Transcript: John McCain



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Thanks very much for having us here.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me, and thanks for coming to Arizona and one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it certainly is, you know. I see all your favorite places: your ranch and now the Grand Canyon. And I'm thinking of the words of Wallace Stegner, the western historian, who said that creating these national parks is probably the best thing you've ever done.

MCCAIN: I agree. One of the great conservationists and environmentalists in our history, oddly enough, was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. He was the first person at this lodge to write in to the guest book when the Seltzer-Wial (ph) Lodge was built, back I think, around 1912, something like that. And it's a beautiful, beautiful statement he made. He said, "Preserve this. Don't mar it for future generations."

And he built -- he had a lot to do with our park system and our national monuments.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to talk a lot more about that in a little bit, but let's begin with you just got back from Afghanistan. Earlier this spring, President Obama announced 17,000 more troops and a mission to really take the fight to the Taliban. From what you saw, is it working?

MCCAIN: They're taking the fight to the Taliban. It's a very tough fight. They're going into areas that the Taliban have controlled for long periods of time, in the south. Casualties are up, as we had unfortunately predicted. But they are taking the fight to them. Our military is incredibly good.

But the conditions are -- we went there, it's 110 degrees, flowing sand and these young people are out there, men and women, and doing an incredible job.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And do we have enough troops now, from what you saw?

MCCAIN: We don't. General McChrystal is going to make some recommendations. I'm not happy with what he's going to do, because it's been published. It will be high-risk, medium risk, low risk. Whenever you do that, they always pick the medium risk. I think that he ought to do what General Petraeus did, and that's decide on exactly the number he needs and then we debate it, and the president makes the ultimate decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm going to stop you there, though, because I know you were concerned a few weeks ago. Bob Woodward went to Afghanistan with General Jones and wrote a story where it seemed as if General Jones was sending a message to the commanders not to send back a request for more troops.

Are you convinced that General McChrystal is completely free to make the best recommendation?

MCCAIN: I think there are great pressures on General McChrystal to reduce those estimates. But I have great confidence.

STEPHANOPOULOS: From the president?

MCCAIN: No. I don't think it's necessarily from the president. I think it's from the people around him and others and that I think don't want to see a significant increase in our troops presence there.

But I have confidence that he will make his most honest and best recommendations. I just wish it wasn't this three choices, because they always choose the middle one. We need to know exactly what resources he needs.

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