JENNINGS: Is John Kerry able to handle foreign affairs as well as President Bush?
MCCAIN: I would think he would handle it well. But again, I give the same answer about leadership. I think the president has proven leadership.
JENNINGS: We've got X-days left until the election itself. Are you disappointed that so much of the time has been given to this Swift Boat controversy [that attacked Kerry's war record], and not enough to other issues, which you believe profoundly in?
MCCAIN: I'm terribly disappointed. Today, probably a young American will die in Iraq — tragically. And instead of trying to work together, or apart, trying to resolve how we can win this conflict in Iraq, which is by no means certain, we're going back and refighting a war that we can't erase a single name from the Vietnam War memorial. And I think it's just terrible, and I know a lot of veterans, who are 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids. They fought honorably. They came home. And they were not well-treated by their fellow citizens. That dramatically exacerbated their problems. Some of them still haven't come all the way home. So we're reopening all of those wounds, and I'm deeply, deeply disturbed about it.
JENNINGS: Do you think there has been some miscalculation in Iraq?
MCCAIN: Sure. And I complained about them at the time.
JENNINGS: And what do you think it has been?
MCCAIN: I think that we didn't anticipate, as the president just said, the challenges that we face in the quote, post-combat phase. And I implore Secretary Rumsfeld to send more troops. But one of the reasons why we avoid wars, is because mistakes are made in wars. Gen. MacArthur told Harry Truman that the Chinese would not evade invade Korea. We always make mistakes.
JENNINGS: Do you think the president has been open and honest enough about his miscalculations?
MCCAIN: I'm glad to see that he has made comments about that. But I also think that we've done a lot of good things there, too.
JENNINGS: Can you tell me specifically what mistakes you think were made?
MCCAIN: Specifically, we allowed the looting. We should have shot the looters immediately, which [would not have] created an environment of lawlessness. We obviously should have understood that we had to have more troops there in the way of linguists and special forces, and civil affairs people. We should have probably made a transition to an Iraqi government sooner rather than later. But the point is, you make mistakes, you recognize the mistakes, and you fix them. That's what we need to do.
JENNINGS: What are the choices that the president has made, which have most impressed you?
MCCAIN: Leading the country, as he did standing in the rubble with his arm around one of our heroes, and rallying the country. His speech to the nation, following that, was very important. Going to Afghanistan, and taking the war to al Qaeda, was absolutely the right thing to do. I believe that his commitment to free trade, I believe that his support of immigration reform. I could go down a long list of issues that I think that he's done, implemented, that are laudable.
JENNINGS: Anything else you want to say?
MCCAIN: I believe that my party needs to go back more to the principles of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, my two personal heroes — particularly on environmental issues. I believe that climate change is real. I think we need to address it in a more meaningful fashion. I think that we need to probably recognize that there are severe problems out there economically, and otherwise amongst lower income Americans. We've just seen those statistics.
JENNINGS: Any doubt about [President Bush] being reelected?
MCCAIN: I think this is going to be very close. But I think when people who are quote, undecided, go into the ballot booth, one of the major questions they'll ask themselves, who is going to lead in this very difficult times, in this war on terror that we're fighting. And I think they'll pull George Bush.