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 October 12, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, personal revelations from a congressional maverick and an American hero. Senator McCain, if you think you know him, you're in for some surprises. Stories of courage, service, scandal. It's an hour of straight talk. It's next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Good evening, and welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. We have spent hours and hours over the years with Senator John McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran, the former POW, the former attempted candidate of his party of the presidency. Best-selling author. His new book is "Worth the Fighting For," and it picks up from "Faith of Our Fathers."

Want to touch a couple of other bases, then want to really delve into the book. First, your comments on the vote yesterday.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That was a strong vote in support of the president, and I think it will give him strength as he goes into negotiations with the Security Council. Actually, Colin Powell will be doing the leg work.

KING: Your main man.

MCCAIN: Yes, sir. He's a great, great, great American. And I think it will be helpful, and I think shortly, we will see a U.N. resolution pretty much along the lines we want.

KING: And will we hold forth to the fact that he must have a U.N. resolution? Will that stand? Does that have to stand up?

MCCAIN: I think that it's important, from a pure pragmatic standpoint if nothing else. As you see the polling data, Americans are much more comfortable with the president acting if he has the support of Congress, which he just received, and the support of the United Nations.

KING: Unilateral would not work.

MCCAIN: Well, I think it would be difficult, and it really wouldn't be unilateral. The British have already declared they're with us, and others -- Turks let us use their bases, so -- but I think to have a U.N. resolution that states very clearly that Saddam Hussein has the chance. Tomorrow, if he takes out all his weapons, destroys the laboratories, lets inspectors in.

KING: He could do it. MCCAIN: He could do it. You know, the thing that keeps being missing in this debate, Larry, is that he is responsible for his own survival. He could have anytime in the last 11 years taken out these weapons of mass destruction and allowed the inspections that he agreed to. But he hasn't.


MCCAIN: ... has got another motive.

KING: Doesn't have very good world view, does he?

MCCAIN: No. He's made terrible mistakes. He's gotten in a war with Iran, he, by invading Kuwait, he thought that he could just take Kuwait and nobody would pay any attention. He's guilty of incredible misjudgements.

KING: Your thoughts on President Carter's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

MCCAIN: Of course, I'm very happy, as all Americans are pleased that President Carter has been honored in this way. He's worked for peace his entire adult life, and we're glad he received it.

KING: He's an extraordinary guy. I mean, the presidency was a stepping stone to greatness by him, in a sense.

MCCAIN: Yeah, I think historians may say that he contributed more after being president of the United States than before. He was in my view, because I was a strong supporter and believer in Ronald Reagan, that President Carter was not a good president as far as -- let me say it this way, that Reagan was a better president, in my view. But that doesn't mean that we can't all be incredibly proud of post-presidential behavior, Habitat for Humanity, all the humanitarian...

KING: He has the highest rating of all former presidents.

MCCAIN: And that's because he never sought material gain from being president of the United States, and you have to not only admire that, but hope that others would emulate it a lot more -- not mentioning any names.


KING: How is your medical condition?

MCCAIN: Fine. Fine. Fine.

KING: No recurrence?

MCCAIN: My spiel is, if you're fair-skinned, watch for discolorations. Don't let your kids out into the sun without sunscreen on.

KING: How dangerous was it? MCCAIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Never -- were you never -- ever in fear for your life?

MCCAIN: No, there is a time with one of these things where you don't know how far it's gone, and after they started operating, they found that it had not gone far. Maureen Reagan, who, as you know, died from a spot on her leg, it had gone into...

KING: Bloodstream.

MCCAIN: Yes, the stream, and then to her spine and then to her brain. That's why it's so dangerous. You've got to get it before it spreads. That's all.

KING: All right. You wrote "Faith of Our Fathers," a runaway bestseller, and that took you up to what...

MCCAIN: 1973, when I came home from prison, yeah.

KING: And this is now a continuation. Is this it, or is there another book?

MCCAIN: It's probably it, but it's sort of a little different book, in that I don't think many Americans are that interested in a chronicle of the day-to-day life of a politician, or anybody else, for that matter. So it's sort of a book about people who inspired me, people who I've admired, issues that I've been involved in, and both high points and low points in my political career.

KING: Principles.

MCCAIN: Principles.

KING: "Worth the Fighting For" meaning?

MCCAIN: Meaning it's a line from Ernest Hemingway's book, I think a great American novel, "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Robert Jordan, the American who is fighting on the communist side, is at the end. He's about to die...

KING: In Spain, right?

MCCAIN: In Spain. Spanish Civil War in the '30s, where Hemingway, as you know, of course he was on the communist side, even though he knew that the communist side was very flawed. He's at the end, he's had his leg crushed, he's at behind the machine gun and the fascists are coming, and he said, "the world is a fine place, and worth the fighting for, and I sure hate to leave it." He epitomized -- I read this book when I was 12 years old. He epitomized -- Robert Jordan -- epitomized to me everything that's wonderful and noble and sacrifice and stand for what you believe in, knowing even though the cause you serve may not be perfect, and go into and be wiling to risk it all.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thing I do, right? MCCAIN: Exactly.

KING: Did you feel that way throughout imprisonment? Did you feel...

MCCAIN: I tried to live up to...

KING: This was worth it, to be here?

MCCAIN: Yes, but what I found in prison, and really the theme in the book is that if you're, as I was in my youth, a rebellious, non- conformist, independent, ready to fight at the drop of a hat, at a real or imagined sleight, then you really are just a punk. But when you find something that's a cause greater than yourself, and that's what I found out in prison. They tried to teach me at the Naval Academy -- but what I found in prison, I was dependent on others. I was dependent on tapping on the wall to my fellow prisoners, and helped to sustain them, but more importantly, they sustained me. And we then became part of a cause.

KING: You were a different man when you came out than when you went in?



MCCAIN: I was not a different man in that my principles and my values and everything, as I mentioned, since I was 12 began to form, but what I was I think was a man who obviously appreciated the beauty and the nobility of our country, and the importance of being part of something. That's really the lesson -- be part of something.

KING: Your whole family was military.

MCCAIN: Yes. Sure.

KING: Grandfather, father.


KING: What took you into political realm?

MCCAIN: Well, my injuries from the Vietnam War curtailed my career. I may have, may have been an admiral, but I would not have been able to be eligible for the higher levels...

KING: Because of the injury?


KING: Would your goal have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) four-star?

MCCAIN: Follow in -- sure, it would have been to follow in my father and grandfather's footsteps. And I worked in the Navy Senate liaison office, a little office in the basement of the Russell building, and I got to be friends with people like Bill Cohen (ph) and Gary Hart, John Towers (ph), Scoop Jackson (ph).

KING: All kinds of political venues.

MCCAIN: Yeah, yeah. They had one thing in common, and that was national security and defense issues. That's how I came in contact -- I traveled with them, I got to know them, and I got to respect and admire them.

KING: Was Scoop Jackson (ph) too?

MCCAIN: Oh, Scoop Jackson (ph) was a genius (ph).

KING: Now, there was a liberal who was a hawk in, militarily, liberal in every other aspect.

MCCAIN: Yeah. I think you could argue that during a period of time when a great self-doubt in America, following the Vietnam War, Scoop Jackson (ph) was a steadfast Cold warrior, and I mean that in the finest sense. He was also one of the strongest supporters of the state of Israel when they were threatened, and a civil rights advocate. I also admired him because he had a great world view. Scoop Jackson (ph) had a great view of...

KING: Would he have been a good president?

MCCAIN: Yeah, you know, but Scoop (ph) could never -- his problem was that he had trouble relating. In other words, he was a great thinker, a great man personally, incredibly attractive, but he didn't do well with crowds.

KING: Senator John McCain. The follow-up to "Faith of Our Fathers," which was a runaway best-seller is now out, "Worth the Fighting For," a lot in this book, and we're going to talk about it more when we come back. Don't go away.



MARLON BRANDO, ACTOR: You always look for leaders. Strong men without faults. There aren't many. There are only men like yourselves. They change. They desert. They die. There are no leaders but yourselves. That strong people is the only lasting strength.


KING: My friend Marlon Brando in one of his best roles with Anthony Quinn in "Zapata." And why is that movie so important to you and why should everyone watch and rent it?

MCCAIN: You should rent it because it's one of the three great movies directed by Elia Kazan, the screenplay by John Steinbeck.

KING: You're going to drop names, aren't you? Heavyweights there.

MCCAIN: And it's really a marvelous and fairly accurate depiction of the life of a man who never wavered from his cause and his beliefs. He was a man who was dedicated to the people who were having their land taken from them by the big landowners...

KING: A true revolutionary.

MCCAIN: A true revolutionary, but never wavered. Some of these guys, you know, they got power and they became corrupt. He never became.

KING: Except when he got to leadership, he changed.

MCCAIN: Well, he did change, as I describe in the book, there was a scene early in the book where he and others came to see Diaz (ph), who was then the president and had been a dictator for many years, and they complained to him, and he said, "go home and go to the courts," and he said, "we can't eat going to courts. They don't make tortillas anyway." Diaz said, "what's your name?" And there was a list of this delegation, of peasants in their white pajamas and their sombreros. And he says, "Emiliano Zapata," and he circled his name like that, and then Zapata, of course, was arrested.

Later on in the movie, Zapata is now in the palace. Comes a delegation, wearing the same outfits. He says, "go home, my children." Their complaint is about his brother. His brother is taking their women and taking their land, Anthony Quinn. He says, "go home and I'll take care of it." And the guy says, "what are you going to do about it?" He says, "what's your name?" And he starts to circle his name and he remember. And he says, "that's it." And he starts to leave, and there is this guy who is clearly a communist, cold, dispassionate guy, says, "you can't leave, you can't leave. If you leave, you won't live very long." And he said, "I won't live very long anyway."

And he rides home and starts a revolution.


MCCAIN: Oh, he's just marvelous. Brando is...

KING: Why isn't that one of the great, great movies? Why doesn't it make the lists?

MCCAIN: I've never understood it. It's part of the three movies that Kazan made, "On the Waterfront," "A Streetcar Named Desire," and "Viva Zapata." I've never understood why. And this guy, Zapata, he lives on in Mexico. Whenever there is a revolution or an upraising, you know what they call themselves? Zapatistas.

KING: And it's all fiction.

MCCAIN: Yeah, actually...

KING: Well, it was based on the life of...

MCCAIN: Yeah, it was very accurate in the picture. He was ambushed and killed. Died a martyr. But anyway, and I think it's Brando's greatest role.

KING: Did you think about that in the prison camps?

MCCAIN: Oh, sure. I thought about...

KING: What do you think about? How many years were you there?

MCCAIN: I was five and a half years, and I lived for about...

KING: You get up in the morning in the third year. No, I'm serious. What do you -- you had a chance to get out early, you declined. They were going to let you out because of your father, right?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: But you declined because you would not go out until everyone else ahead of you was out.

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: What do you do?

MCCAIN: Well, one of the things that I did, you know, you have different predilections. I knew guys who were engineers and they would think about building buildings, you know, and others who would do mathematical formulas.

I thought about books and things that I read, and movies. When I was in solitary confinement for several years, I would think about that. Then when we became in a large room, with about 30 other prisoners, I was the entertainment officer, I told over 100 movies when I was in prison, and some of them were never even seen. But when you've got a captive audience, who cares.

KING: How do you take the beatings? You got a lot of...

MCCAIN: Oh, you just try to hang on. And you don't always succeed. Sometimes you give in. I failed. I failed. I failed.

KING: In "Worth the Fighting For," do you write about going back to Vietnam?

MCCAIN: Yes, yes. Yes.

KING: What was that like?

MCCAIN: Well, I went back on numerous occasions on the MIA POW issue.

KING: What was the first trip like?

MCCAIN: I went back with Walter Cronkite in 1985 on the 10th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. We went to Hanoi. Hanoi was bleak, people in black pajamas, bicycles only. It was still in a very bad shape. You know, Vietnam has got a pretty good economy now, and they're doing much better.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Beautiful country.

MCCAIN: Thousands of veterans have gone back. It's a very beautiful country. Really, exotically beautiful and varied.

So I went back then. But then I went back on other occasions on this whole issue of MIA POWs and normalization, and finally I went back with another television show, "The Today Show," on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. And as I was leaving, some reporter said, well, "why are you coming back to celebrate the defeat of your country?" And I said, "I'm not coming back for that." And I said, "as a matter of fact, the wrong side won." They got all excited again; they condemned me. So it started going around again.

KING: Did you meet your captors?

MCCAIN: Never.

KING: Never met any of your captors?

MCCAIN: No, it's better not. It's far better not to.

KING: Did you have hatred?

MCCAIN: Yes. Towards individuals.

KING: How did you deal with it going back? I mean, you were going back to a place...

MCCAIN: Look, these were young, mainly young men who were brainwashed, who believed that we were the enemy, who, you know, and some of them did their job, some of them were very cruel. But I bore -- bear no ill will towards the Vietnamese people, nor do I believe most Americans do. It was a war that was fought. It was over, and our job is reconcile our nations, bring our veterans all the way home. There are still many that haven't come all the way home. Normalize our relations, and move on. And remember that 58,000 names are down on a wall not very far from here.

KING: Do you ever visit that wall?

MCCAIN: All the time. All the time. Best time just when the sun is coming up.

KING: Yeah, I heard. Sad memorial. I mean, all memorials are sad, but...

MCCAIN: I thought when I first saw the Vietnam War Memorial, knew about it that it was too funereal. That I didn't -- didn't talk -- didn't show much of acts of heroism and courage that so many men, Americans, displayed. One day, many years ago now, I was down there, and I saw two guys standing next to each other, wearing parts of the uniform, as you know, a lot of veterans have, and this guy -- they were staring. And a guy said, this other guy said, "where were you?" And he says, "I was at Danang (ph)." And he says, "you were?" He says, "when you were there? I was there, too." Pretty soon, within seconds, these two guys were embracing and crying. I was convinced then that the Vietnam War Memorial is a great place for reconciliation.

KING: Reconciliation?

MCCAIN: Reconciliation. That's what it should be all about.

KING: Do you ever fear you fought an unjust war?

MCCAIN: I think I fought in a war in which we were not committed, and I fought in a war which we did not devote all our efforts to gaining a victory as soon as possible. I thought I fought in the war where we grossly misjudged the nature of the enemy. But I never -- and I still believe, and the Vietnamese will be angry to hear this, I believe that Vietnam would be better off with a democratic, free, open society, freely elected government, with the institutions of democracy, which they didn't get, which is what I was fighting for, I believed when I was fighting for the South Vietnamese. And I say that, I have to quickly add, the South Vietnamese government was corrupt too, as we know, so.

KING: Oh, were they? (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Senator John McCain. The book is "Worth the Fighting For," written with Mark Salter. You speak to him; he writes it down, right?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes. He's a marvelously talented guy. Wonderful friend.

KING: Right back with more of John McCain of Arizona. Don't go away.


MCCAIN: I think that the wrong guys won. I think that they lost millions of their best people who left by boat, thousands by execution, and hundreds of thousands who went to re-education camps. The object of my relationship with Vietnam has been to heal the wounds that exist between -- particularly amongst our veterans, and move forward with the positive relations.



KING: I mentioned his early best-seller as "Faith of Our Fathers." It was "Faith of My Fathers," referring to his father and grandfather in that heroic book that sold so well, and now the new memoir is "Worth the Fighting For." You like being an author, by the way?

MCCAIN: I like it, and I like the book signings and I like, you know, you've done it 50 times, the book tours...

KING: Ah, but there is pain when you write a book like this. You have to relive things.

MCCAIN: Yeah, but most of my life, I relive with enjoyment. And when you relive it, as you know, you learn from it.

KING: What did imprisonment do to you? I have had people say to me about John McCain, "what a guy, but temper. Watch him. Watch him."

MCCAIN: I write a little bit about that in the book, too.

KING: A maverick. A loner in the Senate. Not well liked. Assuming there's kernels of truth here, did that happen because of imprisonment?

MCCAIN: No. I was always -- I was always rebellious. I didn't get the most of merits of anybody who ever went to Naval Academy, but I guarantee you, I'm probably in the top 10.

KING: Really?

MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. I was always in trouble.

KING: No one would have predicted you sitting here in the Naval Academy at that time?

MCCAIN: My company officer would have predicted that I would be on probation rather than in the United States Senate, I can assure you.


MCCAIN: But when I say, when you are a loner, that's OK, as long as you're standing up for what you're believing in, and you have a cause. If you're just a loner, then, as I say, you're just a punk, as I said earlier. But if you stand up for what you believe in, even if everybody else doesn't agree with you, then you're doing the right thing. And you mentioned, there is a lot of my colleagues who do not like me. I am not asking for their affection, but I do believe I have their respect, and that's what I'm here for. I'm trying to represent the people of Arizona in the most effective way, and you can't be completely a loner.

The resolution that just passed through the Senate was a resolution, Senator Lieberman, Senator Warner, Senator Bayh and me -- that was -- we joined together for this, some view a very somewhat historic resolution passed through the Senate. On a number of many other issues, I join together. I don't know what degree of affection they have for me, but a lot of them want to work with me.

KING: Don't you have to compromise, as a politician? Isn't that the nature of it? I'll vote for you; you vote for me.

MCCAIN: I don't think you do.



KING: Can you say you've never compromised?

MCCAIN: Oh, sure I have. Many times. I'm sure I have, but as long as you don't compromise principle. Compromise on tactics, that's fine. But if you've compromised your principles, then what -- then you don't have anything.

KING: Does your book take us through the campaign?

MCCAIN: Yes, yes, the presidential campaign. Yes, it does.

KING: And that period of your life was dark or bright?

MCCAIN: The most wonderful experience of my entire life. The most magnificent, the most gratifying. I cannot tell you how much I loved that experience.

KING: Allow me a personal note. I was involved in not only covering it, interviewing you many times, as well as President Bush, but I happened to moderate the South Carolina debate, which followed your victory in New Hampshire. And it started to get very bitter. And boy, that was a tough night for you.

MCCAIN: It's tough, in that the whole South Carolina experience was tough. But look, and I can tell you my real or imagined sleights and evils that were inflicted on me, and then, you know what I am? I am a sore loser. Americans don't like sore losers. I was grateful to have had the opportunity. I was grateful for the victories we've won, and having been able to run for president of the United States was an opportunity far, far more than I deserved, and I became a much, much better legislator and public servant as a result of getting to know so many people and being able to -- when I first ran, Larry, I didn't have a great cause, I didn't have a...

KING: Campaign reform.

MCCAIN: But I went around because I wanted to be president of the United States. I mean, ambition. Wanted to be president of the United States. I learned things in this campaign. I learned about young Americans who want to serve causes greater than their self- interest. I appreciated much more the nobility of the American people, and the willingness to sacrifice, and the need to care for people who -- I mean, I can't tell you how broadening it was...

KING: Why? Why did you not lead a third party? Many would say that's one of the great problems in this country is the two-party system.

MCCAIN: I didn't, because I didn't think it would be appropriate. I think it would have been the appearance of a sore loser. You lost in your own party, so you start an independent party campaign. But I will say that there is, I think, in America, unless one or both of the parties move in a different direction, there is going to be the rise of independents in the United States.

KING: It's coming.

MCCAIN: Yeah, sure. Independent voter registration is on the rise in my own state. It's on the increase all over America. People...

KING: Why -- why are you loyal to party? Party is just a thing. Shouldn't you be loyal to your principles, forgetting party?

MCCAIN: I think you can do both, because I see that my principles are that of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

KING: But Lincoln might see things in today's Republican Party that would dismay him.

MCCAIN: I see things in today's Republican Party that dismays me. But that doesn't mean that our principles are wrong. It means that the party, I think, needs to make some adjustments.

KING: So you better stay and bring and try...

MCCAIN: Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, you can't be a dog in a manger. I mean, you've got to try to -- and there are still a lot of very wonderful things about the Republican Party that I believe in and support. I just wish we would look back more often at Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the great reformer.

KING: You're comfortable in that light?

MCCAIN: Oh, sure. Sure.

KING: You were involved in a scandal.


KING: One of the what, Keating...

MCCAIN: Keating five.

KING: Five. This was -- eventually he got out of jail, right?


KING: It was overturned, but it was a scandal involving Savings & Loan.


KING: Was that a bad rap, or did you make a mistake? And I know you write about it. MCCAIN: I created the appearance of impropriety so it was my -- I was guilty, and therefore did not represent the people of my state in the manner which they expected of me. Five senators meeting with a group of regulators creates the appearance of impropriety, even if we had just talked about the weather. It creates...

KING: In other words, you should not have been meeting.

MCCAIN: I should never have gone to meeting. I'm a grown man, and I did it, and I was wrong.

KING: In your heart, did you do something wrong at the meeting?

MCCAIN: No, but that's not the point.

KING: The meeting was wrong.

MCCAIN: Yeah. That's not the point. The point is, you created appearance. How many -- how many of my constituents could have gotten five senators to meet with federal bureaucrats on their behalf? Not too many. Big contributors? Maybe.

KING: Senator John McCain. He is -- I was going to say, he's one in 100, he is -- the book is "Worth the Fighting For." Lots more to talk about. Don't go away.


MCCAIN: Life in public service, you not only have to be careful about what you do, but you have to be careful about what you appear to do. And that is the real lesson.



KING: We're back with Senator John McCain. The book is the follow-up to the runaway best-seller, "Faith of My Fathers," and now the new memoir is "Worth the Fighting For."

What do you think people when they read this, and many, many will, will be most surprised about?

MCCAIN: Maybe they'll be most surprised about the part of the presidential campaign where I described my failure in standing up for what I believed in, as far as the confederate flag is concerned.

KING: You've copped out.

MCCAIN: There was -- yeah. There was a big issue in South Carolina about the confederate flag flying over the capitol, and instead of doing what I believed and saying that it ought to come down, I waffled and said, well, it's up to the people of South Carolina, knowing better.

(CROSSTALK) KING: When you do something like that, for the nature of victory, what is it like when you go to bed that night? Because you know that people who love you are ticked. They hurt.

MCCAIN: I ran a campaign saying I always tell the truth, and then on a key issue, I didn't tell the truth about my true feelings about the flag. After the campaign was over, I went down and said I was wrong, but that doesn't really matter, just made me feel a little bitter. So I write about that aspect of the campaign, but I also write about the incredible experience of so many young people, so many World War II veterans coming to the town hall meetings, with their hats on, some of them the cross-skies, you know, Bob Dole's old 10th Mountain Division, and how wonderful it was to have...

KING: Why are you so accessible? And you were the most accessible running for a nomination I've ever seen.

MCCAIN: Well, two reasons. One because I believe in it, and I mean, I enjoy the company of others. Everybody hates members of the media. I don't have anybody in the media. Sometimes I'm treated fairly, sometimes I'm treated unfairly, but at least if I have a lot of contact with them, they know who they're reporting on and what I believe.

And second thing is, from a practical standpoint, then Governor Bush, President Bush had all the money, had all the organization, had everything going. Some people believed it was a coronation, and the only way that I was going to have a chance was to have kind of a grassroots kind of movement.

KING: What was election night like for you? All right, you're watching it go back and forth. You're watching Gore declared the winner. Even though now Gore got more votes. That whole night, where were you?

MCCAIN: I thought it was really bizarre.

KING: Where were you?

MCCAIN: Oh, I was back in Arizona. And I thought it was bizarre, and I was hoping that President Bush would win. I was sorry to see the kind of state of disarray that ensued for the next period of time, but...

KING: Didn't a part of you not want him to win?

MCCAIN: No, no.

KING: No bitterness, all over?

MCCAIN: No, you can't be that. You can't go through your life that way. Otherwise you're a lesser person. And Americans don't like sore losers. I've said, they really don't. How many times have you and I sat and listened to a politician who'd give you 50 reasons why he or she lost? You know, you don't want to hear it, do you?

KING: You knew Al Gore better than you knew George Bush.

MCCAIN: Yes, yes.

KING: Sat with Al Gore.



MCCAIN: And I respect him. And I've always treated him with respect.

KING: He was also in Vietnam.

MCCAIN: Yes, and I respect the former vice president. He and I had been on friendly terms, and I just didn't agree with him philosophically, that's all.

KING: Running itself -- did you -- a lot different than running for the Senate.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: There might be -- the microscope is large.

MCCAIN: Yeah, and the horizon, and the coverage is microscopic. And it's -- but yet, it's unbelievable. I mean, I can tell you so many experiences that I had that were -- I will never forget as long as I live.

We went to Little Saigon, near Los Angeles, as you know, thousands of Vietnamese, little Vietnamese and American flags, guys standing behind me who'd been in re-education camps for 15 years. I mean, that sailing in on a ferry boat to Whidbey Island in Seattle -- from Seattle -- not Whidbey Island -- think of the name in a second. Couple of thousand people in the rain, standing there, you know. I mean, the last day of the campaign, speaking to a group of students, about 1,000 students at UCLA, the face of America. The face of America, those students. You know, I mean, there's just nothing like it. There really is nothing like it.

KING: Who would have been your vice presidential nominee?

MCCAIN: You know, I hadn't thought about it.

KING: Come on, tell us now.

MCCAIN: Well, clearly, I would have wanted to ask Colin Powell. I mean...

KING: If he said yes, he is on the ticket.

MCCAIN: Yeah, oh, yeah. I mean, Colin Powell, I think would have been magnificent. If hadn't been Colin Powell, in all honesty, I probably would have -- and I don't want you to take this the wrong way -- but I think it's very important for women to have high visibility positions, and there are many, many women that would serve as well as vice president, president of the United States.

KING: So it would have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- so it would have been a black or a woman. Are we ready for either?

MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. America is ready. America is ready.

KING: Mrs. Powell doesn't think so.

MCCAIN: No, Mrs. Powell...


MCCAIN: ... and it's understandable. And I also think you can't ignore the growth of the Hispanic population in America. They are a very, very big demographic factor now in America and in American politics.

KING: Still love the Senate?

MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. I enjoy it.

KING: Why?

MCCAIN: Oh, you can do so much. You know, you can get things done. You can -- you can be involved in so many issues, and you can -- it's a fun life, it really is. And not only that, you can get -- everything's free. You know, your parking, your stationary. Pay raise. Vote ourselves pay raises. Not even you can vote yourself a pay raise.

KING: No, I can't do that.

Do you write about divorce?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yeah.

KING: Is that tough?

MCCAIN: Yes, especially since I was responsible for the break-up of my first marriage, due to my immature and very bad behavior.

KING: And you fully admit that?

MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

KING: Are you friends with your ex-wife?

MCCAIN: Yes, yes, thank God. She is wonderful -- Carol McCain is a wonderful person, and we are really good friends. And we have three wonderful children.

KING: It's not like Woody Allen who once said, "my wife is so immature; she'd walk into the bathroom when I was in the bathtub and sink my boats."

A little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) humor, folks. MCCAIN: There you go.

KING: We'll be back with more of Senator John McCain. The book is "Worth the Fighting For," on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Regis Philbin is with us Monday night. Don't go away.


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.





MCCAIN: I do ask sympathy for the families of Arizona, because Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran for the president of the United States. Maurice Udall from Arizona ran for the president of the United States. Bruce Babbitt from Arizona ran for the president of the United States. I from Arizona ran for the president of the United States. Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children that some day they can grow up to be president.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: That's too bad. Some kind of a curse.


KING: You mentioned the gentleman, Mo Udall, whom I had the honor of interviewing, who Senator Barry Goldwater, late Senator Goldwater, as conservative as you can get, once told me his favorite person in Arizona was Mo Udall, and if he lived in his district, he'd vote for him. Mo Udall was a liberal Democrat.

MCCAIN: Barry and Mo were very close friends, and both of them had a lot in common. They loved Arizona; they were independent. They made great -- they did great things as legislators. Mo was the funniest man. You know, you've heard this joke before...

KING: Died of Parkinson's.

MCCAIN: Died of Parkinson's, a tragic disease. But Mo's trademark joke, which has been stolen by a thousand politicians, is when he was running for president in 1976, and he said he walked into a barbershop in Manchester, New Hampshire, said, "Hi, I'm Maurice Udall from Arizona and I'm running for president of the United States." And the barber said, "yeah, we were just laughing about that this morning."

That's Mo Udall's trademark joke.

(CROSSTALK) MCCAIN: He said that -- he said that -- yeah, and one of the MEs (ph) said, "the people have spoken, the bastards." He had this -- I mean, like other great comedians, he had his timing so good. It's one thing to repeat his jokes; it's another thing the timing that Mo had.

But he loved -- he loved his state.

KING: Now, even though he was quite liberal, and Goldwater was quite conservative, you are certainly a moderate-to-conservative. How do you explain the love? Because people think if people are ideologically opposed, they don't like each other. And a lot of what goes on in today, like talk radio, would make you think that hatred is everywhere.

MCCAIN: I came as a freshman Republican in 1982 to the House of Representatives, to his committee. He was the powerful chairman of the Interior Committee. He took me under his wing. He was so wonderful to me. He included me in press conferences in Arizona. He would -- any piece of legislation, he would have my name on it. He was a loving and generous man, and you could understand why he and Barry loved each other so much.

And Mo was a great environmentalist, and Barry was a great environmentalist. So even though they were conservative and liberal, they came together on environmental issues.

KING: But the love was so great, I'm gathering that if Mo Udall was his party's nominee, Goldwater would have voted for him. I'm positive.

MCCAIN: I'm sure he would.

KING: There is no question about it.

MCCAIN: I'm sure he would have. You know, Arizona is getting to be a bigger state, but for a small state, we did pretty well, producing people like Mo and Barry and John Rhodes, and Carl Hayden (ph), who was there for 50 years.

KING: So you can't -- you can't label it, can you?

MCCAIN: No, no.

KING: How do you explain it? Arizona -- because so many new people moving in?

MCCAIN: New people, and also there is the kind of independent streak in that part of the country, as you know, and I also think that people -- people in Arizona let you know their views.

KING: Have you been a voice for the Native Americans?

MCCAIN: That's the other thing...

KING: They call them the real Americans. MCCAIN: That's the other thing that Mo taught me. The story goes that Mo's mother, when she died on her deathbed, said Mo, take care of the Indians, or take care of Hopies (ph), which, as we all know, was an Indian tribe.

KING: And his brother was the secretary of the interior. Great basketball player.

MCCAIN: He's got son, Mark, member of Congress. Son Tom, both of them fine, fine young men.

Anyway, Mo had this love of the Native Americans, and he cared for them, he worked on legislation for them. When I came on the Interior Committee, there was no subcommittee on Indian Affairs, so he and I did Native American issues, and I can tell you, he didn't treat them with the kind of love that's got to do with condescension. He treated them with the kind of love that he believed that all men and women are created equal.

KING: Are they treated equally in Arizona?

MCCAIN: No, no, of course not.


MCCAIN: Look at their health care, look at their school, look at so many things.

KING: Why have they been forgotten along the path? This was their country.

MCCAIN: I don't know. It's a long, long story, and perhaps some of it has got to do with benign neglect, part of it has to do with condescension, part of it has to do with the clash of cultures that always...

KING: Broken treaties, too.

MCCAIN: Broken treaties. And yet I think that most Americans really believe that we do have this obligation, they just don't know exactly how we address it. I don't think there is much animosity toward Native Americans.

KING: Have the gambling casinos help?

MCCAIN: It's helped a few, but it's also hurt, in that a lot of people now think that all Indians are rich and only a small percentage of them, of the tribes have really...

KING: Florida, they got a lot of money.

MCCAIN: Florida, the biggest casino in America is up in Connecticut -- and in the world, I think -- is the one up in Connecticut. We have some in Arizona, but that's really not the way to economic development. It may be a way to get a revenue stream, but it's not the way really, not the best way. KING: How did you meet Cindy?

MCCAIN: I met her in Hawaii. I was headed to China with a congressional delegation.

KING: Divorced already?

MCCAIN: Yes, and had met with her parents, and she came to a reception, and I came to that reception, and...


MCCAIN: Schmaltzy as it sounds, it was love at first sight, and so we started dating. I called her from Beijing. Her mother answered the phone, said she was in the hospital, and I got the line to the hospital, she had pneumonia, and she said, "and thanks for the flowers." And I said, well, you know, "I am glad you enjoyed them."

And after we were married, it happened to be flowers from another guy named John, but I didn't tell her until after we were married.

KING: You took the credit.

MCCAIN: The credit.

KING: Did you ever find out who that John was?

MCCAIN: Some guy from Tucson.

KING: Tucson!

MCCAIN: Tucson!

KING: Got to watch those guys.

MCCAIN: Tucson John, yeah.

KING: Tucson.

Has this been a very happy marriage?

MCCAIN: Yes, we have four wonderful children.


KING: Not liking politics at first, not liking campaigning and then getting to like it. A little like Laura Bush.

MCCAIN: I think she got caught up in the campaign, and she loved it.

KING: Got emotional.

MCCAIN: Yeah, yeah, and quite many people said, why isn't she the candidate? But she's done very well, and but -- primarily, she's been a mother. When you have four children, and three of them are teenagers now, and the other one is 11, you've got your hands full.

KING: We have one segment left on this very important edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Our guest is John McCain you may not have seen before, the author of "Worth the Fighting For," senator from Arizona. We'll be right back.


KING: There are only two people that you have in your life that you only have one of. You only have one mother. You only have one father. What was the death of your father like for you? You write about it.

MCCAIN: It was tough, you know, but...

KING: He had full military, the whole honors.

MCCAIN: Yeah, at Arlington. He's at Arlington. He and my grandfather, and my several uncles.

KING: How old was he?

MCCAIN: He was about 68, I think he was.

KING: Young.

MCCAIN: He'd had a hard life. He drank a lot, he...

KING: But he was a serviceman.

MCCAIN: Yeah, you know, during the war, they used to really encourage drinking, during World War II. He drank heavily. He worked hard, and he died fairly young. He was in poor health the last few years of his life.

KING: So it was not surprising?


KING: Did it cause a change in you? Did it...

MCCAIN: No, pretty well. You know, we had a very close relationship, and you know, I think of him all the time.

KING: How about your mom?

MCCAIN: She's fine. She's 90 years old. She's doing fine. The last time I talked to her was about a week ago. She was driving cross-country, at age 90.

KING: By herself?

MCCAIN: Yeah. Just driving out to see her identical twin sister out in L.A. I swear to God.

KING: You got some genes there. MCCAIN: Yeah, I was going to say, I hope she passed them on to me.

KING: Do you ever fear alcoholism?


KING: Children of alcoholics fear it.

MCCAIN: Yes, I feared it, and that's why I don't drink.

KING: At all?

MCCAIN: Well, you know, I have a, you know, in my place up north, if it's Saturday night, I'll have a drink but...

KING: But you'd be scared of going out with guys on a bender?

MCCAIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. When I was a young pilot, I drank a fair amount, but you know, I do agree. I think it runs in the families. So I've always been...

KING: I know I've asked you this in the past, but I've got to hear it. What was it like to be shut down? I mean, I'm kind of imagining. You're sitting in the plane. What was your mission that day?

MCCAIN: Bombing a power plant in Hanoi. There was surface-to- air missiles flying everywhere.


MCCAIN: Yeah, it was a single-seat airplane.

KING: You had bombs and you...

MCCAIN: Just as I dropped them, I was pulling back on the stick, a surface-to-air missile hit the wing. Plane starts in a steep dive gyrating, and I ejected. But I mean, you do this because you're trained; you do it automatically.

KING: You don't think you're scared?

MCCAIN: You don't have time. You don't have time. You know, bam, missile hits, plane goes, boom. You know, I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Now, now you're coming down. Do you think, oh, boy?

MCCAIN: Actually, I was knocked unconscious with the ejection, so I woke up when my feet hit the water in this lake in Hanoi, and then I had trouble getting -- because my arms were broken by the ejection, I had trouble getting my vest inflated. Got my vest inflated, the Vietnamese came, pulled me up on the bank, very angry. I can understand, you know, we were bombing their town, you know. Stabbed me with bayonets and kicked me and beat me, and I thought it was over then. Army came up, put me in the back, threw me in the back of the truck, took me to...

KING: When did they find out who you were, who your father was?

MCCAIN: About four days later -- about four days.

KING: Because your father was what?

MCCAIN: He was commander-in-chief of the U.S. forces in the Pacific.

KING: They had a prize.

MCCAIN: They called me the crown prince.

KING: And how did they offer you to get out? Was it a quid pro quo -- no? Just we'll let you out?

MCCAIN: Just we'll let you go, yeah.

KING: And hopefully, you would go back and?

MCCAIN: Yeah. Several years later, that same guy who was the head of all the camps came to my cell, Christmas Eve, they just finished playing Dina Shorr singing "I'll be Home for Christmas" on the loudspeaker in my room. And we had a long talk about nothing. And at the end, he said, "you should have accepted our government's kind offer." And I said, "I don't you think you'll ever understand why I couldn't accept the offer." And it was right at the door, he turned and he said, "I understand better than you think." Closed the door of the cell. I never saw him again.

KING: Do you ever regret it?

MCCAIN: No, God, no. I would never be able to shave. You know, leaving those guys behind?

KING: They would have understood, I bet.

MCCAIN: Yeah, but I wouldn't, you know.

KING: Long life, Senator.

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir. It's a pleasure.

KING: Always a pleasure having you with us.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Glad we had a chance to talk about this. Senator is going to be one of our guests on election night, when we do a round robin of people who are not running for office and therefore can speak very openly about the campaign as they see it. Thank you so much, John.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Senator McCain's book is "Worth the Fighting For."

Tomorrow night, we're going to repeat an interview with the Mannings. This extraordinary couple. She was burned over 80 percent of her body on 9/11. He decided to e-mail friends every day with stories of her progress. Those e-mails were published in a best- selling book. The Mannings will be on together tomorrow night. We thank Senator McCain. His book, "Worth the Fighting For." Have a great rest of the weekend, and good 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.