Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 15, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

United States Senator John McCain

  |   Video
  • Senator John McCain visits our studios to discuss the economy, his recent visit to Vietnam and his run for the presidency.
Guests:
  • John McCain - U.S. Senator, Arizona


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> Good evening and welcome To "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The U.S. Senate committee on homeland security will hold a hearing on border issues next week at Phoenix city hall. Arizona Senator John McCain will be there, but tonight he’s here with us.

Ted Simons
>> Senator McCain, it is always a pleasure to see you.

John McCain
>> Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons
>> How are you doing?

John McCain
>> Nice to see you again.

Ted Simons
>> Nice to have you back in Arizona, these field hearings on border violence, what’s the goal?

John McCain
>> The goal is to try to get the input from the governors, attorney generals, mayors, sheriffs, the people on the front line of this violence which has spilled over into the United States. Phoenix got a lot of notoriety by being the kidnapping capitol of America. We need to get the ideas, challenges, and recommendations of frankly the leaders of the state. Particularly law enforcement people.

Ted Simons
>> Is there something that you would like to see or hear from these folks, ideas that might be more viable at least?

John McCain
>> I would like to hear from them what they think that the federal government -- and it is a federal responsibility. Let's have no doubt that immigration is a federal responsibility and what needs to be done. We had a very big stimulus package pass through the Congress of the United States and signed by the President. Some of that money could be available. I would like to know where they think it can be best used. Have no doubt, Ted, the dimensions of this violence is unimaginable. President Calderon has decided to take on the drug cartels unlike his predecessors. Some border towns can't keep a mayor. Every time someone becomes a mayor, they kill him. They can't keep a chief of police. The corruption reaches the highest level of government. This is a real struggle, and I’m very grateful that President Calderon is trying to salvage the situation.

Ted Simons
>> I was going to ask that. Was it a wise move for President Calderon to go after this situation in this fashion if this winds up as the result --

John McCain
>> I think it was a matter of time before somebody had to or the drug cartels were going to carve themselves out a place in Mexico that would be unassailable. Estimates range from between $11 billion and $13 billion a year made by the drug cartels. You can buy a lot of people with that kind of money. But they were becoming more and more brazen, and they had to be confronted over time, and there are a lot of Mexicans that say, understandably, why should we worry? It is going to the United States? Reality is a lot of it stops off in Mexico and harms their citizens, and, of course, you can't have a society -- there is some parallels between Mexico and Columbia ten years ago when President Uribe came in and decided to take on the Farc. The Farc, the terrorist organization, had safe areas and havens, and he said this is intolerable. And he has been largely successful. Still it goes on. We have to recognize reality, as long as there is a demand for something, there is going to be a supply of it.

Ted Simons
>> You bring that up. Let me ask you straight out. Is it time for America to look at decriminalizing, going so far as legalizing marijuana? Have we reached that point?

John McCain
>> I don't think so. I think one, it's harmful, but, two, most experts, not all, say it is a gateway drug, that marijuana use leads to other hard drug use as well. The drug cartels aren't making their money off marijuana. They are making money off of the hard drugs that come through, cocaine that is produced out of Columbia. So, I just -- I -- I am not convinced that legalizing marijuana would frankly do any good. And, second of all, I think there is strong arguments that marijuana does significant damage to one.

Ted Simons
>> The -- the idea of more national guard troops on the border, good idea?

John McCain
>> Good idea. Good idea because three governors, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, have all asked for it. And this level of violence, a small example, not long ago, there was a big fight in Nogales, Sonora between drug cartels and the Nogales police and the army. They -- at one point the Nogales authorities, called over and said can we have ammunition from you? I mean, how long is it before some of these people in the -- in this fight cross over the border and -- anyway. So I think that there is very little doubt that it is in our interests, and we are, if I could just say, a thing called the initiative, $400 million the United States is spending and we are getting close cooperation from Mexico, but corruption exists from the lowest level to virtually the highest level. Life is anecdotal and things are anecdotal. I think it was about a year ago, the second highest enforcement guy in Mexico lived anonymously in an apartment in Mexico City. He came home one night. A guy was there waiting for him. Shot him in the head eight times, and the guy that did it had the keys to his apartment. I mean, that's how much penetration of corruption has been.

Ted Simons
>> That almost suggests that Mexico could be heading toward a failed state. Do you see that as a real possibility?

John McCain
>> I don't think so. I just don't think so. I think there is too many good people in Mexico. I think they realize what happens if the cartels -- these cartels -- I guess it was Tijuana. I'm not sure which town. It might have been Loredo. Cut off somebody's head and hang their body from the overpass. This is a group of people that know no bounds, barbaric behavior. I think the people of Mexico will rally behind the president, but also straight talk. President Calderon's popularity has gone down with the Mexican people because they see the violence and don't like it, and understandably.

Ted Simons
>> How do you see the dynamic between drug cartel violence, and what we saw, although we haven't heard much about it since the economy went south, the illegal immigrant problem in Arizona, the situation, how do they play against each other?

John McCain
>> Drug people are also involved in smuggling of individuals, too. And there are many cases of abuse of them, holding them captives. We see them in Phoenix, Arizona, holding them captive, seeking more ransom, demanding more ransom money, etc. An intermingling of the coyotes as well as transporting drugs. There is that connection.

Ted Simons
>> The -- can illegal immigration reform, which, again, when the economy is not so hot, we don't seem to hear so much about this, the economy is going to get better eventually.

John McCain
>> Yes.

Ted Simons
>> Will this return to be a major issue, and are you going to take a lead in this issue again or do you feel like you got burned last time you took the lead on this?

John McCain
>> I have to be involved for the good of the state. Right now border security and in the future has to be the number one priority, again, because of the drug cartels and the violence. We have to secure the borders. And we can. We can do that. And then we have to have a temporary worker program as well. I was very disappointed to see today news reports that the unions, the unions, FLCIO and service employees union and others have proposed a not having a temporary worker program. We have to have a temporary legal worker program. I can't be part of any effort that does not have a temporary worker program as part of it, where someone comes and works and goes back to the country that they came from for a job that the employer has proven that he can't fill with an American.

Ted Simons
>> Real quickly, do you feel like you paid a price for taking the position that you took?

John McCain
>> Sure, but I pay a price for a lot of things, Ted. You know, you have to be in the arena. My hero, Teddy Roosevelt said, get in the arena. I'm glad I ran for president, even though it was a hard three or four years, really, and you got to be in the arena, and that's what we're here for.


Ted Simons
>> Did you learn some things?

John McCain
>> I really did. I learned a lot. I learned basic goodness in the American people, decency, and the patriotism, and, you know, this is a wonderful country. When you get to go to places like Cheese Bend, Alabama, where African-American women make quilts, and Iowa state fair where you get to see a cow carved out of butter, you get to see the prize-winning pig, who was as I recall 1,800 pounds. 1,300 pounds.

Ted Simons
>> Big enough.

John McCain
>> Big Red was his name. I said to the farmer, does this thing ever stand up? He said, oh, he stood up last week. [LAUGHTER]

Ted Simons
>> I don't want to get too much into the election. Water under the bridge. Wondering, as time passes and you sit back and you have time to reflect and think, what do you think of the whole thing?

John McCain
>> It was a great experience and a great honor, and to look back either in anger or saying we should have done this or we should have done that, that’s just intellectual foolishness. We did the best we could. I'm proud of the campaign. I'm grateful for the support we got especially here in the state of Arizona, I couldn't be more proud to have the nomination of the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

Ted Simons
>> You mentioned Theodore Roosevelt, Cargo ships, shipping in general, pirates, straight out of a Teddy Roosevelt history book, something he would jump on. What do we do with this situation? Another American ship attacked today.

John McCain
>> I would remind you one of our first foreign engagement was against the pirates, doing the same thing that the pirates are doing today only with sophisticated equipment. Thomas Jefferson sent ships into the nest of the Barbary pirates and we beat them. We have to have a greater presence, greater use of technology, but cooperation from our friends, a lot of countries whose ships go through there, and we may have to identify certain areas where we know that these groups are headquartered and hang out. They have to go ashore. They go ashore someplace. But it is complicated by the fact that the -- that there is no government. There is no government there. So, to say we are going to put pressure on the government, basically it is a failed state. We have to remember the lesson from Blackhawk Down. You might remember we went in as a peacekeeping organization, turned into peace making. We had -- great movie, by the way. Helicopter shot down and American public opinion said get out of there. We have to be careful about that. But I'm convinced that with the kind of technology that we have, intelligence capability that we can bring this under control. But it is not going to be easy. We don't -- anyone who is watching, take out your atlas and look at how big an area this is, huge area. That's why we're going to need other nations helping us out as well.


Ted Simons
>> Continuing with defense issues, Secretary Gates has ideas on transforming the military, weapons systems, military acquisitions as such, your thoughts on his ideas.

John McCain
>> He's right. He's right. I don't agree with him on missile defense. I think we need to pursue that, as expensive as it is. We have had obscene cost overruns on weapons systems, in the billions of dollars, and billions and billions of dollars. We don't have fixed cost contracts. We have cost-plus contracts, and we wanted to build a small ship called a literal combat ship, and it was supposed to cost, I think, $105 million. At $400 million, we stopped building it. It was never completed. I mean, the cost overruns have been incredible, and we have to get those cost overruns under control. Also, we have to spend more money on systems that meet today’s threat. A big cruiser is not going to be very effective against these pirates. A small ship that can go in and really get close to these people and have the technological capabilities is probably far more effective. That is what Gates is talking about, too.

Ted Simons
>> His critics, most of which are republicans, are saying this is a cut in defense. That it is going to hurt our defensive capabilities, A, and, B, we do need these systems.

John McCain
>> We need some of the systems, but we need them at the cost that they say they're going to cost, but there are also weapon systems that are not as necessary as others. For example, on the big fight over this plane called the F-22. They make parts all over America. Okay. Gates doesn't want -- gates wants to spend money on the F-35, a joint strike fighter, in other words, for all services, and he wants to spend more money than we are spending on the F-22, but he wants it on the next generation of aircraft. Now, next year he is asking for an increase in defense spending and the government is -- It is on the -- five year, ten year budget that they're seeing a decrease in defense spending. We can't do that. We can't do that. Budgetary gimmicks, planning on us being completely out of Iraq and Afghanistan, as I understand their budget. That's just not possible. So, we can't afford to cut defense spending, but we can reduce and eliminate the waste and mismanagement and focus on the weapons systems that we need.

Ted Simons
>> Quickly, another part of the world, North Korea, sends up a missile, Security Council condemns, they walk out of the six party talks. First of all, you can't be surprised. Secondly what do you do?

Ted Simons
>> Understand there is one nation in the world that really has influence over North Korea and that is China. We should be very strong with the Chinese that this kind of thing has to stop. Supposing the United States had a country that is hostile to us and had a missle just fly over us—that’s what just happened to the Japanese. You can see why the Japanese are deeply concerned. The only reason we pay a bit of attention in North Korea is because of their nuclear weapons and missile tests. Would we pay attention if they did not have that capability? All of the incentive -- Chinese have tremendous power over North Korea. We should expect the Chinese to act within their interests. They worry about a failed state, refugee problem into China from North Korea. They don't want a unified Korea of their borders either--

Ted Simons
>> Afghanistan, you mentioned President Obama's policy as incrimentalism – what do you mean by that?

John McCain
>> I don't want him to practice it. Our military leaders have asked for 10,000 additional troops besides the ones that he said would go. Why not say, okay. They're going to go. It is going to take a year or so before they do. Say it now, rather than six or nine months from now when, by the way, it is going to get tougher in Afghanistan before it gets better. Just a fact. When things are tougher and it will be more controversial. Why not make the commitment now. That's what I would have liked the president to do. By the way, I support the strategy and the one that is supported by the president as well.

Ted Simons
>> I was going to say, some on his left saying just get out. People on his right, people like you, wanting full out war there as opposed to getting out of a miserable, non-winnable situation.

John McCain
>> We tried to do that in Iraq, tried to do that for several years. Kill some bad guys and leave. We couldn't get out. This strategy being devised by General Petraeus, is based on one fundamental principle, you secure an area so people have economic and social development. Without a secure environment, people don't care. They will turn to bad guys, anything to have a secure environment. That's basically what we’re going to try to do as we move into south Afghanistan. Of course it's complicated by Pakistan, complicated by other factors, but I would remind you that Iran was helping the bad guys in Iraq, too. And Pakistan is vital because they’re Pakistan. They're a nuclear-armed country. We need to have a policy to Pakistan that is based on Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Ted Simons
>> Interesting. I want to get back and talk about the economic situation here. Specifically the budget. You voted against the Obama blueprint budget. Talk about why.

John McCain
>> One thing, they were going to spend $600 something -- excuse me, raising $600 some billion dollars in cap and trade. I'm a believer in cap and trade. But not to raise hundreds of billions of dollars and lay it on the backs of the industries in America. I see cap and trade as a way to develop green technologies and to help people reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Going to reduce health care costs, another $600 billion for reducing health care costs. It is trillions and trillions of dollar deficits for generations to come, and that is what is wrong with it. Committing generational theft. We have to put ourselves on a path to reducing and basically eliminating this deficit.

Ted Simons
>> Some say generational theft, others say that is an investment for the future and to future generations. You would respond --

John McCain
>> Sometime, Ted, I would like you to have David Walker, former head of the General Government Accountability Office. Most any economist will tell you the path we're on with the entitlement program, Social Security, Medicare, and the spending is quote, unsustainable. It is unsustainable. Don't we have an obligation to reduce this debt, reduce the money that -- the paper that China is buying, over a trillion dollars, reduce the threat of inflation and defacement of currency, that’s what we have to do.

Ted Simons
>> The President says aggressive action is needed, that government money has to come into the system because families and businesses simply don’t have the money and they can’t contribute. Is he wrong on that?

John McCain
>> He is wrong in the way they used it. We had a stimulus package, also, but it was $400 billion. And it was with shovel ready projects and with tax cuts. The problem with the president's plan is in my view the heart of the problem -- home values plummeted and this was the catalyst that started this -- should have gone in, brought up mortgages, people -- homes with primary residents and give them back a mortgage they can afford to pay. The plummeting home values that started this. It will be the stabilization of home values that ends it. We are in the business of firing heads of corporations. Replace the head of G.M. Given $13 billion to General Motors and they are going to go into a prestructured bankruptcy. How do I go down the street here and say to the small business person that is unable to make it, can't get credit, say you're too small to save. These other people, like General Motors, are too big to fail. I don't know how you do that.

Ted Simons
>> I don't know how you would do that either. There are industries, be they financial lenders or auto companies that are so intricate. The octopus with the many arms, they can't fail or else everything else fails around it.

>> General Motors was going to fail. And we invested $13 billion. But they can restructure, go into bankruptcy, restructure, and come out quickly, and that would require renegotiation of labor management agreements. Labor does not want to do that. And it is more complicated than that. I would remind you that they’re not competitive, not just with overseas manufacturers, but automobile manufacturers in the south, in Tennessee, South Carolina, and other states that manufacture other automobiles.

Ted Simons
>> We have about a minute left.

John McCain
>> Yeah, sure.

Ted Simons
>> In a minute, I want you to talk about going back to Vietnam, seeing what's left of the Hanoi Hilton. I wish we had more time. When you are back there, does the air feel the same? Does it smell the same? Do the sensations -- are they still there for you?

John McCain
>> I recall, it is easy to do the friendships, comrades, leaders that I had, thousand acts of courage and compassion of love that I witnessed. Admiral Stockdale and others who inspired us to do things we otherwise weren't able to do. I think of the great honor and privilege I had to serve with people who are much stronger than I was.


Ted Simons
>> I wonder, for such an intense period of time, when you go back, are you able to departmentalize emotions, or is it just one big flood and you take what you get?

John McCain
>> Before I went, you put a little reign on my emotions, but at the same time I recall the ones I knew best and loved most are those I served with.

Ted Simons
>> Very good. Senator, always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us.

John McCain
>> Thanks for having me on.

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