June 1, 2007

John McCain Interview Transcript Ready

My interview with John McCain earlier this week has been transcribed and is now posted at Heading Right. The Senator and I discussed the controversial comprehensive immigration-reform proposal, but also talked about Iraq and the upcoming Iowa caucuses. McCain acknowledged the difficulties in convincing people to trust that the government would actually secure the borders:

EM: ... I think the issue is, for them, how to get them to trust that Congress and the enforcing agencies are actually going to follow through on those border triggers and border security triggers and employment triggers in a way that they feel safe about proceeding on to the next level. I think that this is basically saying we just don’t trust Congress to do it.

SM: And that skepticism is well justified because of what happened in ’86. Look, we all love and revere Ronald Reagan. We want to do everything exactly like him and I quote him every other sentence but you know, that was a failure in that administration. We said we would secure the borders in return for giving amnesty, we didn’t secure the borders, we gave amnesty so the skepticism and concern is very legitimate. The response I have to that is, one, then you want to maintain the status quo, which we all agree is unacceptable. The status quo is totally unacceptable and one of the responses that very quickly will be, well just enforce existing laws. Nobody believes that, Chertoff doesn’t believe it, nobody believes it and if we leave the status quo, then you have de facto amnesty. You have de facto amnesty because they will be allowed to stay here.

On Iraq, Senator McCain warned that the adoption of reform in the Maliki government might be slow and halting:

EM: At some point they’re going to have to implement that. But is it a big concern that those three major reforms which is oil revenue, the provincial elections and reverse de-Baathification . Is it a major concern that isn’t going to be accomplished by the end of September? What does that mean if that’s true?

SM: I’ve got to give you some straight talk, Ed. I am more worried about the Maliki government then I am about our ability to obtain our military objections and we all know it is has to be a combination. I don’t know the answer to it. I keep getting assurances from people that that the Maliki government will act and that they’re trying their best, etc. etc. I also hear from people this and I understand this side of it, that is if they think we’ll leaving, they’re going to have to stay in the neighborhood and they are going to have to try and accommodate the neighborhood and take care of their own interest first which increases the sectarian priority as opposed to the all encompassing priorities. So, look, I am concerned about the Maliki government. I believe that they can and will act, particularly if we continue to show some military success but I am very concerned about it and that’s all I can tell you my friend.

He also injected a little self-deprecating humor:

EM: No, I mean I agree with you that the idea here is that we need to show some forward progress and I think we are all ready seen that; we’ve been seeing that since February, actually.

SM: You know the trouble that I got into by claiming it.(laughing)

EM: (laughing) Yeah, Yeah. I’m not going to make you go back on the record and do that all over again.

Be sure to read the whole transcript, and listen to the podcast as well. (The interview starts at 50 minutes.) You get a good sense of McCain, who genuinely believes in what he's doing with immigration, Iraq, and everything else. That doesn't mean that one has to support all or any part of it; I'm not supporting the immigration bill in its current form, and I don't see much hope of improvement through the amendment process.

However, we have to be careful about demonizing people instead of criticizing them, and I include myself in that warning. It's the same mistake that Bush just made on Wednesday with his comments about immigration opponents not wanting what's best for the country, rather than acknowledging the disagreement over what the best course of action might be. At some point after the primaries, we'll need John McCain as an advocate for the Republicans, and trashing him now makes that a lot less effective down the stretch. Let's have a good, tough primary debate, but let's not send dissenters into exile.


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Comments (10)

Posted by Keemo | June 1, 2007 8:56 AM

Good "well rounded" suggestions CE...

This message from Peggy Noonan pretty much sums it up for me;

Peggy Noonan:

What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker–"At this point the break became final.” That’s not what’s happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition.

One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they’d earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he’d been elected to Reagan’s third term. He thought he’d been elected because they liked him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.

Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.

Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it’s time. It’s more than time.

This message holds true regarding McCain and most of the current leadership within the GOP...

Posted by Rockman44 | June 1, 2007 9:13 AM

TB traveler exposes gaps in border control

Headlines, Washington Times.

Let me see, our border patrol simply let this guy through because an agent didn't think the guy looked sick even though he was on a do not allow to enter list.

Gee, and we are suspose to TRUST this governemnt to inlcude congress to impose border restriction as part of the Bush amnesty package. Guess the blow hards in Washington think we all just fell off the turnip truck, and McCain is part of the gang that wrote this legislation.

McCain might as well pack his bags and go home to Arizona. He probably won't even survive the next senate race in that State let alone a national run at office. He is just another blow hard wind bag big head clown like the apparenlty most of the others in congress. What a mess. Time for a true leader of men to appear and clean house.

Posted by richard mcenroe | June 1, 2007 9:20 AM

What;s the title of the transcript: "Talking to the Dead?"

McCain's finished, and the best he can hope for is to pull the GOP down with him in a last burst of egotism and arrogance.

Posted by Nate | June 1, 2007 9:49 AM

This is the part I have trouble with, McCain said ..

"The response I have to that is, one, then you want to maintain the status quo, which we all agree is unacceptable."

That's just a load of BS and McCain knows it. Nobody (except possibly illegal aliens) want to maintain the status quo. We know the status quo is unacceptable. It has been for 30 years. We just want to fix it in a way that doesn't undermine the rule of law and bankrupt American taxpayers. This "you just want to maintain the status quo" crap just insults us all.

Then he said ...

"The status quo is totally unacceptable and one of the responses that very quickly will be, well just enforce existing laws."

Exactly. Enforce existing laws. What the hell is wrong with that? His answer ...

"Nobody believes that, Chertoff doesn’t believe it, nobody believes it..."

Ah. There's the problem. He doesn't believe we can enforce existing laws, so he's ready to just give up on "the rule of law" and conveniently step around one of the core principles that hold our nation together. This guy wants to be my PRESDIENT? Hah!

Well, I don't believe YOU Senator McCain. I think you know we can enforce the existing laws but are afraid of the consequences. Afraid we'll lose the Latino vote, or afraid the economy will take or hit, or afraid you'll cause a big problem for the big businesses out there who's entire workforce is comprised of illegal aliens. So you're taking the easy way out. F@#k the rule of law, that's hard. Let's just let all the illegals stay and let the American taxpayers pay for it all. The American taxpayers will keep sending in their taxes anyway. It is THE LAW, after all.

I got news for you Senator. The rule of law trumps all of that petty stuff. We know it, and it's hard to believe that you don't. If you blockheads don't get figure this out then I'm out of your party.

Posted by stilicho | June 1, 2007 10:12 AM

If McCain should manage, through an act of God, to win the Republican nomination, do you seriously think any Repub grassroots will bother staying in the party? Why should they?

Posted by Tom Shupper | June 1, 2007 10:49 AM

We have the staus quo,because the government has not enforced the law. I heard Tony Snow say there was no penalty for entering this country illegally. The penalty is DEPORTATION! Bush can't or won't enforce the law, and that is why we have over 600,000 fugitives, ordered to be deported, that DHS, ICE, etc., have no idea where they are. Why is that? Because they have been so lax on border security, and have been hard as nails on prosecuting Border Patrol Agents. They've got it backwards!
Peggy Noonan is absolutely right about the Bush dynasty. What a disappointment.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 1, 2007 11:04 AM

...We said we would secure the borders in return for giving amnesty, we didn't secure the borders, we gave amnesty so the skepticism and concern is very legitimate. The response I have to that is, one, then you want to maintain the status quo, which we all agree is unacceptable. The status quo is totally unacceptable and one of the responses that very quickly will be, well just enforce existing laws...
Excuse me, Senator, but you have oversight. You have an obligation to your office and to the Constitution. You've had it the entire tenure of your senatorial position yet you would disavow considerable responsibility for getting us where we are now. I don't even trust your well-honed message which has been superseded by particularly empty rhetoric.

Somehow you manage to miss numerous other votes while on the presidential campaign trail but swoop in to pass this amnesty bill that has been drafted behind the scenes and away from a rightfully concerned public. On top of that, now it's urgent legislation undeserving of considerable public scrutiny to ensure that it actually accomplishes that which it is promised (yet again) to do? Honesty and transparency in legislation, huh? Ptui.

Ever heard of the words "censure" and "impeachment"? You and your peers can at any time coordinate proceedings to correct an Executive that is not enforcing the law, the very laws which you and your institution create. You are not hapless victims. You are willing participants in the process and are derelict in your sworn responsibilities as a check on Executive, both this one and on previous ones. Where have you been?

Here's the thing. You don't want to enforce certain laws just as the Executive doesn't. That would take more responsibility than you want to claim. Great self-preservation for your extended career but dangerous for the Republic. It's all a matter of where your real interests lie. Senate actions generally, and your response to this issue specifically, serve as a wonderful display to an ever increasing cynicism of your interests.

Rest assured, you are reading a G-rated rant. Take solace, however, that my virtual tomatoes are directed both at you and many of your peers. Would that I had a bigger bushel.

Posted by pilsener | June 1, 2007 11:07 AM

In the interview, McCain seems to lay all of the blame for lack of enforcement since 1986 on President Reagan.

He somehow slides over the 5 administrations and 11 Congresses since Reagan who never made serious attempts to enforce the laws. McCain also fails to mention that one of the primary movers of Simpson Mazzoli was Ted Kennedy, who has not repented any of his comments then or his lack of effort during the intervening 20 years to improve enforcement. The same Ted Kennedy that now says this bill is what is necessary.

I will never forgive Senator McCain for McCain-Feingold, and will cut him no slack on McCain-Kennedy. McCain is certainly not always wrong, but when he is, he is spectacularly wrong.

Posted by quickjustice | June 1, 2007 2:47 PM

Nate has nailed this. Senator McCain seems to think that blaming the current situation on Ronald Reagan is clever.

The problem for McCain is that he was in the U.S Senate at that time, and supported Simpson-Mazzoli, but underfunded and failed to enforce it. He doesn't skate away from his responsibility for the current situation with impunity.

McCain's "The status quo is unacceptable" is a joke. Hey, Senator, enforce Simpson-Mazzoli, seal off the border, begin raiding the premises of employers who hire illegal workers, go after the Mexican government for enabling this situation, and cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Then we can talk.

Posted by Rgaye | June 2, 2007 7:21 AM

No one is suggesting that we maintain the status quo. That's just silly tripe from an increasingly silly man. We are not marginalizing a whole group of people, either. I know a good many of our southern neighbors are not trouble makers and drug dealers. Want only to take advantage of the opportunities available to provide the best possible outcome for themselves and their families. And last dealing with the border does not mean I am not for free markets. It's a realization that those markets could become very constricted in many much worse ways if we don't deal with the porous border.

I have no problem with immigration that is legal and controlled. This is a big country with much to offer. I understand it's appeal and I understand that the renewal is good for the US. For me this is not about migrant workers coming into the country to work on the cheap or seeking a better life. Under some conditions I'd probably do the same.

It's about not knowing who the hell is coming into the country with that flood of migrant workers (or as has been pointed out, looks healthy so we'll just put that warning down to a advisement).

Legalizing those already here, without FIRST addressing the open border problem is inviting another round to come poring over the border. With it a perfect route for those to enter the country that we'd not let in otherwise under any circumstances. This includes not only the normal destruction criminal elements bring to bare on a society, but also the opportunity for people to come in who have real destruction in mind.

I understand that we cannot let the possibility of terrorist activities completely overwhelm us, shut us down from inside. I also fully understand that if they are insistent enough eventually they'll be successful again, but we should be prudent, not leave the door unlocked so to speak and be prepared to deal with the aftermath when it does happen...

We've seen in real life what an amnesty program does without border enforcement. Yes we need to deal with this problem. Many of us have been calling for dealing with the problem for a long time.. but let's not make the very same mistake again. That is the kind of rationalizing liberals do. That money didn't fix the problem the first time. Instead of evaluating if lack of money was the problem or other factors were at work, let's just throw more money at it. Instead of evaluating if amnesty was the answer last time, let's stick our head in the sand and do round two. I'm sure if we cross our fingers on both hands and stand on one foot it will work this time...

And yes I understand.. there are supposed to be triggers kick in before amnesty happens. There was supposed to be enforcement last time too. Once they are here on any legitimate basis they won't be going home in any great numbers regardless of the intent to enforce. What that will do is encourage yet another group to pore in because they know in a few years there will be a push to 'deal' with the problem and that push will most certainly include amnesty. That will effectively make our border problems worse than they already are, leaving us open to horrifying possibilities.

When I hear the President or our GOP leaders minimizing those of us with concerns, implying we're racist, etc I want to scream "It's about the terrorist stupid!' to co-op a Clinton era phrase.