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Larry King Live
The McCains Reflect on the Campaign and Their FutureAired March 23, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the GOP maverick of campaign 2000. What went wrong? What went right? And what about now? 2004 maybe?
Senator John McCain, his wife, Cindy, are in Washington for the full hour. They're next. They'll take your calls too on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always great to see them both. They're with us for the full hour back in Washington after a nice hiatus in Bora-Bora: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Cindy McCain, his wife of almost 20 years. May 17th, they will celebrate their 20th anniversary.
Cindy, how was Bora-Bora?
CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: It was wonderful. We had a very restful vacation, and we enjoyed the weather, and we're glad to be back.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And it was not so easy to go cold turkey.
KING: Yes. Did you -- John, I don't imagine there was a bus there.
J. MCCAIN: No, but, you know, I tried to make believe, and I kept using the telephone to call back for temporary fixes to help me with my withdrawal, calling back to the staff and finding out how things were going.
KING: Senator, did you arrange that hastily? I mean, after the defeats on that Super Tuesday, did you say, let's go somewhere, let's make it Bora-Bora, make the plans, we're out of here?
J. MCCAIN: Actually, Cindy did, and she made the plans over the Internet. And we had gone there in 1982 when I first was elected to the House of Representatives. And so we thought it would be a good idea to go back. But obviously, we hadn't -- we hadn't planned on going before Super Tuesday.
(LAUGHTER) KING: This soon.
It was generally thought, and maybe even stated by you, that you were not looking forward to campaigning, and then suddenly something happened to you. True?
C. MCCAIN: That's exactly right. I had not really been very active in my husband's past races. I'd certainly been involved, but not active. I hadn't really spoken very much.
And it was necessary. People wanted to see both of us. They wanted to see us together and separately. And I wound up liking it. I didn't expect to, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
KING: What did you like?
C. MCCAIN: I liked the people. I certainly loved the response that the people had to my husband. I enjoyed the process. I -- New Hampshire is a remarkable state. And I had never been there before until this adventure that we went on, and I had a wonderful time.
J. MCCAIN: Larry, let me mention one quick story if I could. Just before Super Tuesday, you know, there was 13, 15 states. We decided that Cindy would go to Burlington, Vermont and to Portland...
C. MCCAIN: Providence.
J. MCCAIN: Providence, Rhode Island. And I would go to Portland, Maine.
Well, guess what? I won Vermont and I won Rhode Island and lost Maine.
So there's a moral to that story.
KING: She should have been on the bus.
J. MCCAIN: Absolutely. She certainly should have gone to Maine.
KING: Senator, what did -- what did you like the least about it? Was it the elements of the bad part of the campaign when -- when you thought you were treated roughly and it got rough? Was that the worst of it?
J. MCCAIN: Probably so. But you know, it's a rough business we're in, and you can't look back in anger. But that was a pretty rough time. I think also, of course, when the realization Tuesday night that the math didn't work. And I had spent about eight or 10 hours feeling sorry for myself and then got up, and we decided to move on and be pleased and grateful for the experience that we had.
You know, Larry, I've mentioned to you before on this program, I'm the guy that's fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. We had a great ride.
KING: When it got bitter, did that surprise you?
J. MCCAIN: Yes. Yes, it did. Some of the things that were said and done in South Carolina were clearly very offending. But look, you can't complain and you can't explain. The fact is that it was a great ride. We had a great experience, and I'm not going to look back in anger or rancor. I'm going to look forward in a positive fashion and be proud that we ran the campaign we did and that it was an honorable campaign.
KING: And what would you -- what, if anything, would you change? In retrospect -- in -- hindsight is always an advantage.
J. MCCAIN: I'm sure that I made several mistakes, including some -- quote -- "misstatements," which by the way were not misquotes. I was never misquoted, and I certainly didn't say some of the things that I wanted to say or said some things wrong.
But look, there are people who are much more objective than I am who will make those judgments. I'm just proud that we were able to compete, that we were 3 percent in the polls, one of nine candidates, and we were able to make it a very competitive campaign. And most importantly, I believe -- and I say this clearly with great subjectivity -- I think we were able to change the politics of running for the presidency. I think we were able to emphasize the issues of reform that no one believed would be possible. And I think that the most -- the most exhilarating aspect of this campaign was we got millions of young Americans involved who had been either disconnected or cynical or even alienated from the process, and I'm very proud of that.
KING: And the big thing will be what happens to them now, and what happens to the movement now, if there is a movement?
But let me ask Cindy first before we get to that, what disappointed you the most, Cindy?
C. MCCAIN: Oh, certainly, the -- some of the personal attacks. But like my husband said, who can come out of something like this and not say that you had a wonderful experience? How many people get the opportunity to run for president? There were some down days. But all in all, it was a remarkable experience and something that I -- I know that both of us will always cherish.
KING: You come out with the same lack of bitterness as your husband?
C. MCCAIN: Oh, I -- I'm not bitter. I'm disappointed in some of it. Certainly, some of the more personal attacks that were lobbed, yes, made me disappointed in what had occurred. But I agree with my husband. There's no point in being bitter or upset about any of this. The part of this that's the most wonderful part is that we did inspire so many young people, and we hopefully can continue to do that.
KING: But where, senator, does this movement go? You're staying in the party. You said you'll support the party and the ticket. You've suspended -- and I want to ask what that means. But also, where does a -- where does a movement go? Aren't a lot of your voters disheartened?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I hope not, because I hope I was able to assure them that I will continue this crusade -- it did turn from a campaign into a crusade -- that I will continue my efforts to reform the government, to reform the campaign finance reform -- system, to return the government to them and out of the hands of the special interests. And we'll reform Social Security and Medicare and education and the military. And I won't quit in those efforts, and I'll continue to speak out all over the country on college campuses and around the country and continue my advocacy.
And also, I believe that I can convince Governor Bush that some of these issues are worthy of his support and advocacy as well.
KING: We'll pick that up in a minute. Our guests are the McCains, Senator John McCain, his wife, Cindy. Everybody in America knows them. They didn't a year ago. They do now. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 1)
J. MCCAIN: Well, thanks to you, my dear friends, today we made room. We made room, and we have sent a powerful message to Washington that change is coming.
This is a good thing, my friends, a good thing. And it is the beginning of the end, because today the Republican Party has recovered its heritage of reform, and this is a good thing. And it is the beginning of the end for the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're with the McCains, and we'll be taking your phone calls in a little while as well.
All right, senator, first, what does "suspended" mean?
J. MCCAIN: Well, that I'm not actively campaigning, and that for the purposes of maintaining our delegations and wrapping up the campaign, if I had officially declared a termination, we wouldn't have been able to do that. It's mainly a technical kind of thing. George Bush is the nominee of the party, and I congratulated him for that, and I will support the nominee of the party.
KING: Is it also designed to get you to speak at the convention?
J. MCCAIN: Oh, no...
KING: Do you want to speak at the convention?
J. MCCAIN: Sure, I would like to. But that decision will be made by Governor Bush. The reason why I said "suspension" was more for technical reasons, including making sure that the delegations, the states that I carried, are composed of our supporters.
KING: But that means your name will be placed in nomination in Philadelphia, correct?
J. MCCAIN: No, no, we don't do that.
KING: You don't want to place the nomination?
J. MCCAIN: No, I don't want to do that. There's no point to that.
KING: Are you going to free your delegates up to vote as they wish?
J. MCCAIN: Of course. But I also want to have the people go to the convention as delegates who were my supporters, and I think they deserve that. They worked very hard for my candidacy in those states that we carried, and in those states where we carried delegates, they ought to be able to go rather than anyone else's supporters.
KING: So being the realistic John McCain, even though we'll see lots of people with McCain banners and signs, they will not get the chance to parade? No one is going to nominate you for the presidency?
J. MCCAIN: No, I don't think that would do anything but send a message not -- perhaps disunity or perhaps not total unity, and so I don't think that that's necessary at all.
KING: But you said you want the movement to continue. In order for a movement to continue, it needs a voice. That's the way we look for things in America. You're its voice. Why not get the national exposure of speaking? You're going to try to affect -- aren't you going to try to affect the platform?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I don't know, because I don't know what the platform will be, but obviously, I would like to have a say in that, but I, again, acknowledge that Governor Bush will have the majority opinion there, to say the least.
KING: And how does the reform movement go on?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I'll be speaking all over the country. I've already signed up to campaign for some 40 House members, a number of my colleagues in the Senate. I'll be very busy all over the country in this effort, and I'll also be very busy on the floor of the Senate in trying to get issues like campaign finance reform, reform of Social Security, reform of the military, education and other issues, both ventilated and passed on -- by the Congress of the United States. KING: Are you still absolute on the vice presidency? No -- if asked, no -- you said it on this show a number of times, no, no, no, right?
J. MCCAIN: No, and I say that primarily -- I joke about it, but the fact is that I say that because I think I can serve the country best in the United States Senate, chairman of the Commerce Committee and with the seniority that I have, and I -- very candidly, the increased influence I have in the Senate as a result of our campaign. I think I can best serve the country and the United States Senate.
KING: In other words, you'd be weaker as a vice president?
J. MCCAIN: I think in some respects, yes. It's a very honorable position, and I think if you want to use it as Al Gore has and other vice presidents have, as a way to -- a stepping stone to the presidency, I understand that. I would much prefer to spend my remaining term in the Senate in the Senate.
KING: While you were in Bora Bora, Governor Bush, in an interview with "The New York Times," said that you had made no impression really on campaign finance reform with him, and he stands the same way. If that's rigid, how can you, without looking hypocritical, say, ladies and gentlemen, support George Bush?
J. MCCAIN: Well, first of all, later on, Governor Bush said those words were taken somewhat out of context. He said some -- made much more generous comments about me and the positions of reform since then, but Governor Bush and I can disagree on a specific issue, even though that's a central theme to me, and I will continue to campaign and to advocate campaign finance reform, but that does not mean that I don't support the nominee of my party.
The degree of my enthusiasm for that candidacy, obviously, is dictated by what differences or agreements that Governor Bush and I may have, but there are discussions going on right now between our two groups of supporters. Bob Dole, a wonderful elder of our party, has had conversations with both me and Governor Bush. I'm hoping that sooner rather than later, we will sit down, have discussions and largely come to an agreement. We agree on much more than we disagree on.
KING: Because I remember in 1976, Ronald Reagan toured the country for senators and Congressmen, but never really supported Gerald Ford. Do you remember that race?
J. MCCAIN: I remember that well. And I don't envision that. I think that under the proper circumstances, which I see no reason why they wouldn't evolve, that I would campaign vigorously for the nominee of the party for Governor Bush. At the same time, it's very important that we maintain control of the House, maintain our majority in the Senate as well. And I'd like to be very active in those areas, especially campaigning for candidates that support my view of the necessity of reform.
KING: What do you do if there's a race between a Democrat who supports McCain-Feingold and a Republican who is opposed to it? Do you go in and support the Republican?
J. MCCAIN: Yes I do.
KING: Why -- that seems ridiculous, doesn't it? I mean, when you think about it, your number one reform movement, here's somebody that wants it, and you're going to support someone who doesn't want it, running against -- that looks like old-fashioned politics.
J. MCCAIN: Well, Larry, I understand that, and that's why a lot of my campaigning will be dictated, to a degree, by the positions of the people that I campaign for, but Republicans and I share a common philosophy, a common view of the role of government and a set of principles that are -- the party of Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. I am not a Democrat. I do not support those philosophies and goals. But I will be very candid with you that my enthusiasm and my commitment to Republicans who support reforms will, obviously, be directed primarily to them.
KING: Well stated.
We'll be back with more.
We haven't forgot you, Cindy. We're just getting back into some issues. We never will forget Cindy McCain. And she will not go quietly into the night. Trust us. She loves this. She's probably going to run for Congress in Vermont.
KING: We'll be right back with the McCains.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. MCCAIN: We are reformers, Republican reformers who can make our party bigger and change politics in this country for generations. Don't fear this campaign, my fellow Republicans. Join it. Join it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Cindy, Eleanor Roosevelt didn't always agree with Franklin. Do you agree with what your husband's position is now and what he's going to do in the future with regard to this whole campaign and reform?
C. MCCAIN: Yes I do. What I know is most important to him is keeping the reform issue and the reform movement out in front, and by doing what he's doing and campaigning for the people that are of the same understanding and belief in this, it's the right thing to do, and he's comfortable with that, and that makes me happy.
KING: Senator, you're not saying, though, that you're putting party above country, that all things -- that Republicans must win above all costs, or else that's it? Or are you saying that?
J. MCCAIN: No, what I believe is what's best for my country is best for my party, and that's why I have disagreed with the leadership of my party on this issue and several other issues, because I'm convinced that what's best for my country is to rid politics of the pernicious influence of special interests, which the United States Supreme Court has recently stated unequivocally, saying too much money in politics corrupts and alienates the population and the voters, and we have seen the effects of it.
One of the great aspects of this campaign is we saw dramatic increases in voter turnouts. Millions of Americans turned out to vote and registered to vote that had never been involved. Twenty-eight percent of the vote in Michigan in the primary were voters who had never voted before who voted for me. So I'm going to do what's best for the country first, and I believe that's what's going to be good for my party.
KING: And where do those millions go in November?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I hope I can persuade them to support the -- Governor Bush, and I hope that we can promise them, in return, that we will fulfill the promises and commitments that I made to them that got them involved in the political process to start with. That's the hurdle that I need to get over with Governor Bush, and I'm confident that I can do that.
KING: Would it be helpful if he appointed -- if he asked someone to run for the vice presidency who was in concept with this finance reform movement?
J. MCCAIN: Well certainly, yes. I think that would be helpful. I also understand that there are other factors, such as governors of important states, and we have many qualified -- highly qualified women Republicans who would enhance the ticket as well.
But I believe that the party that embraces the concept of reform, not just campaign finance reform, but reform of education, the tax code, the military, all of these issues, is going to be the party that gains the majority, because that's the issue that the American people desire.
KING: How do you feel about Al Gore mentioning you almost daily? You've become almost his hero.
J. MCCAIN: Well, I think that the vice president is probably very actively reading the polls, as I do, that this reform issue is something that's resonating with the American people, and I would like to say something about that very quickly, Larry. The vice president has said that he's made mistakes in the past, and therefore, he embraces campaign finance reform. I accept that, and I've made many mistakes in my life. But the vice president should also have been -- if he's sincere, be committed to a full and complete investigation of the abuses of the institutions of government that were orchestrated by the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1996, including breaches of national security because of the influence of Chinese money in the campaign. KING: So you're asking him tonight that if he wants to do -- if he really feels that apology, he should call for this publicly?
J. MCCAIN: Yes, there should be a complete and full investigation so that the American people will really know what he's apologizing about, because so far, he's still maintained that he really didn't do anything wrong, that there was no -- quote -- "controlling legal authority."
KING: In a minute, we'll ask whether the McCains gave any serious thought to the reform movement and Jesse Ventura. And we'll be taking your phone calls. They're our guests for the full hour.
Tomorrow night, Tom Arnold will be with us. He wants a wife, too, but not through television, and Sam Donaldson, who will be coming to us from Jerusalem.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The voices that got the most recognition in advocating campaign finance reform were those of John McCain and Bill Bradley, and I repeatedly express full agreement with them on that issue, and now that they have both, in Senator Bradley's case, stopped campaigning, and in Senator McCain's case, suspended campaigning, I want to raise that banner higher, not only because of the obvious political reason that I want to give a home for those voters who were strongly supporting Senator McCain and Senator Bradley because of that issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're with the McCains.
John, were you contacted directly by Governor Ventura?
J. MCCAIN: Yes indeed, I was, and we had very pleasant conversation. We've had several. He and I have a lot in common. You know, we were in the United States Navy. I was a mediocre high school and college wrestler, and I wear a feather boa around the Senate on occasion. And I find him a very entertaining and exuberant man, who I think really changed politics in America, to a large degree, and I admire him.
But the Republican Party is my home. I have no inclination to leave it for any reason. I want to change it. I want to improve it, but its basic core philosophies and principles are those that I love and adhere to.
KING: Cindy, were you given at all to any thought about maybe running on a full ticket, Reform Party?
C. MCCAIN: No, no, I -- we knew all along, our home is the Republican Party, and that's where we belong, but it was -- it's wonderful of these people to want, or consider or really believe in what my husband is doing, and that's very flattering to both of us, but certainly flattering to me, because I believe in so much of what he's done, and I am very proud of my husband. But it was an interesting few days of phone calls, yes.
KING: Senator McCain, if Bill -- if Pat Buchanan is the nominee, no matter who is the nominee, should in your opinion, the Reform Party be included in the presidential debates?
J. MCCAIN: Boy, that's a tough call. I think it depends on polling numbers at the time. If the Reform Party candidate is up there in at least double digits and perhaps in the 20s, then I would say yes. If that candidate is mired down in single digits, probably not. I admire and respect Alan Keyes very much, but it became very clear that Alan Keyes was not going to win the nomination. I think it would have served me better if I had been able to debate Governor Bush one on one, in all due respect to Alan Keyes. I think it was appropriate at the beginning we had him and the others, but at the end, the debate became clear he was not going to get the nomination. I would have not like to have seen that.
By the way, in the interest of straight talk, as we called our bus the "straight talk express," clearly, it went through my mind, Larry, but one of the reasons why it went through my mind is I wasn't so depressed for about 12 hours that we lost; I was depressed that the ride was over, and so I thought about perhaps the Reform ticket might continue that ride, but I quickly dismissed it.
KING: By the way, where...
J. MCCAIN: Go ahead.
KING: Where's the bus?
J. MCCAIN: We're going to...
J. MCCAIN: We're going to -- I think -- you know, we're talking about taking it from Washington to Philadelphia when go to the convention.
KING: Yes, do that.
J. MCCAIN: Everybody can go revisit it. We'd have a lot of fun.
KING: You know, but you'll cause a storm if you've got that bus outside the convention. You know what the media will do with that.
J. MCCAIN: We'd have a lot of fun, and you're invited, by the way.
KING: OK, the bus is going to Philadelphia. Here comes the movement again. He's back.
KING: We'll be right back. We'll include your phone calls for Senator McCain and his wife, Cindy.
This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with the McCains. They're with us in Washington. Let's go to your phone calls.
Omaha, Nebraska, hello?
CALLER: Hello. Hi, Senator McCain.
J. MCCAIN: Hi.
CALLER: Senator, my father was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne in World War II. He was always very adamant that a president should have prior military service. How important do you think it is to have a veteran as commander in chief?
J. MCCAIN: I'm not sure it's critical. But I do believe that if that's the case, that the commander in chief does not have military experience, then they should have people around them that do .
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan had very little military experience. All were great leaders. But they had people around them that had vast military experience.
One of my problems with this administration is that there's no one, literally, or very little military experience around the president of the United States, which has then led to conditions in the military which I think someone who knew about these conditions would not allow to happen.
There's 12,000 enlisted families in the military that are on food stamps, and by the way, that responsibility also lies with Congress. Congress pork-barrel spends and earmarks all of this money while we have enlisted families on food stamps. It's disgraceful.
But I don't think it's necessary, but I think it's obviously very helpful to have had some military experience, but not necessarily to have been a career military person.
KING: In the South Carolina debate, you told me when I moderated it that you would -- you announced it then -- you would appoint Colin Powell, if he'd accept, secretary of state. We asked Colin and he certainly said he would talk about it.
Would you ask Governor Bush to make that a high priority, to have Colin Powell in the administration?
J. MCCAIN: If -- if Governor Bush asked for more my recommendation, I would say that General Colin Powell would make an outstanding secretary of state, secretary of defense or most anything else, including vice president of the United States.
I think Colin Powell is a unique American. He has an ability to inspire Americans by his resume, by his presence, his bearing, his dignity, and his knowledge. And I think he is going to serve this country in many capacities before he goes to the old soldier's home.
KING: Moorpark, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you?
CALLER: My question for Senator McCain is this: You spoke just now about Colin Powell being a man who could inspire. Senator McCain, what would you say to young voters like myself who were inspired in exactly that same way by your campaign but who are perhaps now a little discouraged that the campaign that we face in front of us without your presence?
J. MCCAIN: Well, thank you for that question, because I've been asked it hundreds of times in the last couple of weeks. Please take pride in the campaign we ran. It was an honorable campaign. In some ways, it was historic. I obviously say that in a very subjective fashion.
We were able to arouse millions of young Americans to be involved, committed, and inspired to the concept of the nobility of serving the nation and its cause. And we won't let that die.
If I drop the torch, someone else will pick it up. But I don't intend to drop it. I intend to keep this up.
The most uplifting and wonderful experience of my life is being involved with these young people and watching their reaction and their commitment.
KING: But she is saying, why should she get excited about Gore versus Bush?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I think both candidates are good candidates. They're the products of a very tough campaign. I'm here to testify to that.
And I think that you should give them a chance in the campaign to express their views, to motivate and then give you a choice. I think they're both highly qualified. Both represent philosophies that are legitimate and represent the mainstream of America, and I hope the American people would give them a chance to have that opportunity to inspire. And I intend to help Governor Bush to do that.
KING: Los Angeles, hello?
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Senator McCain, as a lifetime Democrat/independent, you know, one of those millions of young supporters that you have inspired, where can I go, sir, if you don't put our country ahead of your party? If you don't serve, with all the good you've done in inspiring people like me, where am I going to go? I'm not going to participate. I'm not going to vote for George Bush. I think he's a puppet. I'm not going to vote for Al Gore. I think he's amoral. And this is coming from a Democrat and an independent.
Sir, if you can put our country ahead of the party, where can I go, sir?
J. MCCAIN: Thank you for the question. First I promise you I will put the country ahead of the party. I do -- I am a loyal Republican in the respect of the principles and philosophies of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and other great leaders of our party. But I also will stand on principle, and those principles are reform. And I have taken on the leadership of my party in an honorable fashion in the past. I hope I don't have to take them on again. I hope they've learned from my campaign experience and we never have a disagreement. Unfortunately, I don't think that's true.
I intend to, along with Russ Feingold...
KING: But he doesn't like either...
J. MCCAIN: I intend along with Russ Feingold to take up campaign finance reform again. We'll try to reform the military, education, the tax code, and get the government back to the people. Give us a chance to continue this crusade and join it. Get on our Web site. Get with us. We're going to be calling on you and hundreds of thousands of others.
KING: But he doesn't know what to do in November.
J. MCCAIN: Again, I believe these are two good and decent men that are the nominees of our parties. I think they should be given an opportunity to campaign. Watch them in their debates. Watch them as they campaign. And if they don't live up to your expectations, then obviously you should exercise the option of not participating.
But boy, it's a terrible thought to think, again, of so many millions of young Americans not participating in the political process. The consequences are obvious. Give these candidates a chance at least to expose themselves to you and perhaps one or both of them will motivate you.
J. MCCAIN: They're both honorable people.
KING: You like them both, right? Are you saying that no matter who's elected, while you can disagree with philosophy, these are two men who will do their best to serve their country well?
J. MCCAIN: I believe they're both honorable men. Obviously, I believe that Governor Bush is -- is the person who has the philosophy and the views and the experience to lead the country. But they're both honorable men, and I would be proud to serve under either one of them.
KING: Cindy, were you at all stung by some of the attacks on your husband, like the -- the breast cancer issue in New York and the far-right issue that occurred on many talk radio shows that were whacking him around every day? Were you hurt by that?
C. MCCAIN: Of course I was.
KING: I mean, these were like archconservatives.
C. MCCAIN: Of course I was. I'm, first of all, a human being and very much in love with my husband, and anyone that speaks in that fashion about him, of course I was very hurt by it. But like we said before, life goes on; we go on.
But I just hope that that doesn't occur again, because there really isn't a place in politics for what occurred.
KING: I guess -- I guess, John, nothing's going to drive you nuts if you spend six years in a prison camp in Vietnam. What's going to really irk you about somebody saying something really bad about you, right?
J. MCCAIN: Yes, and two quick points, Larry. One is them obviously, the issue of my temper was, throughout the campaign, it was very important that I never betray any anger or frustration which I might have felt from time to time. But second of all, I tried to remind Cindy -- and it's much harder on the spouse than it is on the candidate -- that for every person who launched these scurrilous attacks, there were thousands and thousands of young people like the last -- our last couple of callers who were inspired, who were motivated. And it was very humbling to have that kind of trust placed in me and the campaign.
KING: You do realize, though, that both of those callers are disappointed now?
J. MCCAIN: But I'm trying to give them hope. If I give up, it's not over. Just because we lost the campaign, we -- the crusade really is beginning. There's a great deal of reform that has to be accomplished. The crusade's beginning. We took a setback. Not the first time I have lost in my life. And really, we've got to -- we've got to understand that this crusade is bigger than my individual campaign, bigger than the campaign itself. It's a crusade that I will pursue until I draw my last breath.
KING: We'll be right back with more of the McCains on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. MCCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they by Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator McCain of Arizona and his wife Cindy.
And we go to New York City, hello?
CALLER: Hello, Senator McCain. I'm 14 and every day I go into my history class and report on how you're doing. I even have a bet with my history teacher about who was going to get the nomination. And I was just wondering if you would run again in four years, so I would be 18 and I could vote for you.
KING: They love you, John.
J. MCCAIN: I thank you. We're just getting over this campaign. We're just getting over this situation. I think we'd have to assess whether it's a viable thing. I fully expect Governor Bush to be president and running for re-election four years from now. Obviously, I would not challenge that.
KING: All right. Let's do a what if. You're how old?
J. MCCAIN: Sixty three.
KING: OK, you'd be 67. Let's say Al Gore is president, and there -- you have strong issues. In a sense, you might be the titular head of the party at that point. You ran second in the primaries. You have a defeated candidate of four years ago. I am just saying the hypothetics. Might you come back?
J. MCCAIN: I'd have to think long and hard and -- let me tell you a practical reason why. I think there was a confluence of very unusual circumstances that led to this success that we enjoyed, even though it wasn't complete success, an upsurge in patriotism, a desire to serve the country, a need to reform and get the government back into the hands of the people.
I'm not sure all of those influences would be there four years from now, so we'd have to -- but right now, what I want to do is carry out the reform, continue the crusade, help elect Republicans and also most importantly continue this effort to inspire young Americans to serve causes greater than their self-interests.
KING: That's the most important thing to you, right?
J. MCCAIN: That's the most important thing and people like General Colin Powell are doing that. People all over this country are doing that. There are government programs, volunteer programs. There's many ways to serve this country, and I want to inspire people to do that and recognize that the beauty and strength of this wonderful experiment calls them to serve.
KING: Tucson, Arizona, for the McCains, hello.
CALLER: Senator, we love you down here.
J. MCCAIN: Thank you.
CALLER: We just hope that somehow the Republican Party can get rid of a few of the splinters. We just feel that there's a fracture with the devotion, apparently, to take away my wife or my granddaughter's wife the right to make a decision. How do you stand on this in the long pull?
KING: Well, you're a right to lifer, but you have been kind of -- you want to include everyone, right?
J. MCCAIN: I'm a right to lifer, and I'm committed to that, and that's my record. And yet, I believe also that we should work with people who are pro-choice on the issues of adoption -- Cindy and I, as you know, are adoptive parents -- on the issue of foster care, on the banning of partial-birth abortion and many other issues that we agree on.
People who are pro-choice, the majority of them, also want to reduce and eliminate abortion over time. I think we have been polarized by both ends of this issue with people who have turned the cause into a business, and I want us to work together, and I intend to maintain my pro-life position, and the Republican Party is a pro-life party.
I would like to mention one thing, Larry. You ran a clip just before the last break, many people viewed that speech I gave at Virginia Beach as a mistake. I believe the Republican Party, to some degree, has lost its way. I think we need to reject the leadership of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and I could not have given that speech after the primary because I had to make sure the primary voters knew exactly how I felt if we're going to bring the party back into an inclusive one.
KING: So, you're saying you feel the same way tonight as you did then?
J. MCCAIN: Absolutely. I would not change a word.
KING: Boy. Cindy, by the way, are you pro-life?
C. MCCAIN: Yes, I am pro-life.
KING: OK, because you don't have to agree with everything, right?
C. MCCAIN: No, but I am pro-life.
KING: What do you disagree with John about, other than like maybe what you eat for dinner?
C. MCCAIN: You know, when John comes home to Arizona on the weekends after having spent a week in Washington, we really don't talk about the issues very much. The issues that we talk about are our children, and we disagree on the issues regarding our children. So that's where the disagreements occur at home.
KING: And he likes St. John dresses, right?
C. MCCAIN: Yes, he does.
KING: He better.
C. MCCAIN: He better.
KING: We'll be right...
J. MCCAIN: I try to tell everybody she makes her own clothes.
KING: Part of McCains running a benefit!
KING: They're not cheap. We'll be right back. You need more best-selling books. Don't go away.
KING: By the way, speaking of tempers, Senator, what happened with Maria Shriver?
J. MCCAIN: Well, we were walking down this very narrow area in order to give the speech of the night of Super Tuesday, and she jumped out in front of my wife and bumped into my daughter and yelled, "How do you feel?" And I said, "Please let us alone" I think is somewhat along the line -- I did say please.
I just thought that it was not appropriate the way that she approached it. But look, I'm sure that Miss Shriver was trying to do her job, but I hope she understood that I was trying to go down at a very difficult moment. And I obviously didn't -- hope she appreciated that I didn't appreciate one of my children being bumped into. But not a big deal, but interesting.
KING: When DO you expect to meet with Governor Bush, the two of you?
J. MCCAIN: Well, I hope sooner rather than later. Senator Dole, as I mentioned, whom we all respect and love, one of the great elders of our party, has been helping this process along. I just think that it's important that we come to understanding on certain issues.
KING: Should it -- should it be the two of you in a room together?
J. MCCAIN: Oh, I think that's probably best way to do it or perhaps with Senator Dole in the room as well, I don't think we need anybody else.
I don't know Governor Bush very well. I have seen him on numerous occasions, obviously in debates. But I've never had an extended conversation with him. I think it would be helpful if we talked about some issues and strategy and other things that happened.
KING: And so Senator Dole is working on that happening as soon as possible?
J. MCCAIN: I think he's -- he's working on it, and I have confidence that he'll be able to help out. You know, he's one of the most wonderful people I have ever known, and I know Governor Bush holds him in the same high regard.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the McCains on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Sam Donaldson and Tom Arnold -- now there's a quintella (ph) -- tomorrow night. Don't go away.
The brutal death of their beautiful little daughter shocked the nation. For more than three years they've mourned the loss and lived in the shadow of suspicion. And now, for the first time, they're going to tell their story live. John and Patsy Ramsey will be my guest on Monday and Tuesday live, unedited and taking your phone calls.
It's a LARRY KING LIVE exclusive you do not want to miss!
KING: Get another call for the McCains. Indio, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Senator and Mrs. McCain.
C. MCCAIN: Hi.
J. MCCAIN: Hi.
CALLER: Senator, I'm a Democrat who voted for you as well. And I'm wondering -- I don't vote the party line all the time. I'm wondering how you can continue to support a party that (a) turned its back on you? And (b) how can you support a candidate like George W. Bush who ran such a slimy, below-the-belt campaign against you?
KING: We have got a lot of calls in that vein, I will tell you, senator. We've put a few on, but you're not shocked by this.
J. MCCAIN: No, there are still a lot -- a lot of wounds that need to be healed there. This is a rough business, being in politics, and the last thing that the American public want me to do, and I'm sure our caller wants me to do, is to look back in anger. I want to look forward in a positive fashion.
I promise you I take with the utmost seriousness the trust that's been placed in me by that caller and in so many others and so many millions of Americans. I will place my country first, but I love my party. I think my party, to some degree, has lost its way. I want to get it back to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. I want an inclusive party. I believe I can do that.
And I say to my friend from California, thank you for your expression of support, people all over the country. It was a great ride. It was a wonderful experience for me.
Remember, I'm the guy that stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. I have been the most fortunate man that has ever lived in the United States of America. I've lived the fullest life, and I'm not going to quit.
I have served my country, thank God, since I was 17, and I have grown old in my country's service and I love it, and I'll continue to serve as long as I can. And don't give up, because I'll keep up our cause.
KING: You mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. He left the party.
J. MCCAIN: Yes, he did, and I think in retrospect it was probably not a wise decision since he didn't succeed.
KING: But he did have a principle that he put above party and ran...
J. MCCAIN: Absolutely.
KING: ... on a separate ticket.
J. MCCAIN: Absolutely.
KING: Cindy, how do you -- at the end of all of this, you, obviously, you feel very good. Certainly, a little sad about losing. What now for you? Are you going back home and just working with the kids? Are we going to see more of you in Washington?
C. MCCAIN: Well, obviously, my first concern has always been for my four children at home, but as you know and as it was stated very well on the campaign, I have been very involved in the adoption issue, and I would like to remain involved hopefully on a national level with the issue of adoption and making it easier, less expensive: all the issues that we talked about during the campaign. And there's some -- there are some other issues that I have been involved with, certainly children's health care and others.
I hope to be -- have the opportunity to be a stronger participant in the issues.
KING: So we'll be seeing a lot of you. We just did a major show on adoption.
C. MCCAIN: Yes.
KING: It's one of the big topics in this country that deserves more attention. And Senator McCain, how are they treating you in the -- they used to call it a men's club. There are women there now. In that select 100 group where Trent Lott said, I think, the other day you're just one of a hundred?
J. MCCAIN: They're treating me very well. I hope that this atmosphere of congeniality will last. I am making it clear that we're not giving up on these issues. And I believe that many of my colleagues have seen the results of this campaign and are more committed to reform and certainly are more likely to consider some of the issues.
I'm very pleased to be back, and I'm glad that -- that the warm welcome that was extended to me.
KING: Thank you, both of you, for giving us this hour tonight. We'll see lots of you ahead. Thanks.
J. MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Larry.
C. MCCAIN: Thank you.
KING: Senator John McCain, his wife, Cindy. And by the way, he's got a great book out about his father and grandfather. It's still a major bestseller, great book.
Stay tuned for CNN NEWSSTAND. Tomorrow night, Tom Arnold and Sam Donaldson. Monday and Tuesday live with the Ramseys. I'm Larry King. Good night.
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