a Theodore -- Teddy Roosevelt Republican. I am unabashed and unabought. And if any of you want to read a good book read "Theodore Rex," and you'll see that he was a conservationist, he believed in the greatness of America, and he believed in a very strong role for the federal government in some areas.

CARLSON: But Senator McCain it's not as if you have taken exception to a couple of parts of the Republican agenda. I want to read you a partial list of the issues on which you've diverged from your party: Campaign finance reform, tobacco, Bush's tax cut, drilling in ANWR, patients' bill of rights, prescription drugs, airport security, the Kyoto Treaty, emission standards, gun control. My hand got tired so I stopped. But I could probably go on.

You have had more problems with your party than Jim Jeffords did, and he switched. Why are you still there?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, by the way, many of you don't know, a couple of years ago I went with a group of people to Hanoi. Tucker was one of them. At the airport he was held up because of a paperwork problem. I should have exercised my influence then and asked them to keep him.


CARLSON: But you didn't. So you have to answer the question.

MCCAIN: Look, I've supported the president on education and on national defense. I've supported the Republican on a broad variety of issues. Everybody knows we need a patients' bill of rights. Everybody knows that we need to -- I'll be glad to go through that list.

CARLSON: But my point is these are -- you are on the Democratic side. Why not --

MCCAIN: ... National defense -- national defense. I can give you a bigger laundry list of issues that I think, but I also think one other thing. If I can mention it, I was elected by the people of Arizona to represent them first and then the Republican second. But I believe that my records, of almost 20 years now in the Congress shows that I am a right of center conservative, small government, et cetera, et cetera Republican. And as I say, a proud Teddy Roosevelt Republican.

CARVILLE: Looks like he's being attacked for something we can't stand in Washington, that is common sense. Because all these things that you do, seem to me --

CARLSON: The Kyoto Treaty -- common sense.

CARVILLE: We're talking about your friends in the Democratic leadership. I'd assume that you'd consider Senator Daschle a friend of yours.


CARVILLE: Have a good relationship with him?

MCCAIN: Yes. And I have a good -- and friends with Senator Lott.

CARVILLE: Right. They ran a spot in South Dakota comparing Senator Daschle to Saddam Hussein. You'd agree there's no place in politics for that kind of thing?

MCCAIN: I didn't see it, but I certainly wouldn't agree if that's the accurate depiction of it. Kyoto Treaty, of course we should not have withdrawn. We should have stayed in it and gotten it changed, because all the other countries in the world are now on it. And we should have changed it so it's --

CARLSON: Does it apply to China equally, though -- or to India?

MCCAIN: We should have made it -- by staying in it, we could have, I think, brought about beneficial changes to, which would make it acceptable.

CARLSON: But couldn't you do the same thing in the Democratic party, work from within to make it more sensible?

MCCAIN: I think that there are a whole lot of environmentalists that think it was a mistake for us to unilaterally withdrawal. A whole lot of environmentalists, Republican and Democrat.

CARVILLE: I want to go back to this thing on Senator Daschle. Because when you ran for president, and correct me if I am wrong, you were accused of being mentally unstable, unpatriotic?


CARVILLE: You adopted a --

MCCAIN: An enemy of veterans.

CARVILLE: You and your wife adopted a child from Bangladesh and were accused of having -- quote -- "a black baby." That is a favorite right-wing charge. Because there are two things they hate the most, black people and sex. Your wife was attacked.


CARLSON: That's so outrageous, James.

CARVILLE: I am just saying --

CARLSON: It's a slander and a lie, but say it again.

CARVILLE: Your wife was attacked, too.

MCCAIN: Yes. But let me say that was a small minority. When you get into hot campaigns, and it was a very heated campaign, you are going to have a -- this kind of thing.

CARVILLE: Were these kind of attacks decried by the Bush camp? Didn't the man that attacked your patriotism stand right next to then candidate Bush when he attacked your patriotism?

MCCAIN: That happened. But the fact is the president and I have a very good relationship. I think that Karen Hughes is going to be missed.

CARVILLE: Will you be as close to Karl Rove as you were to Karen Hughes?



MCCAIN: No, but, look, I don't think, and I've got to stand up for the president here. I don't think the president or the people around him had anything to do with those attacks that you described.

CARVILLE: I don't think they had anything to do -- I can't prove they had anything to do with comparing Daschle to Saddam Hussein, but shouldn't they have decried it and said there's no place for this kind of thing particularly in a time of war when Senator and the Democrats are supporting us?

MCCAIN: I can't say that there hasn't been attacks from the other side as well that have been very vicious. One reason why I was so much in favor of campaign finance reform is it's easy to launch an anonymous attack rather than the person or group responsible for it. You see Americans for better government attack ads that are terrible and drives people out of American politics.




I want to show you the clip which precipitated this great outcry here, Senator McCain.


Do you hope the courts uphold McCain/Fine Feingold or would you like to see it overturned?

MARC RACICOT, RNC CHAIRMAN: I have all along had concerns about whether or not McCain/Feingold actually will do what it represents itself to do.

CARVILLE: Would you like to see the courts uphold it?

RACICOT: Well, you must make absolutely certain that all of its provisions are constitutional. Clearly some of them are. The restrictions on free speech I think are going to be a matter of some scrutiny.

CARVILLE: But what do you as chairman of the party, would you like to see -- would you like the court uphold this? Are you fer 'it, or are you again' it? I know in Montana you talk real plain? Are you for this or against it?

RACICOT: This is not my original version of the bill. I don't think it can do what it has represented to the American people to the American people to be able to do. It is going to diminish the importance of the parties. And I think the parties are very important.

CARVILLE: So you are against it.


CARLSON: What do you think of those glasses? Are those the ugliest things you've ever seen in your life?

CARVILLE: By standards of cable TV, I hardly think that was a withering cross examination.

MCCAIN: I think that was vicious.

CARVILLE: Vicious.

MCCAIN: Terribly vicious. I think that's just unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.

CARVILLE: I hear that. Senator, you offered this legislation. A Republican president signed it.


CARVILLE: Are you pleased that your national committee has taken a position against it?

MCCAIN: I'm not pleased, but I'm not surprised. Many made their views very well known about the bill, and so there were -- they were very clear. Many Republicans were opposed to the legislation.

CARVILLE: Why would the chairman of the Republican party be attacking a bill that his own president signed? It looks like he said we are neutral, but many Republican congressman against this and President Bush for it. The best thing to do is to be neutral, right?

MCCAIN: I think the Governor Racicot felt as others in his position do, that this inhibits their ability to pursue their political agenda. And I think he has a right to that opinion. I think he, after a while, that's what he expressed.

MCINTYRE: After being paraded by the strange looking guy in dark shades. Now Senator McCain, Israel, you are a long-time supporter of Israel in the United States for good reason. I'm a supporter of Israel. Don't you think that our strategic interest, the U.S. interest and Israeli interest diverged recently when President Bush said to Ariel Sharon, please withdrawal, and he didn't? Don't you think that weakened American influence in the region?

MCCAIN: Yes, because when the United States of America says that a country has to do something and they don't, it weakens credibility. But the president did recover from that. Now he's seeking withdrawal. They are withdrawing. They are our closest ally and I believe that the president and Secretary Powell are doing a good job trying to work through this most difficult time.

CARLSON: The president, he recovered from it by pretending the nonwithdrawal was a withdrawal. With all due respect to the president and Israel and you, isn't that what happened?

MCCAIN: I believe the president may have made a mistake by demanding a, quote, "immediate withdrawal." All of us make mistakes. I've made many, many.

CARVILLE: Speak for yourself, senator.

MCCAIN: But I do believe that the president and Secretary Powell, we just attended a briefing, are doing a good job trying to get through an incredibly difficult situation.