Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

STEPHANOPOULOS: One -- one other deadline question. When you were working for President Bush, you used to keep a countdown clock on your desk, counting down the number of days you had left to serve.

Is that clock still there?

GATES: No. I threw the clock out. It was obviously useless.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're in it for the long haul?

GATES: We'll see. The president elect and I, when we first discussed this, agreed to leave it open.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Gates, thank you very much for your time today.

GATES: Thanks a lot.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And with that, let me bring in Senator John McCain.

Welcome back, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So Secretary Gates is sticking around for a while?

MCCAIN: I hope he's there for a long time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We have a lot to talk about this morning. Let's begin where he left off on Guantanamo. During the campaign, you had a very strong position that Guantanamo should be closed, but you've also been very critical of the way President Obama has handled it. Do you still believe that Guantanamo should be closed?

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. But the mistake was -- and I'd respectfully disagree with Secretary Gates -- was that they didn't have a policy as to how to address these very difficult and complex issues. They are more complex than about any that I've ever -- the legal side of this, as well as trying to get cooperation from countries to take these people.

So the policy should have been formulated and put into effect, and then the announcement. Again, I just disagree with Secretary Gates. The policy should have been formulated and then implemented, and then you would have had a timeframe that you wouldn't have to say, "Hey, we can't keep one of our first commitments."

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think it's good news that this deadline is slipping?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't -- I think it's -- I think it's bad news in that we would have liked to have achieved it, but I never thought it was a realistic goal, because they still haven't gotten the fine- tuned parts of the -- of the policy. In an issue like this, the details are really very important.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you fully expect there will be prisoners in Guantanamo after the deadline? MCCAIN: All I know is, frankly, what I briefed on, and apparently they're certainly not going to make that deadline. But we should continue to work towards the closure of Guantanamo Bay because of the image that it has in the world of brutality and harms our image very badly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Let's talk about Afghanistan. You heard Secretary Gates there. I mean, you've been -- you've said that it puts American troops at risk to delay this decision, but you heard Secretary Gates. He says, number one, General McChrystal found the situation much worse than he anticipated, and the election was even more corrupt than they anticipated, which is why it's responsible to have a review.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I trust General McChrystal and General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen and their military assessment. I understand the president has other factors that he has to take into consideration.

But I would remind you that, when we decided to do the surge in Iraq, the Maliki government was in worse shape than -- than the present government in -- in Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there was more of a tradition of centralized control in Iraq.

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