|SEN. JOHN MCCAIN|
August 1, 2000
Jim Lehrer talks with former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain on the second day of the Republican convention.
JIM LEHRER: Senator, welcome.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: What did you think of Colin Powell's words last night about affirmative action for lobbyists?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I think he was right on the mark, and I'm very pleased that he made the statement, and I'm glad it was applauded event by lobbyists. Look, there's no doubt that special interests and their representatives have taken over the legislative process and more and more money is pouring into the political campaigns from these interests and we have got to reform the system.
JIM LEHRER: What about -- what does this convention say about the system?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The convention and tens of millions or however much it is that's being spent by special interests in order to achieve access which then gains influence is a testimony to how the system is out of control. There's more of the special interest or lobbyist money this convention than there was last, and last there was more then the one before.
JIM LEHRER: So what does that applause that Colin Powell got last night mean?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I think that on the part of some it was simply because they are applauding Colin Powell because he's clearly, head and shoulders, the most respected man in America today. But I think there are many rank and file Republicans who were there who were also applauding because they agree with him -- that they believe that they have been deprived of their representation in Washington. Remember many of these delegates are not high income Americans; they are party workers. And they see the manifestations of the influence of special interests in Washington as well.
|Campaign finance reform|
|JIM LEHRER: But is the current leadership of your party
going to do anything about this?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The current leadership of my party doesn't want to do a lot. The current leadership of my party and the Democrat Party is going to have to do something because I and the other advocates of campaign finance reform will tie up the United States Senate next year. We will have blood all over the floor of the Senate until we exceed to the demands now, not the wishes, the demands of the American people to be represented in Washington again. There's a majority in both Houses. The Congress will pass it easily, the House will pass it easily. In the Senate we have clearly well over 50 votes; we need 60. So they're going to get reform.
JIM LEHRER: Those are strong words, blood on the floor, tie up the Senate?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yep, absolutely, absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: Have you told George W. Bush this?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: No, I have not, but I will repeat my advocacy for campaign finance reform whenever and however I can.
JIM LEHRER: So if somebody thinks you are going to go quietly away on this issue, forget it?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Forget it. The one thing I learned in my albeit failed campaign is the American people feel that, especially young ones, that they are no longer represented in Washington; they deserve a lot better than what they are getting.
JIM LEHRER: Are you going to have to reform the party first though, before you can reform the campaign finance system?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: No, I don't think so because, again, the majority of my colleagues in the Senate and clearly the majority of Republicans want campaign finance reform. It's those who are the beneficiaries of this system, the incumbents that keep this system, the incumbents, that keep -- this system keeps incumbents in office - that are resistant to change.
JIM LEHRER: And you say you have not said this forthrightly, directly to George W. Bush, right?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I said it all through the campaign.
JIM LEHRER: But in conversation since, when you talked about the campaigning together and the 2000 election?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: No, I didn't. I took it for granted that he knows of my advocacy. And in his behalf, he wants to rid us of corporate union contributions. He also wants full disclosure; he is about three quarters of the way there.
JIM LEHRER: But if he doesn't go the whole way - you're going to fight him, right? You would fight him, along with everybody else, if they don't go along?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: First of all, I think that he will seek a solution, one that we may not agree with, but I think he realizes the system is out of control. Second of all, I will do whatever is necessary, I hope with the leaders of both parties, but, if not, then we have to move forward.
JIM LEHRER: So you believe, if I understand what you are saying Senator, you believe that you have a McCain mandate that goes beyond party, goes beyond leadership, goes beyond the 2000 election, et cetera, to do something about this issue?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I believe it not only because I think I have a mandate but I also have an obligation to serve the people of this country -- something I've been doing for more then 40 years. And obviously they no longer are represented in what is supposed to be, once was, and will be a democratic form of government. And so there's just no doubt about it in my mind where my duty lies. If that sounds a little demagogic, I think I can back it up with polling data after polling data, including the reality that young voters are no longer participating in the political process. In the 1998 election, the 18 to 26-year-old vote was the lowest in history, and when these young people are asked why, it's because they believe they are no longer represented.
JIM LEHRER: Back to the Republican Party specifically. It's been suggested today that the diversity that was shown on the podium last night is not reflected in the reality of the Republican Party? Is that right?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yes, but let me add a very important caveat. The Republican Party presented last night what it wants its image to be. I believe that that's the vision of Gov. Bush for the Republican Party in America; it's certainly mine. I believe it is certainly General Colin Powell's. So I think -- I don't think it was disingenuous what the Republican Party did. I think it's the image that we want our party to be, and our message of inclusion is one that I think is best articulated by those individuals who have been attracted to our party.
JIM LEHRER: So it's more of a come join us, rather then a reflection of what the party is today?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I think so, particularly when you look at the delegates. But let's also look at the fact that Governor Bush got a very significant percentage of the Hispanic vote. I in my last election got over half of the Hispanic vote in my state. There are many Republican office holders who are attracting people from all walks of life to our banner; we just have to do a lot more of it. And those we have attracted -- as we all know -- are our best messengers.
|Powell as Secretary of State|
JIM LEHRER: Colin Powell -- also, the conventional wisdom is that Colin Powell will be the Secretary of State if there is a Bush/Cheney administration.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I devoutly hope.
JIM LEHRER: You do?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Why?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Because I think he has all of the good principles and grounding and experience on national security issues. I think he is respected not only in America but throughout the world. And I think he will restore some coherency and consistency to the conduct of American foreign policy. And I have as much confidence in that as I have in anything in America today.
JIM LEHRER: What about the specific issue - you've talked about it and others have too - but not in much detail - is to -- when should the United States deploy its armed forces abroad, and what criteria should be used? Are you comfortable with the decision-making that would - that a Bush-Cheney- Powell triumvirate would make?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yes. I'm extremely comfortable and basically it's when American interests and values are threatened. And sometimes when our values are threatened, over time our interests can be threatened. I can't make an argument to you that Kosovo posed an immediate threat to our national interest. But I can argue that it offended our values to a degree that if allowed to go unchecked, then unrestrained, once Milosevic started to do his ethnic cleansing, then sooner or later our interest would be threaten because that same kind of scenario would transpire in other places in Europe
JIM LEHRER: You mentioned campaign finance reform. I assume that in this area too foreign policy, defense policy, that you would remain active with a Republican administration as well?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yes I would. I believe that we have to reform the military to meet the challenges of the post Cold War era. We are still pork barreling in the most obscene fashion, in fact the worst that I've ever seen on defense appropriations bills, and we -
JIM LEHRER: Just wasting money on things that are not needed?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Not only not needed but have nothing to do with defense. The last defense appropriations bill had $4 million in it for the protection of the desert tortoise. I'm all for protecting the desert tortoise. Tell me - what relation does it have to defense? I mean, we're going to pave Hawaii and Alaska before this is over, the senior members form the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hail from those states. It's really disgraceful and unconscionable, and I said so on the floor of the Senate. But we also have to reform the military to meet the post Cold War era, and again, campaign finance reform -- influence to the defense contractors has to be diminished. President Eisenhower's warnings about the defense industrial complex are still valid, so we have to reform the military to achieve a military establishment that can be rapidly deployed anywhere on the globe at short notice and once they are effective, beneficially affect the battlefield equation and we haven't done that yet.
JIM LEHRER: Bush-Cheney-Powell will do that?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Oh, I'm convinced of it, and, frankly, I know of no one better who knows of the need for reform in the military than Cheney and Powell, who both have had intimate knowledge of our defense establishment.
JIM LEHRER: On a personal level, Senator, finally, are you having any problems being at this convention not being the party's nominee?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I am not, Jim, and here's why: because once the campaign was over, I think that I had to move forward, and I have moved forward. I've been grateful for the experience. I don't think Americans like a sore loser. In fact, I know they don't. And I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to run; I'm grateful for the incredible experience, which is so unique that I was able to able to have, and I'll always be grateful.
JIM LEHRER: But you don't see yourself as a loser, do you?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Well, let me say runner-up...(laughter) . You remember Vince Lombardi once said, show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser. But no, certainly we didn't win, I'm a distant runner-up, and there's no doubt who did win. So the answer is obvious.
JIM LEHRER: Sure, but in a more general way, a broader way - you were - yes, you were well known, but you were basically well known as a Senator from Arizona before all this happened. Now, all the polls show you are one of the most respected public figures in America, and now the question is: what do you do with this?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Exactly right. That's exactly right. That's the heart of all this. I was able to get a small but significant -- I with the help of many others - able to get a modest reform of disclosure of some rather egregious organizations that were involved in political campaigns. I wouldn't have been able to do that before this campaign. What I need to do and what my job is, is to reform the institutions of government and using campaign finance form as that gateway, but campaign finance reform is not an end to itself -- unto itself. It's a means to an end, which is to reform the institutions of government, which would then be more responsive and attuned to the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the American people. I think that my last campaign allowed me more influence in that process.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, for the record, you have not lost your desire to be President of the United States, have you?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Certainly it's been put in deep cold storage.
JIM LEHRER: But you haven't lost it?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Well, in 2004, I expect to be campaigning for the reelection of President George W. Bush, and by 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there.
JIM LEHRER: But between now and then you are, in fact, as we're sitting here now in Philadelphia, you are a national figure. Do you intend to remain one over these next few years?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I intend - I have four more years in my term, in this term as a United States Senator -I intend to remain active, committed, dedicated to the principles that I hold dear and the policies which I think should be pursued for the benefit of the American people. But I think I can do that as a member of the United States Senate very effectively.
JIM LEHRER: Senator thank you very much
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you, Jim.