TRANSCRIPT: 'On the Trail' with Sen. John McCain

I believe I can convince the American people that after nearly four years of mishandling of the war that we're now doing the right thing and we're succeeding. I think I can convince the American people that, continuing with this strategy, we will be able to withdraw more troops, we will provide a political and economic stability, along with military stability.

Look, you know, let me just remind you that Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama both said the surge wouldn't work, OK? They said it wouldn't work. Most objective observers believe that it is.

Then they said that politically there would never be any progress in Iraq. Well, they just passed a series of laws a little bit better than what we do in Washington. They passed a budget.

But more importantly, they're going to have provincial elections. More importantly, they're going to have -- resolving this issue of Sunni integration into the government and society. And they are making progress. So they're wrong again.

They are wrong about...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if Iraq is meeting those marks, then why not withdraw our troops step by step, as Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton call for?

MCCAIN: Because it has to be dictated by events on the ground, not by an arbitrary date and not an arbitrary date.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if we are making progress?

MCCAIN: We are making significant progress. And General [David] Petraeus [commander of coalition forces in Iraq] will come back the beginning of April and he will testify to that, but he will be, I think, the major determining factor, because he has succeeded, as to when and how we would draw additional troops. It can't be done, plucked out of the air, that we're just going to withdraw.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush is also negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with Iraq. Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama say that agreement has to come to the Congress.

MCCAIN: It wouldn't bother me to bring it to the Congress. I don't think that's a huge deal. We have status of forces...

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush says he doesn't want to, though.

MCCAIN: Well, look, if we succeed in Iraq, which I believe we are, the rest of it takes care of itself. We have status of force agreements with a number of countries that have never been approved by Congress; we have some others that have been approved by Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the big ones, Korea was approved by Congress.

MCCAIN: Yes, but we have some countries -- we're still in Bosnia. We don't have a status of forces agreement there, as I recall. We have -- look...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: I don't have a problem with going to the Congress, because I think the issue takes care of itself when we succeed. I still say setting a date for withdrawal is chaos, genocide, and we'll be back, because al Qaeda will then succeed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Iran? You said many, many times the only thing worse than war with Iran is a nuclear Iran. Would President McCain come to Congress before taking military action against Iran?

MCCAIN: Unless it was some dire emergency that required -- you know, I mean, they were about to launch or something like that. But under most -- almost all reasonable scenarios.

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