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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With John McCain

Aired November 3, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Senator John McCain, will he run again for president? What does he make of the CIA leak indictments, the battle raging in the Senate over pre-war Iraq intelligence and more. Senator John McCain for the hour with you phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always good to have him back. His newest book and every book he's written has been a best seller, "Character is Destiny," written with Mark Salter. There you see its cover, "Inspiring stories every young person should know and every adult should remember." What led to this, John?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, Mark Salter and I, along with our publisher wanted to write a book about the -- the characteristics and qualities that determine our character and we believe that the kind of character we have will determine our destiny and what kind of life we have.

And so, we picked out different qualities and traits that we think are important and found individuals that I thought fit into those categories. Lord Nelson, one of my -- my Navy background, as you know, because he took responsibility and he gave responsibility and he made the British Navy the dominant force for 150 years.

Shackleton, whose loyalty to his people, as you remember the story, Larry, going across miles of ice, up glaciers, in open seas in a whale boat he never gave up on going back and getting the people that he left behind and on and on, different characteristics of different people that we've admired throughout history and not always famous people either.

KING: Is character a rare characteristic of politicians because by nature they have to compromise?

MCCAIN: I think that when you look at the great politicians, the two greatest in my view were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, they certainly had character traits. You also know Abraham Lincoln overcame severe depression problems that he had when he was younger, which gave him the strength and the character later on.

Teddy Roosevelt, very sickly when he was a child and his father -- his mother and his wife died on the same day, he went through and, of course, the death of his son Quinton on the western front was very trying for him.

So, I think that it doesn't almost matter whether -- what kind of childhood you had. Winston Churchill's mother was terrible and his father used to even insult him and yet he became, you know, an incredible example of heroism and leadership.

So, what we try to do is identify these characteristics, which are very good and qualities which make character and commend them to people to read and young people to profit by.

KING: As you look at yourself was your character there before you were taken prisoner or did it develop there?

MCCAIN: I think it developed in this respect and I believe that all glory was self glory and that I didn't need anybody else and I could do everything on my own and I was brave and tough and I was just like Robert Jordan, my hero, the protagonist in "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

And then I found out that I didn't have the strengths that I thought I had that I was dependent on others and that the men who I had grown to love and cherish their friendship were the ones that picked me up when I was down.

They gave me strength and they helped me get through difficult times. So, I learned that I was not -- that I had my failings but I also recognize how important love of one's comrades can be to the development of one's character.

KING: As a prisoner yourself you've become an outspoken foe of the treatment of prisoners by this country. I think you and Hillary Clinton share this battle that we should not treat anything away from the Geneva Accords and no hidden camps, et cetera. Isn't that -- why -- why should this country, and by the way I think President Bush said today we should never torture anyone, so what's the problem?

MCCAIN: I think the problem is that there are some exceptions being made to the Geneva Conventions and treaties that we entered into, one in the Reagan administration concerning torture, including declaration of rights of a man concerning cruel and inhuman treatment.

And, I understand that there is an urgency sometimes when you capture somebody but it's not about them. It's about us. The United States of America needs to win militarily but we also need to win the hearts and minds of people all over the world and, if we torture or treat in a cruel and inhumane fashion people that we take captive, then we will lose that war because then we won't be any different than they are.

KING: Did you learn a lot -- by the way, you would know this better than anyone, do we learn a lot from torture?

MCCAIN: No, we don't, Larry. If you inflict enough physical pain on someone they'll tell you anything that they want to know to relieve it. It's interesting to me that the Israelis, who deal with acts of terror all the time, their Supreme Court ruled against torture and they don't use that against the prisoners that they take.

In fact, they use a lot of psychological kinds of techniques and so if the Israelis don't have to do it, certainly it seems to me that we don't have to either.

I'm working with the White House. I hope we can get an agreement. I hope we can put this behind us and recognize that our image in the world has been very, very badly tarnished.

Colin Powell wrote a letter when we had a vote which passed 90-9 in the Senate where he felt very strongly that our image has been damaged rather badly and we need to fix it.

KING: And he said so on this show recently backing your measure to ban cruel, inhumane and degrading but the president said the same thing today, so what's the problem?

MCCAIN: I think that there's a definition problem about the treatment of some particularly by the CIA and I'm not exactly sure what is being done but if we just -- there's opposition to this piece of legislation that says we will not inflict cruel, inhumane or cruel or torture on any captive and the procedures for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners will be in the Army Field Manual.

That's a manual that the Army, in a classified section of the Army Field Manual then it seems to me it solves all of our problems as the belief of most human rights organizations.

KING: What do you read into these secret prisoners -- prisons?

MCCAIN: I don't know what to think about it. I didn't know about it until it appeared on the front page of "The Washington Post." We probably need to know more about it. If people are treated humanely there, then that's not a problem. It might be rather expensive I would think but I don't think the symbolism of using a former Soviet Union prison to incarcerate prisoners is very good. But it's more the treatment of prisoners that's the problem not the location.

KING: Senator, I know this seems simple, why don't we put them on trial?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that there has to be some kind of adjudication of their cases, in other words I don't think a terrorist is entitled to the same rights as our citizens to a jury of 12 people of their peers and all of the protections because they are terrorists.

These are bad people but there should be a system of tribunals and judgment of their cases and, look, some of these guys are really bad guys and if we want to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives, it's fine with me but we got to have some kind of adjudication of their cases in order I think to comply with the kinds of standards that we as the United States of America maintain.

KING: Especially for those that may not be as accused guilty.

MCCAIN: Yes.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back lots more to talk about. We'll be taking your calls too. Senator John McCain of Arizona, "Character is Destiny," that's the new book, "Inspiring stories every young person should know and every adult should remember," a great American Senator John McCain, more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: With Senator John McCain, author of "Character is Destiny." Is the Senate going to have a full investigation of what led up to Iraq?

MCCAIN: Well, Larry, I think that we have investigations going on and we have had investigations. I was on a commission of weapons of mass destruction where we reached several conclusions, including the obvious one that there was a colossal intelligence failure but also that every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he did a pretty good job of convincing his own generals that he had them.

The Intelligence Committee is supposed to report out by November 14th an investigation that they've been conducting and I think we ought to have a look at their conclusions and I'm not against investigations. I just want to make sure that we don't waste a lot of time and energy.

KING: Were you angry at what the Democrats did when they took the Senate into private session?

MCCAIN: Ah, you know, it's awful easy to get mad around this town. I thought it was a fairly clever stunt to tell you the truth. But I didn't -- the thing I didn't like about it is that we do have the majority leader run the Senate and that was Bill Frist and I'm sure that Bill got over it but we can't run the Senate in an orderly fashion unless you allow the elected majority leader to set the calendar. That's one of the consequences of elections.

KING: As a Republican are you in, for want of a better word, embarrassed by the Scooter Libby indictment?

MCCAIN: First of all, I think he has a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, as everyone does.

KING: I said by the indictment.

MCCAIN: Yes, and I say I think he has the presumption of innocence.

KING: Of course.

MCCAIN: We ought to keep that in mind and I think he deserves his day in court. This whole thing is very distracting for the White House, for us in the Congress, for the American people when we really should be getting on issues such as the price of gas, climate change, deficit spending, immigration reform. It's very distracting. I hope that -- I am confident that Mr. Libby will get a fair trial.

KING: When you ran against President Bush, we all remember that historic South Carolina debate, which I moderated. Karl Rove had a lot to do behind the scenes in that what was regarded as a dirty campaign. He is still under investigation. There are some say that he should at least lose his security clearance. Do you think so?

MCCAIN: Just because someone is under investigation I don't think is a reason for that so no I wouldn't agree with that. Let me just make a quick point, Larry. You know and I'm sure that our viewers know that politics is a beanbag. It's a tough business. It was a tough race. It was a tough campaign and I enjoyed enormously feeling sorry for myself for about two weeks. You know feeling sorry for yourself is a lot of fun.

KING: Yes.

MCCAIN: But then I put it behind me and I moved on. You've got to put it -- the people of Arizona don't expect me to hold a grudge for something that happened four or five years ago and I don't hold a grudge and I move forward and I admire this president and I want to help him and we have a very big agenda for this country and I want to assist him in carrying out that agenda.

KING: Should he announce that there will be no pardons, if any are indicted in regard to this investigation?

MCCAIN: Well, I hate to tell the president what to do but I would but I don't think...

KING: Ah, you've done it before, John.

MCCAIN: Yes, well I'm sorry. I think -- I think it probably wouldn't be a bad idea PR wise. But suppose that -- suppose that someone is convicted and then evidence comes to light that they were wrongly convicted and that has happened from time to time and the president has committed not to -- not to pardon. I know this president well enough to tell you that he's not going to pardon somebody who has been declared guilty by a judgment of their peers.

KING: The whole thing does the whole thing disturb you that people were talking about other people that a CIA officer was named? Are you bothered?

MCCAIN: I'm bothered because this is a symptom of the bitter partisanship that exists in Washington between the two parties. It is so bitter and so angry and then it's reinforced by all these advertising and commercials and attacks that we see on television and hear on the radio that it makes it very difficult for us to work together on issues that are important to this country.

We're in a war. We've got a huge problem with energy. We got -- and some of these issues the American people expect us to work together on. You know, everybody is talking about the president's low polling numbers.

The Congress' polling numbers are much lower than that because they don't see us pursuing their agenda. They see us in too much partisanship between us. We've got to respect one another's views and positions. You and I are old enough to remember that Barry Goldwater and George McGovern were best friends.

KING: Yes, they were.

MCCAIN: They were best friends and so I'm proud of my friendship with a lot of Democrats. I may disagree with them. Joe Lieberman is a very dear friend of mine. You know what kind of guy he is. He's been on this show many times. So, we've got to -- we've got to divide legitimate philosophical differences from bitter partisanship and this is a symptom of that bitter partisanship.

KING: There was more harmony years ago.

MCCAIN: Of course (INAUDIBLE).

KING: At least there was friendships.

MCCAIN: Of course, there was much more harmony when I first came to the House of Representatives and much more harmony when I came to the United States Senate and leaders worked in an environment of mutual respect. Bob Dole and George Mitchell, you know, many others they treated each other with respect.

And I'm not criticizing Harry Reid or Bill Frist. They are, again they are driven by the ideological divide that exists, not the ideological the partisan divide that exists in the Senate. I admire both Harry Reid and Bill Frist very much by the way.

KING: "Character is Destiny" is the book. John McCain is the guest. We'll be right back.

At the bottom of the hour we'll take your phone calls. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One of the extraordinary concepts in this book is John McCain writes about one of his captors, who showed him acts of kindness, who shared John McCain's faith, a great story.

Speaking of faith, Jimmy Carter was here last night. He's got a book out about faith and fundamentalism. He's very concerned about the rise of extreme right wing fundamentalists, the extreme Christian right. Are you concerned?

MCCAIN: No, I'm not. I think that all of these things have a way of balancing themselves out over time. I know one thing about the Christian right and that is they've worked very, very hard to get their goals achieved and to further their positions, particularly in the political arena.

And, my advice to other elements of the religious landscape is that if you don't like that then get involved and be a part of the game and get into the arena with us. But I don't have any problem whatsoever with the Christian right having very vigorous and committed views on the things they believe in.

KING: Even though they were pretty tough on you?

MCCAIN: Yes, look...

KING: We don't forget that.

MCCAIN: But they are -- they are very committed to the things they believe in. You can do nothing but respect that and if other Americans don't like it then present counterbalancing views and let's duke it out in the political arena and in debates and discussions. Apathy is the greatest enemy of democracy as we know.

KING: Do you have an early read on Judge Alito?

MCCAIN: I'm very impressed with him. I met with him today. I found him to be extremely forthcoming. I think he's highly qualified and I really think that he, knock on wood, will have a fairly successful trip here through the Senate. I think he -- I judge people on their character and temperament.

I voted for Justice Ginsberg and Justice Breyer even though I disagreed with their political philosophy, I mean their judicial philosophy but they were nominated by President Clinton and he said that he was going to nominate liberal people of that philosophy.

When I ran for president I said I was going to appoint conservative judges as well, Larry. So, I'm very pleased with his progress. I predict to you that barring something unforeseen that he will probably be successfully confirmed.

KING: By the way, Judge Breyer will be a guest on this program on Wednesday night, February 23rd from Washington.

MCCAIN: Great.

KING: Sports, we know how active an interest you have in this, you have come off -- November 23rd, I don't know what I said. I forget what I said sometimes. You get old. You forget things.

MCCAIN: There you go.

KING: You have proposed a standard steroid policy that would affect professional athletes, first time use out of the sport for two years, second time use banned forever and records banned. That's pretty harsh when how much knowledge do we have really about what they do?

MCCAIN: Well, Larry, here's the problem that young people all over America believe that the only way they can make it in the major leagues are through the use of performance enhancing substances.

The House of Representatives had a hearing and the most gripping thing I've probably seen in a long time in Congress was the parents of young men who had committed suicide while using these substances. Major League Baseball's Don Fehr testified before the Senate that they would have an agreement with baseball by the time the World Series was over. The World Series is over. Jim Bunning who is leading this effort and I don't want to have to act legislatively. We don't want to.

This is in some ways a labor management issue except for the other aspects of it that I talked to you about, so we'd like to see them come up with an agreement that's acceptable and doesn't require legislation but you got to have a good testing regimen.

KING: And you want it for all sports?

MCCAIN: We'd like to see uniform testing for all sports, yes.

KING: And you would -- but each sport then can dole out its own punishment?

MCCAIN: Yes, to a significant degree, yes. As you know, the focus is on baseball. You've had Henry Aaron on your program.

KING: Many times.

MCCAIN: He testified before our committee and I'll tell you, you talk about a guy that fills the room and he -- and he testified or his statement was as strong and as compelling as I've ever seen and he said, "Get it out of baseball."

When you have five Hall of Famers who appeared before our committee and all said the same thing that's got to give you some pause and we asked them what if we have to legislate? They say, "If you have to legislate, legislate."

KING: By the way, Senator Bunning, of course, great pitcher.

MCCAIN: Hall of Famer and...

KING: Hall of Famer.

MCCAIN: And one of the founders of the players union.

KING: Right. Oh, one other thing before we break, going to run again? Why don't you just, come on John, you've always been straight, are you going to run again?

MCCAIN: This is the place to make that announcement.

KING: It happens here.

MCCAIN: It does.

KING: Why not?

MCCAIN: Everything happens here. I'm going to wait until after the '06 elections, Larry, for a whole variety of reasons, including the fact that I'd like to know what the political landscape is after that election and I'd like to see what the chances are.

Look, everybody that I -- every Senator I know would like to be president. The question is do you want to run for president and do you think you can win? It's a very tough sled as you know.

KING: So, can we say you're seriously thinking about it depending on the outcome of those elections and the way the map draws?

MCCAIN: I think I'll seriously think about it after the '06 elections.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll take your calls for Senator John McCain. The book, "Character is Destiny." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The book is, Character is Destiny: Inspiring stories every young person should know, every adult should remember. People in the book include Gandhi, Joan of Ark, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Lincoln, Tecumseh, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Wilma Rudolph.

Yet, Rosa Parks could have made it, too?

MCCAIN: I think she could have. Could I mention one in there that a lot of Americans don't know about? And that is, you do, but a lot of Americans don't. Aung San Suu Kyi, she's the leader of the opposition in Burma, which is ruled by a bunch of thugs.

She's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, she's been kept under house arrest, she's been beaten. Her supporters have been killed and imprisoned while this bunch of gangsters destroy her country. And she is the most beautiful, fragile, yet tough and steel person I've ever had the privilege of knowing in my life.

And she treats her captors with the utmost courtesy. She serves them tea, she calls them uncle and meanwhile, never gives in. Her husband, by the way, was dying in England, and she wanted to, of course, be with him as he's dying and her captors said yes, you can go but you can never come back to Burma.

She is one of the great heroic figures of our time, and every American, every American should be committed to her cause, and that of the Burmese people.

KING: The component's of character are: honor, purpose, strength, understanding, judgment, creativity, and love.

MCCAIN: And love.

KING: Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello, there.

KING: Hi. CALLER: First I would like to tell Senator McCain how much I admire what he did to protect freedom in our country. Being from Richmond, I had the pleasure of speaking with Paul Galante.

Senator McCain, we need to you run for president and my question is, there are many, many people in the United States that are not extreme Republicans or extreme Democrats, and we are not being representative -- represented. What should we do?

MCCAIN: Get active. Could I say that, our caller mentioned my dear friend Paul Galante who lives in Washington, one of my comrades from long ago and far away, he's a wonderful man.

Get active, get involved, go out and join, become a precinct committeeman. I think you're a Republican. Go out and become a precinct committeeman. Support candidates that you believe it. Support issues that you believe in.

You've got a governor's race right now in, coming up in a few days in Virginia. Do you believe in your candidate? Work for him. It could be a very, very close race. So, I know how busy your life is and I know how many obligations you have, but remember, we should all get involved to some degree in a political process.

KING: One of the problems, Senator, isn't it that the whackos on the left and right have louder voices.

MCCAIN: I think they have louder voices if that's true because they work harder at it. They're dedicated, they're true believers, and you've got to give them credit for that.

And so people who say look, I don't want to take what I think is an extreme view and I don't want to see those expressed in legislation at whatever level. Get involved. And run yourself.

KING: Little Rock, Arkansas, hello.

CALLER: Good evening Larry and Senator McCain. It is a pleasure to speak with you both.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Senator McCain, I am one of the inaugural class members at the University of Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service.

Last week, we had one of your former colleagues, Senator Jack Danforth, visit with our class and he shared with us his concerns that the religious right is taking over the Republican party. And as a priest, he's uniquely positioned to speak on the issue.

KING: He's a minister.

CALLER: I'm wondering, if you share with him his concern and if you would like to come visit with our class here at the Clinton School to discuss this or any other issues with us? We would love to have you. MCCAIN: One of the great pleasures of my life is to go around and talk to young people at the Kennedy School, any other places in America that I've spoken at in various venues.

In fact, I went over to Oxford and spoke to the students there, and in Ireland at the Trinity College in Dublin. But look, it's soft of -- I kind of give you the same answer that I've been giving to the previous caller.

Jack Danforth is a man of God. I admire him as much as anyone I've ever known in the Senate, and I'm sorry he's not still there. But, if you are concerned about it, and frankly, I haven't seen a huge takeover of America, that -- but if you are concerned, then you've got to have counter forces and counterweights to any movement, any political movement that takes place in America.

Whether they're agrarian reformers or high tariff, or don't crucify us on a cross of gold. Whatever the movement is, then if you don't think it's right for America, get involved in a countermovement, and I have great confidence, great confidence in our political system in America, that it rights itself, and the pendulum swings from one side to another.

I admire the religious right for the dedication and zeal they put into the political process.

KING: Quincy, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Upon the completion of the December elections, can we start to process of bringing 20,000 troops home for Christmas?

MCCAIN: WE can start bringing the troops home when we have a secure , a more secure Iraq, a functioning government, and the situation under, in more control.

If we do that, if we set an artificial date, then the insurgents will just sit back and wait for them to leave. Look, this is long. It's hard, it's tough.

We've raised our expectations too often. This is a very tough sled. We cannot afford to lose. I'll be glad to have a debate and discussion with anybody whether we should have gone to war or not, and I'd be glad to tell you why I still think it was the right thing to do, but we are there now, and if we left and we failed, it would have the most severe and profound consequences for America. And we've got to succeed. I'm sorry for the long answer, Larry.

KING: Did we reproach Iraq well?

MCCAIN: No, we made horrendous, very serious mistakes post-Iraq war if I understand your question.

KING: That's right and that cost lives, right?

MCCAIN: It cost lives, it cost treasure and it cost us incredible time that we could have, if we'd have handled it differently, from the beginning, when we allowed the looting, to the not having enough troops on the ground, to having mismanaged many other aspects of it.

But one of the great tragedies of war is mistakes are made. The key is to fix them.

KING: But what if you think they're wrong in the first place?

MCCAIN: Well, if you thought that they were wrong to go in, I think that's a very legitimate discussion and debate. I happen to believe the sanctions were eroding. We weren't going to be able to hold Saddam Hussein. You saw this oil-for-food scandal that many of our people who opposed going to war in Iraq were making billions of dollars off of Saddam Hussein in a corrupt regime.

Our pilots were being shot at every single day. Saddam Hussein had used and acquired weapons of mass destruction, and there's no doubt in my mind, when the sanctions collapsed, he would go back to the acquisition and eventually use of them. That's his history.

KING: We'll be right back with Senator John McCain. The book is, Character is Destiny. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Senator John McCain. Allamagorda, New Mexico, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Senator McCain. My father was stationed aboard the USS Ursinski at the same time you were. He was in the allied division at that time. And I was wondering exactly what did you do to get through being a P.O.W. for so many years?

MCCAIN: Well, there was really three things. One is faith in God, which is something I think most of us shared. Faith in one's country, and when that was a belief that our country was doing everything to bring us home. And faith in our fellow prisoners.

Many times the Vietnamese by keeping us isolated or treating us in different ways, would try to turn us against one another, like we would hear a confession of war crimes played over the radio. We had to believe that our friends did everything that they could to keep from doing that, before they reached the point where they had to.

People, you know, say, oh, must have been terrible in prison. Of course it was terrible in prison but some of the richest and most wonderful moments of my life took place while I was there because I was privileged to observe a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love. And those I know best and love most were those who I served with.

KING: You could have gotten out much sooner, right, because of your father's position in the Navy.

MCCAIN: Yes. They offered me a chance to go home early. Our code of conduct says that you return in order of capture, except for sick and wounded. And I'm just glad, Larry, that I didn't know it was going to be another three years that I was going to be there.

KING: Inola, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Given the highly peculiar and surprisingly consistent humiliation of Islamic prisoners as well as what can be argued as a less than adequate number of U.S. forces needed to secure Iraq, do you believe that the U.S. is actually trying to provoke a broader war in the Middle East?

MCCAIN: I do not. I am convinced that we've got our hands full in Iraq. And we certainly aren't trying to do that.

And I believe that these brave young men and women would be astonished if ever presented with such a proposal. No, that's just not.

KING: Have we set an example, though, that we will go wherever there's a demon?

MCCAIN: I don't think we have. I think that particular demon was unique because he was the only one that had used weapons of mass destruction before. And he was particularly odiously cruel, as we know from the mass graves, and other things.

But I think that, we got to carefully define this, Larry. I believe that the United States of America has a noble mission in the world, and that is to spread freedom and democracy in places where it's never been, and to help people. But it does not mean militarily that we go in, and force it on them. I think we went to Iraq, because it was perceived to be a very real threat. And I think, over time, it would have proved to have been.

KING: You think Iran may be a bigger threat now?

MCCAIN: I think it's a very serious problem. I think we need to go to the u.n. And if the Russians and the Chinese veto sanctions against them -- the statements by this president of Iran, where he said that Israel must be exterminated, is a very, very serious situation. And we've got to treat this very, very seriously.

And by the way, I'm not saying that we initiate military action. I'm just saying as the president has, we cannot completely eliminate that option, but there's a lot of things we can do in the meantime. But do not underestimate that these people are very, very dangerous if they acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

KING: Long island, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, yes. My question is concerning the rationale of the Iraq war.

MCCAIN: Yes.

CALLER: Now Senator Lieberman said that the war was a threat to America, whereas Howard Dean, Governor Dean said the Iraq war was more of a threat to the region. Now, I'm curious what do you think the threat was more about? And I think even Republican Dick Armey said in fact, that it was more of a threat to our region, and specifically our allies to the region and not necessarily a threat to America, but he still supported the war because he said overall our vital American interests are at stake here. And it...

KING: All right, senator?

MCCAIN: I think it was both. I think that he was a threat in the region. He'd already fought a war in the Iranians, as you know and had also invaded Kuwait, where we had to go in the first Gulf War. So I think he was a threat in the region. But I think if he's acquired weapons of mass destruction, which by the way, every intelligence agency in the world, including the French, said he had, and in the past, that he would have certainly attempted to harm the United States of America, as well. So I think it was both, to tell you the truth.

KING: We will take a break and we'll be back with more. Senator McCain's book is "Character is Destiny." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take the next call, how's your health, senator?

MCCAIN: Excellent. Excellent. It's been five years since I had my melanoma. And I, again, as most people have gone through what I went through, I'm a fanatic. Wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen!

KING: And how is Cindy?

MCCAIN: Oh, she's doing wonderful. Thanks for asking. Doing just fine. Thanks.

KING: Tuscon, Arizona -- a fellow stater -- hello.

CALLER: Hello. How are you? I'm thrilled to have a chance to talk to you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CALLER: Recently, something has troubled me. I had seen in our newspapers that you gave a raise to the congress. And then I also saw that you gave -- denied minimum wage people to have a raise. My question is, why do you think you need a raise and they don't?

MCCAIN: We voted down the pay raise in the Senate. I have given my pay raise to charity for many, many years.

KING: Why do we keep the minimum wage at $5.15, a little unrealistic, isn't it?

MCCAIN: It's got to be raised, Larry. There's this fight between Republicans and Democrats about small business and trying to give some kind of a carve-out to small businesses, because of the fact that many times they can't pass on their increase in the minimum wage.

But it's wrong that we have not raised the minimum wage in all these years. I agree with the caller. It's time the Republicans and Democrats sat down, but we do need to take care of the family businesses and the small businesses in some way, either through giving them some kind of tax incentives, or there's a variety of ways, but we need to look at that aspect of it.

KING: It's been how many years since it was increased?

MCCAIN: Oh, God, what...

KING: A long time.

MCCAIN: Yeah, 10 years, or seven. I don't know. It's been -- whatever, it's too long.

KING: Wyckoss, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Larry, I'm a big fan of your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: This is for Senator McCain. I was wondering, Senator, if you were to run for president, how do you plan to reach out to liberals and the Democratic voters within this country?

MCCAIN: Well, I would try to reach out to all Americans, because when, once you're elected president, obviously you're president of all the people. And as I've said before, the only way we're going to get things done on these major challenges we face -- look, we're facing a fiscal disaster, my dear friends, because the unfunded trillions and trillions of dollars associated with Social Security, Medicare, et cetera, we're going to have to work together on it.

I still remember, and many of us do, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill stood next to each other in the Rose Garden and said, look, we're going to fix Social Security, and they did for a while. We need more of that.

KING: So you would appeal to liberals by saying you'd be a president for all the people, but you wouldn't cop out on, you're opposed to Roe-Wade, right?

MCCAIN: Yes, I am opposed to Roe v. Wade. You've got to stand on principle, but that doesn't mean you don't include people in the political process. Again, I've seen many examples of -- well, Senator Kennedy and President Bush worked together on the No Child Left Behind Act. The No Child Left Behind Act may have some flaws associated with it, but I still view it as a major milestone in trying to improve education in this country. KING: That's right, and some might interpret it as a liberal act.

MCCAIN: Well, I think some also might interpret it as an accountability act as well. So, anyway.

KING: It's all how you frame it.

MCCAIN: Eye of the beholder.

KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back, our remaining moments with Senator John McCain. The book "Character is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember." All of his books have been major best-sellers. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I will remember that his family and his country lost a good man, but I will also remember that, while many of us may be blessed to live a longer life than he did, few of us, few of us will ever live a better one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is Pat Tillman in the book?

MCCAIN: Yes, he is, Larry, and I know that many of our viewers are familiar Pat Tillman. He was an undersized overachiever that played football at ASU, and then was the 262nd draft choice, and then was a magnificent player for the Arizona Cardinals. 9/11, he said he hadn't done enough for his country. He and his brother joined the Army, fought in Iraq, and Pat was tragically killed in Afghanistan under terrible circumstances.

KING: By friendly fire.

MCCAIN: Yeah, it was a very sad thing and it was mishandled by the Army, but...

KING: Yes, very much so.

MCCAIN: ... Pat Tillman to me, you see, epitomizes everything about America that's great and wonderful, and yet Pat Tillman would be the last person to say that he was an American hero. And I can't tell you how magnificent I feel as an American to have fellow citizens like Pat Tillman.

KING: How do you explain him?

MCCAIN: I explain him as just a young man who felt a sense of patriotism to his country. He thought a lot. Pat Tillman was a real thinker and a reader. And I think that he felt this sense of duty. As he said, quote, "I haven't done a damn thing for my country," when he and his brother went down and enlisted.

And by the way, they were playing a game -- I think it was in Oakland -- and he came in the locker room to say hello to his teammates, and came in by a side door and left by a side door. Wanted no publicity. Never granted an interview. It's just -- I'm so proud that he was an American.

KING: Ironic, though, that he would be killed by...

MCCAIN: Friendly fire.

KING: ... an American bullet.

MCCAIN: Fog of war, my friend, fog of war.

KING: I wonder how you accept that as a family. That must be the hardest thing. It's hard enough to accept a child, but then to accept that, and then having it mishandled.

MCCAIN: Well, they investigated -- the first reports were that he -- were not that he was killed by friendly fire, and then the Army botched the investigation. It was terribly hard on his mother in particular. But I think over time, they will realize it doesn't matter. What matters is that he served his country with heroism and he fought in the cause of freedom. And by the way, in Afghanistan, thanks to our sacrifice and effort, they're doing pretty well there.

KING: Senator, we got 30 seconds. What's your biggest worry?

MCCAIN: My biggest worry right now is that we prevail in the Iraq war. We've got to do it soon. I'm worried about American support slipping, and we've got to do a good job there. That's my greatest worry.

My second one is the financial burden we're placing on future generations of Americans because of out-of-control spending.

KING: Deficits the highest ever, right?

MCCAIN: It's just disgraceful. We're out of control, my friend.

KING: Always good seeing you, John. Thank you so much.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Forgive me for calling you John, we've known each other for a long time.

MCCAIN: Long time.

KING: United States Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. And the book, "Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember." Every book he's written has been a major "New York Times" best-seller.

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow night, a major program on the visit of Charles and Camilla. Excited! And we look at the royals tomorrow night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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