STEPHANOPOULOS: So, putting lives at risk for a political campaign -- you believe he's doing that.
MCCAIN: I believe that, when he said that we had to leave Iraq, and we had to be out by last March, and we had to have a date certain, that was in contravention to -- and still is -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus.
When he never asked to sit down for a briefing with General Petraeus, our commander on the ground, when he waited 900 days to go back again, where young American lives are on the line, I think that's a fundamental lack of understanding. And I think the American people will make the appropriate choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're questioning his motives.
MCCAIN: I say that it was very clear that a decision had to made. And I made it when it wasn't popular. He made a decision which was popular with his base. And that is a fundamental difference.
And he does not understand, and did not understand and still doesn't understand, that the surge was the vital strategy in us not having to lose a war.
Chaos, genocide, increased influence of Iranians in the region. The consequences of failure would have been severe.
MCCAIN: Now, the benefits are enormous of a stable ally in the region, of a country that is a friend of ours, a brake on Iranian influence -- certainly a brake on al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations.
So, he made the decision that that was the best way to go to get the nomination of his party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's also been a flap about Senator Obama's decision in Germany not to visit the troops at Landstuhl. He now says that, based on what he was hearing from the Pentagon, there was no way that wouldn't be seen as a political trip, which is why he decided not to go.
Do you accept that explanation?
MCCAIN: Well, I know this, that those troops would have loved to have seen him. And I know of no Pentagon regulation that would have prevented him from going there -- without the media and the press and all of the associated people -- nothing that I know of would have kept him from visiting those wounded troops. And they are gravely wounded, many of them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's done it many times in the past.
MCCAIN: In Landstuhl, Germany, when I went through, I visited -- I visited the hospital. But the important thing is that, if I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn't visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event.
And so, I believe he had the opportunity to go without the media. And I'll let the facts speak for themselves.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, this is...
MCCAIN: It certainly wasn't the Pentagon...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... (inaudible) campaign (ph).
MCCAIN: That's certainly what the Pentagon spokesman said. There was nothing to prevent him from going, if he went without the press and the media and his campaign people.
But we'll see what happens.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair game?
MCCAIN: Well, I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don't do. He certainly found time to do other things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the economy.
President Bush in -- and adding some unvarnished talk recently about the economy when he didn't think the cameras were on. I think he said, "Wall Street got drunk, and now we're going through the hangover."