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McCain Details Views on the Iraq War, Drive for the White House

In the latest in a series of in-depth interviews with the 2008 presidential hopefuls, Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain explains his views on the Iraq war, national security and why his credentials and experience make him a contender for the White House.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Senator McCain, welcome. You still very much want to be President of the United States. Is that right?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    That’s correct. I still have the fire in the belly and we have been having a lot of fun lately.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You’ve been at this for several years now. You have had your ups and your downs. What is it that makes you so determined to be President?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    I can’t define it too accurately for you except to say that I love this country. I think it’s the noblest of all things one can do is to serve a cause greater than yourself. I am the most fortunate person you will ever interview. There are very few reasons for me to be on this earth, and I do not say that I was intended, but I do say that I’m fortunate enough that to serve this country and its cause is what I think that I am here for and that’s what I feel it is my duty in life. And I can do it in a variety of ways, and one of them is to be President of the United States. I want to emphasize, Jim, I don’t think there’s any inevitability or any set plan out there, but I do believe that I can serve the country best as President of the United States. But if I do not succeed, I’m telling you, I will still have the great privilege of serving in the United States Senate and serving this nation.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    But when you get up every day running for President of the United States, are you motivated by something that think only you could bring to this job, something that you could accomplish and only you could accomplish?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    No. I think that there are others and I think that this nation has been blessed with great leaders. I do believe I can do it best. I think my background, my experience, my knowledge, my vision, my understanding of the transcendent challenge of the 21st century which is the struggle against radical Islamic extremism qualifies me for the consideration of the voters. But I’m sure there that there are others that would serve as good Presidents of the United States.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    The polls show overwhelmingly now, Senator, that the American people do not believe that the country is now following is the right one. First of all, do you agree with that?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    Sure. I think that we have let corruption and out-of-control spending and partisanship to cause the American people to be as dissatisfied as they have ever been in the many years that I have held public office. Our base is fed up with the spending, the American people do not believe we are working in their interests, that we’re working for the special interests. And when you see former members of Congress in federal prison, they are right. We Republicans let spending get completely out of control. We Republicans didn’t handle Katrina well. We Republicans for nearly 4 years pursued a strategy of Rumsfeld’s that would doom us to failure. And I am glad that the President decided on the new strategy. I am glad that we are on the right track. I am glad that he is saying that he going to veto these spending bills now. But we dried our enthusiastic base and we’ve got to regain their confidence and the confidence of the American people.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And you feel you can do that, that you can do all these things you just outlined?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    I am confident that I am qualified to attempt it. I think that my background and my knowledge lends themselves to some credibility with them. And I think that I can talk directly to the American people and motivate them again. It is not the first time in history that Americans have been on a downer. In the 1970s we obviously had great difficulties and lack of trust in government and every one of us role modeled, Ronald Reagan came on the scene and inspired America, restored our military, and won the Cold War. I think America’s are ahead of us, but I don’t underestimate the challenges that we face, and I think Americans will respond to straight talk.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You mentioned trust, you mentioned Katrina, and the idea that the American people really do not trust the people running the government to get things done efficiently and effectively. You have been a United States Senator. What are your qualifications to actually run the government, to make it work, go from here to there?

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    I guess my qualifications begin with my knowledge and my background and my experience to take on the major issues as I told, that of radical Islamic extremism. I have a history of working across the aisle. I have been able to get things done in Washington. I have also fought hard against waste and unnecessary spending particularly in defense. I and others, but I led in a fight against a tanker that the tanker aircraft that the Air Force and Boeing and some corrupt people that later went to jail tried to foist off on the American people. I saved the taxpayers $2 billion, and I will continue to do that. I understand this defense procurement process and why it has to be fixed, why it is completely out of control. I will veto every pork barrel spending bill that comes across my desk and I will make these famous. And I will them a vision for the future of this nation and how America’s greatest days are really ahead of us. And when you look at young people working in America today, when you look at the men and women in the military, I can authenticate that assertion.

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