CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript


Date: July 8, 2012


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona/Armed Services Committee): Well, first of all, I appreciate the remarks of the Secretary of State. I admire her greatly. But the fact is the United States has played no leadership role. Now, fourteen thousand people have been massacred by Bashar Assad. The United States of America's performance so far has been shameful and disgraceful.

Kofi Annan just announced today, that his plan has utterly failed and what do we need to do. We need to show first leadership. The President of the United States should be speaking out for the people of Syria. Second of all, we should get arms to them, so that we can balance the forces. It's not a fair fight. Russian arms are pouring in, Iranians are on the ground, and people are being massacred, tortured, raped, and murdered as a matter of policy by Bashar Assad. We need to establish a sanctuary, so that they can organize, they can resist, and they can prevail. I believe that some day, he, Bashar Assad, will go. My question is to the Secretary of State and the President of the United States is, how many more have to die before we take action to help these people with other nations and I don't mean American boots on the ground? It's shameful, the total lack of leadership that the United States has displayed for the last fourteen months.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, you talk about getting arms into help the people. How do we know which rebels to help? Because this is kind of a-- a desperate group here, and-- and my understanding is, we don't really know who some of these people are. How do we-- number one, how do we get the arms there and how do we know which of the rebels to give them to?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: First of all, some of the weapons are coming in now, and, you know, I saw that movie before in, Libya, we didn't know who they were, it could be al Qaeda, I heard it even in Bosnia and Kosovo. The fact is that these people are not-- have not been taken over by extremists or al Qaeda, but they could be if this conflict get-- drags on for months and even years, but the fact is that we know who to get arms to, we know that if they had a sanctuary or a safe zone that they could organize better, and there are already some arms flowing in, not thanks to the United States of America, but thanks to some other countries in the region. I am confident that if we overthrow Bashar Assad the people of Syria will do exactly what the Libyan people did yesterday and that is vote for a democratic and freely elected government.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You-- you do not seem to be agreeing with Secretary Clinton when she says Assad's days are numbered; you sound like it may go on for a while?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: How long, I say with great respect? How many times has Secretary Clinton said that in the last fourteen months? Right now, Bashar Assad is able to massacre and slaughter people and stay in power. Thanks to the supply of Russian arms. Thanks to Iranians that are on the ground. We are now have people with Kalashnikovs fighting against tanks, artillery, and helicopter gun ships that are massacring them. So, I believe that his days are numbered but those days could be very large in numbers, and it requires American leadership working with countries in the region. I know these people, these leaders in these other countries. They are crying out for American leadership, and by the way, when was the last time the President of the United States stood up and said, we are with these people. They are fighting for the same things that we believe in and stand for.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You're-- you're also just back from Afghanistan. Senator, in 2009, President Karzai pledged and said that cleaning up corruption would be his number one priority. As far as I know, since 2009, not one single person has been brought to trial and found guilty on corruption charges. Now, you have just met with President Karzai, as I understand it, do you have any indication that he is getting ready to-- to do something about this? Because we're pledging on more billions of dollars, us and NATO, and I think it's fair to say a lot of people think this is just money down a rat hole because he doesn't seem to be changing at all. Do you have any indication that he's going to get serious about this?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I have a strong indication that President Karzai has pledged to spend the next two years, before the expiration of his presidency, in fighting corruption in his country. Now, whether he'll actually do that or not, it also would come close--so close to him as to members of his family--remains to be seen. He has pledged to do that. We must hold him to that. There are two major challenges to success in Afghanistan. One is the corruption that is permeates the country; and the other, of course, is the Haqqani Network and the sanctuary that the extremists, the Haqqani Network and others have in Pakistan with the active cooperation of the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. We have to go after that Haqqani Network and we have to go after them wherever they are, and we have to see progress in cleaning up in corruption and the President continues to announce withdrawals rather than strategies for victory.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to shift a little bit to the campaign. Now you are a Mitt Romney man. He's been getting a lot of advice from fellow Republicans lately. He's also been getting a lot of criticism, especially from Rupert Murdoch and-- and all the people that work for him, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The Weekly Standard. Do you think this is criticism that is coming from all parts of the Republican Party or is it just confined to the-- the Rupert Murdoch folk?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, Bob, as a former candidate for President, albeit a losing one, I can't tell you how many-- how much good advice I got from people, especially when it appeared that maybe things aren't going so well. You're always-- it was always welcome, but the fact is, there is one person in the arena. Mitt Romney has been through a very tough primary. He has not only survived it but prevailed over a number of candidates. He has a good, strong campaign. I will leave it up to the pundits as to who should be fired and who shouldn't. But this campaign and this election is going to come down to jobs and the economy. The latest jobs numbers, obviously, incredibly the President says is a step forward. I would hate to see a step backward.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, in campaigns as you well know appearance is often everything. A lot of Democrats criticized Mister Romney over the Fourth of Ju-- July holiday for riding around in a speedboat, while those numbers were-- were coming out. He's now planning to go to the Olympics and then later he'll go to Israel. Do you think he's going to be criticized for that? Should he be staying closer to home?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: You know it's hard for me to say what-- what a presidential nominee should or shouldn't do, and I know that those decisions are thought through. I really think it's important that Mitt Romney go to Israel, particularly, since these are the most very dangerous times, as you know, the talks with Iran predictably have failed an and we are facing what could be a serious crisis between Israel and Iran, so I strongly support that. The Olympics, you know, Mitt Romney has a history of taking the Olympics in Salt Lake City from total disaster and actual criminal behavior to the most successful in history. But I don't presume to tell him where he should go or where he shouldn't go. And, again, Bob, these are things that are the back and forth and the pundits love to talk about, but I still say again, jobs and the economy, and also national security--


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: --and America's failure to lead.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you so much, Senator, for joining us. And we'll be back in one minute.