Nationally syndicated host and journalist Hugh Hewitt interviewed John McCain on June 24 as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party travelled through southern California.
Hugh Hewitt: Senator McCain, welcome to Orange County, California….
John McCain: Thank you, Hugh…. These are interesting times.
Hewitt: Interesting times. In fact, Joe Klein of Time Magazine wrote today, senator, “I happily acknowledge that I was wrong about the surge.” USA Today remarks on the string of successes in Basra, Mosul, Sadr City and Amara. And it seems as though you’ve been vindicated in this support, senator. Do you expect to hear that from your opponent?
McCain: I hope to hear it from Senator Obama. He has never asked for a briefing from General Petraeus. I hope that he wouldn’t take my word for it, but I think someone who wants to be commander in chief ought to at least sit down with the commander in the field. And I also note that it’s been nearly 900 days since he has visited Iraq. And as recently as a few days ago, he said that the success of the surge was all “spin”—an incredible degree of naïveté.
Hewitt: You announced today your intention to go to Colombia to stand with President Uribe, and to endorse the free trade agreement—a great idea on both parts. Should Senator Obama also visit Colombia to see what’s going on down there, both in the war and in terms of the free trade?
McCain: I hope that he would. This is a president, as you know, Uribe, that took over the presidency when they had pursued a failed policy of appeasement to the FARC. And they were close to being a failed nation, a failed state. And he has—at great personal risk, and also to enormous sacrifice on the part of the people that have served that country—beaten back the FARC. Now the FARC is not defeated, but they’ve certainly beaten them back pretty seriously, and they’ve asked for free trade between the United States and Colombia.
This is not a philanthropic issue in my view. The FARC was engaged in protecting the cocaine traffickers, and exporting it to the United States of America. It’s caused serious corruption problems in Mexico and the countries along the way, as you know. I believe that Uribe is a friend of ours who should be rewarded. You know that the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, won’t even allow a vote on the free trade agreement with Colombia? I think it’s disgraceful. It sends the wrong signal to friends and enemies alike in the hemisphere if we don’t do that….
Hewitt: One of the dictators that Senator Obama said he’d sit down with—without preconditions—is Hugo Chavez across the border from Colombia in Venezuela. How great of a menace to United States interests is Hugo Chavez? And do you think it’s a wise idea to be sitting down with him?
McCain: Senator Obama’s been pretty good at changing some of his positions lately. But he said he would sit down with Chavez, Castro and Ahmadinejad without any preconditions—lending prestige to all of them. Particularly in the case of Chavez, I think that he is a threat to America’s security in the region. He’s worked very closely with Castro. There is significant evidence in the FARC computer files that show he was supporting FARC in a lot of ways….
Hewitt: Let’s get back to the election. Senator Obama gave his word on public financing. He broke it. He promised to meet you anytime, anywhere and debate. And you said, “Fine, let’s go at it every week”—and he’s backed out of that. Has he got a credibility gap growing here?
McCain: Yes, and he changed his tune about sitting down with the dictators, and he changed his tune … he said he was opposed to nuclear power, and then he said that he was not a proponent of it, and today, he said we ought to explore it. It’s amazing. He said that he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and then went to North Carolina and said, “I’m for free trade.” And so I think he’s going to be held accountable over time, because he obviously has changed his positions rather dramatically.
I hope he will change his position on the war in Iraq, and recognize that his plan, which would have been setting dates for withdrawal … would have meant chaos and genocide in the region, and a wider war, a wider war that would entail the increasing influence of Iran, and a greater threat to the state of Israel in my view. And we are succeeding, as you just mentioned, and I appreciate the fact that Joe Klein said that. I think it shows that he’s a very decent person….
Hewitt: About your nuclear plans for 45 new plants, Obama said today that it’s not serious, it’s not new, it’s not the kind of energy policy that will give families the relief they need.
McCain: Dr. No, Dr. No, Dr. No. Of course, I think the states should decide on off-shore drilling. The governor of Florida said he thought it was a good idea. Governor Schwarzenegger said it wasn’t. Let’s let the people decide. But I think we ought to move forward with that. We’ve got to do nuclear, wind, tide, solar. We’ve got to do everything. We’ve got to restore trust and confidence in government. We’ve got to fix this gas problem. It’s hurting low income and fixed income Americans the most. We can fix it, we can do it…. Americans put people on the moon. We can do this, and we’ve got to give Americans hope and optimism. And we can give them immediate relief on the gas tax, but we can let the world know that we will become independent of foreign oil. And that will have an effect, I believe, on the price of oil, if they know that we’re dead serious, and we’re going to do it. America can do it, and we must do it.