CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With John McCain

Aired September 24, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Senator Jon McCain responds to Al Gore's attack on the president's Iraq policy. His thoughts on taking a run at Saddam Hussein, and maybe another run at the White House.
Senator John McCain is here for the hour. We'll take you calls.

He's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Any time we get the chance to spend some time with John McCain, we appreciate it. In fact, we're so lucky because in a couple of weeks we're going to spend more time with him when he comes on to discuss his new book "Worth the Fighting For," a memoir written with Mark Salter. There you see its cover. It's a follow-up on his brilliant best-seller "Faith of My Fathers." But that book is for another time.

He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a decorated military veteran, as you know, a former Vietnam POW and a man who tried to get the candidacy of his party for the presidency.

Before we go any further, let's just run a quick clip from former Vice President Al Gore's address to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Let's roll it.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that we are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein in a timely fashion.

If you're going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first.


KING: Senator McCain, what was wrong with that point?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think the point, first of all, is the vice president's credibility on the issue. He voted in support of the resolution in 1991 when he was a member of the Senate with me, but he clearly stated that the president should not go into Iraq -- only for the purposes of liberating Kuwait. Then a time after that, he and I happened to be on the same program on this network -- I believe it was "CROSSFIRE" -- and he said we should have gone into Baghdad and taken out Saddam Hussein. I challenged him as to his previous assertion at that time.

Then in 1998, under the Clinton administration, there was an overwhelming, unanimous vote in the Congress that there was a requirement for a regime change in Iraq. In other words, take Saddam Hussein out. And at that time the vice president made several statements of how important it was to remove this present -- clear and present danger.

So my point is that the vice president's been on several sides of this issue.

And finally, he's entitled to change his views. He can take any position he wants. I think the present position that he is taking is incorrect. It's wrong. I disagree with it. Because I think that part of the war on terror would be Saddam Hussein's removal from power; not that I can prove there's connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, but the fact that Saddam Hussein, by his development of weapons of mass destruction, does pose a clear and present danger.

KING: Senator, when Vice President Gore said, after September 11, we had enormous sympathy, goodwill and support. We squandered it, and in one year we've replaced that with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, not at what the terrorists are going to do, but at what we're going to do.

In other words, he's saying, in essence, countries now don't like us, that were supporting us a year ago. You create a lot of ill will by doing this. You're going to need the support of everybody to go in.

What's wrong with that?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we have the goodwill of most countries in the world, with the notable exception of Germany, which -- their candidate for chancellor chose to, in a really obscene fashion, in my view, chose to use Iraq as a way to get reelected.

But the French have come up with a proposal for inspections. The British, clearly. Tony Blair gave a speech in the House of Commons today which was a, I thought, a brilliant dissertation on the clear and present danger that exists. Clearly there are nations in the region, such as Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and others that are helping us. Turkey has been a valuable and treasured ally that is assisting us.

So, of course we need to do what the president is doing: Talk to the American people, get approval from the Congress, and get a resolution through the Security Council and work with our allies.

KING: Since nobody wants to go to war and nobody wants to lose lives, what can Iraq do today that would satisfy John McCain -- barring coming and fight, what can they do? MCCAIN: What he could do is allow totally intrusive inspections into any part of Iraq, including the areas that he has put off, out of bounds, called presidential sites or some cockamamie thing like that, and allow us to have free and unfettered, with intrusive capability, inspections.

But Larry, over the weekend, first they said they would do that, and then the next day they said they wouldn't agree to any new U.N. Security Council measure. We've been playing this game for years and years.

I think the important point here is that at any time in the last 11 years Saddam Hussein could have removed any threat to his odious regime if he would have allowed the free and unfettered inspections. He has continued -- and not continue the development of weapons of mass destruction. He has continued that development.

So it's clear that he's interested in a lot more than just survival. He's interested in destruction of the United States of America and our allies.

KING: Are you saying, unequivocally, if he said tonight, come on in and look anywhere you want, that's what we'd do and we'd stop talk about military action?

MCCAIN: I think so. But the parameters of those inspections would have to be the most severe. In other words, we would have to have military forces with those inspectors in case they did as they have repeatedly in the past and not allow us into certain places. There would have to be instant access.

And look, what would happen if we had that? We would uncover at least some of these sites and we would then indict him for what he has claimed that he hasn't been doing for the last 11 years and refuse to allow inspectors in over the last four years.

That's why the resolution was passed by the Congress in 1998 when he threw the inspectors out, which then called for a regime change.

KING: And what about those who bring up the question of, What happens after the regime change? What's the next regime? Where do you go from there?

MCCAIN: I think that's a very legitimate question. I don't believe it has been fully answered by the administration, or by others. I think the lesson of Afghanistan is that perhaps we're still not paying attention to what happens in Afghanistan and we, as Americans, need to do a lot more.

But I think what would probably happen is you'd see some kind of autonomy, perhaps, for the Kurds. Some kind of better representation by the Shi'ites. I think you would see a long and difficult process. After all, these people have not known the institutions of democracy.

But whatever regime was there, whoever held power, they would not be building weapons of mass destruction that would be a direct threat to the United States and Israel.

KING: Would you go in, Senator, if the U.N. did not approve such a resolution?

MCCAIN: Well, you know, Larry, I think we have to take that position. Otherwise we then are dependent upon the good graces of the United Nations.

But having said that, I am confident -- I am totally confident -- that this administration, particularly with the great work of Secretary Powell, will work through the U.N. and the Security Council and get sufficient votes or abstentions that we will have a resolution. It may not be exactly what we wanted, the exact wording. But I have no doubt.

I mean, after all, the president's speech to the United Nations reminded them of one salient fact: If they don't enforce their own resolutions, then they run the risk of becoming a League of Nations.

KING: More with Senator John McCain. And we'll be taking your calls. He's with us for the full hour. His new book is "Worth the Fighting For." It's a memoir. And we'll be -- we'll have him on another night to discuss that book in detail.

Back with more, and your phone calls coming.

Dr. Phil comes back to LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night.

Don't go away.


GORE: He is telling that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein. And the president is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.




GORE: President Bush is demanding, in this high political season, that Congress speedily affirm that he has the necessary authority to proceed immediately against Iraq and, for that matter, under the language of his resolution, against any other nation in the region, regardless of subsequent developments or emerging circumstances.


KING: Senator John McCain's our guest.

Jim Dyke of the Republican National Committee said today, Senator, that it seemed to be a speech more appropriate for a political hack than a presidential candidate. Would you go that far?

MCCAIN: No, because I have great respect for the vice president of the United States, and I think we should treat him with that respect, and I think we should treat opposing views with respect.

So I certainly wouldn't share that view. I would like to say in response to the clip that you just played, that you will see an overwhelming vote in both houses of Congress supporting the president. And the language which is being negotiated now, hopefully on a bipartisan basis, is obviously of some importance.

But, Larry, have no doubt, there will never be -- as long as a lot of us are alive who remember the Vietnam Conflict -- a Tonkin Gulf Resolution which will give carte blanche to the president of the United States.

In other words, this will be tailored, in the minds of the American people and the Congress, to address Iraq. If the president had wanted to attack another country or initiate military operations, the Congress and the American people would insist that he would receive approval for such a thing, too.

So the vice president is setting up a bit of a straw man there in that argument.

KING: And the polls were already saying that the public will -- says yes, but you need Congress and the U.N.

MCCAIN: Yes. And I -- the president's going to Congress. We are going to have a, I think, a very healthy debate. And I hope that the American people will pay attention, as they did in 1991, to both sides of the debate, because I think there's some very smart people in the Senate, and I think it will be very informative.

But I also believe that the president is working, along with Colin Powell and John Negroponte -- who's an outstanding ambassador in the United Nations -- working with our allies.

By the way, the United Nations, at a time like this, it reminds more -- it reminds me more of a Chicago ward than it does an exalted institution. There'll be countries that will be basically bargaining for their vote, I guess is the kindest description. And we will be trying to get their votes. But we cannot trade for a Russian vote the sanctity of the State of Georgia.

KING: The United States, certainly.

MCCAIN: Cannot allow an invasion of Georgia by the Russians.

KING: The United States certainly gave bargaining and gave political gifts, to one say (ph), in the coalition in '91, didn't they?

MCCAIN: Yes they did. And at the same time, we didn't give away anything, I think, of real significance. And I think...

KING: Mostly money, I guess?

MCCAIN: I think a lot of it had to do with aid. And I think the Russians -- you know, there's a $7 billion debt that the Russians are owed by the Iraqis. And I think that may be at least partially an incentive for the Russians to support us. And I think they will at the end of the day.

KING: Your comment on this: CNN reports to us, two Democratic critics of the U.S. military will leave Thursday for a trip to Baghdad. Representative David Bonior of Michigan and Representative Jim McDermott of Washington will travel with a delegation of humanitarian workers.

And their quote is: "We want to avoid war, and we'll make our case as strong as we can to not only the Iraqi leadership, but the leadership here in this country, that the war isn't necessary."

What do you make of that trip?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope they'll talk to Congressman Rahal, who made a trip just recently -- I believe last week -- and was completely stiffed by the Iraqi government and got no satisfaction.

Look, they're free to travel. The only people they have to answer to is their constituents. But I hope that they would make their top priority that Saddam Hussein come in compliance with the commitments that he has made and the Security Council mandates. So I hope we can avoid war as well.

But I'm always a little nervous when members of Congress start carrying out the responsibilities that are delegated to the executive branch.

KING: Are you surprised that some of the Republican opposition, including vice president -- including Majority Leader Dick Armey. Vice President Cheney spent a half hour with him today. A spokesman for Armey said the meeting was intense.

Are you surprised at Republican opposition?

MCCAIN: I think many Republicans, including one of my dearest friends, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, are raising questions that they believe need to have answers. I think those are legitimate questions.

And that's the reason why we need the debate. That's why the president is carrying on this dialogue, both with Congress and the American people. And I think most of them, at the end of the day, will be satisfied. I don't think it will be a unanimous vote.

But Larry, I'm not in the business of predicting. And I don't count votes, but I would tell you that 75 or 80 votes in the Senate is not at all an unrealistic...

KING: Seventy-five to 80?

MCCAIN: It's not an unrealistic estimate in my view. KING: Are you saying now, John -- Senator, rather. We've know each other a long time.

Are you saying now that you regret your decision -- your advice to President Bush I back then not to take Saddam out?

MCCAIN: I was wrong. Actually, I supported the decision that was made, and I was wrong by supporting that decision. The president, President Bush I -- if we may call him that -- made a decision with the information that he had at the time with the advice of then- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

I supported it. All of us believed that Saddam Hussein would not stay in power for months, at most, but most likely weeks. The guy has had amazing resilience. He's resumed his efforts at acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we should have gone on to Baghdad. I don't think we will make that mistake this time.

KING: Now, what kind of -- let's say it is. You're a veteran, and no one paid a greater price than you did, except those who were killed, for his country than the John McCains.

How do we win this? How does the United States -- or the world, if it's a U.N. action -- win this? Where do they go, where do they come in from? How much air power to how much land power?

Someone told me -- Peter Jennings said it's 4 1/2 hours in a fast Mercedes from the border to the southeast to Baghdad. This is not an overnight hop. This is not Beverly Hills to Orange County. How do you fight it?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think we -- whenever we send young men and women into harm's way, we're going to lose our most precious asset, and that's American blood and also American treasure, because it'll be expensive.

But having said that, I believe that the operation will be relatively short, because there is not an Iraqi soldier that I have ever heard of who wants to die for Saddam Hussein. Yes, he has his Republican Guard that is loyal to him, and probably know that bad things will happen to them if he fails.

But I also don't believe that there is any real strength to both his equipment and his inventory of arms or the morale of his troops. And you saw in "The Washington Post," there was a front-page story describing the plans, which would be to attack the places where his loyal soldiers might be and basically saying the other Iraqi military people, if they didn't want to resist, then they wouldn't be harmed. And I hope they got that message.

I would like to see us have greater involvement in the opposition forces, both from within and without.

Finally, the other scenario that other people on this program will warn you about, and that's the house-to-house fighting, how that negates our technical superiority, and et cetera.

Armies without leadership don't fight very well in house-to-house fighting. The ones that do well throughout history in house-to-house fighting are those that are either totally desperate, such as the Germans were in Berlin at the end of World War II, or are fighting for something that's a great cause.

I don't think anybody in the Iraqi Army has either of those sentiments.

KING: We'll take a break, be back with more. We're going to go to your calls for Senator McCain as well. He's with us for the full hour on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, there's a lot of Democrats in Washington, D.C. who understand that Saddam Hussein is a true threat and that we must hold him to account.

And I believe you'll see, as we work to get a strong resolution out of the Congress that a lot of Democrats are willing to take the lead when it comes to keeping the peace.




KING: ... that somebody ought to vote for this particular candidate because he's a war supporter and that he's bringing more support to the president. And he said, If that doesn't politicize this war, I don't know what does.

What do you make of that?

MCCAIN: I'd have to see the vice president's remarks.

Up until now, the administration has been very careful about not making this a partisan issue. I hope they will continue to do that. We cannot make it a partisan issue.

Having said that, clearly, we want -- those of us who support the president and this whole regime change scenario -- want people elected who will vote that way. But I would not go to any campaign and urge anybody to vote for someone on that basis because I think that the people that they are trying to represent understand the issues rather well, and I would err on the side of caution.

Could I mention one other thing about...

KING: Yes, by the way, I gave that to you sketchingly (sic). But if it is as presumed, that Cheney said, Vote for this guy because he supports the president, you would disagree with that?

MCCAIN: I would disagree with that.

But I all know that Vice President Cheney has been around a long, long time, and he usually doesn't make many mistakes. So I'd like to see a transcript or what happened before I would make a judgment on it.

One other thing about this war-fighting issue and what the battlefield scenario would be. All of us saw in Afghanistan the incredible lethality and accuracy of our precision-guided weapons that were delivered from the air. And it's printed in the newspapers that there are B-2 bombers that would be involved that carry incredibly accurate and devastating weapons.

It will require troops on the ground, there's no doubt about that. But these airborne-delivered weapons are going to have a very, very significant effect on Iraqi morale, as it did in 1991, only this time they're far more accurate.

KING: How many innocent Iraqis are going to die in this procedure? Is there a number on this? Are a lot of people going to lose their lives?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think the scenario that was most likely pursued -- and again, I get my information from the papers, from no secret briefings but from -- the scenario as I understand it, Larry, is that we will be going after military targets, and even selected military targets at that.

I don't think you're going see the destruction of the infrastructure, such as bridges, et cetera, this time. I think they're going to be concentrating really on strictly military targets. And I think that's probably an appropriate way to proceed.

KING: Now what about those who say, OK, if you set this as a precedent, China says, Taiwan has got weapons and we're going wipe them out, and they ask the U.N. for a resolution. The U.N., they give it to them, not give it to them, don't give it to them; they go in and say, Taiwan had weapons and they wouldn't let us inspect. And then the Netherlands says Austria -- do you know what I mean?

Can you create here a terrible premise?

MCCAIN: You know, I don't think so, because I think we're going through a process of full and open debate, not only nationally and in our Congress and through the media. This program is being watched every place in the world, as we know.

I believe that the United Nations debate and the Security Council resolutions will also give it a stamp of approval that China would not get for Taiwan, Russia would not get for Chechnya, et cetera; India would not get for Pakistan.

And so I think we're going through a process here where the majority, not only of American opinion, but of national opinion, if not fully supportive, would be understanding of why we're taking the action we're taking.

KING: Since you mentioned, Senator, that we are being watched right now all over the world, which we are, we're being watched in Iraq right now.

What can an Iraqi citizen do to help his country not go to war?

MCCAIN: Well, if I had any advice -- and it's a very dangerous thing for me to do as I sit here in the comfort of the United States of America, in the security. I would say, I would do whatever you can to remove this man from power, who is going to lead to the needless deaths of some people. I don't know how many, and I don't know whether they'll be military or civilian.

But the sooner he is removed from power, the threat to the United States of America is -- literally disappears, and then I think we can build a free, open, Democratic society in Iraq with a much better economy than the one that has been declining ever since 1991.

KING: Senator John McCain is our guest. His new book "Worth the Fighting For." Again, we're going to do a special show with him just on that book. It's a follow-up to his best-selling memoir, "Faith of My Fathers" -- one of the best books I've ever read, by the way.

We're going to go to your calls following the break.

And tomorrow night Dr. Phil returns to LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: It's time now to involve the audience. Senator John McCain's the guest.

Durango, Colorado, hello.

CALLER: Yes, sir. Senator McCain, I respect you very much, but I want to know why the president is using the topic of Iraq to divert the national conversation away from the domestic issues like the economy and corporate corruption during an election cycle?

MCCAIN: Well, I think the president is taking up this issue because we need to address it and as I mentioned earlier in the program, we probably should have addressed it four years ago when the Congress unanimously approved a resolution which the president supported, calling for regime change in Iraq. I hope that all issues are considered by the American voters as they go to the elections just six weeks from now. And I hope none of them are obscured.

But I think it's understandable why an issue such as Iraq would be so dominant when we are sending young Americans into harm's way.

Larry, could I mention one thing? I saw your program last night with Christopher Reeve and I thought it was a very inspirational program and we're certainly happy to see him recovering. It was a wonderful program.

KING: Thank you, John. Orlando, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Good evening.


CALLER: Mr. McCain, my question is: If we, in fact, engage in an operation against Iraq, what are we doing as a nation to gain the support of the people of Iraq?

KING: Good question.

MCCAIN: I think that's an excellent question.

Every information that I have indicates that the Iraqi people are basically in the grip of a reign of terror. I don't know if you saw the interview that Claire Shipman did with the woman who was his former mistress. Saddam Hussein, apparently, according to this woman, who everybody says is reliable, likes to watch films of people being tortured. Rather unique hobby, to say the least.

The standard of living of the Iraqi people has declined by over one-third since 1991. There is no freedom, there's no democracy, there's no elections. These are sophisticated people. They are not people who are not intellectually nor scholastically deficient. And they have gone from what was once a fairly prosperous, fairly sophisticated secular nation to one which is in the grip of a madman in some respects.

So, I think most Iraqis would greet the removal of Saddam Hussein with relief and pleasure.

KING: Harrison, Arkansas, hello.

CALLER: Larry.

KING: Yes?

CALLER: Utmost respect for you and Mr. McClain. My question is: In the last -- Why haven't we moved or let the inspectors in, since the inspection date's not supposed to be until October 15. I mean, it seems like to me he could cover up anything you wanted to in a month.

Why haven't we moved in since then?

KING: Why wait?

MCCAIN: You got a good point, particularly since security council resolutions were passed years ago and the inspectors haven't been in in four years. We have to go through this process. The United Nations has been urged by the president to act with a new resolution, and he did so, I think, very persuasively.

So, it will probably be around October 15 before we would see that happen. And I am optimistic that we'll see the kind of resolution we want to see.

Finally, we have, my friend, pretty good intelligence capabilities. We certainly don't know where a lot of it is, but we know where some of it is. And I think we could direct inspectors pretty quickly to places where we know this is. This is why I am not at all optimistic that Saddam Hussein will ever let meaningful inspections resume.

KING: If he has that weapons that the United States says he has, and Israel supports the United States, aren't they in the most immediate danger?

Let's say you're in and you're wiping him out, last shot resort, take out Israel?

MCCAIN: Larry, my nightmare for years has been a SCUD missile, which we know Saddam Hussein has, with a chemical or biological weapon, which certainly Prime Minister Blair made a persuasive case that he has today at the House of Commons, and aimed at Israel. That's why, one, the Israelis said they will reserve the right to defend themselves, which any leaders of any nation have to say to their people.

I hope that we can detect any kind of activity. I hope that we can prevent it. And I also would think there's one practical aspect of this. And Saddam Hussein can't fire these or detonate these weapons himself. He's going to have to get somebody to do it for them. And I think that may be somewhat difficult task, because I think the fate of anyone who would carry out such an order is pretty well determined. But it is a serious risk, Larry, and it's -- the argument that time is not on our side, because each day that goes by he has better developed chemical and biological weapons and he moves closer to the development of a nuclear weapon.

Let me make one additional point. In the case of a chemical or biological weapon, you can protect your troops with bulky, unpleasant equipment, hot but you can equip your troops to defend themselves in the case of those kinds of attacks. A nuclear weapon, we haven't found a way yet. That's another horse.

KING: Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. It's a great pleasure to be on with a patriot like Senator McCain. That's why I value his answer to his question.

I'm wondering if he considers the vice president's position in this discussion over the launch -- the attack on Iraq, that we should be considering the ramifications to the coalition built after 9/11 to get back the war on terror.

Thank you.

Larry: What the vice president said, If you risk losing that coalition, don't you hurt the war on terror? MCCAIN: I think the vice president raises very legitimate points. And I think he's contributing to the debate. As I said earlier, I'm in disagreement with him.

I believe that our coalition forces are not only acting out of sympathy for the United States of America because of the events of September 11, which has been abundant and wonderful that they've expressed. They are acting in their self-interest as well. Because they know that al Qaeda is not just bent on the destruction of the United States of America.

Al Qaeda is bent on the destruction of everything that the west and our culture and our fundamental beliefs and freedom, democracy, the rights of man and woman are dependent upon our ability to remove al Qaeda because they are just as big a threat to most, if not all of our coalition partners, as they are to us. So I think they will act in enlightened self-interest and keep up our coalition as we try to attack this enemy.

KING: right back with more calls for Senator John McCain on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.



GORE: Back in 1991, President George H.W. Bush purposely waited until after the midterm elections of 1990 in order to push for a vote at the beginning of the new Congress in January of 1991.

President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election.


KING: Senator McCain, is that a good point?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't think so, Larry. It's been a long time since 1991 but as I remember, the sequence of events were that the invasion of Kuwait took place in such fashion that we had to conduct the debate, go to the United Nations, orchestrate a military buildup, that it just took him past the elections. I don't think it was that he intentionally waited until after the elections.

But to tell you the truth, my memory isn't that good. It didn't seem to be that important at the time. What was dominating our debate and our thoughts was that this fellow, Saddam Hussein, was very likely to invade Saudi Arabia and if that happened, then things would be really dicey.

KING: Scarborough, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hi, Larry.


CALLER: I'm just wondering if the senator thinks that the U.N. will allow full, unset inspections into Baghdad, and if they do not, what is the next step to prevent military action or war?

KING: Or is there one, senator?

MCCAIN: Well, I think what the United Nations is faced with is Saddam Hussein has refused to comply with previous resolutions that called for these inspections and as we all know, four years ago they threw them out, which triggered the action we referred to several times in this program and that was the call for a regime change at that time by a unanimous vote in both houses of Congress.

I think that what the United States has to do here is be careful of its own credibility because Saddam Hussein is in violation. And that makes me believe that after serious negotiation and a lot of hard work they're going to come up with a resolution that may not be exactly what the United States wants. That's why it's the United Nations and not the United States.

But it will call for a resumption of even more intrusive inspections, but also a form of an ultimatum to the Iraqis which will basically sanction military action if called for by the -- if the American people and government believes it's necessary.

KING: Jacksonville, Alabama, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry King and Mr. McCain.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Being a veteran yourself, Mr. McCain, how do you feel about going to war a third time?

MCCAIN: I thank you for the question because that keeps me awake at night. Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women. And that's a great tragedy. But I also believe that these young men and women, as they go into war, are fully understanding that they will be possibly saving the lives of possibly millions of people, including possibly millions of their fellow citizens, because there is very little doubt that if Saddam Hussein acquired a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it, that he would attack the United States of America.

We are asking our America's finest really to go out and sacrifice a few for the many, so that we can live in peace and security. And we'll always be grateful to them for their service and sacrifice.

KING: Tallahassee, hello.

CALLER: Thank you, gentlemen for the honor of speaking with you.

And Senator McCain, do you sincerely believe that our president would be so interested in going to war if not for his personal oil interests?

Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you for the question.

I do not believe that the president of the United States has oil on his mind or anywhere near his priority list. I believe the president of the United States and Colin Powell in particular, the most respected man in America, have America's security first, foremost and only in their minds.

And if there was ever any evidence to the contrary, I think you and I would be very deeply disappointed.

KING: Do you think there is a Powell/Rumsfeld rift?

MCCAIN: You know, that's always interesting in the media and it's fun to speculate on that, you know, there's this differences of opinion and various different leaks and allegiances and who has the ear of the president and all that.

But you know, one thing we forget about in this thing, Larry, is that these men and women, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have known each other for years and years and years. Colin Powell was chief of staff when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense. Don Rumsfeld was heavily involved in many ways in previous administrations.

So they're all really pretty good friends. Do they have some spirited discussions? I'm sure they do.

But I notice now that they are solidly behind the president and working in concert with one another with a good division of labor, by the way.

KING: Pine Bluff, Arkansas, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen.

After the U.N. inspectors go in, and when they do...

KING: Go ahead, ma'am. Turn your TV down.

Go ahead.

Go ahead.

CALLER: OK. After the U.N. inspectors go in...

KING: Ma'am, you're going to have to turn your TV down or I have to move on.

CALLER: OK, let me -- OK, after the U.N. Inspectors go in, and they find nuclear or biological or chemical war -- warfare, what happens then and who will have the responsibility of getting rid of this warfare? KING: Good question. What do they do when they find something?

MCCAIN: If they were allowed in and they found this, then we would have to call in teams who are probably from the United States, who are specialists in the disposal of these weapons. I pray every night that that happens, but I'm very, very skeptical that Saddam Hussein will let weapons inspectors anywhere near these sites. And I say that because of 11 years of experience where he has evaded, obfuscated, and then outright thrown them out.

KING: Let me get a break, come back with our remaining moments.

Want to ask a little about the book in advance of our interview about the book and get another -- one call in as well.

Don't go away.


KING: I want to move quickly. I've got five minutes, want to ask a couple questions about the book, get a couple calls in.

Senator Trent Lott said maybe by the end of next week Congress approves. Is that the timetable you see?

MCCAIN: I hope so, but it may be the week after. We always do things at a very slow pace in the United States Senate.

KING: Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Larry...

KING: Yes, what's the question?

CALLER: ... and Senator McCain, it's a privilege to speak to you. I want to thank you for what you've done for our company -- country, excuse me.

It was my privilege to meet Mr. Paul Galanti. I am a Navy brat, so I've been there.

I wanted to know, if we go into Iraq, get rid of Hussein, who I believe is insane, is it going to turn out like another Vietnam?

MCCAIN: No, I don't believe so. I think that in the Vietnamese War, the North Vietnamese people, at least, were dedicated to a cause. Whether that cause was legitimate or not is a matter of debate. They worshipped Ho Chi Minh, and they were willing to die for their national cause.

The Iraqis proved in 1991 and, I believe, is even more so the case now, are not willing to die for Saddam Hussein. He rules with terror and fear.

So I don't believe that we would be in any conflict comparable to the Vietnam War. KING: Last call, Alexandria, Louisiana, hello.

CALLER: Senator McCain, I have great respect for you, sir.

And my question is: If we fail to get approval from the U.N. for military action against Iraq and choose to use military force anyway, as the president has suggested we will do, how can we reasonably expect other nations around the world to follow decisions of the U.N. if we, the United States, won't?

MCCAIN: There's a clause in the United Nations charter that every nation has a right of self-defense. I believe you can make the argument that Saddam Hussein is a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

But I'd like to tell you, my friend, that you can have some confidence that Colin Powell, the president, our Ambassador Negroponte and others will be doing, probably, a very successful job of convincing the Security Council that we will have a resolution of some kind of support. As I said earlier, it may not be exactly what we wanted, but I'm confident we can convince the United States Security Council to support us.

KING: We have two minutes, Senator. We're going to do a lengthy interview about the book, but some quick questions, though.

In the book you say: "Has my time passed?" You ask that as a question. Has it?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope not. But I need to evaluate. I've been 44 years in public service. And whenever you're here that long, you've got to consider whether it's best to retire.

I've found in Washington many people stay too long. I'm inclined to seek reelection to the Senate, but...

KING: When are you up?

MCCAIN: In 2004.

KING: You also talk about mavericks who you like, like Ted Williams and Theodore Roosevelt and Billy Mitchell and Marlon Brando as Viva (ph) Zapata. Why?

MCCAIN: Well, I believe that all of the individuals I talk about in my book, including Theodore Roosevelt, are people who basically were committed to causes greater than their self-interest.

It's easy to be a rebellious, independent rebel, as I was when I was young, which is just basically being a punk. Or you can associate yourself with causes that you're committed to, which encompasses yourself.

And these people that I admired and respected and loved, both fictional and nonfictional, such as Robert Jordan, the hero of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" were people who were committed to these causes, and it made them greater, but it also enhanced the cause they served.

KING: John, it's always good having you with us, and thank you very much.

I also note with interest that you will host "Saturday Night Live" on October 12.

Good luck.

MCCAIN: Nineteenth. Thank you. Thank you, Larry.

KING: Nineteenth. Oh, they changed the date already on you.

MCCAIN: Yes, we changed the date.

Thanks Larry.

KING: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

The new book is "Worth the Fighting For." That memoir is a follow-up to his earlier best-seller "Faith of My Fathers."

We thank him for spending the hour with us.

And when we come back we'll tell you about tomorrow night, so stay there.

Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Dr. Phil. It's not enough that he's a big hit on "Oprah," not enough that he sells tens of millions of books: He starts a new TV show, runs during the day, and he's running a ratings riot.

Dr. Phil tomorrow night.


© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.